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Stamp News  April 2013 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 


"Where's ya One Pound Seahorses?"


I love the one-frame exhibit concept; so much can be achieved in such a relatively short timeframe. A handful of related items, in the case of covers, say, perhaps as few as 30 items, an interesting exhibit can make.

Some years back, I took my bundle (modest as it was) of G.B. Seahorses on cover, and resolved to mould what I had in to a one-frame exhibit. Unless you know these things, it's only the 1934 re-engraved series (2/6d, 5/-, 10/-) which can reasonably be found on cover, or other postal article. These were issued to service the high airmail rates, the need for which was gaining momentum, particularly from this time forward.

I had a few Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co printings, but they would fill just a few pages: a one-framer is 16 pages. So it came to pass, I would feature in my one-frame exhibit just commercial usage of the re-engraved series which, it so happened by good fortune, was rather powerful.

Fronting up to the exhibition at which this exhibit would debut, I was quietly confident that this display would set tongues wagging. After all, no exhibit of Seahorses usage had ever been attempted in Australia. Indeed, I've not seen anywhere a strong showing of Seahorses covers, etc. Not in the mighty Monarch or recent Chartwell G.B. collections, so beautifully displayed in Spink auction catalogues. There were pages and pages of Proofs, Specimens, mint blocks, the odd used multiple, etc, but not one commercial cover in sight.

A visiting U.K. Trader, a leader in commercial covers of the Empire, raised my hopes of receiving encouraging recognition for my exhibit when he uttered to me he thought it "amazing". Alas, my hopes were dashed when a Judge I encountered after the judging event proclaimed "Where's ya One Pound Seahorses?" I realized there and then it was pointless to attempt to explain the Waterlow Bros & Layton 1 was long obsolete before the airmail services of the 1930s would call for the need for such a useful denomination. No point, also, dwelling on the fact that the 1 was not from the re-engraved series, the subject of the exhibit.

Undaunted, I think a lot of my Seahorses usage material, so much so that I want to share a few items with readers this month. After all, in this category I can hands down beat Monarch and Chartwell (and I suspect many other Traditional G.B. collectors).

And no, I don't have a 1 Seahorses cover, and doubt that a commercial cover can exist. I've seen just two usage items for the 1; both parcel tags. Mint stamps? No shortage of supply there.

Before presenting this selection, I keep reading in philatelic articles, ad nauseum, often from well meaning authors, about what one should strive for in collecting, and more particularly when "investing". "Buy only finest quality, MUH, perfectly centred, blue-chips", etc, etc, usually goes the recommendation. A fine recipe for a sterile, perhaps boring collection, certainly one without a story, it could be argued? Well, collecting is each to his or her own; this selection, perhaps the very antithesis of that foregoing recommendation, provides an indication of how I do it:

             Figure 1. BW & Co 2/6d + 5/- from impressively named Britannic House

Commencing with a few items from my modest Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co usages, in Figure 1 we have a 2/6d and 5/-, with contemporary 1d and 6d to embellish a Stationery 4d Registered Letter, the gigantic "K" Post Office size, used at London June 11 1931 to Sydney, endorsed "VIA DELHI & AUSTRALIA (INTERNAL)" to inform that the Imperial Airways service to India, and acceleration via the Australian internal airmail service, was required and prepaid. The aggregate franking of 8/5d (we'll convert to 101d; easier for calculation of rate), replete with chunky wax seals (for added weight!) representing, for a 7ozs. article, as best I can determine, Imperial letter 1d 1st oz. + d per additional oz. x6 (i.e. 3d) + airmail surcharge London-Karachi 6d per oz. x7 (42d) + Australian internal airmail 4d 1st oz. + 3d each additional oz. x13 (45d) + 3d registration = 99d, 2d less than the 101d franking. It would appear the article is therefore overpaid; perhaps the endorsement at left "2d S.E." (Stamped Excess?) acknowledges this?

I find it interesting to note that the Australian "BY AIR MAIL" etiquette at upper right is tied by the London oval datestamp, suggesting that a stock of this item was maintained; perhaps only at major P.O.'s, for the very purpose of servicing articles to be included in the Australian internal airmail service?

The next available Imperial Airways service (flight IE 116) departed London June 13, arriving Karachi June 18 (Delhi next day), where the article would have been off-loaded for transfer to a ship destined for Perth, where it arrived July 7, subsequently joining West-East internal airmail service, arriving Melbourne July 9, Sydney following day.

S.G. catalogue for used is 70 for 2/6d, 120 for 5/-; they are much, much better on cover, in my opinion. Visit a G.B. specialist and ask to see his used Seahorses, and down will come the bulging stockbook. Add "Oh, I meant the used on cover Seahorses", and watch his formerly gleeful expression transform in to that "What Planet are you from look". Auction estimate $800.

Incidentally, what a pity S.G. have yet to go beyond 1911 for pricing G.B. stamps on cover. Post-1911 usage might be as popular as 20th century usage is in Australia, and many other countries which have embraced pricing stamps on cover in their specialized catalogues. Hopefully this glaring omission in what is an ever improving series of publications, much to the credit of the editorial staff, will receive just attention at an early date.

