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Stamp News    April  2007

                              Philately of Epic Proportions 

Unlikely to be Exhibited any day soon

This is a new column devoted to highly franked postal articles of the world, the common denominator being a destination within Australasia. I had planned to title the column Covers of Epic Proportions, but as will be noted, the inaugural subject item indicated that title might be too limited in scope! Larger dimension covers, however, will be the principal subjects featured.

      I have long been interested in highly franked postal items, and as Australasia tends to be the most distant region from those countries with which we have historically had the greatest communication (eg U.K. and Europe), we are in the right place to receive some impressive high frankings. By very nature, the most highly franked articles are generally of larger than standard size, which is quite understandable given that the contents more than likely consisted of heavier and/or larger items.

     The subjects I intend to feature over the ensuing months will be the highest aggregate franking that I have noted from the country of origin, to an Australasian destination. Two distinct periods will be featured: pre-1945 and post-1945. After WWII, airmail routes and rates began to change significantly. Our subject this month is a good example. When it was posted in 1940 the route to Australia was via the North Atlantic and Transpacific air service, and the rate was 4/6d per ½oz. After cessation of war, the route reverted to the more direct West-East which had been in place prior to the outbreak of war, and the rate reduced to 1/3d per ½oz.


    Obverse and Reverse: High Degree of Difficulty when mounting in Exhibition frame

     Our featured subject is a remarkable survivor. Sent on 22 Oct 1940 by Northern Transport Agency, London, the case originally contained, according to the Customs declaration affixed, negative cinema film (357 feet of it!), destined for Dept. of Information, Melbourne. The declared value was £24-0-10. Remarkably, the cost of postage was £20-5-0 sterling (then equal to £25-6-3 Australian currency). The rate is a multiple of no less than 90 times the aforementioned 4/6d per ½oz! To provide an indication of just how much money this was in 1940, if we take the Australian currency equivalent of £20-6-3 (call it $50.62), and for the 66 years since it was sent apply compound interest of 8% per annum, a conservative figure in comparison to indices for Australian housing prices and Stock Exchange performance in the interim, we arrive at $8134!  

      The sharp-eyed amongst readers will note at least two factors which require comment. (1) the total franking present, 10/- x 40, adds up to £20-0-0 - not £20-5-0 as I indicate above. If one looks carefully, immediately to the left of Customs label, a 'gap' equal to the dimensions of the G.B. contemporary 5/- becomes apparent. It had to be a 5/-, as only three contemporary stamps of this dimension (2/6d and of course 10/- being the others) 'fit' the vacated space, and only a 5/- fulfils a rate divisible by 4/6d. (2) "But some of the stamps are damaged", I hear you proclaim. Well, sometimes one just has to be satisfied with less than perfection for extraordinary survivors in the pursuit of Philately of Epic Proportions, which is not recommended for the faint-hearted!

Rod Perry's other column, Woodchip-free Zone, appears in Stamp News. Rod invites owners of highly franked covers of the world to send scans of their items to him at