106-year-old Kiwi invention makes a 21st century comeback

3 October 2011

One of the great New Zealand innovations is making a comeback – more than a century after the first unit went into operation.

But the sophisticated and versatile stamp vending machines which New Zealand Post is now piloting across a number of Auckland locations are light years ahead of the world’s first stamp vending machine - a simple sprocket and weight mechanism invented in 1905 by Robert James Dickie1.

In addition to being an inventor Robert Dickie, who emigrated to New Zealand as a child, was also a showman – setting one of his machines up in the lobby of the British House of Commons in 1907 to drum up interest - and showing his invention at the 1909 World’s Fair in Seattle, where he won a Gold Medal and a Grand Prize. His machines dominated the market worldwide for over 50 years.

Dickie’s machines were a big hit domestically too, with reactions like this (from the Hawera & Normanby Star in September 1912): “The machine is a marvel of simple ingenuity and a distinct credit to the postal workers of this dominion whose invention it is.”

While stamp vending machines were phased out in New Zealand decades ago, they’re now mounting a comeback, courtesy of New Zealand Post.

“Our inspiration is the same thing that moved Robert Dickie to invent the first machine all those years ago – the acknowledgement that a machine is a simple and quick way to buy stamps,” says Mark Stewart, Head of Store Network Operations for New Zealand Post.

“If all you want is to buy some stamps, then, with these new machines, you can do that in a flash and be on your way.

“New Zealand Post is looking at ways to use technology like self-service kiosks for paying bills and for sending parcels to make services easier and more convenient for our customers2. Stamp machines may well fit in with that approach, so we’re piloting them, mostly in Auckland, to see if the public take to them.

The new machines, sourced from Auckland-based Festival Payments, are a lot more technologically advanced than Robert Dickie’s designs, but they do essentially the same job.

One key difference is that the new machines are cash-free – the first vending machines of any kind supplied by Festival Payments where eftpos is a payment option in addition to credit cards. They also offer a variety of different stamps – covering the range of postage needed for domestic and international mail.

“You decide what stamp product you want, insert an eftpos or credit card, push a few buttons and out pop your stamps,” Mark Stewart says.

“We’ve just installed the first of these new stamp vending machines, mostly in PostShop stores around Auckland3, and if the public uses them we plan to roll out more machines across the country in the months ahead.

“As well as PostShops, we have also installed vending machines in the St Lukes, 277 and Glenfield shopping malls to enable customers to purchase stamps at a time and place convenient to them..

“It’s all about convenience, and anyone who’s tried these new machines can attest to how convenient and easy to use they are,” Mark Stewart says.

ENDS

Media contact: Michael Tull 027 837 6179.

 

1A useful biography of Robert Dickie can be seen here:
http://www.nzedge.com/heroes/dickie.html

2Find out more about New Zealand Post’s pilot of new technology at:
www.facebook.com/BetterChangeProject

3The following locations now have stamp vending machines installed (all
are Auckland unless otherwise noted):

  • Post Shops in: Howick, Takapuna, Manukau, Queen St, Ponsonby, Whangapaeroa
  • Outside PostShops in: Glenfield Mall, St Lukes Mall, 277 shopping mall
  • Other: Courier Post House (Auckland), New Zealand Post House (Wellington)