COLLECTING FRAMA STAMPS - By Sel Pfeffer
In earlier days, Australia Post had machines in many Post Offices, which dispensed coil stamps. Specialists enjoyed collecting these stamps but they became obsolete as postal rates rose and it became necessary to find alternative machines, which could dispense higher values that could be altered with postal rate changes.
Several machines were considered and it was decided to do a trial on a machine made by the Frama company of Switzerland.
Machines made by this company were trialled in the six state capitals plus Canberra with the mackines producing labels showing the postcode pertaining to that GPO. Soon these labels or stamps were referred to as Framas. As quite a number of overseas countries had already introduced these variable value-dispensing machines, a dedicated band of world wide collectors, specialising in their study, already existed when our Australian trials were launched. European dealers placed substantial orders with Australia Post and a pattern was set.
The initial base rate for a letter was 0.30 c and sets of seven postcodes x 0.30 c were popular. Other easy to obtain values were 0.40 c (for large letters) and 0.85 c for airmail to Europe.
The early machines had four buttons - three had pre-set values, as above. The fourth button dispensed the value displayed in the window of the machine. For example, if a user inserted two dollars and pressed each of the pre-set buttons he or she would obtain 0.30 c, 0.40 c, and 0.85 c = $1.55. The machine would then display the 0.45 c remaining, giving a 45c stamp, if the fourth button was pressed.
Most collectors obtained a set of seven x 0.30 c, and button sets of 30c, 40c and 85c were also wanted. Later on no-postcode machines were installed in the suburbs and regional cities. Darwin - postcode 5790 was added and for future issues collectors obtained sets of nine rather that the earlier sets of seven.
One of the major reasons for the popularity of Frama collecting and study, is the fact that many varieties appeared in the printing of the value and of the postcode or cliche number. Occasional varieties also appeared in the printing of the security paper itself. A brotherhood developed, with much exchanging and swapping going on.
New security paper was introduced, usually to coincide with rate rises, so we had 33c/45c/90c for Kangaroo, 36c/50c/$1.00 for Platypus and so on. From 1992 to 2003 we had a long stable period when values stayed at 45c/70c/$1.20 although there were variations late in this period when values of button sets were 45c/49c/50c for a short time and then 45c/90c/$1.35.
Final paper, aptly named Farewell, had values of 50c/$1.00/$1.45. The last Framas in Australia were dispensed in mid-year 2003 but their collection and study goes on.
Australian collectors formed study groups - a short lived one in New South Wales, a longer lasting one in Queensland and one in South Australia, which is still active at present with around one hundred members, in Australia and overseas.
Membership is only $7 per year, and anyone interested should contact the editor of the South Australia Study Group Bulletin, Michel Roland, PO Box 62, Campbelltown, SA, 5074.
Sel Pfeffer ©