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Stamp News    December 2006

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Ten collecting suggestions for '07

Commercial covers, particularly those of the 20th century, are probably the last great frontier in Philately. In the opinion of this columnist, nothing in the Wonderful World of Philately approaches commercial covers for blue sky potential. If another Philatelic category with greater potential for pleasure and profit could be identified I'd be heavily in to it; trust me.

I am pleased to report that 2006 has witnessed a steadily increasing band of commercial cover aficionados join the 'club'. Included are people who have come to agree that their Philately should have much more to offer. Much more, that is, than the dutiful practise of applying for a perpetual stream of contrived products, which Postal Administrations worldwide gleefully invent for the willing.

More than anecdotal evidence convinces me that commercial covers are 'catching on'. First hand experience in the many auctions I monitor, including eBay, confirms that new blood is continually entering the fray. And some of these new folk are very keen, I can attest. From a personal viewpoint, I'm having to bid more spiritedly than ever to win material, and increasingly, to my chagrin, I'm being outbid!

Now, I'll add more fuel to the fire, and recommend to any reader with an open mind, and a willingness to think outside of the Philatelic square, that they ought to find a place for commercial covers in their collecting pursuits. By way of stimulation (hopefully!), this month I'll provide ten suggested collecting topics, from thousands which one could readily explore. Firstly, however, the story behind Figure 1 may serve to assist the reader to judge for themselves if I'm qualified to provide collecting advice.

                         Figure 1. Highly important Victoria cover carried on the "Victoria"

This attractive Victoria 1858 cover was acquired in 1982 when I was a keen collector of Victoria. It was offered in one of the series of London auctions of the J.R.W. Purves collection, and I paid £210 (then A$336). The central stamp, a 2d 'Emblems', was described on Purves' page as a Calvert printing on unwatermarked, wove paper, and I had no reason to doubt that classification, and dutifully mounted it as such in my collection. Years later I detected that the stamp was in fact on horizontally-laid rather than wove paper, a variety which had not previously been recorded. No further example (on or off cover) has to date turned up. When I was selling-off my Victoria I sold Figure 1 in 1992 for $4500. Not bad, one might say. That is until 11 October 2006, on which date in Sydney I auctioned that same item, on behalf of the 1992 purchaser, for $46000 (including buyer's premium).

In no particular order, here follows "Ten collecting suggestions for '07".

           Figure 2. This Kangaroo not leaping in to another collection any day soon

I like New Issues. Used on commercial cover, that is. A strong recommendation for a new collecting field is to take on the challenge of including an example of every Australian Decimal stamp (or modern issues of your favourite country), commercially used in period of issue on cover/card, or other postal article. Mint, used (off cover) or on FDC every stamp issued since 1966 is readily available, generally in quantities of biblical proportions. Not so some of the same stamps commercially used on cover, etc. Some issues are really, really hard to find in that form, and this can be particularly so for issues of the last few years. It took me 18 years to locate a 1966 $4 Navigator on commercial cover, for example. In that period I could have bought tens of thousands of that same stamp mint or used (off cover).

Figure 2 is a 'recent' rather than 'new' issue, but the fundamentals for collecting such material on commercial cover are constant. Here we have a 24 Jul 1995 use of a Counter-printed stamp (CPS) denominated at $20, which was the fee for the joint Tax Office/Australia Post initiative 'TAXPACKEXPRESS', which provided a priority service for lodging Tax returns. Although this item was lodged at the National Philatelic Centre (one of the few places to provide CPS facilities) it is a purely commercial use of the stamp. I featured a similar item in the February 2003 column, which I then valued at $50. I have increased my valuation to $250, which in fact is the sum I have offered, unsuccessfully, to the owner. On reflection, why should she sell it? This is a modern rarity, and in years to come will be worth much more. Meanwhile, the same item mint would yield a seller $15 (yes, I realise face value is $20). And $15 it will be in ten or 20 years. Assuming in that era there is a postal service for which stamps remain valid.

