Tuesday 6 February 2024

Cartor Security Printers acquired by banknote authentication technology specialists.

From Cartor's website:

Following the recent acquisition of Cartor by Spectra Systems Corporation, we are now an integral division of Spectra Systems, the US-based global leader in electronic encryption, authentication systems and gaming security software. 

The combination of Spectra Systems and Cartor will allow for rapid penetration into the banknote polymer substrate market as well as an increased product offering in security printing of tax stamps, labels, and  ID documents.

From Cartor's Press Releases

Security printing group, Cartor Security Printers, has been acquired by Spectra Systems Corporation, a leader in machine-readable high-speed banknote authentication, brand protection technologies and gaming security software. Following completion on 22 December 2023, the acquisition is set to bolster Spectra’s presence in the polymer banknote substrate market and introduce fresh avenues for selling its security products.

Cartor’s existing management structure, comprising Andrew Brigham as managing director, Ian Brigham as chairman and Martin French as finance director, will maintain their respective roles, emphasising the integration of the team as a unified group.

Cartor operates through three wholly-owned subsidiary companies and maintains manufacturing facilities in both the UK and France. It supplies postage stamps to more than 180 administrations worldwide, offering a wide range of products, including conventional and hybrid postage stamps, tax stamps, vouchers, coupons, certificates, and security documents. Additionally, Cartor provides a secure environment for manual assembly and fulfilment. The company stands out from its competitors by employing cutting-edge technology to make it difficult for counterfeiters to operate in industries with valuable products and services.

In collaboration with Spectra over the past two years, Cartor has developed the expertise required to produce Fusion™ substrates, which are undergoing qualification by central banks and leading polymer banknote printers.

Spectra’s acquisition of Cartor will not only enhance its presence in the polymer substrate market, but also enable the integration of advanced security technologies into Cartor’s product portfolio. As a well-established global player in these sectors, Cartor is well-positioned to seamlessly incorporate Spectra’s technologies, develop necessary processes and introduce Spectra’s products to its existing customer base.

Dr. Nabil Lawandy, CEO of Spectra Systems, commented: “The Spectra Board of Directors and I are pleased to announce the acquisition of Cartor, which solidifies our position in the polymer substrate market and broadens our business reach through new sales channels. Our two-year collaboration with the Cartor team has been exceptional and I have great confidence in the group’s leadership.”

Andrew Brigham, managing director of Cartor, added: “The acquisition comes at a pivotal moment for Cartor’s growth and, under Nabil’s leadership, we aim to expedite this growth and unlock new opportunities. The Cartor group intends to harness Spectra’s extensive technical expertise and Cartor’s operational prowess to deliver groundbreaking solutions to both current and future customers.”


What is the impact on stamps?

I don't expect any immediate impact on stamp production, and believe that most of the benefit will be in Cartor's other areas of production.  However, this clip from Cartor's 'stamps' page identifies how they are assisting postal administrations in the fight against forgery:

Postage stamps were in the past less targeted by organised crime, but that is no longer the case. Today, many administrations are losing revenue due to counterfeit stamps, but also due to stamp washing, an illegal activity whereby used stamps are collected in large volumes and cancellation marks are removed chemically thereby enabling their re-use.

Cartor is at the forefront of combatting these activities. A combination of security features including encrypted barcodes enable electronic cancellation and inhibit the possibility to generate counterfeit codes.

With our turnkey solutions, administrations can not only immediately reduce revenue loss but also benefit from additional marketing and track and trace capabilities, made possible by our bespoke camera systems and aggregation software. This means it is possible to record exactly which stamps have been produced, which retailers they are ultimately sold from, and where the stamp is eventually delivered, which will be key information to drive mailing solution optimisation in coming years.

Whilst combating revenue loss remains our primary goal, it is also Cartor’s ambition to provide solutions that meet the high aesthetical and quality standards expected in this sector. Cartor has unique experience of working with innovative substrates and is the only provider in the market that has invested in coloured barcoding solutions.

That said, I don't think barcodes will be extended to commemorative stamps. I believe the numbers of modern stamps is very much lower that it used to be, and the numbers actually used (ie within two years) is very low.  

The definitive Swap-out scheme has been a huge and expensive exercise for Royal Mail (and stamp holders) which has had a significant effect on the stamp market.  The market for discount postage has plummeted according to some sources, though generalisations are not easy to substantiate.  Doing the same for commemoratives would be even more disastrous.


  1. I wonder which will go first? The manufacturing facility in France, or the manufacturing facility in the UK?

    1. I don't think either printing plant is under any threat. Spectra do not manufacture, they supply hi-tech materials to manufacturers as you can see by browsing their website. For example, under excise/tax stamps, they have

      "We supply security printers and hologram makers with high-performance luminescent pigments and dyes for unique, overt visible effects, as well as covert authentication systems comprising invisible markers and verification technology that run on handheld readers or smartphone platform."

      And for banking:
      "Spectra’s software and hardware systems include high-speed currency authentication sensors. Central banks use the sensors to authenticate up to 40 banknotes per second with error rates of less than one in 100,000. We also design, manufacture and supply quality control equipment for use in paper and polymer banknote manufacturing."

    2. Having just received my 50th package from Tallents House under the Swap Out scheme, I’ve had no problem selling all the barcode stamps I’ve received to postage resellers: in reality, one buyer based in Scotland who publicly advertises what he wants and what price he will pay for all to see (I’ve sold two lots to a mainstream stamp dealer who doesn’t publicise his buying prices on his website and usually seeks a lower price than the one I thought we had agreed previously when I’m about to post a lot to him).

      I’ve usually received 1st and 2nd class stamps in return which I’ve sold for between 60%-68% of face value. He has taken every consignment, without question or delay and paid within a week. His website has said for the last few weeks that ‘we urgently need to buy some 1st class and 2nd class barcoded stamps as at the time of writing we have nothing left to sell, so please help if you can.’ This doesn’t indicate that the market for discount postage has plummeted to me.

      My buyer’s website does say that there appears to be confusion amongst the general public as to whether commems are still valid and that this seems to make buyers prefer barcode stamps.

      I’d agree that the Swap Out scheme has been a huge and expensive exercise for Royal Mail but it has been great for stamp collectors like me who can get a much better price for barcode stamp than for definitives which no dealer or collector wants to buy.

      I’m not sure what you mean when you say that the Swap Out scheme has had a significant effect on the stamp market but surely it’s positive? Removing the millions of Machin definitives that no dealer or collector wants is a good thing, isn’t it?

      The problem is what happens to the value of definitives when the Scheme comes to an end. I’m sure a disastrous drop in auction prices for lots containing significant quantities of definitives. No dealer wants to buy these stamps to sell to collectors and no collectors would want the sheer quantity that appears at every major auction for their collection.

      I would love the Post Office to do the same for commemoratives as I could get a greater return on the swapped-out stamps.

    3. Which begs the question; why have they acquired Cartor? I've had a look at what they do and printing postage stamps is not one of those things. One might suppose that they have taken over Cartor to get a foothold in that industry, but, to me at least, it seems counter-intuitive that a company like this should wish to become involved in a contracting business activity like printing postage stamps. The other things that Cartor does match perfectly with Spectra's profile. I just wonder if the stamp printing part of their business will survive in its current form.


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