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British Philatelic Automation
IntroductionIt was more than 50 years ago when the British Post Office started to use automation to assist with the preparation of items intended for sale to collectors and members of the public seeking a souvenir.
The 1957 Scout Jamboree was the first time that the GPO had offered FDC servicing. With orders estimated at two million by the stamp trade, it was essential to automate the process True orders were only 60,632 covers, rendering the custom-made equipment and coils unnecessary. It was a long time before further philatelic automation was considered again.
First Day Covers and Presentation Packs continued to be assembled by hand until Stephen Mayer International created viable stamp sheet 'bursters' and equipment that fed single stamps from hoppers onto the cover or into the pack. Walsall Security Printers now has a bureau that assembles items for a growing number of Post Office administrations, including Royal Mail.
'Smilers' (stamps with attached photo labels) are produced by mail order or in person at events, where a camera or scanner, PC software and colour printer automates the personalisation of images onto blank label sheets.
The introduction of self-adhesive stamps required new techniques and internal coils in unique formats unavailable to collectors are now often created by the stamp printers for Royal Mail Tallents House use. The first miniature sheet in a self-adhesive format resulted in dummy rolls for testing.
It is expected that future stamp formats will result in yet more specialised equipment and innovative solutions to assist with the processing of orders.