Space Spifs

Space Spifs

(or The First Astrophilatelic Perfins)


By Bert Van Eijck


Have you ever heard of PERFINS? If you have did you know there were some space PERFINS? This article will tell you all about it.

The first space perfins comes from Germany, West Germany to be precise because at the time of issue there were two Germanies as you’ll know. This happened in 1963 when on September 22nd the stamp that I write of was born. It was a twin because at that time two German stamps received the same perfin when “DRG” for “Deutsch Raketen Gesellschaft” (German Rocket Society) was punched into the stamps.

The occasion for this was the first Day of Astrophilately held in Hamburg. The two stamps used for the DRG perfin were the 15 pfennig Bundespost Luther and the 20pf Bundespost Bach.

In February 1964 the same perfin was used on three other German stamps: the 10pf Berlin Durer, 25pf Berlin Balthasar Neumann and 30pf Bundespost Immanuel Kant.

All five stamps with the DRG perfin are illustrated here.

One stamp is reproduced showing the reverse to make it more easy for you to identify the perfin. Copies of each perfin numbered 10,050 and for more information you can look up the Raketen Katalog (Rocket Catalogue) of the German stamp firm Sieger issued in 1971 (p 160 under “DRG-Durchlochungen”.

These perfins are unknown to many space stamp collectors and so they are nice material to show in exhibitions, “jewels in a crown”, as it were.

Also shown on this page is some postal stationery from the DRG with an imprinted stamp and the portrait of its President Dr A.F.Staats with a Bremen postmark “10 Jahre DRG” (Ten Years of DRG). I also have a stamp cover with DRG cancel (illustrated) and the post office cancel of Soltau 1, Germany.

Now about the perfin itself. The word comes from PERFforated Initials or Insignia and so there are small holes punched into the stamps in the form of initials, designs or numbers. The British call these “spifs”, an acronym for Stamps Punched with Initials of Firms. After the first adhesive stamp made its appearance in 1840 stamps were used not only as a way of pre-payment of postage but also a practical way of transmitting small sums of money.

In 1867 the British firm of Copestake, Moore and Crampton was the victim of a major theft of stamps. One of the company’s representatives contacted a Joseph Sloper, who had patented a machine for perforating railway tickets as a means of controlling their use. Mr Sloper and the firm worked together to get the British Post Office’s permission to perforate the stamps. Permission was granted in 1868.

Once Great Britain—inventor of the stamp—allowed the practice of using perfins, other countries followed suit: Belgium in 1872, France, Germany, and Denmark four years later. Perfins have appeared under the jurisdiction of over 200 postal authorities since then. Perfin Clubs for collectors exist in a lot of countries—so look out for them!