An RCCMS party had a delightful morning on February 26 being shown over Australia Post’s stamp manufacturing and distribution business at its new Rowville complex.

Australia Post moved in only half a year ago, transferring from three sites in  Knoxfield to a single state of the art complex. It produces about 1.2m gummed and 2.5m self-sticking stamps a day, and has about 90 workers. It also mails coin packs, collectibles and express and registered post product packs for sale across Australia.


Our guides explained that stamp design and printing is done off-site, and mass produced sheets come into Rowville for perforating and processing. A classic case is the small rolls of 100 60c stamps, sold in lightweight boxes about twice the volume of a match box. This process starts with giant rolls of stamps, each roll of 1m stamps worth $600,000. They are sliced, rolled and finally pushed gently into the boxes which are made alongside. A squirt of glue seals the box. The final check was fascinating – it would be a disaster for any rolls to contain less than 100 stamps, so the final product is weighed and tested. The weights flicker a tiny amount per box because the glue squirt varies by a fraction of a gram.

The complex caters for both small-scale philately sales to collectors, such as first-day covers, and general distribution, largely to replenish stocks to order from Australia’s 3200 post office retail outlets and 1200 corporate outlets.

We learnt many of the mysteries about stamps, including why sometimes we receive a letter with an unfranked stamp which we can tear off and re-use. (Sorry, our lips are sealed).

Stamps also contain all sorts of chemicals to guard against forgeries and misuse. Production cost of a stamp is only a fraction of a cent but distributing them bumps the cost up a lot. Self-stickie stamps are more costly to make than gummed stamps, so only the high-volume 60c ones are gum-free. We saw big volumes of 10c gummed stamps being made to add to 60c stamps for when the new 70c standard stamp comes in.

Despite automation, a lot of personal handling and checking is still needed – otherwise a rogue machine could dispense thousands of faulty stamps and products before anyone notices.

We learnt that one of the most popular stamps for collectors was the 60c one featuring Black Caviar last May, celebrating its world record 25 wins from 25 starts in elite races.