                                 Figure 3. A more familiar Kangaroo

I am perpetually puzzled why few if any of the traditional specialists in Australian 'Kangaroos' willingly embrace usage of these stamps on cover? This omission by traditionalists may be regretted some day, particularly if a well-structured cover exhibit featuring unusual franking combinations (including Postal history elements), unusual shades, presence of varieties, scarce solo frankings, rates, destinations, etc, emerges and begins to rate well with judges, which I believe such a concept would do. I'm tempted to rise to this particular challenge, and would were it not for the mandatory Philatelic Reality Check which I undertake daily. For now, however, I'll be content to put the challenge out there. Anyone courageous enough to take it up? Figure 3 shows an attractive combination Kangaroo/State franking used from Hobart 9 Jun 1913 for the 1½d Foreign postcard rate, on this occasion to Ismailia, Suez Canal. Fortuitously, the stamps have been affixed to the front of the postcard rather than reverse which is more often the case, providing a delightful effect. What collection of 'Kangaroos' would not be enriched by the inclusion of such an item, and at a price which by Kangaroo Standards is modest indeed? Value : $250 (stamps off card $2).

                                  Figure 4. Second class airmail, first class item

Commercial usage on cover of the stamps of Australian Dependencies and former Territory of Papua New Guinea are great collecting fields. The mint/used stamps are no challenge, and I don't miss auctioning collection after collection of such boring material ("But Mr. Perry, it's complete!" still rings in my ears). Try finding commercial covers of Christmas and Cocos Islands, used in the respective countries only, of course, or Norfolk Island, however, and you are in for a real challenge. From Norfolk comes Figure 4, a 5 Sep 1965 use of the 11d Fish and 1d Flower for the 2nd Class airmail rate of 1/- (vs. 2/- for 1st Class airmail) to U.S. This is the only commercial use of the 11d I've seen. Value : $150 (stamps off cover, well, not much).

                  Figure 5. 13c Bird repatriated from France at great expense

Series collecting of commercial covers is one of my favourite Philatelic pursuits. Take a given stamp series - there are tens of thousands worldwide to select from - and set about finding many and varied forms of usage of the stamps in that series. Take for example Australia's 1966 Decimal 'Birds' series of eight. I've put together an eight-frame exhibit (120 pages) of usage on commercial cover/card, parcel tag, etc, of this particular series, and an attractive assembly it is. Figure 5 is a recent addition, bought at the famous open air bi-weekly Stamp Fair in Paris during my visit in September. This 3 Sep 1968 use of a postcard from Darwin by a French tourist, sent to Paris, is of additional interest in that it shows a scene in Darwin pre-Cyclone "Tracy". The rate of 13c was the airmail Postcard rate (25c was the airmail Letter rate), and this is a rather scarce stamp as a solo franking, probably more so than the 1/2d Tasmanian Tiger, which preceded it. Value : $50 (off cover 30c).

                Figure 6. An unlikely but effective ally in the promotion of Tourism

Meter cancellations may seem an odd recommendation in what is primarily a dedicated Stamp Usage column. Meters are, after all, an integral part of Postal history, and they can be a most interesting pursuit. The July 2005 column in fact was devoted to the theme of Meter cancellation collecting (on entire cover only, of course). I like them, and for those who may be interested in a more in-depth article on the subject I suggest you visit my website,, and select 'Rod's columns' in menu tabs at top. For the purpose of this month's article, I'll be content to feature as Figure 6 another what I regard as interesting meter example. This 10 May 1982 impression on a Government of the Northern Territory envelope is part of a series of local fauna representations, doubtless intended to promote the Tourist Industry. They appear to be rather scarce, and I can imagine a reptile enthusiast, perhaps someone with a thematic collection of such, being fairly willing to pay upwards of $20 for a cover such as this to exhibit.

                 Figure 7.
1930, and 'Not a worry' on the roads may well have been true

It's logical to collect a thematic topic that appeals, and there are many such collectors pursuing such ideals. Not all include use of their favourite stamps on commercial cover, and I suggest that doing so would add more substance and character, particularly to a competitive exhibit. One of my non-philatelic interests is automobiles (correct, I'm a petrol-head), and I've a collection of philatelically-related automobile nostalgia. Figure 7 was a particularly useful recent addition as it combines my preferred topic with Postal Stationery, in an imminently exhibitable form. Why not try forming a sideline collection of your favourite topic? As with my automobile memorabilia, you may find your chosen subject is something you can shamelessly show to non-philatelic friends! Oh, and don't forget to include examples of your subject on commercial covers in your endeavour. For the record, Figure 7 is a 25 Aug 1930 ½d uprate of 1d embossed postcard (the postage rate for which increased from 1d to 1½d on 4 Aug 1930) inscribed for Goodyear Tyres. Value : $100.

