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Our Old Stamp "Paraphernalia" Box!

Behind my desk is an open box labelled “STAMP PARAPHERNALIA” into which all manner of unusual objects are being placed.

None of these items are valuable in themselves; however we feel that this Treasure Box’s contents really do trace the history of our wonderful hobby! These are the items which come along with collections and are the unwanted (apart from by us) accessories of a bygone age.

These are the perforation gauges, watermark fluid trays, the tins in which those old unfolded stamp hinges were sold and the many strange magnifying tools – our favourite of which is a heavy glass dome inside its own calf-skin pouch which is then stored within a strong leather zipped case. It must be almost a century old yet is as good as new and looks like a giant’s contact lens!

The perforation gauges also come in all shapes and sizes. The ‘industry standard’ is currently best represented by the Stanley Gibbons “Instanta” ( as we need to check perforations without taking stamps from the album page, we tend not to favour the high-tech electronic machines!) but before the advent of clear plastics the many perforation measuring devices came in metal, printed on card, as raised dots on tin plus much else. My favourite is a cheap little circular device called the “Star Perforation Gauge” produced for the Malvern Stamp Depot of Malvern. It looks like a cogwheel with each angled tooth showing a row of dots. It’s a very elegant design although I’ve never used it.

Given the materials available it is not surprising that many of these gauges are not entirely accurate and may be responsible for some inaccurate measurements which have carried- over into modern catalogues. In fact some years ago I confiscated a number of early “Instanta” gauges made with thick, yellowing plastic which didn’t quite match the readings on its latest, more accurate version!

“Colour Guides” are another interesting area. As many Philatelists will know ‘shades’ can be extremely challenging to identify with colours of the same name often appearing to be very different from country to country, or even between issues. Over the years many colour guides for philatelists have been manufactured and our “Paraphernalia” box has a few. Our favourite is the old Stanley Gibbons “Colour Guide for Stamp Collectors.” which is a collector’s item in its own right. Containing 100 ‘stamps’ printed by Perkins, Bacon & Co. with the different colours listed beneath from “Brown-Lake” to “Slate (Bluish)” this wonderful tool was sold in various versions for many years until a much inferior (but presumably cheaper) version with simple solid blocks of colour came along in the 1960’s.

Our Paraphernalia box is a relatively new addition to the office and we are adding new things every week, we plan to fill a nice display cabinet but I suspect we’ll soon need something bigger!


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