Stamp News April 2008
K1966 Decimals Part II. The "Fish" and "Birds".
This is the second instalment of a three-part series overviewing usage of Australia's first Decimal-era issue. Part I, the "Navigators", appeared in the November 2007 edition. The final part, the QEII 1c to 7c, will appear later in the year, as will the popular usage Tables for the entire series.
The "Fish" and "Birds" are an attractive series, and lend themselves suitably to exhibiting usage in a one-frame competition. Commercial covers are reasonably available, although unusual usages may take some sleuthing to locate. But, hey, isn't that what it's all about? Some of those more unusual usages are featured this month, together with an overview of what one may more typically encounter in pursuit of this type of material.
5c Yellow-tailed Thornbill This stamp was issued primarily to pay the Certified mail fee, and for the concessionary airmail rate for Vietnam Defence Forces. The former use is uncommon, with the latter more abundant. Other usages prior to 1 October 1967, when the letter rate increased from 4c to 5c, are quite hard to find. Figure 1 is an exceptional 30 Nov 1968 usage to Sydney of a block of four at Field Post Office 3, by No. 1 Operational Support Unit, RAAF Vung Tau, Vietnam. The 20c paid the 5c per ½oz. concessional airmail (ie for 1½-2ozs. in this instance). Value : $80 (stamps off cover 80c).
6c Blue-faced Honeyeater This was a make-up use denomination, and accordingly is rather difficult to find on commercially used articles. It is in fact in my experience the most difficult of the twelve stamps in these series'. For the record, from my census, the descending order of scarcity for the others is 8c, 13c, 30c, 15c, 7c, 9c, 10c, 5c, 24c, 20c and 25c. The 6c can be found, although rarely, as a solo franking for the 6c letter rate. That took effect 1 October 1970, but as the 6c "Bird" had been replaced by the 6c "Flower" on 10 Jul 1968, residual stock at Post Offices of the former stamp would have been almost non-existent. Figure 2 is a nice franking of a pair used 1 May 1967 at Adelaide for Certified mail to N.S.W. 12c paid 4c letter rate (1st oz.) + 3c additional oz. + 5c Certified fee. This is the only such usage of the 6c I've seen. Value : $75 (stamps off cover 80c).
7c Humbug Fish This was for (a) letter rate to foreign countries, (b) Zone 1 airmail rate, and (c) 2nd weight step for letters within Australia/British Empire (up until 1 October 1967 rate rise). Solo usages for (c) are those most often found. Figure 3 is a rare solo use of 23 May 1967 for airmail uprate (3c) of an otherwise 4c letter rate item from Perth to Melbourne. Such items are surprisingly rare; the public clearly didn't warm to paying nearly twice the standard rate for the luxury of airmail in the 'sixties. Value : $40 (off cover 20c).
8c Coral Fish The second most difficult of the series on commercial articles, as mentioned above, and like the scarcer 6c, again a make-up denomination. The 8c is very occasionally found used for "taxing" purposes, representing double-deficiency for unpaid articles during the 4c letter rate period. Figure 4 is rather more special, an 18 Mar 1969 solo use to pay Zone 2 airmail postcard rate Melbourne to Singapore. Most airmail postcards to overseas destinations, at least until around the mid-'seventies, are quite hard to find, and accordingly are sought-after by specialists, particularly for solo frankings such as this subject. In fact, this is the only such solo use of the 8c I've encountered. Postcard traders often ask me why I waste my time sifting through their multicoloured postcard stock, which is very modestly priced, rather than focusing on more widely collected early 20th century postcards. My valuation for this item hints at why I do what I do. Value : $125 (off cover 25c).
9c Hermit Crab Mostly seen for letter rate 2nd weight step (1-2ozs.), generally non-standard articles, and less often for combined letter rate (4c) plus Certified mail fee (5c). A more unusual usage is that in Figure 5, where a 9c is affixed to a stampless formular aerogramme. A permit had to be obtained from the Postmaster-General before such "private" aerogrammes could be printed and placed in to use. The permit granted for this particular issue, "No. 58" as shown at lower left, was for the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia. It was sent 7 Oct 1966 from Ingham (Qld) to another bank, in Greece. A small number of such items appeared in Australia in the 'nineties, prior to which I'd not seen the 9c used for this purpose. Value : $50 (off "cover" 20c).
10c Anemone Fish Intended largely for (a) Zone 2 airmail, (b) 3rd weight step for letters within Australia/British Empire (to 30 September 1967), and (c) combined letter rate plus Certified mail fee (from 1 October 1967). Other than for (b), these solo usages are not easy to find. Much more difficult, however, is a usage such as in Figure 6, where an invalid QEII 5d has been affixed, rather than a 5c. The diligent Postal Officer at Hamilton (Vic) on 22 July 1970 was aware that £SD stamps were no longer valid after 14 February 1968. Accordingly, the offending stamp was not cancelled, and the article was taxed 10c (double the 5c postage deficiency), and a 10c stamp conveniently representing the taxed sum was affixed and cancelled by the Hamilton datestamp. In theory, the recipient had to pay this "fine" upon delivery, although this requirement was often unenforced. Collectors of Postage Due material eagerly seek such items, dedicated Postage Due stamps having been discontinued 31 January 1963. Value : $50 (off cover 20c).
