Stamp News August 2004
'Australia Post has the Speed you need'
No, Australia Post has not diversified within its product range to quite that extent. Rather, this slogan, first introduced as a postal cancellation in the early 1980s, doubles up as the subtitle for one of my fun collections, entitled 'Fastpost'. This collection encompasses the special services provided at additional cost by Australia Post to facilitate more rapid mail delivery; Express, Special Delivery, Messenger Delivery, Priority Paid, Express Courier, etc. In an earlier edition of this column I provided some examples of various 'fun' collections which I pursue, and this month I'll add 'Fastpost' and include some examples from the 'Express Delivery' section of that collection.
At Federation in 1901, only N.S.W., Queensland and Victoria offered an Express Delivery service - the forwarding of urgent correspondence by a telegraph messenger upon its arrival at the delivery post office. A national service commenced in late 1902 with uniform fees of 4d up to one mile in addition to normal postage. Express Delivery fees remained unaltered until 1935, when rather more complex services and fees were introduced. Some examples of articles sent by the Express Delivery service follo
Figure 1. 31 Aug 1928 cover from Dongarra (W.A.) to Perth prepaid at 51/2d representing 11/2d letter rate plus 4d Express Delivery fee. In that era articles destined for this service were usually endorsed 'EXPRESS DELIVERY' in manuscript at the receiving post office, and vertical lines in blue were drawn on front and back by way of differentiating the article from regular delivery mails. I have found very few 'Express' items dated before 1930. Value : $125 (stamps off cover $14).
Figure 2. 6 Nov 1937 cover from Birchip (Vic) to Melbourne at 6d (2d letter rate plus 4d Express Delivery) with large "URGENT LETTERS'' label partly affixed over address leaving no doubt that this article was intended for special attention! This label is quite rare, particularly used so late (typically it was in use before 1913), and it appears that Birchip was unusual in having such stationery stock on hand this late. Quite by coincidence a very similar cover (from Birchip) was auctioned in Melbourne recently and fetched $480 plus the add-ons, excusing me from having to estimate a valuation on this occasion (in the absence of that event I would have come in at well under the auction realisation!). Value : $500 (off cover $1).
Figure 3. 19 Jul 1940 cover from Melbourne to Sydney bearing attractive franking composition for the 6d rate (identical computation to that in Figure 2). It's always pleasing to include attractive and/or unusual frankings where possible to add diversity to one's collection. I expect few would pass up this particular cover in favour of, say, one bearing three of the KGVI 2d to achieve the relevant rate (aside perhaps from cost factors!). The handstruck 'EXPRESS/DELIVERY' was in use at the Melbourne G.P.O. for a short period and nicely 'rounds-off' an altogether very pleasing example of its kind. Value : $150 (stamps off cover $4).
Figure 4. Rather overzealous application of the handstruck 'EXPRESS DELIVERY' (there are a further 12 strikes on reverse!) would have ensured that this 31 Aug 1950 cover was not overlooked for its intended consideration in the mail system between Ballarat and Melbourne. What was overlooked however was the postage calculation. The letter rate was 21/2d and Express Delivery fee 4d rendering an overpayment of 2d. Urgency of delivery appears to have overtaken economic rationale. Value : $50 (off cover 40c).
Figure 5. The Express Delivery fee was increased to 9d on 9 Jul 1951, and this 7 Mar 1952 cover from the Minister for Shipping and Transport out of Parliament House, Canberra, Post Office required a total franking of 1/31/2d, the initial 61/2d of which was for the airmail rate to its Adelaide destination. The handstamped 'EXPRESS DELIVERY' was applied in Canberra. The KGVI 21/2d brown is uncommon on cover and its inclusion in this franking composition is fortuitous. The Post Office 'EXPRESS' (seriffed font) label was introduced a year or more earlier. My earliest use is on a 14 Aug 1950 FDC but this may have been affixed after that date. Value : $50 (stamps off cover 60c).
Figure 6. This 22 Sep 1952 airmail cover from Melbourne to Brisbane is under same rate regime as for Figure 5. The 'EXPRESS' label is sans-serif and may have been the first type introduced, raising my doubt concerning the FDC described under Figure 5. I have seen only two usages of this label type, the other 1 May 1951, so it appears to have been relatively short-lived. Value : $60 (stamps off cover 35c).
Figure 7. 'Express' articles to overseas destinations are particularly uncommon and to complete this month's column is this 16 May 1962 cover Melbourne to U.S. The rate of 3/3d comprises 2/- airmail to U.S. plus 1/3d Express Delivery fee (the service was available to selected overseas countries only). The handstamped 'EXPRESS DELIVERY/SERVICE' was applied at Elizabeth Street Post Office. Value : $75 (stamps off cover 40c).
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.