something strange in Scotland.


Something strange in Scotland

by Ron Shanahan

These items were most unusual in that they were made up of loose stamps taken from the normal sheets. These were inserted into rather clumsy, bulky cartons for sale in vending machines. These machines were originally designed to dispense cigarettes and did not need too much adapting to handle the cartons.

Six machines were installed, the first becoming operational in Dundee about February 1977. The cartons were sealed with adhesive labels inscribed 'ROYAL MAIL STAMPS' the face value of stamps and contents.

In the first series the 30p contained two 6½p and two 8½p Scottish Regional stamps and the 60p had four of each. The stamps could be in singles pairs or blocks.


When postal rates changed on 13 June 1977 these packets were withdrawn on 11 June and on 13 June the contents were changed. The 30p packet contained contained 3 x 7p stamps and 1 x 9p and the 60p had 6 x 7p and 2 x 9p stamps. In this series the normal British Machin stamps were used.


The Edinburgh machine, situated in an automatic sorting area was supplied with 7p stamps with two phosphor bands instead of the new centre band 7p stamps. This despite instructions having been given to withdraw the two band stamps. The demand for these packets was too great to be filled and by 27 June the machine was closed down. It was brought back into use on 16 August 1977 supplying the 7p stamps with the centre band.

The 6½p and 8½p Scottish Regional packets were put on sale at the Edinburgh Philatelic Bureau in June 1977 and withdrawn in April 1978. The packets with the 7p and 9p Machin stamps were put on sale at the Bureau in June 1977 and withdrawn in December 1978.

The strangest part of this exercise would seem to be the production costs and on the face of it the proposal should never have even got off the ground.

Counter books of ten stamps cost about £7.93 per thousand booklets and books of six about £8.67 per thousand. The cost of the cartons worked out at about £140 per thousand, an incredible difference. The main problem was that they were to be made up by hand. Add to this the fact that the trials were to be conducted in Scotland and the whole idea seems bizarre.


In January 1998 stamp vending machines were available in Woolworths stores in Booval, Ipswich and Yamanto (our local areas) which dispensed stamps to the value of $5. Initially the make up was of a folded blank card which held 11 loose stamps of the current postage rate of the time, 45c, with various low value definitive stamps to make up the odd 5c.

The blank card was later replaced by a folded card advertising AAPT but the stamp contents were similar, as shown.


Front cover         Back cover


I wonder if the Scottish experiment may have had some bearing on this (also short lived) trial. Very little information seems to be available about them.

Source acknowledgments:-
Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Concise Catalogue 1999 Edition.
Glenn H. Morgan "Scottish Experimental Cartons" in Autumn 2009 "Cross Post".

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