Many enthusiastic philatelist has reached a lull in collecting at some point. The affordable gems are coming less frequently and growing out of your price range. To keep the momentum going, you can start looking for the unusual. Perfins are one of those great oddities that can flesh out a collection.
Perfins are stamps, invented in Great Britain, that have perforations not alongside the stamp, but inside it. The pattern of holes was used (and still is in some places) to indicate a cancellation and provide information.
Before the invention of postage meters in the 1920s, several methods for indicating that a stamp had been used and processed were devised. Since stamps were often used in that period as a substitute for money in small transaction, it was especially important to have a way of indicating cancellation.
The alternative was an active amount of theft of small amounts by postal employees themselves. A black market developed that traded in stamps, which perfins helped suppress.
One great thing about perfins is that they are almost guaranteed to be more valuable since they are less common. They fell out of active use in the UK and other countries after other technology developed.
Identifying a stamp as a perfin is easy and obvious, but narrowing down the issue requires a fascinating effort of research. The patterns could indicate date, postal office or other information. As a result these unique markings can turn an otherwise ordinary issue into a valuable collectible.
Stamps from the 1920s or earlier can be of little value, despite their age. Age is a factor, but rarity is the key. If there are a million stamps of a particular issue the sample is going to be worth much less. A perfin from, say, an Irish post office on the day of IRA leader Michael Collins’ arrest could well be worth more than an ordinary stamp.
Perfin patterns can vary in other ways, such as being punched from the back rather than the front. Such ‘mistakes’ can increase the value of a stamp as well. Unfortunately, it can make mounting a bit of a challenge, since you may want to be able to read the pattern again later for further research.
To resolve that problem, you can employ a clear plastic mount, making it easy to see the stamp from both sides. Mounting on an ordinary hinge is possible, too, but it’s best not to stress the hinge by repeated viewings.
Expand your collection in new and unusual ways by adding perfins.