Try this at home in '05
If you’re seeking a new philatelic challenge, or can be persuaded to consider one, try this concept for 2005. From the myriad of world stamp issues of, say, the past 50 years or so select a series which you like. I suggest it be a postwar subject only for reasons of greater material availability and affordability. Your preferred topic might be a particular definitive series, even a range including commemorative and other special issues which appeared for a given country during the span of a decade or more. The parameters are limited only by the imagination, but to take Australia, for example, the first decade of Decimal currency would make for a worthy subject for the challenge I am about to suggest. Once having made your choice from the thousands of possibilities out there, then proceed to acquire material for a study of the ways in which your chosen series was actually used. This will be usages of the stamps on cover, uprating of postal stationery, and other postal articles which owe their existence to the everyday course of correspondence and commerce – however not use for philatelic purposes such as FDC’s and souvenir covers, which are not an accurate representation of our quest.
This suggested concept is basically a variation of the ‘Modern Challenge’ which has become so popular with exhibitors. However, whereas in that discipline the study of the subject stamps is usually an integral element of the exhibit, the variation presented here focuses singularly on usage. Well known exhibitor and friend, Geoff Kellow (editor of The Australian Commonwealth Specialists’ Catalogue), recently selected the seemingly unlikely 1950s-60s issues of Sierra Leone for this type of challenge and, well, it’s fair to say succeeded. Geoff’s exhibit was awarded a Large Vermeil medal (ie just short of ‘Gold’) at the September National, Swan River Stamp Show 2004. Well done Geoff and proof positive that ‘best of its kind’ need not necessarily be prohibitively expensive.
The subject I have selected for this ‘Usage challenge’, as we’ll call it, is the first QEII Pictorial series for Solomon Islands. The first QEII series for most British Commonwealth countries are attractive and of course many are now approaching their half century. A certain philatelic ‘respectability’ seems to flow from that distinction. Mint sets of these issues are readily available, as are most sets used. Covers however are a much greater challenge, and comparatively little research in to usage of the stamps has been undertaken. Here then is an opportunity to become a pioneer in the study of the usage of the stamp series you select for your challenge!
Figure 1. Not such humble use for the little ½d
An otherwise very ordinary 1964 cover from Australia has been rendered extraordinary by the omission of a 5d Australian stamp, for the surface rate to Solomon Is. The article was taxed 10d double-deficiency facilitated by affixing a 9d and pair of ½d’s in lieu of Postage due stamps. Value : $125 (stamps off cover $1.80).
Figure 2. When low values can be harder to get on cover than higher values
The 1½d as a solo franking is quite uncommon. This 14 Sep 1964 local use at Honiara was for the Greetings card rate. Value : $30 (off cover 40c).
Figure 3. Added handstamp – added interest
The 2½d used 10 Oct 1962 locally at Honiara; the handstamped ‘ WORLD UNITED/AGAINST MALARIA ’ was postally applied to many articles mailed during that year. Value : $25 (off cover 50c).
Figure 4. Formular aerogramme used to TPNG
I have found the 5d to be the hardest to obtain on cover amongst the ‘pence’ denominations. This usage, together with 3d, tied by ‘ BARAKOMA AIRFIELD/28 MAY 1956 ’ datestamp to formular aerogramme to TPNG at standard 8d rate is particularly scarce, and one sort after also by the postal history buff seeking scarce commercial use of the datestamp. Value : $150 (stamps off ‘cover’ $1.40).
Figure 5. 8d on mission of philatelic urgency
We have Rev Carter of TPNG to thank for another uncommon use of a formular aerogramme (see Figure 4), on this occasion bearing the 8d. This 1 Nov 1957 use was by the British Red Cross Society at Honiara. A philatelist in the U.S. had made contact offering to purchase Solomons used covers at $5 per 100. Sensing the offer might be too good to be true the Secretary sought advice on ‘how the scheme works and whether there are any snags’. Clearly postal historians then as now were regarded as ‘strange’. Value : $75 (off ‘cover’ 15c).
Figure 6. Slouch hat on 5/- but this value no slouch on cover
One of the reasons why I chose Solomon Is for this article is because it is not often that I have the top three denominations of a QEII first pictorial series on cover! Here the 5/- and 1/3d make up the quintuple rate for airmail to Australia (1/3d per ½oz x 5). This 3 Jul 1964 cover is from the traders, Lawson & Co, to their Australian solicitors – the only source of the 5/- and 10/- (which follows) on cover that I have found. Value : $75 (stamps off cover $5.75).
Figure 7. Penultimate value of series as a solo franking
This is the only 10/- denomination of the series that I have seen on commercial cover. A registered airmail use of 21 May 1965, it pays the octuple multiple for the 1/3d ½oz airmail rate to Australia. The registration fee of 6d has been overlooked by counter staff at Honiara, such oversights not being uncommon generally in the islands. Value : $200 (off cover $10).
Figure 8. Convenient item to anchor this ‘Usage challenge’
Seldom does one encounter the top denomination of a QEII first Pictorial series on commercial postal article, particularly not one of reasonably ‘standard’ dimensions. This remarkable and intact parcel-wrapping has not one but no less than four of the £1 denomination, and together with supporting cast provides an aggregate franking of £4-2-10d, for Jul 1959 registered airmail Honiara to U.S. This represents a multiple of 26 times the basic 3/2d ½oz airmail rate to U.S. plus 6d registration fee. A ‘cracker’ item indeed and, no, I haven’t been tempted to ‘tidy-up’ this natural philatelic wonder. One would have great difficulty attempting to convince me that items such as this do not have a wonderful future amongst enlightened philatelists. Value : for the sake of the exercise - $500+ (stamps off cover - £1 is £35 used in SG – say $100 for the group).
Best wishes to readers for a safe and healthy ’05, and may the ‘thrill of the chase’ continue to inspire you philatelically.
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.