Canadian Perfin Officials


by Tony Brown

Introduction

A perfin is a postage stamp that has been perforated with distinctive marks such as initials (hence the contraction perfin from perforated initials) to discourage theft by employees. The practice ceased with the introduction of postal metres.

There are two general types of perfin: private and official. Private perfins were used by commercial enterprises, with the earliest known Canadian example being that of the W.J. Gage & Company of Toronto, found on a 3-cent Small Queen on a cover postmarked October 2, 1887. Official perfins included those used by government departments and agencies. The aim of this document is to describe the Canadian perforated official stamps, otherwise known as the perfin officials.

The source of the statistics (i.e., years of first and last issues for each perfin type) in this document is Canadian Stamps with Perforated Initials, Fourth Edition, BNAPS Perfin Study Group. It should be noted that the years indicating first and last issues pertains to the issue dates of the stamps on which the perforations have been made, and not to the dates when the perforations were made. For example, the first issue year for the PEI  perfin is listed as 1911 because it was found on an Admiral issue first printed in that year. This does not mean, however, that the PEI perforator came into use in that year. The actual dates when the perforators were created and put into operation are unknown to the author.

The term type used in the context of perfins refers to the unique set of pins used to perforate the stamps, e.g., when a used damaged set is replaced by a new set in the same perforator or different sets used in different perforators..

Categories of Perfin Officials

Perfin officials fall into four main categories:

  1. Provincial Official - perfins used by more than one department or agency of a   provincial government;
  2. Provincial Departmental Official - perfins used by a single provincial department or agency;
  3. Federal Departmental Official - perfins used by a single federal government department or agency; and
  4. Federal Official - perfins used throughout the Canadian federal government.

 

Provincial Officials

Three provinces used perfins: Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan.

Province of Ontario

First Issue: 1922
Last Issue: 1980

The initials stand for "Legislative Assembly."

Province of Ontario

The Ontario Government produced perfins at Ontario House, its office in London, England. The office, opened in 1908 and remained in operation until 1934. This perforation was made on several British stamp issues. 

First Issue: 1912
Last Issue: 1921

Source: http://www.kw.igs.net/~mjbehm/bnaps/
 

Province of Prince Edward Island

First Issue: 1911
Last Issue: 1942

Province of Saskatchewan

Type I

First Issue: 1922
Last Issue: 1938

Province of Saskatchewan

Type II

First Issue: 1922
Last Issue: 1976

Note: Perfin collector Mike Behm reports "by the mid-1950s, Die II was missing many pins. However, it was reworked around 1964 so that all of the pins were again legible. I think of this as being the equivalent of a third die."

 

Provincial Departmental Officials

Three perfins were used by departmental agencies: The Québec Liquor Commission, an agency of Québec's Department of the Solicitor General; The Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railroad, which came under Ontario's Ministry of Transportation; and the Workmen's Compensation Board of British Columbia's Department of Labour.

Québec Liquor Commission

First Issue:1918
Last Issue:1957

Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railroad

First Issue: 1911
Last Issue: 1922

Workmen's Compensation Board

First Issue: 1911
Last Issue: 1972

 

Federal Departmental Officials

There are a total of 12 federal departmental official perfin types: the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; Canadian Northern Railway (two types); Canadian National Railways (five types); the Intercolonial Railway, the Department of Finance; the Militia Department; and the Department of National Defence.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

First Issue: 1939
Last Issue: 1958

Canadian Northern Railway

Type I, Winnipeg, Manitoba

First Issue: 1903
Last Issue: 1928

Taken over by the federal government in 1917.

Canadian Northern Railway

Type II, Toronto, Ontario

First Issue: 1903
Last Issue: 1949

Taken over by the federal government in 1917.

Canadian National Railways

Type I, Toronto, Ontario

First Issue: 1932
Last Issue: 1980

Canadian National Railways

Type II, Vancouver, British Columbia

First Issue: 1922
Last Issue: Unknown (Mike Behm reports a 1988 issue)

Canadian National Railways

Type III, Montréal, Québec

First Issue: 1911
Last Issue: 1930

Canadian National Railways

Type IV, Winnipeg, Manitoba

First Issue: 1923
Last Issue: Unknown (Mike Behm reports a 1991 issue)

Canadian National Railways

Type V, Montréal, Québec

First Issue: 1922
Last Issue: 1972

Intercolonial Railway

First Issue: 1872
Last Issue: 1911

The Intercolonial Railway was the first federal Crown corporation.

Department of Finance

First Issue: 1922
Last Issue: 1935

The year of last issue reflects the use of this perfin by the Department of Finance. The same die was used for the first federal officials.

Militia Department

First Issue: 1911
Last Issue: 1928

Department of National Defence

First Issue: 1914
Last Issue: 1942

Note: According to Mike Behm, MD and ND are from the same perforator, one that was reworked in the 1920s.

 

Federal Officials

After the discovery of a very large theft of postage stamps in 1937 in one of the government departments, all departments were required to use perfins, effective July 1, 1939. The Department of National Defence was granted a temporary reprieve due to the war effort. The design of choice was a four-hole OHMS set of initials, so-called because four holes were used to make the legs of the "H" and "M." As the perforator that was ordered had not arrived in time for the July 1 deadline, the Department of Finance's perforator, with its old five-hole die, was used to perforate the first set of stamps under the new government-wide ruling.

The federal officials, which were perforated by the Philatelic Division of the Post Office, were made available to stamp collectors.

There are a total of three federal perfin officials, the five-hole OHMS, and two die types of the four-hole OHMS.

Five-Hole OHMS

First Issue: 1938 (as a federal official)
Last Issue: 1942

Four-Hole OHMS

Type I

First Issue: 1938
Last Issue: 1949

Four-Hole OHMS

Type II

First Issue: 1942
Last Issue: 1951

The practice of overprinting officials, first with the initials O.H.M.S., and then by the single letter "G," began in 1949. The Die II perforator was temporarily brought back into service in 1950, however, to compensate for a shortage of overprinted stamps.


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Updated: 20 November 2009