Automat labels, international

General remarks

Over the years the postal services in many countries have been experimenting with automats that enable patrons to buy automat labels with the requested value(s) without having to stand in line at counters. Even outside office hours one can obtain automat stamps by inserting coins or by using a credit card. The automat labels are regular stamps, that need to be cancelled when used on a piece of mail.

The first automat labels

In the initial stage -end of the seventies- the labels were printed on white paper without watermark by using a cliché and an ink ribbon. The print usually was red, pink or lilac. The cliché was very simple and unattractive, usually consisting of the country name, PTT-logo and the value. Sometimes a number on the label indicated the location of the automat. After a first try out in Montgeron (France), the Swiss firm Frama started the production of automats in 1976, initially to be deployed in Switzerland, but soon also in Norway, Belgium and Brazil. Some examples of this initial period are shown below.

Automaatstrook Zwitserland
Switzerland 1976
Mi. # 1.4
Automaatstrook Noorwegen
Norway 1978
Mi. # 1.2
Automaatstrook Brazilië
Brazil 1979
Mi. # 1
Automaatstrook België
Belgium 1981
Mi. # 1
Automaatstrook Frankrijk
France 1982
Mi. # 3.3.4

Modern automat labels

Pretty soon preprinted rolls were introduced with attractive designs, that made them look more and more like "normal" stamps. Judge for yourself. Usually the automat only needed to print the value on the labels.

Automaatstrook Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein 1995
Mi. # 4
Automaatstrook Macau
Macao 1999
Mi. # 2.1
Automaatstrook Spanje
Spain 2001
Mi. # 57.5

In the meantime more than 50 countries in the world have deployed this kind of automats. There are several options to collect these labels:
  • " One mint and/or cancelled label or a set of standard labels (domestic fare, EU-fare, rest of the world).
  • " One label or a set on an envelope. Many Postal Services provide first day covers.
  • " When one has the chance to operate an automat himself, a malfunction or other irregularity may occur: a misprint of the value, a derailed print, a print on the reverse side of the label (when the roll was inserted wrongly), a test print 00.00 or an unprinted label. These irregularities give a lively touch to a collection.
  • " Some automats produce labels with a black numbering on the reverse side of every fifth label. These can also be worth collecting as the size or the shape of the digits sometimes differs or as their position may be horizontal or vertical.

Automaatstrook Israel, versneden en verschoven opdruk
Israel 1990
Mi. # 3
Automaatstrook België, rugnummer
Belgium 1990
Mi. # 22
Automaatstrook Brazilië, zonder opdruk
Brazil 1997
Mi. # 7

Various automats also produce receipts, showing the location of the automat and the date of issue. Collecting these receipts in combination with the labels offers an interesting documentation. Many label rolls show pink, purple or red end markings, the cream on the pudding for specialists. Watch also for misspellings or wrong dates on receipts.


There are a few specialised catalogues for automat labels.
When starting a collection, the German catalogue by Von Loeper and Giel can be handy
For advanced collectors the German "MICHEL-ATM-Spezialkatalog Ganze Welt"gives a lot of detailed information.

Collecting automat labels:
the past, the present and the future.

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