13c Red-necked Avocet This odd denomination (for it's time) was largely intended for (a) 4th weight step for letters within Australia/British Empire (to 30 September 1967), (b) Zone 5 airmail postcard/greetings card rate, and (c) 3rd weight step for letters within Australia/British Empire (from 1 October 1967). (a) and (c) are not easy to find, and are almost invariably of non-standard dimensions. Postcards as in (b) are rather scarce, about as much so as the £SD predecessor for this purpose, the 1/2d Tasmanian Tiger. Really scarce, however, is the 13c used for Zone 5 greetings cards. Figure 7 is the only example I've seen, a 26 Mar 1968 use Sydney to U.K. Value : $100 (off cover 30c).
15c Galah This stamp is mostly found as a component in the composition of registered mail. Figure 8 is an exceptional solo usage item. A 2 Oct 1968 use from Adelaide to Philippines, the rate for a Zone 3 country should have been 20c. 15c was the Zone 2 (notably Malaya, Singapore) airmail rate. The Postal Officer may have been geographically-challenged; very little mail went from Australia to the Philippines in this era, and the article travelled untaxed to destination, arriving at Manila two days later. Value : $75 (off cover 60c).
20c Golden Whistler The 20c, 24c and 25c are the easiest denominations to obtain on cover. All three were involved with registered mail, and the 20c and 25c with Zones 4 and 5 airmail, for which there was much demand. I had some difficulty locating unusual examples of usage for these three denominations. Figure 9 is the best I could come up with for the 20c. This 7 Dec 1967 use for Registration fee from Tarraleah (Tas) to Hobart was for securely conveying a bank passbook, for which the Commonwealth Savings Bank had provided the sender with a Business Reply Post envelope, which was postage free for the sender. The Bank was bulk billed by the Post Office for this service at a later date. Such items registered are quite scarce. Value : $35 (off cover 25c).
24c Azure Kingfisher This stamp is almost invariably met as a solo franking for the combined 4c letter rate plus 20c Registration fee (to 30 September 1967), a use which is not uncommon. Another solo use which is possible, but which I've yet to see, is the 24c 4th weight step for letters within Australia, which was in effect from 1 October 1970. Given the stamp was replaced (by the 24c Animals) on 5 July 1971, this will prove a rather elusive usage. Figure 10 is the most unusual use of a 24c, in combination with the 6c, available to me. A 26 Sep 1969 use of Australian Force Vietnam envelope at Field Post Office 5, where No. 2 Squadron RAAF was based at Phan Rang. The 30c combined franking represented 5c concessionary airmail rate for Vietnam Defence Forces plus 25c Registration fee. A desirable cover both from the usage and Postal History perspective's; registered mail out of Vietnam is rather scarce. Value : $75 (stamps off cover $1.20).
25c Scarlet Robin No challenge to obtain solo frankings of the 25c for combined letter/registration mail, and Zones 4 and 5 airmail. Figure 11 is a little more interesting in that a 25c has been used for Zone 5 airmail postcard, for which the rate was 13c only (enter the 13c Avocet). The item was sent 13 Mar 1967 from Surfer's Paradise to West Germany. It may have been that the sender bought the stamp at a Hotel/Motel where the attendant may not have been aware of the concessionary postal rate for postcards vs regular letters. A novel rather than highly desirable item. Value : $15 (off cover 40c).
30c Straw-necked Ibis Primary use of the 30c when issued was for Scale 3 parcel rate within Australia, a use with a very low survival rate. The principal use I have recorded for this stamp is around October 1968, when the combined letter rate/registration fee increased from 25c to 30c. They are uncommon as the "Bird" replacement, the 30c "Flower", had issued 10 July 1968. The Figure 12 28 May 1968 solo use Murgon (Qld) to Indonesia is particularly unusual. Zone 2 airmail increased from 10c to 15c on 1 October 1967, and registration from 20c to 25c. The 30c franking for our subject would therefore have been correct prior to the latter date, but as at the date of sending the postage should have been 40c. One can only speculate that Murgon Post Office did not have the revised rates booklet, or inadvertently reverted to use of the obsolete rate booklet. The addressee could not be located, and the article was returned to sender, adding further interest and character. I featured this item at the inauguration of this column, almost six years ago, in the June/July 2002 edition. I then valued it at $50. Much has changed in the interim; items such as this are now highly sought-after. Value: $150 (off cover 50c).
Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962. He founded Rodney A Perry Auction Galleries (now Millennium Philatelic Auctions) in 1971. As a collector he has exhibited nationally and internationally. Rod prefers his used stamps on cover and likens taking a stamp off its original cover to converting a tree to woodchips.