                                             Figure 2. Two shades of BW & Co 2/6d

Another example of the 4d size "K" whopper (to the same addressee as Figure 1), Figure 2 bears two examples of Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co 2/6d, quite distinct shades in the flesh, although this may not be as apparent when reduced for publication. The rate of 6/4d (76d) was for a 5ozs. article as follows: Imperial letter 1d 1st oz. + d per additional oz. x5 (i.e. 2d) + airmail surcharge London-Karachi 6d per oz. x6 (30d) + Australian internal airmail 4d 1st oz. + 3d each additional oz. x10 (39d) + 3d registration = 76d. Auction estimate $500.

                                 Figure 3. BW & Co 10/-, but still earned a reprimand

I'm rather fond of Figure 3, for more than one reason. Firstly, it's one of only two covers I have bearing Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co 10/-, and secondly, it's from the Oscar Blau hoard, one of the more important finds of covers in Australia in recent decades. Blau was at one time Australian agent for 4711 Eau de Cologne, and apparently did rather well for himself; his hoard was found in a trunk under floorboards at a house being demolished in Vaucluse. The trunk contents were probably worth more than the house at the time of the find.

This Feb 15 1935 use of the 10/- is in combination with the then "new issue" 2/6d re-engraved which, together with the 5/- and 10/-, had been issued four months earlier. The article has been posted at a London P.O., which would reasonably have been expected to have the re-engraved 10/- in stock by then. It may be that the sender maintained a stock of stamps for posting purposes, and was using up what was on hand. The article was reasonably heavy to require franking of 12/6d; the rate by then was 1/3d per oz., so weight had to be 4-5ozs (i.e. 10 times 1/3d). The envelope was of inadequate strength, evidenced by endorsement "Received/in City Section/with cover torn/(initial) 1/3/35".

A judge once commented that I shouldn't exhibit obviously damaged covers, a comment which surprised me as I regard the quality of covers in my exhibits as amongst the best available. I asked the judge to walk me through my exhibit, and point out offending items. It transpired there were two, one a "crash" cover, the other this item. The judge had missed this penciled notation (the condition of the incident item he subsequently agreed was as to be expected), and graciously withdrew his objections.

The BW & Co 10/- on cover is rarer than a Kangaroo 10/-, but not as much in demand. Auction estimate $1000.

                                     Figure 4. Purple cancels not for everybody

The re-engraved 2/6d is not all that difficult to find on cover; it paid double the 1/3d per oz. rate, so solo frankings are about. Multiple frankings, such as that in Figure 4, with the much scarcer-on-cover 5/- (at 85 catalogues more than 80 10/-), are not easy to find. This 16/9d aggregate franking includes 2/6d x4 and a 5/-, tied by London purple Air Mail datestamp. Some collectors hate these; I like 'em.

The rate was for 1/3d per oz. x13 + 6d Express delivery fee. This article travelled on Imperial Airways service flight IE 461, which was delayed a day in departing Karachi (Feb 16-17) due to engine trouble with Flying boat Atalanta. Auction estimate $400.

Figure 5.
Always nice to have "set" on cover

Figure 5 is unusual in having each denomination of re-engraved set on board, including a bonus 10/-. Note also solitary KGVI 3d, issued a couple of weeks earlier, provides mixed reign element. Used from London Feb 16 1938 (this time Air Mail datestamp in black) to The Argus office in Melbourne, it likely contained photographs for publication. The aggregate franking of 29/3d was for 1/3d per oz. airmail x23 + 6d Express delivery fee. Auction estimate $800.

                               Figure 6. What price a Kangaroo 10/- solo on cover?

Another Press related item, Figure 6 has a re-engraved 10/- solo, used Feb 1 1936 London to Labour Daily in Sydney. Imperial Airways services carried most of the England-Australasia mails in the 1930s, and this was to be no exception. Fight IE 415, when this article was boarded on Helena, experienced a forced-landing at Fellujah (Iraq) due to extreme storms Feb 7-8. A major incident with a major franking, so much more exhibitable than would be a single rate franking (1/3d). 10/-, of course, is for eight times the 1/3d per oz. rate. Auction estimate $1000. A Kangaroo 10/- solo franking would fetch considerably more.

              Figure 7. New Zealand 3 10s Arms on cover? That I would like to see!

Perhaps the record pre-war franking G.B.-N.Z., Figure 7 has no less than eight of the re-engraved 10/-; a block of six and a pair. The aggregate 4 2 9d (82/9d) represents a multiple of 66 of the 1/3d per oz. rate, and 3d registration. It was sent from Luton Jul 13 1937 to Leonard Ernle Clark, Christchurch, one of the first men to fly solo from England to N.Z. Seeing this item and its considerable rate, I can't help but wonder is there a cover out there bearing N.Z.'s Arms 3 10s, which was issued around this time? I can't get excited about mint of the Arms series, but a cover with a 3 10s, 4 10s, or 35s (!), now that's a very different story. Auction estimate $3000.

                               Figure 8. What's there not to like about this cover?

Any excuse to show off one of my favourite covers. Yes, Figure 8 has only a relatively modest showing of Seahorses, but . . . what's there not to like about this cover? If someone is thinking "size", I'll probably emerge from the print in their Stamp News and throttle 'em. Auction estimate? You'll have to see the auction catalogue for that.

The items featured this month are amongst what I regard as my "best of the best" and, together with hundreds of other lots which comprise my commercial airmail articles to Australasia collection (to 1945), in its entirety, will be available for viewing at Australia 2013 Exhibition, for an auction in June in Melbourne.

More on that next month.

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.