Sunday, February 26, 2023

1898 Documentary Perfin Cancels

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P & Co

Perfin cancel with initials and date.  This is the most complex and interesting perfin cancel that I have seen on the 1898 revenue stamp series.

Perfins.  For the unitiated, they serve to cancel stamps by punching small holes in the stamp that encode information.  They are often used to precancel stamps.  In a few cases on the 1898 revenue series, period size holes might spell out the initials of a brokerage firm.  Perfins are somewhat scarce on the 1898 series of documentary stamps.  They became a common form of cancel from 1914 on, and entire collections can be built on those perfined stamps.  But today will highlight 1898 perfins.  This post includes 3 unidentified perfins, 7 different NYSE firms, and 2 insurance companies.

Unidentified perfins:
  • P & Company (possibly Pearl & Co.)
  • FB... (possibly Finley Barrell & Co. or several others)
  • AN & Company
New York Stock Exhange firm perfins:
  • Price, McCormick & Company
  • Ladenburg, Thalmann Company
  • Edward Sweet & Company
  • DeCoppett & Company
  • DeCoppett & Doremus
  • Lazard Freres
  • P. J. Goodhart & Company

Insurance company perfins:

  • New York Life Insurance Company
  • Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

For the purpose of this article and in general, perfins do not include punch cancel initials or large punch outs, shaped or not.    These types of cancels will be featured in a comprehensive post in the coming weeks.  This post will also not cover generic perfins like those that spell out Cancelled or Paid, include only numbers, or are shapes.

The upper left stamp and the pair on the right are perfin style generic cancels, not specific to the user.  Cancels in the same class include those that say PAID. The bottom left stamp has simple punch cancels, not perfins.

Letter punch cancel, not a perfin cancel

The first example, and the most complex type of perfin on the 1898s, is that shown at the top of this post.  The cancel remains unidentified but possibly comes from the New York Stock Exchange firm Pearl & Company.  

A similar type of cancel to that above was used by a firm with the initials FB; unfortunately this is only a fragment of the cancel and there may be additional initials we cannot see.  It is clear, however, that firm initials and a date was encoded in the perfin cancel.  


Finley Barrell (with a seat on NYSE) out of Chicago is a possibility, but there are other fims that might also be possible, including F. B. Cochran & Co. of New York.


A final unidentified cancel.  This perfin uses an identical ampersand form as that for the firm Edward Sweet & Company below, so it might be a stock exchange firm, or a company based in New York.

The perfin using firms that follow have all been identified.  They all used a simpler form of perfin that included only the initials of the firm and no date.   

Price, McCormick & Company

Ladenburg, Thalman Company

Bill of exchange fragment.  Dollar values are perfined.

Edward Sweet & Company

The old Scott catalog number is penciled on back

DeCoppet & Company

DeCoppet & Doremus

Lazard Freres

Bill of exchange fragment.  Perfins on stamps 10 cents and up.

P. J. Goodhart & Company

The old Scott Catalog number is penciled on back.

New York Life Insurance Company

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Letter Punch Cancels on 1898 Documentary Stamps

Collections of 1898 series revenue stamps, especially the dollar value documentaries, may occasionally contain stamps that are punch cancelled with the initials of the cancelling user.  Quite separate from perfin cancels or punch cancels that provide no encoded information like a circle or star punch, the letter punch cancels used by a limited number of firms that traded at New York Stock exchange (11 firms, 10 different punch cancels by my current count) are a distinct area for collecting for 1898 revenue specialists.  Examples of punch cancels from the following brokers are provided below:

  • Vernon C. Brown & Company
  • Lathrop & Smith
  • Eames & Moore
  • Stewart Barr & Company
  • Watson & Brown
  • Rolston & Bass
  • Rolston & Hooley
  • DeCoppet & Doremus
  • Whitehouse & Company
  • Edmund & Charles Randolph
  • Wasserman Brothers
An additional non-broker letter punch cancel from a shipping company and two railroads can also be found:
  • Compagnie Generale Transatlantique
  • Erie Railroad
  • Hoboken Shore Road

Finally, there is one complex punch cancel that can be found that I've yet to identify:

  • 1/2

At the beginning of the tax period there was no requirment to punch, cut, or mutilate documentary stamps in the cancelling process.  This would become a requirement for stamps ten cents and above by December, 1899.  But the punch cancels illustrated below would have helped comply with the requirement to cancel the stamp using initials, even though the law says the initials should be written or stamped.  The initial punch cancel clearly complies with the spirit of this requirement.  

