©Lin Yangchen

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It was the SMC that kept the city of Singapore running. This photograph taken from the roof of the General Post Office shows the city's major landmarks in the mid-20th century, including the Fort Canning lighthouse, Hill Street Police Station, Victoria Theatre, Supreme Court, Singapore Cricket Club, Cathay Building, Saint Andrew's Cathedral and Anderson Bridge (bottom right). And, of course, the Municipal Building (upper right), home of the SMC. The stamp is not stuck to the card.

Spiral staircase for nightsoil collection in the old days.
Ellison Building, Singapore
©Lin Yangchen

Pre-war perfin (Peters 2004) on overlapping BMA stamps.

Post-war perfin (1947–1974) with the defective singaporf datestamp.

The smc perfin machine, made by reputed firm Joseph Sloper & Co. in London in a setting of four dies in a row, was rediscovered at a flea market by Yong (2011). In fact, Sloper, a mechanical engineer, was the pioneer of postage stamp perfins, having borrowed the idea from his railway ticket punching machines; his proposal to so protect merchants from the theft of their stamps was approved by the General Post Office in Britain in 1868.

The machine has a large hinged lever that when pressed downwards drives four sets of pins into a horizontal strip of four stamps. Two separate strikes on plain paper (above) show a horizontal periodicity of 2.05cm, which corresponds quite precisely with the width of the coconut definitive. Even more interesting, however, is what actually happens when it is being operated (Lin & Yong 2017). The lower row of perfins (above) is the output when one depresses the lever fully, with complete letters throughout except for a chipped S and M. The upper set, punched with less force and incomplete travel of the lever, displays additional flaws in truncated m's as well as holes with incomplete removal of paper. This demonstrates that the human hand can spawn striking variations and flaws from a single machine and even a single set of pins. There are constant flaws in the letter S in the third die and letter M in the fourth die.

Truncated m in reversed and inverted forms. The author has also seen an example with only one stem of the m remaining, making the perfin look like sic.

Mis-estimation was common with the hand-operated machines in the realm of perfin production.

Double perfins are relatively rare.


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