One of Austria's more interesting obscurities (well, I find it interesting!) is the yellow slot machines found outside Post Offices and elsewhere. If working, they dispense a credit-card size plastic & cardboard wallet of stamps when you insert a 10 Schilling coin. Why do the contents never correspond to those in the little window? Who decides which stamps to put in?
These wallets were introduced in 1980, in a leather-effect black plastic, containing a coloured card with wording similar to the example below. Soon, people noted the variations in the contents and the differences between them and the stamps displayed in the machine's window. In 1987, the 'wallet' was replaced by a coloured card printed on both sides as illustrated below, and with a transparent plastic front glued to it. What was going on?
Officially, the system was that the Generaldirektion in Wien issued instructions to the Landesdirektionen in Graz, Salzburg etc which in turn issued decrees, stating what combination of values should be used, to their region (the postal regions do not correspond with the Lands because of geographical difficulties). But as observational evidence built up that the mixture of issues and denominations was very variable, and often differed from the display, I suggested that someone should ask a local Austrian post office what actually went on, and some time later was able to enquire myself at the offices of Gmünd and Kitzbühel what their practice was. At both offices I was courteously answered, with the same reply.
The Postdirektion (Linz and Innsbruck respectively) do issue proposals, but each Postmaster is in charge of the machines in his area and has freedom to follow the proposals or not. (It was much stricter originally.) The Postmaster decides if a machine should be stocked with denominations aimed at foreign postage (eg in tourist areas) or for inland postage. He determines what combination of values to use - it must of course add up to 10 Schilling - and then has the wallets made up with whatever stamps are to hand: new or old, commemorative or definitive. The displays in the machine windows are not usually updated, in value or in type.
With the present postage rates, this seems to work well. For example, a wallet I bought in Kitzbuhel in July 1995 contained a 50gr. SG1992, two 1 Sch SG2325, a 2Sch SG1995, & a 5Sch50 SG2393 (a commemorative, although there is a 5Sch50 definitive SG2328). With these you can make up essentially every possible value, though the leftovers are of little use:
By using the denominations indicated, the postage can be assembled for all the possible rates up to 10 Schilling at that time.
|Internal 20gram letter||6Sch||Y||Y|
|Internal 100gram letter||7Sch50||Y||Y|
|Foreign: 20gram Euroletter||7Sch||Y||Y|
|Foreign: 20gram non-Euro-letter||10Sch||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Foreign: 20gram printed||6Sch||Y||Y|
|Foreign: 50gram printed||8Sch||Y||Y||Y|
|Airmail 20gram printed to Germany||6Sch50||Y||Y|
|Airmail postcard to U.S.A.||8Sch50||Y||Y||Y|
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©Andy Taylor. Last updated 29 Aug 2000.