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Stamp News   July 2005

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Looking for a new collecting challenge? Try meter stamps

One of the aims of this column is to endeavour to stimulate collectors to venture in to deeper philatelic waters than they perhaps otherwise would of their own volition. It is three years this month since the first article appeared, and I’m pleased that a small but steadily increasing band of readers have taken up some of the recommendations that I have put forward in the duration. I know this if for no other reason as some of the   new ‘recruits’ now regularly outbid me for my type of material on eBay! I do accept that the vast majority of others are perfectly happy with what they collect, and the manner in which they ploy their craft, and that any attempt to expand their philatelic horizons would be a futile exercise. That group need read no further this month for the subject matter is strictly for the incurably curious.


          Recently a rarity in publishing arrived on my desk.   A new catalogue which actually expands philatelic horizons. The International Postage Meter Stamp Catalog, the first world meter catalogue for nearly 50 years, has just been published, all 1216 pages of it, and quite a revelation it is. The editors, Joel A Hawkins and Richard Stambaugh, are to be congratulated on producing an easy to follow publication with enough information to encourage even a novice to venture in to this interesting field of early philatelic hi tech. I’m pleased that catalogue prices are for complete commercial covers rather than cut-out impressions, which I had feared might be the case when I ordered the catalogue. And staggering indeed are many of the prices, ranging from US 25 cents to a whopping $10,000. Some rarities are unpriced, such as the U.S. 1897 Di Brazza meter, the world’s earliest meter stamp of which only one cover in private hands is recorded, and no doubt may be worth even more. I was particularly surprised to learn that some New Zealand meters can be worth as much as US$7,500.


Meters have been popular with a relatively small group of enthusiasts since as early as the 1920s, and this publication will no doubt do much to stimulate a new generation of enthusiasts to venture in to the field (I’m in!). If you are amongst that rarified philatelic group who like to ‘get in early’ then I highly commend meters to you. If you would like details on how to obtain the catalogue send me an email ( ) and I’ll give you the publisher’s details. Mine cost about US$125 (postage alone US$36.50!) but empowered with my new knowledge of meters I managed to get more than my money back (US$158 on eBay) for a solitary Chinese meter which previously I would have rated as next to worthless. Ah, knowledge can be intoxicating.


          As an introduction to the potential charm of meters I have selected a few Australian types for comment. The valuations are my own idea of a fair retail price, but this is a field where bargains abound for the philatelic sleuth, and scarce and attractive items can often be located for very nominal sums. But don’t expect that situation to last indefinitely! The subjects featured are on complete cover, which is how I recommend they be collected, but I have featured just the meter stamp impression for some due to space constraints.


                                          Figure 1.   Golf or tennis anyone?


Meter stamps were introduced in 1927 in Australia. Neopost manufactured the type in Figure 1 and the ‘893’ (or various other alphabetical/numerical sequences shown in subjects which follow) within the ‘Postage Paid’ impression indicates the Licensee number allocated to the recipient of that specific meter franking device, the Dunlop Rubber Co. in this instance. The generic form of this meter stamp is valued at US$10 in the catalogue, but advertising when added for the Licensee can considerably add to value, particularly when it incorporates a popular thematic subject, such as Golf or Tennis as shown in these examples. Value : $30 (each cover). 


  Figure 2.   Regular stamp enthusiasts need not do without   ‘SPECIMEN’ items in their pursuit of meter stamps!


When meter franking machines are installed, or following subsequent servicing of machinery, it is customary for technicians to produce trial or ‘Specimen’ strikes to ensure the machinery is functioning correctly and stamp impressions are of satisfactory clarity. In Figure 2 this Neopost machine (‘AY-9’) has delivered to us a very collectable ‘Coca-Cola’ trial impression. Value : $25.


                             Figure 3.   Nostalgia can feature highly in meter stamp covers


Universal Postal Frankers commenced supplying its meter franking machines to Australia in 1928. Figure 3 shows two early advertising meters dispensed by UPF machines. The upper item is from the inaugural year of supply and features a character who would not look out of place amongst Elliot Ness’s Untouchables. Value : $20 (each cover).


                                  Figure 4.   Patriotic meters were prolific during WWII


One of many ‘Buy War Savings Certificates’ meter stamps which were in use during the war years is shown in Figure 4. This UPS type was a patriotic contribution by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. There are many other types and one could form an interesting sideline collection of these alone. One I have features a ‘Biggles’-like character but the impression is not sufficiently complete to feature here (I’m on the lookout for a better one). Value : $5.


Figure 5.   Overgrown teddy’s - typical of the abundance of thematic appeal amongst meter stamps


Pitney Bowes in 1950 entered the competition for meter franking machine supply in Australia. The postwar boom saw a marked increase in the demand for installation of franking machines for commerce, government and institutional use. Attractive advertising such as that in Figure 5 abound and are usually inexpensive. Value : $3.


                     Figure 6.   Advertising overkill from Waltham Dan The Bargain Man


Roneo Neopost introduced in 1948 an obliging generic thematic with its ‘Kangaroo’ design. ‘K25’ went to Waltham Trading Co. who weren’t backward in coming forward with the impact of the 1955 advertising meter superimposed over a similarly designed illustrated envelope shown in Figure 6. Value : $5.


                         Figure 7.   Did mum and dad really wear these in the ’fifties?


I’m still investigating who Roneo Neopost ‘909’ was licensed to, but they certainly produced a wonderful range of fashion advertising covers in the 1950s. The meter stamp did not include advertising but then I suppose it didn’t need to with such striking envelopes to be impressed upon. A gentleman wouldn’t be caught dead nowadays strutting along Bondi Beach dressed as the dashing young man in Figure 7. How about the gear on the mannequin? Well, at Sydney’s Mardi Gras that might not look so out of place. Value : $10 (each cover).  


                            Figure 8.   Meter stamp advertising all the rage by the ’sixties


In 1953 Universal Postal Frankers introduced a new ‘Postage Paid’ design featuring the Australian flag. By the 1960s ‘cutesy’ advertising such as that in Figure 8, doubtless influenced by the advent of the more creative Television medium, was becoming regularly seen in meter stamp advertising. Value : $3.


                  Figure 9.   Framas didn’t produce the first ‘zero-rated’ stamps of Australia


Again from UPF, Figure 9 represents one of the more desirable meter stamps amongst thematic collectors. For a Royal Visit specialist this ‘Specimen’ impression (note ‘0/0’ in denomination sector) of the 1954 Royal Visit H.Q. meter, License no. ‘RV2’, together with Official handstamp and Perth datestamp, is rare and sought after. I doubt that   even $100 would temper a specialists’ enthusiasm.


                                          Figure 10.   A tiger in this ungainly ‘tank’?


Pitney Bowes’ 1960 ‘map’ design also included emblematic aeroplane (upper left) and ‘surfie’ (lower right – I wonder if this has been noted by many?). Some of the advertising produced for this meter stamp series is amongst the finest one sees for Australia, comparable even to the outstanding designs seen in some German meters of the 1930s. Figure 10 shows two typical quality designs from the many encountered. More senior Nostalgia Buffs will recall the series of Esso ads on ’sixties TV featuring the ‘put a tiger in your tank’ motif.


          So ends a truncated introduction to meter stamps. Any philatelic appetites out there whetted? Go on, surprise me.

Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962 and a regular Stamp News advertiser since the 1960s. He founded Rodney A Perry Auction Galleries (now Millennium Philatelic Auctions) in 1971. As a collector he has exhibited   nationally and internationally. Rod prefers his used stamps on cover and likens taking a stamp off its original cover to converting a tree to woodchips.