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Stamp News    December  2009 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

"A good excuse for collecting the World"

I wonder how many readers recall the days when almost every stamp collector took on the World? The days when attempting to fill every page in a "World Stamp Album" was an obsession. Were you one of the many who kept a census of the number of stamps in your album, penciled in on the title page? Unashamedly, I confess to once being one of those compulsive obsessive's.

Unlike most collectors, who go on to specialize in finite, more achievable (and sensible!) goals in their collecting pursuits, I never lost the urge for World collecting, however. The nostalgia associated with revisiting the stamps I once hinged in to my world album, so purposely, I find irresistible to this day. What then is a truly purposeful way of achieving such a seemingly improbable goal? Well may you ask, so let's make my concept of world collecting the subject of this month's column?

Let me clarify from the outset, my world collection consists wholly of intact commercial postal articles: covers, postcards, parcel tags, etc, from any country in the world, provided such are addressed to Australia (and occasionally New Zealand). A further proviso is that at some stage of the journey the given article must have been carried by air. I selected Australia as a destination, for not only is it my birthplace and home, it is the longest haul for mail from most countries, and therefore incurs the highest postage rates. The destination is the common denominator in my collection, setting the sights for an intelligible, purposeful goal for which to aim.

From this collection, I've selected an even dozen items to illustrate my concept, before and during WWII, generally emanating from less likely origins:

  
                                     Figure 1. Rather exotic: Danzig to Australia

Danzig was a self-governing port on the Baltic Sea, from 1920 until 1939, when occupied and annexed by Germany. Unsurprisingly, airmail-related material from Danzig to Australia is rare. I had recorded but one solitary cover, until a small cache of covers surfaced at a Melbourne auction this year. Figure 1 is from that source, a very early airmail item, 16 Jun 1931, from Zoppot to a Bank in suburban Melbourne. Postage of 4g was adequate for a 30-40gms article, for air so far as the Karachi-Delhi leg (note endorsement to that effect upper left) of Imperial Airways Ltd eastbound service. Surface mail only was available thereafter to Australia. The use of Danzig airmail stamps, and the presence of a German-style Air Mail etiquette (once was "label") add appropriate finishing touches for an item destined to fly.

Here and elsewhere I've endeavored to select items which include the then current Air Mail etiquette for the respective origins. From records in the public domain, it's generally possible to trace the entire journey of items such as Figure 1, the rail, air and surface connections. This is, however, but an introduction to a concept for collecting the world, rather than an exhaustive study of many and varied aspects of the items featured.

                    
                   Figure 2. Hungary postcard features Art Deco airmail stamps

Postcards sent by airmail during the 1930s (or earlier) are generally uncommon. The air fee was several times the surface rate, which was a disincentive for most correspondents. Figure 2 is a good example of the disparity between the two forms of transmission. The postcard rate for Hungary in 1937 was 20f, and the airmail surcharge, to Australia, was 1P.40. Therefore, the combined surface/air rate for a postcard to Australia was 1P.60, eight times the basic postcard rate. This 19 Apr 1937 item was destined for Perth, and again features airmail stamps and local Air Mail etiquette, tied by Perth arrival datestamp. It was flown on the K.L.M. (Dutch) service to Netherlands East Indies.

                  
                  Figure 3. Even more exotic origin/destination: Albania to Australia

Items such as Figure 3 are an absolute delight to those who specialize in exotic origin/destination airmail material. A 12 Nov 1938 registered cover from Lloyd Triestino, Tirane Albania, via Greece to a Shipping company in Sydney, the rate of 3Fr 40 represents 25q Surface + 2Fr 75 Air fee + 40q registration. One can imagine just how little pre-war airmail material originating in Albania was destined for Australia. I've seen but one other item in over 20 years of searching. The uncommon Air Mail etiquette is tied by the Tirane datestamp, always a nice added touch for the purist.

                   
                                      Figure 4. Exotic stamps, and exotic origin

Is it just me, or can others appreciate just how much more vibrant and exciting stamps appear when still bonded to the article which originally conveyed them on their journey? Figure 4, a fine example of what enthuses me, is a 9 Jan 1935 cover from Port Herald, Nyasaland, to Auckland. The superb stamp franking, an aggregate of 1/10d, was for oz. combined surface/air fee via Egypt, the airmail service terminating in Australia, thereafter by sea to N.Z. The parallel lines partly obliterating British-style Air Mail label were applied to indicate cessation of airmail service.

                   
                       Figure 5. Response to bargain air service was underwhelming


The Empire "All-up" Air Scheme (EAMS), introduced in 1938, saw airmail rates to a number of British Empire countries reduce to a bargain price, often close to what the surface mail rates were at that time. Zanzibar, for instance, had an airmail rate of 2sh 50 to Australasia prior to 16.2.1938, but from that date the EAMS rate was 20 cents only, less than one-twelfth of the former rate! The advent of WWII soon closed down the EAMS, and it's surprising how scarce material is carried by that service to Australasia, even from "big" Empire countries, such as India and Malaya. Figure 5, for example, is the only example from Zanzibar I've noted. It must be said, however, that prewar airmail from that origin to Australasia is rare in any shape or form. It was sent from Zanzibar to Sydney on 21 Apr 1939.

                   
                                        Figure 6. General Gordon visits Australia

One of the more exotic Air Mail etiquettes, English/French/Arabic tri-lingual, accompanied by Sudan General Gordon series stamps, Figure 6 makes for an attractive origin/destination item, sent 12 Jan 1935 registered from Khartoum to Melbourne, flown by Imperial Airways on their sixth extended U.K.-Brisbane service. Sixth flights, unlikely to become a rival to first flights.

