Bee "Perfins" and "POKOs"

A stamp is a means of payment. With that littlc piece of paper you pay the Post Office for rendered services. For that reason around 1900 it was possible to give back the stamps and to get back your money. Clerical employers saw nice extra earnings by stealing the stamps of their bosses. 

The reaction of the bosses was perforating the stamps with their initials. The stamps no longer could changed at a post office.

  1. Fold a stamps sheet zigzag till you have one strip. You put this strip in a machine, which perforates the stamps.
    Characteristic here: the perforation is normal readable on the first series; on the second series the perforation is in reverse. 

    This perforation is called 'perfin' (from PERForated INitials).
  2. To use a German perforation machine the sheet must be splitted into strips. The selvedges joined making one long strip.
    The long strip of stamps is then rolled up and is put in the machine. When you use a stamp from the strip, the machine counts and perforates the stamp. The perforations are always readable on the obverse of the stamp 

    These perforations are named after the German machine "Porto Kontroll Kasse" (port check cash), abbreviated POKO.

A direct consequence of the POKO machine is the introduction of coil stamps. Coil stamps usually have no perforation on the sides, so using in a machine is easier.

Working with the perforation machines was rather time absorbing. That is the reason thcefranking machine is devcloped around 1912. But even in these days perforation machines are in use.

Perfins and topical philately

It is undeniable, perfins are not produced by post offices. That can give problems for the topical collector. Because according to the topical rules an item or a piece of an item is postal, when:

  • it is obtained from a postal service;
  • it is attached by a postal service;
  • it is permitted by a postal service.

Perfins are permitted by a postal service !! At the end of the 19th century in several countries perfins were used with the permission of local Post Administrations. A problem for firms with international correspondence. Therefore in 1906 the U.P.U. (Universal Post Union) decided in Rome:

"it is allowed to give stamps a special mark by means of perforation
on the conditions of the Administration which issued the stamps.

This U.P.U. decision makes the way free for a topical collector to use perforated stamps and other perforated issues in his/her collection. What's more: when you use a postal item because of the cancellation, it is not permitted to use the rest of the envelope. The rest is not philatelicaly interesting. In case of a perfin you can use the rest of the envelope to prove the user of the perforation. So the topical advice is: try to find a perfin on a postal item.

What have l found ?

From the 941 known Dutch perforations there is one firm, that can be used in a topical collection. It is the perforation S.P.G.: the initials of S.P. Goudsmid, the founder of Magazijn 'De Dijenkorf (warehouse The Beehive). 

Note: at least in Holland the beehive is a symbol for a noisy pleasant stir. Compare schools with the name Bijenkorf. 

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The S.P.G perfins are used between 1910 and 1958 in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and 's Gravenhage. So there are lots of S.P.G. perfins: not difficult to find.
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The devotees of plants can find a clover leaf of 9 different firms: two in Germany, one in Ireland and six in England (according to the World Catalogue Topical Perfin.)
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The devotee of hexagons can look for two German and one Swiss perfins.
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Nearer to our bees are two German beehives. The first one contains the character "T". It is the poko of "Girokasse des Kreise Teltof'. 

Using is known for the period 1922-1927. 

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The second perfin has the character "G". The only fact known about this perfin is: the stamps were cancelled in Berlin.

For many perfins their origin is unclear. This problem is typical for perfins and poko's. In former days lots of the stamps were thrown away by collectors, because the stamps were 'damaged'. It makes topical research very difficult. I have suggested looking for big firms like Dadant in U.S.A., Thorne in England, Graze and Herzog in Germany. This means looking in catalogues (how to find these books ??). It means for example looking in a German catalogue with over 10.000 perfins. The Perfin Club, Holland, thinks it is looking for a pin in a hay stack.

Maybe I am born for luck, because my first effort (ok, via a German auction catalogue) was directly a hit.

The perfin is in reflection and upside down. To read is "W.B." and under it "V". 


The firm is Wilhelm Böhling in Visselhövede. Indeed: Visselhövede is a place on the Lüneburger Heide, Germany. Böhling is busy with "Großfabrikation praktischer Bienenwohnungen und Bienengerate" (large fabrication of practical beehives and bee tools), "Naturhonig und Bienenwachs en gros" (natural honey and beeswax wholesale), "Neuzeitlicher Großimkereibetrieb" (modern large beekeeper enterprise).

All these items make the card multi-functionally. The stamp is cancelled on 12.09.1941. Period of use unknown.

by Jan de Crom  
taken from "The Postal Bee" 1/2000 
Contact Group Bee Philately

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