In some cases, firms may have used the punched initials as a form of control; if punched precancelled, it would have been difficult for the stamps to have been stolen and sold as they had the equivalent of a brand pre-applied.  In the memos of sale illustrated below, there is a mixed record of stamps that have been punched prior to document application and stamps that have been punch cancelled after application to the document.

Vernon C. Brown & Company 

Punch cancel applied to both stamps prior to application to the memo

Lathrop & Smith

Eames & Moore

Stewart Barr & Company

Stewart Barr appears to have used his punch cancelling device only during the early part of the 1898 tax period.  Multiple Stewart Barr memos of sale, dating through the tax period do not show the use of this device in 1900, 01 & 02.  During those years he used a simple round punch cancel, roughly the same size as the holes on loose leaf binder paper.

Roulette                            Hyphen-hole

Watson & Brown

Rolston & Bass

In 1898, this firm's partners included William Rolston, Walter Bass, and Edwin Hooley.  On January 31, 1901, Walter Bass left the firm and Rolston & Bass was dissolved.  On February 1, 1901, Rolston & Hooley was organized.  Both firms used the "R&B" punch cancel throughout the 1898-1902 tax period.  The ink CDS cancels by name and date help determine the user of the punch cancel.

The stock memos of sale for both Rolston & Bass and Rolston & Hooley below show that the firms used their punch cancel devices after the stamps were applied to the memos.

Punch cancelling occured after application to memo

Rolston & Hooley

Punch cancelling occured after application to memo

DeCoppet and Doremus

DeCoppet & Doremus specialized in the brokering of odd lots of shares.  In the analog and manual days of trading, shares were normally traded a) in prices of 1/8 of a dollar rather than in cents; and b) in round lots of 100 shares.  This remained a standard for decades into the 20th century.  Today, with computerized trading in fractions of a cent and with ready liquidity, odd lots of shares, even fractional shares, trade with speed and regularity.  My guess is that many firms eschewed trading odd lots, and firms like D&D took on small lot trades as a specialty, and probably for a slightly higher commission.  So we occasionally find battleship stamps with the D&D punch cancel, like those below, which were likely used to pay the tax on odd lot trades.  The stock sale memo below for 5 shares of a preferred stock is an example; the transaction was taxed at ten cents.

DeCoppet & Doremus is the only broker I've found to date that used both letter punch cancels like these and perfin cancels.

All the stamps except for the 10 cent stamp above appear to have been punch-cancelled by the same device.  

Punch cancelling occured before application to memo

Whitehouse & Company

Edmund & Charles Randolph

The Randolphs used punch cancels both before and after the stamps were applied to the sale memo, and appear to have used the same "R" cancelling device through the entire 1898 tax period.  Notice below that the cancels are at the bottom of each of the stamps that have been removed from their original documents.   The bottom sale memo below shows two stamps that were punch cancelled after being placed on the memo -- the R shows through the stamps and the memo.  I believe that the off cover examples below were all placed near the bottom edge of their sale memos and punch cancelled once attached.  The top memo includes two stamps clearly punch cancelled prior to the application of the stamps.

Punch cancelling occured before application to memo

Punch cancelling occured after application to memo

Wasserman Brothers

I have not been able to ascertain whether the Wasserman Brothers often dealt in odd lot trades.  However, there is an example of an odd lot share memo of sale below.  Both sale memos show that the firm punch cancelled the stamps prior to application to the documents.

Compagnie Generale Transatlantique

CGT ran passenger ships from and to Europe.  The stamps below were used on passenger tickets.
Perhaps the T refers to Ticket or "Transatlantique"?

Hoboken Shore Road

Punch cancel applied after application to bill of lading. Scan courtesy of Frank Sente.

Erie Railroad

The Hoboken Shore Road was a terminal transfer road at the port in Hoboken, NJ.  The HSR connected with the Erie Railroad in Hoboken.


These aren't letters, but they are complex punch cancels.
Does anyone know who used this cancel?  Half of what, exactly?