I finally own a stamp perforator
Since early this year, I’ve been keeping track of antique stamp perforator sales on the Internet. I’d long had a dream of one day owning my own perforator to use in making my Philosateleian Post local post stamps, but the right situation had just never arisen.
Finally, however, after nearly a year of searching, I do own a perforator. It arrived yesterday, and I am thrilled!
Although I had been keeping an eye open for available perforators for a long time, my search truly began in earnest this past spring. I blogged in March about how I was looking for an antique stamp perforator; I searched on eBay and Google; I posted want ads on Craigslist and philatelic bulletin boards. I found listings for a few perforators, but they were almost all full-size machines located in the Northeast—far from me, and too heavy to ship economically.
My search was put on hold for a few weeks around the birth of Sarah’s and my daughter, Hadassah, this fall. Finally, though, after things quieted down again, I got around to posting a classified ad on a site frequented by letterpress operators and hobby printers, and it was that ad that caught the attention of Stephen Nelson, the owner of Antyke in Scituate, Rhode Island.
Stephen wrote to me near the end of October and said a tabletop stamp perforator would be arriving at his shop in the near future. He offered to send photos if I was interested, to which I replied with an emphatic “Yes!” Over the course of the next month, we traded messages, and after the machine was cleaned up we reached a deal that sent it on its way to Florida.
(As an aside, Stephen packaged the perforator very securely for its journey, and it arrived in fine condition. I can’t promise he will run across any more antique perforators, but based on my experience, I can certainly recommend dealing with him if he does have some piece of antique equipment or art in which you are interested.)
My newly-acquired perforator is only 18 inches long and less than six inches deep, but it is a heavy piece of equipment weighing in at nearly 45 pounds. The really crazy part? The base is hollow. This thing was built to last a long, long time, and it will probably still be here well after I’ve rusted away. There are several gold and red ornamental designs painted on each side of the perforator; they are obviously purely decorative, but maybe stamp perforator purchasers back in the day expected their perforators to be pretty in addition to functional.
The perforator has holes for 150 pins which create a pattern measuring perf. 12 on a perforation gauge. When counting from the “open” end of the perforator, pins 10, 12, and 20 are too short to perforate the paper; I presume they’re broken. In addition, pins 1–2 and 142–150 are missing entirely. Even with those minor issues, the machine can still create an uninterrupted line of perforations approximately eight inches long.
The pins are apparently somewhat worn as they tend to leave behind quite a few hanging chads. (2000 U.S. presidential election, anyone?) I read previously that this can be mitigated somewhat by placing a second sheet of paper under the sheet that is actually being perforated, and that does appear to be the case. I’m pleased with the results.
So far, I have been unable to locate any markings that might indicate who manufactured the perforator, so I’m not sure exactly when it was built. My guess is early 20th century. The front of the perforator does bear a metal oval reading “128,” which I presume is a serial number.
Well, the perforator is not going to just sit there looking pretty, that’s for sure! I’ve already begun perforating Philosateleian Post stamps, and the first of those went on a couple of pieces of mail I sent today.
I also have ideas for some other “cinderella” items that could be a lot of fun. And finally, I may be able to offer some perforating services to other local post operators and artistamp producers. If you think you would be interested in this, please let me know.
I still can hardly believe I finally own a stamp perforator—especially one of the tabletop models that seem like they’re scarcer than hens’ teeth! Even after collecting stamps for close to 20 years, this is easily one of the most memorable purchases I’ve ever made, and one of the coolest items I’ve had the privilege of owning. I think I’m going to have a great deal of fun with it!