First Nationwide Coil Stamp Issued 

U.S. #348 was issued on this day in 1908.

On December 29, 1908, the US Post Office Department issued its first coil stamps on a national scale.

Earlier that year, the Post Office experimented with coil stamps but only made them available in five cities. The experiment ended after a representative from the Post Office Department successfully “broke into” the vending machines used to sell the stamps.

Then on December 29, 1908, the Post Office Department ushered in a new era in both mail delivery and philately. On that day, the first coil stamp (US #348) was made available at post office windows around the country.

U.S. #349 was issued in January 1909.

The 1¢ Franklin and the 1909 coil stamps that followed it, were produced on a slightly modified version of the same flat plate press used to print sheet stamps. After the sheets were printed, they were sent through a perforating machine and perforated in only one direction. Then, the printed and perforated stamp sheets were fed into another machine that would cut the sheets into twenty strips of twenty stamps each.

U.S. #351 was also issued in January 1909.

Because coils of only twenty stamps would not have been efficient for use in stamp vending machines, something had to be done to make the coils longer. Each of the strips had to be taken from the cutting machine by hand and glued end to end into coil rolls of either 500 or 1,000 stamps. This was the only step in the process that required manual labor. Soon, the Rotary Press would make it possible to nearly omit this step, thus automating the process almost entirely. Using the rotary press, workers only had to “paste-up” every 6,000 sheets!

This first batch of coils stamps was perforated 12, but it was discovered that they separated too easily. So in 1910, the Post Office began perforating the stamps 8 ½. But this made the stamps too difficult to separate. A perforation of 10 was then adopted beginning in 1914.

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  1. I love these stories about stamps…good article. I save them to a word document, edit them slightly, and then print them for future reference.

  2. Never thought about the relationship between the number of perforations and the ease of separation. Sure, I get it now . . .

    1. I agree with that Bill, sadly. About the only thing I can collect anymore is FDC’s that are basically duplicates of stamps I already have.

  3. I grew up in Detroit and married my wife Gail Webster in 1966. Several years later through her family friends their theirnamed Schermach we leaned that their father Joseph Schermach had invented the postage stamp roll vending machine which induced the u.s. postal service to provide rolls of stamps to accommodate these machines. At the time it was an amazing retail distribution breakthrough because it allowed small business establishments to sell stamps conveniently and at a small profit i.e. initially and for many years the machines
    would dispense 4 1cent stamps or 2 2cent stamps for a nickel and 3 3 cent stamps for dime. If you are over 60 years old you will remember these Schermach stamp vending machines were everywhere. drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations, bus and train depots, and thus made easy access to stamps all over the U.S. and indeed Canada and the Islands. Schermach manufactured and sold the machines and the would modify the dispensing mechanism to accomodate new stamp denominations, ultimately adding the quarter to dispense 6, 7, 8 and 9 cent stamps. This was feasible for the merchants from the 1920’s. through the 1950’s because the rates changes slowly and in small amounts i.e. 3, 4 , 6, 8 cent first class. However in the 1960’s rates went up faster and in greater amounts so the profit margins dropped and the cost of modifications made it impractical for merchants maintain the machines. Also new types of stamp vending machines were available that did require modification for stamp changes. Thus by the early 70’s very few new Shermach machines were being sold and the modifications all that was left of the once thriving business in Detroit. However, my good friend Tom Persing who also knew the Schermach children, one of whom was running the business such as it was, persuaded me and anther partner to buy what left of the business with its small building and ancient belt driven machinery and let the sole remaining employee continue to run the operation with the hope that there might be still some profitability or new venture possible with us being only involved in a limited way. While it was a great adventure into a dying business and we enjoyed the history of daddy Shermach’s inventions we soon realized it was not to be for us and we sold at a modest loss only to have destroyed by fire several months later and that was the end of an era. However even as late as 1990’s we would still run across store that had the stamp machine on the counter dispensing single stamp for nickels, dimes, and quarters. Tom Persing and I remained close friends until his death 5 years ago at age 95, and we had many happy moments reflecting on our venture into the “manufacturing” world. We hope many of you senior stamp enthusiasts will fondly remember the Schermach era. Happy memories, Aye, Stan McFarland

    1. Stan again…please excuse my numerous typos and missed words. I should have proof read this masterpiece but I am old. Still hope you get my message and enjoy the memory. Aye, Stan

  4. I do remember those machines, as I’m over 60. I dropped out of the stamp hobby because I couldn’t afford to keep up with the deluge of stamps the post office issued every year! I don’t like the self sticking stamps either. But I have started again cause I still like the hobby and I don’t plan on trying to keep up but collect what I can.

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