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Stamp News  April 2005

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

And now for something completely different!

This issue we feature Australia Post procedural labels associated with the intrigues of the postal system. On the subject of Australia Post a slight preamble if I may before plunging in to our topic. During the great philatelic boom of  25 years ago A.P. conducted a survey within its massive client base. From its research it was stated that 7% of the Australian population collected stamps. Impressive indeed, even if many respondents might have regarded buying new issues at the Post Office as qualifying as a ‘collector’. Other data released from the survey suggested that Australian Antarctic Territory was the most popular area for collecting amongst those surveyed. One suspects that a factor in this outcome was that even the kid up the street could claim to have a ‘complete’ collection of  A.A.T.  Hopefully some of those A.A.T. aficionados discovered the World of Postal history (in a nutshell, commercial covers and the study of their journey). Otherwise I cannot imagine that a quarter of a century later a pristine complete collection of A.A.T. stamps and FDCs will have been adequate to have kept the owners sufficiently enthralled to have enabled them to last that distance. If, miraculously, they have lasted until the present on their meagre philatelic diet of mint and FDCs, no doubt they would be somewhat bemused at seeing most of the stamps of A.A.T. issued since 1966 unceremoniously utilised on their incoming philatelic mail.

                                                                     Figure 1

          Back then to our topic, one which will never be as popular as A.A.T. once was, but one which I speculate may provide a lifetime of joy (unlike the experience of many unfortunate A.A.T. transients) for the handful of philatelists who take it up as a mainstream or sideline collection. The reference for this subject, and a superb work it is too, is The Official Postal Labels of Australia, by Eric J. Frazer, published by Cinderella Stamp Club of Australasia. The scope of material found in the reference book is very large and it would indeed take a lifetime to amass a comprehensive collection of the diverse range of labels used by the Post Office over the decades, particularly used on cover. I like this field, it’s full of character, and have featured a varied selection of labels used on cover. Figure 1 has been sent via the now defunct Priority Paid service on 7 Jan 1988 from Warragul (Vic) to Sydney South. This service offered next day delivery (at a premium of $1.20 above the then 37c letter rate) provided the P.O.’s of despatch and receipt were within the prescribed network. A series of four informative labels relating to the service, or inability to perform it, were in use only in Victoria it appears, from late 1985, and one of these, inscribed ‘Destination Outside/Guaranteed Network’ was affixed to this article. This was unnecessarily pessimistic as the timeclock datestamp on reverse indicates that the article was received at destination the following day. These little labels are scarce. Value : $40 (stamps off cover $1.80).

                                                                  Figure 2

          Figure 2 shows an example of the ‘BY/DIRECT BAG label. This was used on privileged Military mail which thereby circumvented normal procedures for handling of Military postal articles; a priority service precursor if you wish, and also rather scarce. This example is on a registered Army cover of 22 Feb 1944 from Papua New Guinea (the ‘0140’ datestamp tells us this) to H.Q. in Australia, travelling by air. Value : $150 (label off cover $20).

                                                                   Figure 3

          Some labels were produced for articles other than those sent by post. In the instance in Figure 3 we have one such item, which was affixed to Telegrams arriving in Australia from an overseas origin; to Brisbane from the outpost of Tuasivi, Samoa, received on 25 Dec 1938 – Christmas Day! What would be your chances of success with such service nowadays? Probably possible, but at what cost? This delightful item would be sought-after also by Telegraph/Telegram enthusiasts. Value : $100 (label off Telegram $20).

                                                       Figure 4

          A number of P.O. labels relate to misadventures in transit, and some to major incidents or trauma. Figure 4 originated in Quebec, Canada, destined on 9 Jul 1942 for N.S.W. but along the way came in to contact with water (resulting in loss of stamp), and upon arrival at Sydney a handstamped ‘RECEIVED DAMAGED/BY WATER AT/G.P.O. SYDNEY 3 (on obverse) was applied. The label we see accompanied the article, presumably in a separate postal container (a so-called ‘Ambulance’ cover) delivered to the addressee, for there is no indication that the label was affixed to the affected item. The datestamp tells us the article arrived at Sydney 28 Aug 1942, the lengthy duration for the journey (50 days) suggesting this item may have swum with the fishes for a time, although I can’t find a maritime incident which correlates. A very rare label. Value : $200.

