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Stamp News December 2003

                              Woodchip-free Zone

"If you like it and can afford it, go for it!"

My advice to readers for 2004 is summed up in the above. 'Going for it' does require a degree of courage, particularly if you have chosen a field which is not as popular as some collecting categories, or perhaps where you have selected a collecting field which you believe has potential but which has not yet been identified by the masses. 
     This column is of course about Australian commercial covers, and when it commenced a year and a half ago it would be fair to say that collecting such material was 'not as popular as some collecting categories' although it promised a hint of 'potential not yet identified by
the masses'. Indeed, when I sat down to pen the inaugural column I was reminded of the  introduction to The Postal History of the Port Phillip District by the author, J.R.W. ('Bill')Purves. Bill, who was my mentor in the early 1970s, had mentioned in his intro that he doubted if there would be more than six people in the world who would be remotely interested in the subject of his tome!

     The power of the media I never underestimate and I am pleased to report that at least six readers during the past 18 months have expressed to me an interest in this column's subject matter. Some must even be 'going for it' for this year I have observed a considerable strengthening in demand and realisations for commercial covers at auction. Two interesting examples follow, and are the first purely Kangaroo covers I have featured.

                                                           Figure 1
Figure 1 is a lovely tricolour franking 1913 cover bearing 1st watermark d, 2d and 3d used from the unusual origin of Julia Creek (Qld) to U.S. The 5d total was for Foreign letter rate (2d) and registration fee (3d), and the black registration label is very rare and adds to the overall pleasing, highly exhibitable nature of this cover. A good example of a cover representing Philately-as-Art one could add. This item sold at auction in Melbourne in January, 2002, at $800 (estimate was $300) and again in October, 2003, in Sydney at $4600.

     On next to Figure 2, an attractive and rare use of the 5/- (CofA watermark) as a solo franking on 1938 cover Brisbane to U.S. This paid 4/8d per oz airmail rate, 3d registration fee, and 1d Late fee (for an item delivered to the Post Office after advertised closing time for receipt of mail). Sold in a Melbourne auction in August, 2003, at $725 (estimate $150/ 200) it reappeared in Sydney in October when it fetched $3600. Realisations exclude buyer's commission.

                                                            Figure 2

These results do not necessarily tell us that Sydney is a better auction market than Melbourne, for I could readily reverse the  situation with examples of other items resold between the respective cities. What I can tell you is that both Figures 1 and 2 were bought by dealers with an eye for value in the originating auctions, and a preparedness to 'go for it'
when they identify that value for money relationship (although I am certain that these results were well beyond those individuals most optimistic expectations). I would not be surprised however if at some time in the not too distant future these lovely items fetch far more than
even the most recent realisations.
     The fact is that, despite regular publicity for outstanding results at auction for given items, there are many more  items at auction which do not achieve their full potential. Some such items are bought by diligent dealers who in turn place a margin above auction cost and endeavour to resell to their clients, not all of whom are auction buyers. How fortunate would the secondary buyers of Figures 1 and 2 have been if they could have had the opportunity to buy these items directly from the dealer vendors at a typical dealer mark-up of 50%? Smart collectors source material from auctions and dealers, and when they see something they like, and if at that time they can afford it, they 'go for it'. There is no other way to form a collection which separates itself from the pack, and which will bring to its owner pleasure and ultimately profit.
     During my 30 years as an auctioneer I sold many, many mediocre stamp collections. It was obvious from assessing most of these collections that the owners had not sourced material from auctions and/or dealers. On occasions I would inquire as to why the collector had chosen not to frequent auctions or buy from the Trade. Invariably the response would
be such sources are 'too dear'. By not 'going for it' these collectors doomed their collections to mediocrity. Of course there is nothing wrong with forming a humble philatelic collection if that is all that one aspires to. The problems arise only when a collector has next to nothing and can't be convinced otherwise, an all too frequent occurrence which I am pleased not to have to suffer nowadays!

     My best wishes to readers for the Festive Season.

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.