Stamp News August 2008
Ten More Usage Collection Suggestions
Woodchip-free Zone Stamp News August 2008 Ten more Usage Collection suggestions I'm often asked by collectors to suggest topics for usage collections. I'm always happy to oblige, and rather encouraged by the enthusiasm developing for collections based upon the many ways in which given stamps can be used on postal articles.
This month I've selected an eclectic group of ten subjects suitable for a usage collection study. These items are in fact from a larger number of embryonic usage collections, formed by a Philatelist who, in downsizing his holdings, has consigned collections to me for sale. The selected ten are predominantly post-war subjects, generally falling within the budget of most collectors. One of the many attributes of usage collecting is you don't have to be rich to form the world's best of a given subject!
Hong Kong: 1962-73 QEII Annigoni portrait
Figure 1. Always tempting to "do" a usage study when one has the top denomination!
I was attracted to the QEII portrait by Annigoni from the time I first laid eyes upon it. Most would agree the portrait admirably captures the charm of Her Royal Highness. Hong Kong embraced this portrait for it's series of definitive stamps commenced in 1962. Fifteen denominations from 5c to $20 form the series, which remained in use until replaced in 1973 by the "coinage" design, another attractive subject for a usage collection. A change of watermark occurred for the Annigoni's from 1966, although these are virtually impossible to distinguish when on cover, or other postal article. One can be certain of the original watermark only if used before the date of appearance of the replacements; the $10 was issued only with the first watermark. There are some paper variants, which are well worth the hunt. Figure 1 features the series' two size formats, the $1 and 40c smaller, and $20 and $5 larger format. The total franking of $26.40, which is quite high for the 1967 date of use, represented the $1 per ½oz airmail rate to U.S. x26 plus 40c registration fee.
When tackling a usage collection such as this, I usually recommend including also those commemorative and other special issues contemporaneous with the subject series. This is logical, as the various series' are often found used in combination with one another. Following this principle, a usage study of the Hong Kong Annigoni's would also encompass other stamp issues from 1963 Freedom from Hunger (the first issue following appearance of Annigoni's) to 1973 Chinese New Year (last issue prior to Annigoni replacement definitive series). And what a most attractive collection this can comprise!
Hong Kong is one of the world's "hot" countries, yet stamp usage by my observation is relatively undiscovered by H.K. collectors. I'm surprised at just how inexpensive quite scarce usage items are, from 1930s onwards, when offered in the market place, such as on eBay. A window of opportunity, in my opinion.
France: 1946-47 Airs
Figure 2. France with an Aussie flavour
The four airmail stamps issued by France after WWII, the so-called Série mythologique, are a suitable subject for a one-frame (15-page) usage study. I like this series for a few reasons: the designs are striking and original, they are recess-printed (a favourite process), and they are airmails (another favourite). The denominations are 40f, 50f, 100f, and 200f, the last the highest denominated stamp of France at time of issue. The stamps are worth very little used off cover, and even on intact postal articles are generally very inexpensive. A useful subject for collectors of more modest means. Figure 2 shows the 200f together with 1946 Peace Conference set in pairs, used to Australia 1 Oct 1946 from the Conference Post Office in Paris. The notations "30gr" and "226" indicate weight and postage charge. My French rate tables indicate the postal rate was 35f per 5gms, therefore 210f for 30gms. The sender was with the Australian Delegation to the Conference, writing to family, so perhaps was sending the additional franking in the form of the Conference stamps home as a souvenir.
French airmails in general make for attractive usage studies, and the same could be said for airmail stamps of many other countries.
British Solomon Islands: 1939-51 KGVI Pictorials
Figure 3. Short-lived 4½d the "star" of the series
In the January 2008 column, the topic was British Empire KGVI. Great Subject for a Usage Collection. I briefly mentioned the Solomon Islands set as being a good subject for that purpose, and will now provide more detail in support of that recommendation. The set of 13 Pictorials, issued in 1939 and 1942 (the 10/-), with a couple of perforation changes in 1951, is amongst the more attractive stamp series of the reign of KGVI. Colourful, local scenes, recess-printed by De La Rue and Waterlow. Importantly from a usage perspective, the stamps did see a reasonable amount of commercial use, which often can't be said for other Empire countries of this period. I've seen every denomination on intact postal article, mostly covers, although the 4½d, 5/- and 10/- are very scarce in that format. The 4½d was withdrawn well before the other denominations. Figure 3 is one of two solo frankings of the 4½d I've noted. Sent from Tulagi 20 Nov 1939 to Canada, 4½d paid 1½d Empire rate plus 3d registration fee.
