Why do postage stamps have jagged edges?

Aha : Why do stamps have spikes?

Philosophers love wisdom, the Philharmonic love music. And philatelists? According to the strange word creation, they love the "exemption from fees" (Greek ateleia), the fact that the item has been prepaid, i.e. franked, and no longer has to be paid for by the recipient, as was the case before the postage stamp was introduced. In short: you love postage stamps.

I am also a secret philatelist. My preference for beautiful postage stamps is noticeable when, given the queue at the counter, I resort to a modern machine. The machine prints roll stamps with a 0.45, 0.55 or other stamp as required. But how simple are the motifs! And the marks aren't even jagged!

"It used to be the same," says Erwin Nier, press spokesman for Deutsche Post in Munich. “The first postage stamps had no perforation.” They came into circulation in Great Britain in 1840 as stick-on postage stamps. They were printed on large sheets of paper. “Each stamp had to be cut individually from the sheet with scissors.” Since there were no cutting lines, some stamps had wide margins, others were trimmed.

In view of the time-consuming cutting, the British businessman Henry Archer came up with the idea of ​​perforating the sheets with a puncture machine. The result remained unsatisfactory until Archer replaced the fine knives with perforated pins. In November 1848 he registered a patent for a serration machine that punched tiny holes out of the arches. The stamps perforated in this way could be separated quickly and cleanly from one another.

The example was followed in Germany. “The first perforated stamps appeared in Baden-Württemberg in 1860,” explains Nier. Today, 14 points on an edge length of two centimeters are standard. The format has also established itself with self-adhesive brands.

Toothed stamps from the reel of machines, on the other hand, are an expression of a new level in the reduction of personnel costs and a cut in a tradition. They are not yet very popular with philatelists. Unless they come from one of the first Berlin Klüssendorf machines, show an old printer type or ... The love of the philatelists grows with the distance in time. Thomas de Padova

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