Watch the Holes

Watch the Holes!
By Ron Lesher

Among many generations of stamp collectors there is a long and abiding aversion to holes in stamps. By this I mean punchouts and perfins, which remove paper and portions of the design, preventing us from seeing the full beauty of our stamps. But there is a new ferment among a small group of revenue stamp collectors to record and identify the users of these punchouts and perfins.

So let’s begin the exploration of the subject with some illustrations of what is included in our subject. Suppose a hole is punched out; this could be a circle or an identifiable design such as a heart or crescent. Alternatively, a series of holes might be punched out that as a whole form letters. We might see a line of letters and a line of numbers that are recognizable as a date. Or the holes might form a design. The purpose of the holes is to cancel the stamp to prevent its reuse.

The Perfins Club has published a huge catalog of perfins on postage stamps and where known has noted their same use on revenues. This work is very useful in identifying undated perfins on revenue stamps. One of the purposes of the undated perforated initials patterns was to prevent employee theft of postage stamps. When the perforated initials were punched out of the stamps, they could only be used by the firm that had registered the pattern with the post office. For this reason these patterns are known as security perfins. I have been able to identify many of the users on the documentaries, future delivery, and stock transfer stamps with the use of the catalog published by The Perfins Club.

Now they are engaged in a very ambitious project to record all the known perfins on revenue stamps. That will include dated perfin cancellations and punch outs.
I thought it might be useful to include a sampling of the less familiar to show just how expansive and ambitious this field really is. We will explore a little bit of everything to also show a wide variety of stamps and some interesting aspects of the field of perfins.

First is a simple circular punch out on an unusual category of New York state tax stamps, a tax on investments (Figure 1). The circle punched out measured about 6 mm in diameter. The state of New York wanted to insure that these stamps were not reused and required cancellations that cut the paper.

Punchouts do not have to be geometric shapes, although they often are. Our second example is a Pennsylvania stock transfer stamp that has big initials ML & L punched out. (Figure 3) I suspect the user of this is Merrill Lynch in one of their partnerships, although I do not know who the final L is. Perhaps some knowledgeable reader can identify who the user is.

Next is a dated cancellation on a beer stamp (Scott REA156). We can not only identify who the brewer was, but the date is interesting. The user was Louis Neuweiler’s Sons of Allentown and the date was the first day of 3.2 beer, April 7, 1933. Pennsylvania did not tax beer until a month later, so there’s no expectation of a beer stamp used in combination with the federal beer stamp. (Figure 4)

There is enormous progress being made on the identification of the brewers due in great measure to the beer memorabilia collectors. While for the most part these collectors do not collect beer stamps they have developed extensive lists of brewers and the years in which they have operated. This makes the task of identification a much easier task than the next stamp that we will show.

Oleomargarine was taxed at the federal level from 1886 until 1950. The most common of these tax stamps is the twenty-four pound stamp which came into use in 1935 and was used on cases of 24 one pound boxes. (Figure 5) These are frequently seen with perfin cancels. Most collectors will choose a stamp without the perfin cancel. But a rather fascinating study of perfin cancels might make a nice adjunct to the standard collection. To the best of my knowledge the users have not been identified. The perfin cancel reads 1 Indiana on the first line and 12 - 9 -49 on the second line. The 1 is surely the plant that had registration number 1 in Indiana during this period.

Next is a perfin that resembles the perfins that are found on postage stamps. It consists of the initials P D on the first line and Co on the second line. These stand for Parke Davis Co, the well known pharmaceutical company founded in Detroit, but operating in a number of cities in the United States. These initials (Figure 2) help to authenticate the use of the early hand stamped provisional narcotic stamps that were used in 1919.

Finally we come to an all over perfin on the familiar red bottle stamps that first adorned bottles of distilled spirits beginning in February, 1934. The perfin reads The John Heidsik Co. Barberton, OH. (Figure 6)

Actually, we have only just scratched the surface of the wide and diverse variety of perfins found on our nation’s revenue stamps. And what an exc iting field for study it turns out to be! If you wish to contribute to the exciting project to identify the users of these perfins, please contact the coordinator, Arthur Mongan.

And as Art signs off each of his emails, “Watch the Holes!”