United States: 1965-81 Prominent Americans
Figure 4. Parcel tags seldom so neat and attractive
The U.S. unsurprisingly is one of the great usage study countries. Suitable subjects abound, and some of the definitive series are amongst the most popular usage collecting fields in the world. The 1938 Presidential ("Prexies"), 1954-73 Liberty, 1980-98 Great Americans, and 1981-95 Transportation, for example, are terrific study subjects, and justifiably very popular. Scarcer usage items are out there for the informed to find, often unceremoniously reposing in Trader's "Dollar boxes". Within the above time-span sits the 1965-81 Prominent Americans series. Denominations from 1c to $5, potentially almost unlimited usage configurations for the enthusiast. Figure 4 is a nice place to start! This parcel tag originated at Berkeley, California. The franking is a fairly hefty aggregate $21.93, including no less than four of the $5 Moore, which is very desirable on any form of "entire". There is no indication of when the article was sent, or to where. It turned up in New Zealand, to where it can reasonably be assumed it was addressed. The 30c and $1 stamps also present were issued in 1979, as was the $5 Americana issue which replaced the $5 Moore. A c1979 date of despatch therefore is probable. I'm afraid I don't have enough information to compute the postage rate. Can any reader help?
Israel: First Decade of Stamp Issues 1948-58
Figure 5. 1949 Ham Radio enthusiasts globe-hop
Israel may come as a surprise selection for a usage study, some may consider. However, I like many of the designs, and on commercial cover, etc, they particularly appeal to my philatelic taste. And stamp issuing commenced in 1948, the year I was born! Many Jewish folk settled in Australia before and after WWII, and correspondence from Israel is reasonably available locally. Later issues also have appeal, but it is the first decade that the collection I have under review encompasses. The Bale Israel Catalogue prices stamps to 1960 on commercial cover, and other postal history elements, which is quite useful to anyone contemplating a usage study. Figure 5 is an attractive franking 1949 airmail postcard Tel Aviv to Australia, at 80 mils rate. The airmail letter rate was 160 mils. This item is unusual in that it is not of an inter-family or business-related nature as are most of the items Israel to Australia I've seen in the subject period. Rather, it was between two Ham Radio enthusiasts, the reverse side in particular with enough radio frequency information to keep the recipient bunkered down for some time in his communications den.
Great Britain: Machins
Figure 6. 1974 4½p Forces concessional airmail rate to Australia
GB's Machin Head series, introduced in 1967, generally evoke a "Love 'em" or "Hate 'em" reaction amongst Philatelists. In terms of usage study appeal, I'm very much in the former camp. The series is a vibrant goldmine for usage aficionados. Australia is an excellent place to source Machin usage material, and a lot of interesting items can be assembled in a comparatively short period of time, for generally very modest sums. Many uncommon to rare usage items are awaiting discovery by the informed and patient, Figure 6 being one which didn't get away, a 20 Oct 1974 use of the 4½p grey-blue to Australia. The sender was an Australian Defence Forces Gunner stationed in Hong Kong, serving with British Forces. The FIELD POST OFFICE / 146 cancel confirms the location. Australian Forces were entitled to the 4½p concessional airmail rate when writing home. This is a very scarce solo rate; I've noted only one other cover. This 4½p was also used for the U.K. Inland first class mail rate from 24 Jun 1974, which of course is a common solo usage.
A usage study of all Machin issues is a tall order, although I know I'm not the only one attempting the challenge. An alternative suggestion would be to attempt just the £SD Machin stamps, and to include those commemoratives which were contemporaneous, ie 1967 Paintings to 1970 Christmas. This would be a similar usage collection blueprint to that suggested for the Hong Kong Annigoni's above.
