A perforation gauge is a tool that measures the perforation holes on the edge of a stamp, that is, the number of holes in a two centimeter length. Perforation numbers are expressed as one number - say, 11, indicating all sides of the stamp are gauge 11, or in two numbers - say, 11 x 10 1/2, indicating that the top of the stamp is gauge 11 and the sides are gauge 10 1/2.
metal gauge above is suitable for measuring single stamps and stamps on
cover for both U.S. and foreign stamps. On the back of this one are
additional measuring tools for differentiating between the Flat Plate
printings and Rotary Press Printings of early U.S. stamps. These gauges
are made in metal, plastic, and paper. Gauges range in price from about
$2, up to over $500, for a digital electric one. A gauge similiar to
the one above sells for about $2 on the internet.
I just recently got this gauge, a Lindner Phila-Combi-Box brand, and I LOVE it! This gauge measures perforations in quarter steps and the measurement posts are raised up, so you can actually put the perforation holes of the stamp up against the posts, to see if they fit exactly. No more guessing, as to minor variations in perforation measurements! And, the top cover of this gauge can also be opened up all the way and used as a watermark tray, if desired.
A while back, I was working on the 1882 to 1907 Standing Helvetia definitives of Switzerland. Scott lists the first set as being Perf. 11 1/2. It is NOT correct. The first issue is Perf. 11 3/4. I had horrible luck, trying to order missing stamps from this set. About 8 times out of 10, I would order one of these, then when I received it, the stamp turned out to be from one of the cheaper Perf. 11 1/2 x 11 or Perf. 11 1/2 x 12 sets. This happened even with very experienced sellers. Conversely, I've ordered Perf. 11 1/2 x 12 types of these and wound up with a Perf. 11 3/4 example.
When absolutely exact measurement is required, this is the gauge. These are available for about $25 on the internet.
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