After only a couple of days immersed in my new hobby of bus ticket collecting, I have discovered that true collectors are as tribal as football supporters or porcelain collectors. A bus ticket is not just a bus ticket : there are enormous differences in materials, style and colour. These differences start, of course, with the machine that produces the ticket in the first place. The progeny of a Verometer, for example, is as different to the offspring of a Setright Insert, as a kitten is to a puppy. When bus ticket collectors gather together they can often be heard singing "It Started With A Machine" to the tune of old Hot Chocolate song "It Started With A Kiss".
At this point I should declare my own allegiances : I am an "Ultimate Man". This allegiance is in part due to the accident of birth - Bell Punch Ultimate tickets oozed out of the ticket machines of my youth - and partly due to the fact that forty years ago I had a Ultimate ticket machine slung around my youthful shoulders. I was a bus conductor working for Halifax Corporation buses in 1968 and the tickets we issued were issued from these chunky metallic beauties.
Ultimate Ticket Machines were the Armstrong Siddeley's of ticket machines : more expensive to run but having the angled elegance of something that has boundless confidence in its own proportions. Each of the five issuing slots gave birth to a ticket of a different denomination and a different colour. The colour combinations were wonderful and the mauves, pinks and sky blues provide the evocative colours of my youth along with the myriad shades of Crayola Crayons. The small buttons under the ticket slot, when depressed, would allow tickets to by issued two at a time with just one depression of the issuing lever. Thus if, for example, slot one was loaded with 1d tickets, slot two with 2d tickets, three with 3d, four with 4d, and five with 6d tickets, any particular fare would give rise to a colour mixture that even Georges Seurat would have been proud of.
Whilst checking out the history of the Bell Punch Ultimate I came across a link to eBay and I made the discovery that there is currently a Bell Punch Ultimate machine up for auction. As I write there are four days and six hours left and the price has reached £21. This is a bargain and I am monitoring the auction closely. If the price is right I will make a bid. It is the dream of every true Ultimate ticket collector to own a machine. Only time will tell if my dream will come true.