On a Roll

Continuing the tour of the postal items in our collections revealed a small wooden box containing a ‘Fixo’ stamp affixing machine.

‘Fixo’ stamp affixer in its box.

The advantage of stamp affixers was that application of stamps to multiple envelopes was much quicker. They also reduced the opportunities for the pilferage of stamps. The ‘Fixo’ machine was supplied with two separate keys for the stamp compartment so that two people had to be present to access it. There was also a counter to indicate how many stamps had been used.

Automatic stamp affixers originated in the USA, the first patent being registered in 1858. However it was not until 1884 the first patent for a stamp affixer was granted in the UK, to Victoria Bundsen. Over the next 20 years there were patent applications for more than 100 different stamp affixers, but it was only around 1910 that successful models really became available.

‘Fixo’ – stamp affixer – 1916

The ‘Fixo’ followed the form of the first successful designs, with a circular compartment to hold a roll of stamps; a plunger to press the stamp down, a water tank to wet the gum and a knife edge to separate the stamp from the roll. Initially the manufacturers made up their own rolls from sheets of stamps, but official rolls of stamps became available from Head Post Offices in 1912. 

The ‘Fixo’  was the most popular early stamp affixer in the UK, produced by ‘The International Stamping Machine Co Ltd’ from 1910.  Despite initial success the company closed down in May 1916. Its patents were acquired by the New International Stamping Machine Co, which itself closed down in 1926.

Our ‘Fixo’ was donated to the Museum in 1976, it had previously been purchased at a sale and then used for affixing 1d and 1/2d stamps, although there were in fact no 1/2d postage rates after 1965.

You can read more about the plethora of stamp affixing machines and a wealth of information about stamp rolls in general on the GB Stamp Rolls site. They also get a mention together with other mail room equipment on the Antique Office Machines website.