                                                               Figure 5

          The ‘Fastpost’ services had produced for them their fair share of label types. Figure 5 shows one introduced for the Express Courier service in late 1984. This service was expensive as evidenced by the $4.50 franking on this article of 6 Nov 1985 Muswellbrook to Castle Hill (N.S.W.), representing 45c intrastate postage (up to 50g) plus a whopping $4.05 for the Express Courier service. This item is particularly interesting as it additionally shows a ‘Service Performance Evaluation’ label, completed by staff at Muswellbrook. These are particularly scarce (this is the only example I have seen on cover). Value : $75 (stamps off cover $1.90). For lovers of errors in their Philately it is possible to occasionally find a missing colour in labels, as seen from the inset!

                                                     Figure 6

          One can only imagine the look on the face of the Caulfield (Vic) recipient of  the item shown in Figure 6 when the article was delivered on or about 22 Jan 1932. Here was the long-awaited U.K. to Australia special flight cover originally intended for delivery Christmas, 1931, with none other than the legendary Charles Kingsford Smith as Pilot (along with G.U. Allan and engineer F.G. Taylor) departing London on 7 Jan. And just look at it! Well, despite how the recipient may have felt all those years ago, we weird modern-day Philatelists are delighted to see it in this shape. After all, this is a very common flight cover and, quite frankly, in sound condition they are in over-supply in the marketplace. This one however is one out-of-the-box. It has obviously been traumatised enroute to Australia, and arriving in the shape it did necessitated a Post Office explanation which comes in the form of the improvised label with handstruck ‘RECEIVED IN A DAMAGED/CONDITION AT G.P.O.’. Lovely, although I doubt that the recipient agreed. Kingsford Smith flight material is very sought-after, and this item would be in considerable demand. Value : $250 (this flight cover in ‘good’ condition? Oh, about $30).

                                                                  Figure 7

          Yet another ‘Fastpost’ label was for the Special Despatch service, the precursor to the better-known Priority Post. The rate was double the letter rate, which on 10 Oct 1967 when the item shown as Figure 7 was sent was 5c. Items from this service are scarce (the public didn’t warm to a 100% premium for a service they felt entitled to without penalty), and it is particularly nice to find the label ‘tied’ to cover by the Melbourne datestamp as is the case here. Value : $60 (stamps off cover zero).

                                                                    Figure 8

          Not a Post Office label in Figure 8, but interesting nevertheless. Meter covers are unloved by most but you would find a place for this in your label collection, or at least I would. From a Pharmaceutical company (‘Ethical Pharmaceuticals’) on 29 Oct 1965 it was paid by meter to 3/2d representing 1/2d 4th weight step surface mail plus 2/- registration fee. It therefore weighed between 3 and 4ozs. and  presumably enclosed a product sample with some degree of toxicity, hence the private warning label. Value : $20.

                                                                        Figure 9

          Unrelated to this month’s topic but more closely allied to the more usual ‘flavour’ of this column is a superb example of how the common stamp can be rendered uncommon by usage, a concept which I like to remind readers is one of the real growth areas in world Philately. The 1962 U.S. postcard shown in Figure 9 was recently sold on eBay. The 11c of the Presidential series was at the tail end of its life (it had been superseded by the 11c Liberty in June 1961) when the 11c airmail postcard rate came in to effect on 1 Jul 1961. Some Post Offices had residual stock of the earlier issue and these were used up in the normal course of postal demand, very few it would appear however for this specific postcard rate. I say ‘very few’ for this common stamp (it sells for 20c used) used as shown in Figure 9 sold for US$415! ‘Usage’ is certainly gaining international momentum.

Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962 and a regular Stamp News advertiser since the 1960s. 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.