Figure 7. 1967, Zimbabwe when it was Rhodesia
Zimbabwe, as we sadly know, is not the place it once was. A portrait of the once prevailing peace and prosperity can be glimpsed in the stamps of the former Rhodesia. Stamps bearing that singular country name, Rhodesia (renamed from Southern Rhodesia in 1964), were issued for a comparatively short period, from 1965 (ITU Centenary) to 1978 (Anniversary of Powered Flight). On 18 Apr 1980 Rhodesia became the independent Republic, Zimbabwe. A usage collection of the stamps prior to independence is the suggestion. The stamps are generally attractive; reflective of an era which largely has been relegated to history. Figure 7 shows the colourful 2/6d and 1/3d from the 1966 Pictorial series, added to the Rhodesia formular Registered Letter stationery. Registered at Sinoia to Australia on 27 Oct 1967, the 3/9d combined franking paid 2/6d airmail rate plus 1/3d registration fee.
Austria: 1948-52 Provincial costumes
Figure 8. 10s Vienna, 1850. Handy year to have bought Sydney Views and Half-lengths as New Issues.
From a man who unashamedly allows his wife to exclusively maintain his wardrobe, a series featuring costumes may appear on odd suggestion for a usage collection. However, understand the subjects are generally rather attractive young women, superbly attired, and there are 37 varieties in the series! I know, call me sentimental, it's also another stamp series commenced the year I was born. This is of course a charming stamp series, with universal appeal, irrespective of one's gender. As a usage subject they have much to offer: 33 various denominations from 3g to 10s, a reasonable issue time-span to encompass rate revisions (some printings were made as late as 1964), and wonderful colour variation, to name but a few attributes. Interestingly, it is the lowest denomination, the humble 3g, which appears to be the scarcest on postal articles. I don't have a rate table for Austria (can any reader help? - see also my other column this month), so unfortunately cannot say what a 3g was intended for, other perhaps than as a make-up rate? Figure 8 shows a dominant franking of the highest denomination, the 10s Vienna 1850 (x7), with 70g, and 40g and 5g, the last two on reverse. This rather high 71s 15g franking was sent Express airmail, registered to Australia on 28 Jan 1957. The collection which contains this item has a 1957 6.40g airmail to Australia; this may have been the basic 5gms airmail rate? A wax seal on the reverse is that of the Austrian Consul, Belgrade, so postage cost was probably meaningless to the sender.
New Zealand: 1960-66 Pictorials
Figure 9. £1 geyser, to a geezer in U.K. (pardon the slang)
Closer to home, an attractive photogravure series, with denominations in the classic British Empire ½d to £1 formation. Reasonably accessible material in Australia, and generally modestly priced, although the 10/- and £1 are hard-to-find, and can be priced accordingly. There are of course many "sleepers" to be found amongst the lower denominations (faithful to the "uncommon use of the common stamp" principle). Figure 9 is an attractive use of the 3/- multicolour and £1 uprating the 1/4d Registration envelope for 7 Jul 1967 (three days before intro of Decimal currency) airmail Wellington to U.K. One day, one day, Campbell Patterson will price NZ stamps on commercial cover, as we did for Australia in Brusden-White. Watch NZ usage take to the skies as Australia has done when that revelation occurs!
British Empire: 1949 Universal Postal Union Omnibus
Figure 10. Malta UPU 1/- and 3d to Australia
The British Empire Omnibus sets of the 1930s, 1940s, and later, are readily available mint, and to a lesser extent used. No challenge there. Many of the 1935 Silver Jubilee and 1948-49 Silver Wedding (high value) series are virtually impossible to find on commercial postal articles, but one has a reasonable chance of success, or near success, with the 1937 Coronation series. I know there are a number of enthusiasts worldwide attempting the Coronations. The 1949 U.P.U. series would be a worthy challenge, and I doubt that there are more than a handful who have taken it up. The very brave would, of course, include the stamps issued for the U.P.U. 75th Anniversary by foreign countries! Figure 10 shows the 1/- and 3d issued by Malta, on 22 Dec 1949 inter bank correspondence to Australia, 1/3d being the then prevailing airmail rate.
These are just ten usage collection suggestions from an almost limitless reservoir of possibilities, limited only by the imagination. Of the many facets of Philately I've delved in, I find Usage the most fulfilling. It also satisfies my principal essential: Pleasure and Profit. Do I believe the concept of usage collecting has a bright and enduring future? You bet, and I'm putting my money where my mouth is. A number of the above collections, from which the illustrated subjects derive, have been acquired for my Self-managed Super Fund.
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.