First off I see that Stamps on a Roll (SOAR) are now described as “Machine Labels” by Stanley Gibbons.
SOAR are “stamps” printed at the point of purchase (the counter at a post office). They were first introduced in 2010 and the first series of eight stamps featured Irish Wild Life. As a general rule these were replaced by a new set of eight each year.
In 2016, to commemorate, the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, there were sixteen themed designs.
In 2017, the current series (Ireland Thru 100 Objects) was introduced. Strangely An Post is breaking the continuity of this series by introducing, seemingly at random, designs based on “popular” commemoratives.
Increasingly, post offices do not stock commemorative stamps. In many Irish towns and villages, the only “stamps” available to the general public are SOAR/Machine Labels. On a roll of 600, there are maybe 16 designs and the stamps are actually numbered so #1, #17, #25 etc and #2. #18, #26 etc are the same design.
Each stamp has a unique 14 digit number. The first four digits indicate the post office which issued the stamp. For example the General Post Office in Dublin is 0235 and Galway is 1745. The next two digits indicate the terminal which issued the stamp. For example 04 or 07 might be common in larger offices but 01 is of course the most common. Many small post offices are staffed by just one person.
So Irish kiloware (the bulk purchase of used stamps) is always a mixture of SOAR (maybe 40%), booklet or coil stamps (favoured by businesses who use the mail a lot…again maybe 40%) and commemorative stamps (maybe 20%).
As a SOAR stamp can be issued in any value (a single cent or several euros) I find there is a variety that makes them collectable. As I travel on public transport in Ireland for free, I take photographs of post offices to enhance the collection.
Berkeley Road (0637) is about three kilometres north of central Dublin. I took this photograph about two years ago. The stamps are from four different series, Wildlife, Easter, Objects and Christmas.
Balbriggan (0237) is a coastal commuter town north of Dublin. This photograph was taken about two months ago. An Post have recently introduced a new logo. The stamps are from Wildlife, Objects and Christmas series.
As the stamps are self-adhesive, I do not try to take them off paper. Indeed a red Christmas or pink Birthday “envelope” adds a seasonal splash of colour. The A4 paper, 6×4 photograph and 3×3 stamp display is neat but I have pages of several stamps from some post offices. It adds variety.
I have not yet been to Midleton, County Cork (2626) so no photograph.
There are sensible protocols for photographs. The business conducted by people in post offices, whether buying a stamp, paying a bill or withdrawing a pension or other entitlement is personal to them so I am sensitive to this. Likewise vehicles such as delivery vehicles and car registration plates.
There is a security dimension. A postmaster from a suburban post office in south Dublin did come after me to ask me what I was doing.
My original list had 1,424 post offices. I have 1,004.
An amended list (allowing for closures) has 1,118 post offices. I have 993. This means I need 125.
Since I compiled the amended list another 160 post offices have closed. This means that the 125 I still need can be sub-divided into Post Offices still active (71), Post Offices since closed (43) and Post Offices which have actually opened in recent years (11).
The active post offices?…well they will still be found in future kiloware but there is a question of the law of diminishing returns. It is labour-intensive to wade thru several thousand stamps to find just one or two that are on my list. There is also the possibility of actually going to the post offices but they are often in remote areas. There is also the possibility of actually writing to the post offices and enclosing some cash and an addressed envelope.
The closed post offices?…well what’s gone is gone. I am not obsessive…well my obsessions have limits.
The recently opened post offices?…while the trend is for closing old post offices, there have also been post offices which have been newly opened or replaced closed post offices. I have made a list from the “Locate Your Nearest Post Office” from the An Post website.
Unfortunately there is no 4digit number shown. But I have several SOAR stamps with a 4digit number which are unlisted. Unfortunately I have no way of linking the stamp to the post office. Except by going to the post office.
Yesterday I visited two of the “new” post offices. At Bryanstown, Drogheda in County Louth, I found that the post office is #2641 which is the same that was allocated to a closed post office nearby. So it is a re-location.
In west Dublin, I went to the Ballyowen post office which is in a new-ish shopping centre in the west of the city. It is #2540, a new number.
So in a single day, I was able to take two post offices off my “wanted list”.
There is however another category of SOAR stamp. Easily identified by the box around the value (see scan above), these have not been issued thru post offices. Most likely, they have been printed in the mail rooms of major businesses, for example banks and insurance companies.
There is also a series of 14 digit numbers which begin “68..” eg 6801, 6802, 6803 etc which do not seem directly related to post offices.
I have now sorted the Ireland kiloware I bought in June into three baskets. The first basket is coil and booklet stamps which are only fit for burning. The second basket is SOAR stamps and while I have already taken out the post offices on my list, many of these stamps will find their way into my collection. The variety of designs and values means I really don’t mind “duplication”. The third basket are commemorative stamps. They are all of course “duplicates” but I am no longer exclusing a small variety of duplicates from my stamp albums.
I am glad I took up this project. I do not know how relevant it all is to mainstream Stamp Collecting. In a curious way, I may have stumbled into PHILATELY which is something I always promised myself I would never do.