By:- F. Aleem Sundal
A series of holes punched around a postage stamp to facilities its separation from the sheet, is called Peroration. All early stamps had no such arrangement, though perforation machines are much older than inception of postage stamps.
When Penny Black, the first stamp was under preparation, many aspects were debated to make the innovation successful. But no one ever thought how millions of stamps will be separated from their sheet while sold in ones and twos.
Perforating stamps in now adopted universally. But the idea was first brought to the stamp issuing authorities by an Irish railway clerk, Henry Archer, who had seen one side of the railway ticket being perforated. He submitted his plan to the Post Master General on October 1, 1847. Archer fabricated the machine and himself produced trials on Penny Reds of 1841 in the year 1848.
His style of perforating stamps was called “Roulette”. The mechanism, in fact a toothed, disc like wheel not punching holes but making straight cuts into the paper, 11 cuts in an inch. His first two machines were a failure but the clerk managed to modify his apparatus and produced a successful machine at the cost of £ 2,500. Archer’s patent was purchased by the government in June 1853 for which he was paid £ 4,000. His third machine, tested at Perkins Bacon factory in December 1848, had a comb perforator gauging 16, fitted with a line of pinheads. That machine was also unsuccessful because the gum clogged the slots into which the pinhead fitted. Thomas De La Rue the rival of Perkins said that the machine should not clog if the gum was properly dried.
It is very interesting that during his perforation experiments. Henry Archer used actual stamps the penny reds, the stamp sheets acquired from the post office on loan. The postal department ultimately sold all sheets and loose stamps, which are now considerably rare, know as “Archer Rouletted” stamps.
In May 1852, a new machine to Archer’s specification was constructed by David Napier and Sons and was installed at Sumerset House for regular operation. David Napier later improved the perforating design by fitting a line of pinheads in place of rotary disc. The new perforator had perfect round holes punched right through the paper and came into from
Besides “satisfactory” results, the Penny Reds and other values suffered marked misperf defects, the mis-alligned comb cutting stamps from their designs. To avoid such varieties, most early British stamps were standradised at 0.7375 x 0.8875 inch, allowing for a margin of 0.0625 between impressions. That was very restrictive, since the diameter of perforating pins was 0.035 inch. The size were not changed until 1934 when Harrison and Sons reduced the stamp impression to 0.725 x 0.875, widening margin between impressions to 0.075 inch which was further cut to set at 0.7 x 0.8 increasing margin to 0.095 inch.
Perforation, through its development changed many shapes. Archer’s straight cuts were first altered to curved cuts, later shaped to zigzag. Further development brought tiny cuts in shape of crosses followed by pin roulettes. In
Punching round holes (with paper removed by Punching tips) was adopted by
Collectors may have come across stamps having only two sides perforated and other two cut straight. These belong to coils. Coils are produces in strips of 1000 or more stamps together of one or more face values (in a ribbon shape).
Other than perforation seen around the stamps, some stamps are perforated a symbol or letter on their surfaces. These are usually the initials of the consumer punched for safety against theft or misuse. These types of stamps are known as perfins.
Perforation is very important to philatelists. If a normal stamp sheet part, slips away without being perforated, it becomes a collector’s item and listed as a “major error” setting price. Occasionally a sheet of commemorative stamp is perforated on a different perforator increasing scarcity as such varieties are hardly noticeable. Stamp become rarity if perforated twice or partially not performances are known when a folder sheet was perforated giving a spectacular shape to stamps. Some incorrectly trimmed sheets (with irregular cutting of the sheet margin) or properly cut sheet punched up-side down, transposes stamp design beyond its frame, (Pakistan Rs.1.50 stamp etc).
Modern stamp producing machines have very much eliminated possibilities of major errors of perforation. The perforator is attached to the printing apparatus. Its is so interlocked that as soon as the ink cylinders complete printing process, the sheet is instantly perforated with all its perfection and accuracy. In older times, only ten sheets of stamps were perforated in one hour. Now the perforator punches 30 million stamps in one hour which is more than the entire quantity of a commemorative issue in general.
To measure a perforation gauge is designed in which all types of perforation scales are given. Perfect perforation (all teeth of a given stamp fully intact) is considered an extra beauty and value of the specimen.