April 5 Siegel auction features part 1 of Getlan collection of U.S. machine perforations

Mar 21, 2022, 8 AM

By Charles Snee

The Melvin Getlan collection of United States stamps with vending- and affixing-machine perforations, the finest of its kind ever formed, will be dispersed in a series of three sales to be conducted by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries. The first part will be offered April 5 at Siegel’s headquarters in New York City.

Siegel president Scott Trepel, in the introduction to the catalog for part 1 of the Getlan collection, emphasizes the close connection between these fascinating stamps and the development of labor-saving practices.

“The history of VAMPs [vending- and affixing-machine perforations] is closely tied to the development of mass marketing and mechanized everything at the start of the 20th century,” Trepel said.

“Coin-operated machines delivered products to the public, and machine inventions were designed to automate and speed up a wide range of labor processes. To understand how mechanization played a role in philately, it is helpful to separate the machines’ functions of vending and affixing.”

Trepel provides additional context by methodically reviewing the purposes of vending machines and affixing machines in relation to the stamps that were produced for them.

He then touches upon some of the rarities in the collection, including examples of the two imperforate stamps that are only known with Schermack type III perforations: the 1908 4¢ brown Grant (Scott 314A) and the 1920 2¢ deep rose type I Washington (482A).

“To describe the Getlan collection as ‘comprehensive’ or ‘major’ fails to capture the breadth and depth of this collecting achievement. Collectors who acquire the rare stamps, multiples, varieties and covers in these sales are participating in a rare event in philatelic history,” Trepel said.

Stamps with vending- and affixing-machine perforations are listed and valued in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers. The listings are grouped by the various companies that produced the machines that dispensed and affixed the stamps.

Another useful reference is Steven R. Belasco’s Guide to United States Vending and Affixing Machine Perforations 1907-1927, published in 2009 by the United States Stamp Society.

Collectors may wish to consult one or both sources before placing bids in the upcoming Siegel auction.

The April 5 sale, which includes 380 lots, opens with a handsome cover franked with a 1¢ green Franklin (Scott 343) with affixing-machine perfs from the Attleboro Stamp Co. in Attleboro, Mass.

Three of the four perforation teeth (two at top, two at bottom) are clearly visible, while the fourth (at bottom right) is just barely visible.

A flag machine cancel dated Aug. 2, 1909, neatly ties the stamp to the cover, which bears the corner card (return address) of the Attleboro Stamp Co.

The addressee, Frank B. Eldredge, was a collector who contributed to the stamp company’s publication, the Attleboro Philatelist, according to Siegel.

In the description of the cover, Siegel notes that Attleboro’s stamp-affixing machine was used to apply stamps to large mailings of price lists and copies of the Attleboro Philatelist.

“Although the company served stamp collectors, the Attleboro coil appears to have been a purely utilitarian product, limited in its scope to the basic 1c and 2c stamps necessary for mailing and not intended to create new varieties for collectors,” Siegel said.

Scott 343 with Attleboro perfs is valued on cover at $12,500 in the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog. The value is italicized to indicate an item that can be a challenge to value accurately because of limited market data.

Siegel lists this 1¢ Attleboro cover, which comes with a 2000 American Philatelic Expertizing Service certificate, with an estimate of $4,000 to $5,000.

A highlight of the Getlan collection is one of the two known unused guideline pairs of the imperforate 1908 4¢ brown Grant with Schermack type III perforations (Scott 314A).

Getlan acquired this pair for $220,000 during Siegel’s Oct. 9, 2002, auction of part 1 of the Drucker Family collection of U.S. stamps. Siegel emphasized the pair’s importance by picturing it on the cover of the catalog for the Drucker sale.

For comparison, the other unused guideline pair of Scott 314A, which has better centering, sold for $460,000 in the Sept. 22-25, 2009, Siegel sale of part 3 of the Alan B. Whitman collection.

The guideline pair from the Getlan collection is in remarkable condition, with full original gum, excellent color and complete intact perforations. Each stamp has a “small hinge remnant,” according to Siegel. Accompanying the pair are expertizing certificates issued in 1978 and 2002 by the Philatelic Foundation.

Siegel’s census of Scott 314A records 21 unused stamps: four pairs, two guideline pairs and nine singles.

“There are only 32 used singles (two on piece), two used strips of three (one in [the New York Public Library] collection), a used pair and four covers (one of which bears a strip of three), for a total of 46 used stamps,” Siegel said.

In May 1908, the Schermack Mailing Machine Co. in Detroit received 25 imperforate sheets of 400 of the 1902 4¢ Grant stamp. All 10,000 stamps were processed into coils with Schermack type III perforations for use in the company’s patented affixing machine.

“Approximately 6,000 were used on a mailing for Hamilton Carhartt Manufacturer, and almost all of the 4,000 balance were used on a mailing for Burroughs Adding Machine Co.,” Siegel said.

Karl Koslowski, a stamp collector in Detroit, is the original source for all of the unused examples of Scott 314A.

According to Siegel, Koslowski “was the only one to purchase some of the 4c Imperforates — either from the Winfield Printing Company or from the Schermack firm. His earliest account of the event appeared two years later in the Philadelphia Stamp News and is considered to be the most reliable of several conflicting stories told by Koslowski (and interpreted by others) at later dates. In the 1910 article, Koslowski explains that he purchased 50 stamps and expected to be able to buy more, but the supply was destroyed when he returned.”

Siegel has accounted for 32 of the 50 stamps that Koslowski claimed to have acquired: the 21 unused examples and 11 that he used on mail to friends.

Siegel lists this unused guideline pair of the imperforate 1908 4¢ brown Grant with Schermack type III perforations at the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog value of $375,000.

Closing out the sale are nine lots of stamp pockets produced by the U.S. Automatic Vending Co.

The pockets, which were made from manila stock and contained one 1¢ and two 2¢ stamps, were perforated with type II U.S. Automatic Vending Co. perforations and were coiled sideways for dispensing from the company’s ticket-vending machines.

Four types of pockets are listed in the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog, with type I pockets being the scarcest.

The type I pocket in the Getlan collection contains one imperforate 1906 1¢ blue green Franklin (Scott 314) and two imperforate 1906 2¢ scarlet type I Washington stamps (320b).

Siegel lists this U.S. Automatic Vending Co. type I stamp pocket at the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog value of $3,000.

The Scott catalog values “are for ‘pockets’ with known combination of stamps, listed by basic Scott Number,” according to a note preceding the listings in the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog. “Other combinations exist, but are not listed due to the face that the stamps may have been added at a later date.”

Siegel has prepared a detailed 161-page catalog for the sale of part 1 of the Getlan collection. Full details of the auction, including a downloadable version of the catalog and online bidding options, are available on the Siegel website.

For additional information, contact Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, 6 W. 48th St., Ninth Floor, New York, NY 10036.

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