Sixtin Chapel (Detail), by Michelangelo Buonarotti

ABOUT IMPERFORATED

STAMPS AND SHEETS

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci

    As their name implies, the imperforated stamps, known also as imperforates (or imperfs), are stamps without perforations. The first stamps, issued in the middle of the 19th century, were imperforated. They had the disadvantage that each stamp had to be separated from its neighbors, usually by using scissors. The introduction of perforations eliminated this time consuming procedure, but the postal administrations found out later that there still is an interesting market for the imperforates: the stamp collectors.
    Consequently they started to issue such stamps, usually to accompany the perforated items, practically without having supplementary costs, by simply letting out the perforation process. 
    Sometimes the imperfs were issued in other colors than the  perfs; some imperfs with other dimensions then the perfs are also known. Quite often the issued quantities of imperfs were rather small, what made them in time more expensive than their perforated counterparts.
   The postal administrations had different politics what concerned the prices of imperfs. The best politics was either to not issue them at all (because they are irrelevant for mailing purposes) or to offer them at face value. Unfortunately it wasn't often the case. Please see below for some opposite examples.

    The stamps of France, from 1940 onward, and of its former colonies ("French Speaking Countries") exist as imperforates. The quantities were small (for France issues officially 20 sheets, ranging from 25 to 100 subjects) and the stamps were sold (till about 1996) at high prices, usually through a subscription process. Being the first sheets printed, the colors of these imperfs are very vivid.

    Hungary started en masse with imperfs on August 1st, 1950. They were sold for export to five time the export prices for the perforated stamps and to Hungarian stamp collectors at ten times the face value. This way the Hungarian P.A. assured its monopoly, by preventing the home collectors to trade these stamps with their foreign colleagues. Till 1957 the Hungarian imperfs were not valid for postage.
    The Romanian P.A. issued in the 70th and 80th an important number of imperforated topical souvenir sheets (not shown), that were officially sold only outside the country. As result, the Romanian stamp collectors could get some stamps issued by their country only from foreigners (what wasn't actually possible either, because the possession of foreign currency, necessary to buy them, was prohibited).

    The imperfs from Switzerland and Liechtenstein, shown above, are quite bizarre. The problem is that the respective postal administrations have never announced them and consequently they shouldn't exist at all. Manufacturing errors cannot be excluded, of course, but too many of such stamps suddenly appeared on the market, all being offered at very high prices. Taken as example, the last two values of the Liechtenstein 1967-1971 series Patron Saints (see above, Scott 440-441) are offered for CHF 1500 (about $1000). The dealer who offers them writes: "At time these stamps are unique". Of course this "at time" is not very reassuring... The Scott catalogue value of the same stamps, but perforated, is $2.35 only. The stamps were printed by a Swiss (as opposed to a banana's republic) printing office, Courvoisier SA, enjoying an excellent reputation. I'll quote from a short article of Kurt Waltert (SBZ 1/2000, p.20), appeared after this column was published: "...I will not omit the fact that the mentioned stamps (imperfs), that are labeled as samples, essays, etc., were brought on the market by disloyal functionary... It would be of general interest to know how many of such imperfs arrived in the possession of  different persons or on the stamps market."

     Obviously such politics undermine the trust of stamp collectors in their postal authorities and adversely affect the stamp collecting, thought as a nice, a joyful, and also as a serious hobby.

    Are you eventually interested in the real value of some modern FDCs? Then click here, please.

    Notice: The imperforates should not be mistaken for "perfins", which are stamps punched with "perforated initials" or designs of holes that stand for letters, numbers or symbols. Perfins are normally used by business or government offices to discourage pilferage or misuse of stamps by employees. Perfins may be either privately or officially produced.  Although they are less and less used by both business companies and government offices, because of the increasing use of franking machines, they are still in circulation in many countries.

Do you like this article? Or on the contrary do you have serious objections? Make use of PASIC Forum to express your opinion or send an e-mail to its author.

First version: 9/22/99. Revised: 12/04/08.
Copyright 1999 - 2000 by Victor Manta, Switzerland. All rights reserved in all countries.

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