You’ll see a fair number of these machines, in various guises on eBay. And, we are selling this one!
They are not exactly ‘Royal Mail Stamp Vending Machines’ as is so often claimed. They are also unlikely to have ever been sited anywhere other than next to an existing manned reception or cash register – hence the title of this post – as they have no security whatsoever other than a 4mm allen screw to hold the front cover on – and this also includes access to the cashbox. Later ones are more formally approved by Royal Mail after the stamp sale liberalisation, I think, hence the move from cautious beige to Post Office red in the casing colour and Royal Mail like nameplate script.
So why on earth would you have a cheap, plastic, insecure vending machine next to a till? Simple – a bit like The Nightender machine, whilst that logic was swiftly proven unsound by the Irish regulatory authorities, a machine selling you a stamp booklet is not a person, and I suspect it circumvents the then prevailing rule that only Post Offices were able to sell stamps.
I have a feeling that it was only the introduction of 1st and 2nd Class stamps in 1989 when things were relaxed, but after hours of exhaustive searching this seems to be a detail hidden in the depths of time, including specialist websites, and official histories. I do remember though when it was announced on the national news that supermarkets, newsagents, and the likes were free to sell stamps and also when my till drawer at a well-known supermarket suddenly had stamps in it, which sold well, such was the demand back then.
There remains widespread confusion now about stamp resale with forums full of people advising those charged more than face value, that the seller has done something ‘illegal’. The simple fact is, they haven’t, but if they are an approved supplier and buy stamps direct from Royal Mail, they do have to agree to charge only the prevailing prices set by Royal Mail. The local convenience shop owner being carted off to the Tower Of London having committed high treason is therefore slightly overblown in both cases. Then again, the Post Office did ruin hundreds of people’s lives by making up allegations about theft and fraud based on a faulty computer system, so who knows?
The price of stamps at the time of manufacture was obviously considered so stable that they printed the monetary value, £1.04, directly onto the case. Let’s see how that’s gone over the years, with adjustment for inflation;
Interestingly enough, that’s a virtual flatline from, er, 1989 to 2005 when we prepare for takeoff.
The machine itself is very basic. We managed to get hold of an unused, late 1980s one. The first thing you notice is that the rear panel has a huge blank decal on the back. Why’s that? Simple, the back case is simply the front case with a sturdy 1mm sticky backed plastic decal covering the holes.
What else have we got?
And a couple of other forms inside;
So that’s just about everything. You can buy one here, or wait a bit and we’ll be showing you a Hillday Automation model which although also intended for private use, is a lot more robust using proper coin handling and a level of security somewhat higher than a piece of plastic held together with a screw. And here’s a nice little site with some much older, public Stamp Vending Machines.