In 1868 one Joseph Sloper, having patented several devices for punching out railway tickets to cancel them, turned his attention to precancelling postage stamps with companies initials. On the 13th of March 1868, after much persuasion, the Postmaster-General of Great Britain finally stated that he would “…not object to the perforation of postage stamps …” with a view to protect merchants and others, as far as possible, from the theft of stamps used by them. The Post Office had been slow in accepting Joseph Slopers invention.
The term perfin [Perforated initials] was coined by a New York collector in 1943 a Mr. H. Card. In the UK about the same era SPIFS [Stamps Perforated by Initials of Firms and Societies] was used. The accepted definition of a perfin in Australia is a stamp which has initials or any figure or design perforated into it by a business, society or other organization.
And so the perfin was born, and was quickly adopted by companies both large and small. Not all perfins were company initials. Some firms used their full name, although this was against the Post Office’s wishes, as they saw it as a form of advertising. This form of precancelling stamps was to be without doubt the most successful security endorsement and is still in use today.
The earliest known approval by an Australian firm to use its firm’s precancelled perforated initials was granted on 27 September 1877 by the postal department in Adelaide, South Australia, to the wholesale grocers firm of D. & J. Fowler Ltd. A two-die perforator was manufactured for D. & J. Fowler Ltd. by Joseph Sloper in early 1880. A sample strike [Sloper number 5457] is to be found in the Sloper Workshop Impression Book.
Photo: Australian Pre-decimal - Range of Official PERFINS Mint. First 2 rows are MNH, next 3 rows are MH (except 2nd last stamp - 1 1/2d green which is mint no gum). Last row is Mint no gum.