If you are tired of “routine” stamp collecting—the rut that has you filling up the same blank spots in the same printed albums as everyone else—why not collect PERFINS? The word PERFIN comes from PERforated INSignia. Perfins originated in Great Britain in the 1860’s and were authorized for use on U.S. stamps on May 8, 1908.
PERFINS are stamps that have been perforated with designs, initials, or numerals by private business and governmental agencies to discourage theft and misuse.
Perfins have appeared on postal paper of more than 200 nations. In the United States alone, more than 6,400 patterns are known to have been used. The number of patterns used around the world exceeds 50,000; 40,000 of which are between Great Britain and Germany.
These stamps offer a fertile field for philatelic investigation. It is a field that is almost unlimited in scope, and it is richly rewarding to the collector who is not satisfied to collect by the catalog or by merely filling up blank spaces in a printed album. Perfin collecting is largely unexplored; there is so much that is not known about perfins that almost every mixture or box of covers is likely to yield a new chapter in the literature of perfins.
It is easy to obtain perfins. Many of your collector friends will give you their perfins rather than throw them away. To many collectors, a perfin is a damaged stamp or at best a space filler to be discarded when a “whole” stamp is found. Dealers often will toss perfins into a box under the counter and sell them to the first collector who will make any decent offer.
But before you begin collecting perfins, you must face the fact that you will, in general, be collecting for fun and not for profit. A collector who looks on perfins as an investment is bound to be disappointed. While some fine perfins command a premium, this is the exception rather than the rule. Perfin collectors collect stamps and study them; they do not consider their stamps financial ventures.
There are many ways to collect perfins. One can collect by type; that is, one can arrange to get one example of each perfin pattern without regard to the face value of the stamp. Or one can collect by issue—trying to get an example of each pattern on each stamp. However, considering the number of stamps that have been issued in the United States since 1908 and the fact that there are 6,400+ U.S. perfin patterns, one best have a large supply of binders to hold a collection. Many perfin collectors collect only covers. It is possible to trace the entire history of a business firm by watching the change in corner cards during the years a perfin was in use.
Some collectors collect by topic: perfins issued by banks, by automobile companies, by schools, or by insurance companies. For example, nearly 200 U.S. railroads used perfins and railroad perfins is a popular topic.
Once you have a few perfins on hand, you must identify and mount them into a collection. Identification can be challenging. Suppose you have a stamp with a “PSC” perfin pattern. Does that stand for Public Service Commission or does it stand for Penn State College or even Pressed Steel Company? It could be any one of these since all these firms have used “PSC” to mark their stamps.
But that’s where the Perfins Club, Inc. (Club) comes in. The Club is an organization of 400+ collectors of perfins who have compiled a massive amount of information about perfins from the U.S. and other countries.
The Club has published an illustrated catalog of United States perfins that lists each of the known U.S. perfins, identifies the users of most, and provides exact size illustrations of the vast majority of the known patterns.
The Club has also published several catalogs of perfins from other countries and members are currently researching the information that will facilitate the publication of a complete set of catalogs of the world’s perfins. One element of this is the World Perfin Catalog covering those countries that have few perfins.
The Perfins Bulletin, published six times a year, relays to the Club’s membership the newest perfin research information and also provides a means for the members to keep in touch with each other. Back issues of the Bulletin from 1945 through 2012 can be reviewed at the Club’s Website www.perfins.org along with a list of publications available for purchase, and a membership application.