Meter Franking – A Fascinating Topic For Philatelists

By Alastair Nixon

Have you ever stopped to wonder why so many people all over the world collect stamps? Some of the reasons may include: "they are interesting - I learn about different cultures, and progress across the world", "to enhance my interest in postal history", "for investment", "for the thematic and commemorative aspects", "I like to tick them off in a catalogue", "the thrill of finding something rare", "the social aspect – swapping with and showing them off to my friends", "I enjoy finding errors", "it is a fairly cheap, absorbing and wholesome hobby", "it reminds me of my visit to …." etc.

It is perhaps surprising, therefore, why so few people either collect meter franks or supplement their stamp collections with them. I started collecting meters some 15 years ago but have only recently realised that every one of the above reasons for collecting stamps also applies to collecting meter franks!

The vast majority of franking machines are obviously used by businesses and perhaps not that interesting, but they are also used by organisations, governments, the leisure industry, schools, hospitals, airports, and sporting events. I have even seen them being used by castles, private railways, animal sanctuaries, and prisons. The thematic collections that can be built up as a result are virtually endless.

Furthermore, one of the franking machines introduced last year even allows you to personalise your mail - as the frank with my picture on the index page shows!

In addition to satisfying the requirements for collecting stamps, the collecting of meter franks provides a number of additional distinct advantages. Most importantly, perhaps, is the ability to make a study of your particular home town – i.e. a study of local postal history becomes possible. Other advantages worth considering include: "they are cheaper and more plentiful than stamps", "you don’t have to decide whether to collect mint or used!", "it is quicker to cut them out than soak off a stamp". My own personal favourite is that they provide an endless opportunity for research and statistical analysis as each one has a serial number and sometimes an item number.

Perhaps the only disadvantages to collecting meter franks are that there are only a few dealers who can supply them and you cannot go into a shop to buy a catalogue. Having said that, there are experts around, listings do exist and there are one or two dealers that sell them if you search hard enough.

Finally, you may also be interested in reading the series of articles written by Jack Peach on Meter Franking that are currently appearing in Gibbons Stamp Monthly. They give a detailed insight into the history of the franking machines that have been in use in the UK.

If you would like any help or further information on this fascinating topic, please send me an email to the address shown on the Home page.

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