Antique tabletop perforating machines: are they getting more expensive?
When I began searching for an antique perforator a couple of years ago, I never imagined what an interesting journey it would be. I’ve had the opportunity to purchase two different perforators (and resold one of them), and although I’ve collected stamps for years, it's the technology that made the tiny holes in between stamps that has captured my attention. That’s not to say I’m no longer interested in stamps—I very much am—but I’ve come to more fully appreciate the machinery.
I’ve been tracking perforator sales since I began looking for a machine of my own, and late last year I wrote a brief article about my findings that appeared in the November–December issue of The Poster, the Local Post Collectors Society’s official publication.
At the time, I had seen listings for or reports of sales of 26 antique perforators over the previous year and a half. 19 of those were full-size treadle-operated models. The average or mean asking price was nearly $700, while the median asking price was approximately $500. The average price of all perforators that I could verify had actually been sold was just under $400.
When I wrote that article, the average sale price for a tabletop perforator was almost $430, slightly above the overall average. With the addition of sales I’ve recorded since then, the average price is now over $500.
Going up, up, up
The last two sales I’ve noted have significantly driven up the average sale price for tabletop perforators, but both were actually resales of machines that had previously changed hands since I began tracking such things. One was a Rosback that sold for $586 last year, then for $843 in March. The other was my own Franklin perforator for which I initially paid $400 in 2014, then sold for $700 last month.
Why the big jumps in price? Are perforators getting more expensive? Maybe, or maybe not. Let me explain.
The cost of doing business
The Rosback that sold on eBay in March actually brought a lot more than I expected. Based on my notes, I figured it would top $500, but I never dreamed it would go for over $800. Even at that price, however, the seller may not have made as much money as you might think.
eBay takes a 10% cut (close to $85 in this case), and PayPal takes approximately another 3% (say $30). Assuming it cost the seller $50 to ship his perforator, that leaves him with a profit of roughly $100. That’s nothing to sneeze at, mind you—I’d be happy to have that $100—but again, the profit margin isn’t as big as it appears at first glance.
My Franklin also sold for significantly more than what I paid for it, but I made even less profit that the seller of the Rosback. I’d spent nearly $150 to put new pins in the machine late last year, and it cost me another $100 or so to ship it to the buyer on the other side of the country. After PayPal took their slice of the pie and I paid for miscellaneous shipping supplies…well, let’s just say that I got out of the perforator what I’d put into it, and that’s about all.
In both cases, we (the Rosback’s seller and I) needed to sell for significantly more than we paid. It’s not that we made much money by selling our perforators for more than we paid for them; we simply had to pass along the costs associated with reselling and shipping the machines just to recover our initial investments.
More expensive? Yes and no
With all of that in mind, I would venture to say tabletop perforators in general are not getting any more expensive. It’s perforators that were purchased, then resold, that are driving up the average price.
There is a lot of demand and competition for these old machines, and I don't think we can rule out the possibility that the average sale price will continue to rise. Considering the small sample size with which we have to work, however, it may be a bit premature to conclude that perforator prices in general are getting higher.