By 1970, there were some 50000 stamp selling machines in use in the
UK and many more had been exported worldwide. The basic design remained unchanged from 1905 until 1970, when the Type G series was introduced. G.1 was the first modern mechanism and was said by the manufacturer to be designed to fit in the old housings, although subsequent to the prototype it had to be modified and in any case was much deeper than the preceding designs so that it actually required its own specially designed case, designated Type U. Type G machines incorporated many novel features including a Perspex cover sealed from moisture over the stamp coil to prevent the stamps sticking together. In addition the mechanism was driven by the user lifting a large flap over the vend slot. This action primed the machine. It could be set to dispense any number of stamps from one to five against the insertion of a single coin, although in practice this was never done and all Type G machines vended a strip of five values. Initially these added up to 1 shilling, then after 1971, 5 new pence and by 1980, 10p. Changes in postal rates introduced in 1980 meant that all surviving 10p machines were withdrawn from service.
Construction & Use
Types A-E share the same common features that contributed to their success; they all have a stamp feed wheel with pins which accurately interlock with the stamp perforations and they all derive the energy needed to operate the mechanism from the raising of a weight through the insertion of a coin. Type F machines are different in that the coin releases a Pull bar which when pulled, forces the next booklet in a stack out through the vend slot. Such mechanisms as Type F and Type G are said to be coin-freed. This proved to be very successful and was used over and over again in subsequent designs of machine up to about 1988, when manufacture of purely mechanical SVMs ceased.
From that time all machines in use in the
UK were of the electro-mechanical type. This used a standard mechanical coin-weigher unit and mechanical stacking for booklets, but had an electronic arm on a rotating cam for dispensing the booklets. They were manufactured by Hillday Automation of Attleborough,
Norfolk and designated Type B52. Two versions were built with either long or short coin boxes, easily recognised from the length of the case. Initialy set to dispense 4 x 25p stamps in a folded booklet in exchange for a £1 coin, different combinations were later employed as postage rates in the
UK continued to rise.
These electro-mechanical machines were powered by large internal battery packs which made them expensive to service and more unreliable than the purely mechanical designs. All of these were removed during 2001 and today there are very few automated stamp vending machines left in use in the
UK. As stamp booklets can now be widely purchased from supermarkets, garages, kiosks and newsagents, demand for automatic vending facilities has declined to the point where their continued operation becomes un-economic.
In 1949, the GPO were issuing Type B4 machines in 1/2d and 1d denominations, whilst by 1958 a B4 3d machine had been introduced. P.O. Engineering Dept notice C.1003 was issued on 22nd September 1949 and details, with beautiful ink drawings, how the B4 mechanism works (see illustrations above). Notice C4111 details how to load it, whilst maintenance is covered by C5011 & C5164.
In Notice C1505, detailing how to pack them for transport and dated 20th February 1963, the designs had progressed to B.4, C.4 and D.6 indicating that it took some time to perfect the two-coin vending machine.
Cases for Stamp Machines
All of the mechanisms from A to F are designed to fit in the same mounting plates and cases. These were described in notice C1501 issued on 29th December 1936, which noted that the original brass mounting plates or cast-iron cases had by then been superseded.
Case CI Type A for a single machine. Case opens from the front and hinges left to right.
Case CI Type B for a single machine. Case opens from rear and door hinges down.
Case CI Type C as Type A but for two machines side by side
Case CI Type D as Type B but for two machines side by side
By 4th April 1936, these had been replaced by:
Mounting plate BronzeType E for a single machine in a wall
Case CI Type F flush mounted to a wall for two machines, machines hinge out vertically downwards, coin chutes protrude down through wall to a separate cash box.
Case CI Type G- was to have been a single unit case, but had not been made at this time.
Case CI Type H for a single machine fixed to a Type A pillar box with small cash tray
Case CI Type J for a single machine fixed to a Type B pillar box with small cash tray
The same notice, EC1731, notes that Types H & J are now replaced by L and M for new installations.
Case CI Type L Type A pillar box, R/H side with enlarged cash tray
Case CI Type M Type B pillar box, R/H side with enlarged cash tray
Case CI Type P - Type A pillar box, L/H side with enlarged cash tray
Case CI Type Q Type B pillar box, L/H side with enlarged cash tray
Case CI Type R As type P/Q but built into wall with mounting plate
Case CI Type K Mk1 free standing or mounted in a wall for two machines side by side, no coin chutes, enlarged cash boxes which hinge open from front.
In notice C1501 revised 25th July 1951 it is noted that K. Mk1 has been replaced by K. Mk2 which is now without a separate hinged flap for the coin boxes and sports only one door instead of two for the machines. These were made by Allied Ironfounders until at least 1966 and also by Carron Company. The 1936 notice also notes that machines are fitted into Pillar Letter Boxes of Types D or E (PB29 and 30) and Kiosk No 4 (TK31) although it does say that No more of these are being issued for the moment.
In 1960, two authors published a slim tome entitled Stamps of
Great Britain Issued in Rolls and the Machines which Use them by C.M. Langston and H.C. Corless which has an excellent description of the early history of stamp vending machines. Click here to read an updated extract from their book.
These two machines were located on either side of the same pillar at Theydon Bois in Essex. They are Type M and Type Q cases and in the side view you can see the rather large cash tray. The mechanisms now fitted are Type B4 1d coils, but originally, one would have been for 1/2d stamps of the C4 type.
Amazingly, these machines were still in-situ until 1999! They are now under restoration at a private location in Hertfordshire.
||Another lucky survivor is this Type M located at Strathblane in Scotland. It was still extant when photographed by Chris Marcus of the LBSG in 1997. Since then a mass cull of SVMs by RoMEC has led to most survivors being removed.|
At the other end of the country is this extant Type J housing with the short coin box. It is in Teignmouth in Devon. The four holes would have carried an enamel plate of the type you can see fitted to our K2 cased mechs above. These normally tell users to wait for one coin to drop before inserting another (for Type D machines) and not to use bent coins (all machines).
These two modern machines represent the very last type used by Royal Mail which were based on the earlier entirely mechanical designs, but with a battery operated vend mechanism. This has an LCD counter
attached which records how many books have been sold. They are made by Hillday of Attleborough in Norfolk and designated Type B52. The Topsham example has an extended case with a large cash box whilst the Southsea example, being built into a Sub-Post Office, has no cash tray and thus is shorter.
All of these are now out of use and many have been removed and the cases plated over by RoMEC
Above Left: Searching through my photographic files it seems that SVMs mounted on the left hand side of a pillar (as viewed from the front) are much less common. This nice example attached to a VR 1887 Jubilee B pillar (PB15) is a Type Q (enlarged cash tray) which also carries the cast Out of Order plate used to replace removed machines. This example was located at The Village Experience, Fleggborough, Norfolk and was auctioned on 16/10/2004 for £1200