If you are interested in more information on this topic, please contact Dr. Charles J. DiComo at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is maintaining and updating the census database on these varieties.
This presentation focuses on early rouletted stamps, including sawtooth separations. It does not cover perforated stamps, except as needed to provide context.
Rouletting and perforating are both processes used to facilitate separation of postage stamps from sheets. The primary difference is that perforation results in the removal of small, usually circular pieces of paper, while rouletting cuts or slits the paper but does not actually remove any of it.
This presentation will discuss each roulette variety for which confirming copies have been found with regards to: identifying characteristics; how many exist; who produced them; and when were they produced. The information discussed is part of a larger research project on early U.S. efforts to “separate” postage stamps from sheets. This involved numerous collectors, their time, and material. Additionally, related documents from unpublished sources were utilized. A “critical mass” of rare varieties, including in some cases all the known copies, have been examined.
The U.S. Post Office first issued postage stamps in 1847. These stamps were imperforate and had to be cut apart. By the 1850s, demand for stamps started to grow significantly due largely to new laws changing rates and mandating prepayment of postage. Scissors, as a means of separation proved to be less and less satisfactory.
The public did not wait for the U.S. Post Office to act. There were a number of “unoffical” or “private” attempts to develop alternative techniques to separate stamps. Most of these attempts were for the benefit of an individual, business, or local post office that found it too time consuming and too inconvenient to cut the stamps apart with scissors. A few attempts were commercial in nature, designed with the hope of selling equipment to the Post Office.
Most of these unofficial attempts consisted of devices or equipment to roulette the stamps, which was easier to accomplish than perforating from an engineering standpoint. Unfortunately, rouletting so weakened the paper that the stamps tended to fall apart in routine handling.
The efforts discussed here preceded the introduction of “officially” perforated stamps produced by Toppan, Carpenter under contract for the U.S. Post Office. Limited introduction began in February 1857 but full scale distribution of perforated stamps did not occur until July 1857.
There are only six cities identified from which two or more copies of rouletted stamps have been recorded (see below). These efforts occurred prior to July 1857.
New York, NY
Kensington & Philadelphia, PA