                                    Figure 8. Framas. Unnecessarily unloved

I appear to be favouring Northern Territory this month, for no apparent reason. Figure 8 is an example of the first series Frama with Postcode 5790 of N.T., 'dialled-in' at 33c for the Letter rate rise (from 4 Mar 1985). This 13 Sep 1985 commercial use from Darwin is another modern rarity. There are in fact many, many rarities amongst Framas correctly used on cover, particularly when one brings in to account the coded clichés. I say 'correctly used' meaning used in period of issue and in region of issue. Outside of those prerequisites I don't rate Framas on cover as useful. I've found the 1996 'Festive' design and later Framas very difficult to obtain in quantity on commercial cover. True, Framas are somewhat unloved, and I confess I'm not enamoured with them other than correctly used on commercial cover. In that form, other than myself, I know only of fellow Stamp News columnist, Craig Chappell, as an avid collector. There may be others in what I rate as a deserving collecting field, in need of collectors who delight in obtaining rarity for quite modest outlay (at present that is). Figure 8 I priced at $100 in the ACSC Decimals III (used off cover it's $1.25). It's actually the only cover I've seen used from N.T., and I know the owner would not sell it.

    Figure 9. Lorne on the Great Ocean Road. Now there's a temptation for a petrol-head

Illustrated covers for the Tourist Industry can be delightful, and Figure 9 is one such example. A 7 Mar 1941 use from Lorne of a Sanderson's Chalet Lorne envelope, this is also a good example of just how much can be lost when stamps are removed from cover. The World of Philately simply doesn't need yet another used off cover KGVI 2d scarlet Die II. A collection of Tourist advertising/promotional covers makes for an interesting sideline. Material from the early 1900s is rather scarce, but from the 1950s onwards is readily available if one searches. And it's fun to find items from places you have visited, particularly if the subject no longer exists in the form in which it appears on your cover. For example, I have a number of 1960s covers from Queensland's Gold Coast featuring places I stayed at when I was a teenager ('Sea Breeze Motel', Surfer's Paradise, and Coolangatta's 'Greenmount', etc). Nostalgia is a great ally in one's collecting pursuits. Value : $40 (off cover, zero).

                         Figure 10. Wish that all slogan cancels came like this

Australian slogan cancellations were first generally introduced in 1917. They deserve to be more widely collected, but appear to have been well and truly trumped by their cds (circular date stamp) relative. This considerable disparity in popularity I find puzzling, given that Robin Occleshaw, the esteemed Philatelic researcher, produced a definitive two-volume work on the subject between 1989-91. Australian Slogan Cancellations 1917-1990 is a readily available publication, and ownership is enough in itself to inspire the owner to take up this collecting challenge. Again, if owning rarities for a 'song' gets your Philatelic juices flowing, slogan cancel collecting (on cover only, of course) just might be for you. Figure 10 is a good example of its kind, and I wish all slogans were this clearly applied. With patience, however, very good strikes of most slogan types (be warned, there are many) can be found. One could form a collection purely of the various types and dies of Air Mail slogans which abounded from the 1930s to 1950s. Figure 10 is a Krag machine type with stylised 'airplane' in use at Rockhampton (Qld). Value : This good $30 - typical single-strike $10 (stamp off cover, forget it).

                   Figure 11. 1947, Sami Selim of Syria writes to penpal in Sydney

From out of left field my final collecting suggestion is to try assembling a collection of exotic origin material, on commercial cover. I've seen such a collection, from a wide variety of unusual (and not so unusual) origins, the common denominator being that the destination is Australia (Figure 11 is from this collection). And a very colourful and interesting collection it is. The owner, when I asked how did he stumble upon such a novel collecting theme, replied "I was looking for an excuse to collect the world". If variety is the spice of Philatelic life, he has certainly succeeded.

Best wishes to readers for the Festive Season.

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.