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 Stamp News July/August 2002

Woodchip-free Zone    

 Most Decimal stamps of Australia exist in more than abundant supply mint and used and a complete collection on a simplified basis represents no challenge.   For the more adventurous however Decimal issues can be a fertile collecting field indeed.   To expand upon a basic collection the specialist can include such variants as paper and gum differences, helecon reactions, ‘plate’ varieties and retouches through to the more major items such as colour-omission and partially or wholly imperforate errors.  Postal use on cover, the subject of  this column, adds further diversity to a collection of Decimal issues and this month a few examples of such usage are provided.
            I have selected for comment some of the former ‘high flyers’ of the 1979-81 Decimal Boom when, as those who were present to witness the madness, speculation in Decimal stamps saw prices scale heights beyond belief.   Sanity eventually prevailed and prices for what were of course very common items from the outset, available in quantities far beyond what pure collector demand could ever consume, came crashing back to earth.   Most of the issues which in boomtime sold for multiples of many times face value are nowadays unceremoniously despatched as postage.   Not to be confused with this out-of-period use of 1960s and 1970s issues is the contemporary postal use of such stamps.  Virtually overlooked during the boom (other than for floating off cover for sale as an over-priced used stamp) was the above base rate stamp postally used on cover.  Ironically, many stamps postally used on cover were always much more difficult to obtain than were their mint or used (off cover) counterparts, and those that have survived intact on cover to this day have indeed been vindicated.


1970 20c EXPO.   This stamp was issued primarily for the Zone 3 airmail rate and its use as such is particularly difficult to find.  It is uncommon on cover in any form and this double franking of 24.7.1970 to pay surface rate (5c), registration fee (25c) and AR or Acknowledgement of Delivery (10c) is unusual.  Value : $40.


1972 35c Primary Industries.   A rather scarce stamp on cover despite its primary use being the Zone 5 (which of course included U.K.) airmail rate.  The value of this stamp used during the Decimal Boom was so high that it is presumed that most covers were indeed ‘wood-chipped’.  This 26.8.1972 use for airmail rate to Germany is a fortuitous survivor.  Value : $45.


1968 20c Weather Watch.   Primarily issued for registration fee and Zone 4 airmail rate.  This 3.4.1968 use to uprate a 5c Stationery envelope for registration is a good example of the use of the stamp which is difficult to find postally used on cover for any purpose.  Value : $35.


1973 20c National Development.   Primarily for Zone 2 airmail rate this stamp is more likely to be found (and even as such not often) used for make-up purposes such as this 30.6.1973 use with Pioneer 10c to create the 30c Zone 4 airmail rate.  Value : $30.


1969 15c Primary Industries.   Intended primarily for Zone 2 airmail rate and Letter rate (3rd weight step) to foreign countries this stamp is more often encountered prepaying the combined surface mail and certified fee of 15c.  This January, 1970, use for concessional Postcard and Greetings card Zone 5 airmail rate is unusual.  Value $35.

               Searching for covers such as those illustrated can bring back the thrill of the chase so often lacking amongst collectors of modern basic mint or used stamps, and once acquired can add diversity, interest and individuality to an existing collection.  And of course its always satisfying to have something which not many other collectors will be likely to have.

            Next month we will step back a few decades and highlight some stamps on cover of the reign of King George VI, a period which can be as interesting as it is affordable.

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.