     
                                Figure 7. Gibraltar to Australia via Portugal and U.S.

A particularly unusual item, Figure 7, sent by an R.A.A.F. Pilot stationed at Gibraltar, bears the Air Mail etiquette of Australian National Airways. The franking of 1/4d is cancelled by "FIELD POST OFFICE/475" datestamp of 8 Apr 1942. It arrived at Lisbon five days later, in time to board the Pan American "Dixie" Clipper bound for New York. The manuscript "Jusqu'a New York" indicates it was paid for air service only to U.S., for which the rate was 1/4d per oz.; the balance of the journey to Sydney was by surface. This is a rare rate item, complemented by multiple Censor interception, by R.A.F. (green handstamp) and British and Australians (sealing tapes), and use of an Australian Air Mail etiquette abroad. An appealing item, which would be a welcome addition to probably half a dozen different appropriate specialized collections (it was in a specialized collection of Australian Air Mail etiquettes when I bought it). The same could not be said had the stamps been removed from the cover. Fortunately they were not, so we don't have to grieve.

                  
Figure 8. Iraq, in more stable times, to Tasmania

Wonderful origin/destination item, Figure 8, particularly with airmail connection as early as 1929, carried by Imperial Airways on Baghdad-Cairo leg (ie the airmail journey was east-west, rather than seemingly more logical west-east). Sent registered from Baghdad to Tasmania on 11 Jan 1929, the British then had a mandate to administer Iraq, under the League of Nations. Four stamps from the attractive stamp set issued in 1923, an aggregate of 12a, paid 4a Letter rate (3a 1st 20gms, 1a 2nd 20gms) + 4a Airmail fee (1a per 10gms x3) + 3a registration fee.

                      
             Figure 9. Very unusual: British Guiana to Australia via U.S. and Hong Kong

Very little mail from British Guiana before WWII came even part way by airmail to Australia. Figure 9 is one of but two items I've noted which have made the journey, both by air to New York only. Seldom does one encounter such clear directions for the purpose as those conveniently handstamped at Georgetown G.P.O. Sent on 31 May 1938, the rate of 36c paid for airmail service to U.S.; surface mail for balance of journey. A full airmail service at rate of $1.42 was available, but an enclosed letter advises addressee "I missed the Air Line this morning [presumably he was referring to connection for full air service] and this will go by the next boat (?) next week". Long way from British Guiana to Australia, even nowadays. The item went via Hong Kong (16 June) arriving Manly, 29 June.

                   
                  Figure 10. Ceylon: Nice combination of stamps of two Kings' reigns

The 1937 Coronation omnibus set catalogues in S.G. at 180 mint, 250 used. A used set is a challenge, of sorts, but mint sets are readily available, usually for much less than S.G. figure. Many years ago, I recall breaking down one of the special albums produced for the Coronation series; the mint stamp contents, although complete, were a bit the worse for wear due to unsuitable storage. I threw every demounted stamp (there are 202 in the set) in to my "20 cent box", hoping never to see them again. A gentleman spotted a few of these newly deposited stamps in the "box", and painstakingly extracted every one of those 202 stamps. I heard later that the said gentleman gave a display at the local Stamp Club soon after that event. The display? 1937 Coronation, complete mint, of course.

For a real challenge, try collecting the set of 202 stamps commercially used on cover. I know of at least one brave Philatelist who, to his great credit, is making the attempt, and he willingly acknowledges it's a lifetime challenge. Figure 10 has a franking which includes the Ceylon 9c from the series, accompanied by KGV 30c x2 from the lovely 1935-36 Pictorials, making for a very pretty franking combination. Sent from Colombo to Melbourne 29 Dec 1937, for which combined surface/airmail rate was 69c per oz.

                    
                                     Figure 11. Handsome beast, handsome set

North Borneo is one of those countries that are blessed with superbly designed Pictorial series', quite a number of them if one takes in to account the numerous overprinted configurations. I would have gone in to collecting this country, big time, but for one fact. Commercial mail is generally difficult to obtain, and for many stamp issues, particularly higher denominations pre-WWII, commercial material is largely non-existent. Figure 11 features two designs from the attractive 1939 Pictorials, representing the 60c per oz. combined surface/airmail rate to Australia. This 29 Oct 1940 cover from Kudat to Sydney, endorsed "B.O.A.C." (formerly Imperial Airways), has the local Air Mail etiquette tied by scarce North Borneo Censor handstamp.

                         
                               Figure 12. Yet more attractive Pictorials, from Tonga

The token Pacific Island item this month, Figure 12, is an attractively franked 18 Aug 1940 cover from Nukualofa, Tonga, to Geelong College, Victoria. Endorsed "By Air Mail/Trans-Tasman/& in Australia", for which the rate was 9d. Note, again, the tying of distinctive local Air Mail etiquette; very desirable from a collecting viewpoint.

The twelve subjects illustrated above provide an insight in to my tastes in Philately. Some, I contend, are fine candidates for the Philately as Art movement: that which debates "is it Philately, or is it Art"? Whichever, few with an eye for what is desirable in Philately would disagree that the stamps featured on these, their original projectiles, retain a certain character, vibrancy, an integrity, to a degree to which equivalent loose stamps cannot begin to aspire.

I would love to see a number of readers take up the concept of collecting mail to a particular destination, as I've done for Australia/New Zealand. Perhaps the country of ancestry? Or a country visited, and of which fondness has developed? Such connections provide a powerful motivation. I collect only material which at some stage of the journey became airborne, but one could readily include mail sent by sea or land.

At the very least, you would be providing yourself with "a good excuse for collecting the World".

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.