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Stamp News    February 2009

                              Philately of Epic Proportions 

Poland's Marshal Pilsudski's 1939 visit to seaside Elwood Victoria

Well, the 3 Zloty stamp honouring Marshal Pilsudski made a visit, that is. It's always a bonus when highly franked covers include a key stamp. Australia cover collectors, given the choice, would generally prefer their 40/- franking to be composed of a single £2 Kangaroo, in preference to 20 x 2/- maroon Kangaroos! Similarly, I imagine that Poland specialists would be happier to have 3 x 3 Zloty Pilsudski's, in a strip of three, as a key component in a 10 Zloty 60 Groszy registered airmail franking to Australia, rather than, say, 18 x 50 Groszy stamps of the same series.

Our subject cover this month is a recent discovery. The 3 Zloty Pilsudski, from the 1939 20th Anniversary of Independence set, is a difficult stamp to find on commercial cover. Prior to this discovery, I knew of only one cover to Australia bearing this stamp, a single in that instance. It was particularly pleasing that this highest franking, at 10 Zloty 60 Groszy, includes a multiple of this key stamp, the equal highest denomination stamp of Poland pre-German Occupation. The previous record franking to Australia in this era was 9 Zloty 85 Groszy, not far short of our subject, but with not nearly as desirable a franking composition. By way of analogy, the Pilsudski stamp on cover is perhaps reasonably comparable to a 5/- Kangaroo (CofA watermark) on a cover of the late 1930s. Specialists will appreciate how sought-after would be a strip of three of the 5/- on cover.

The subject cover was registered at Krakow on 11 May 1939, at which time the Currency Control label (seen on obverse) was affixed. The article was routed via Greece, arriving Athens 13 May, Sydney 20 May, Melbourne/Elwood 22 May. Not bad service for the 'thirties. Calculating the rate has proven a challenge which, sadly, I've failed thus far. I have other contemporary covers Poland to Australia via Greece at a rate of 1 Zloty 55 Groszy, which may be the base airmail rate. The difference between this highest franked item and the runner-up mentioned (10z 60g vs 9z 85g) is 75 Groszy, suggesting that may have been the weight step increment, beyond the initial base rate. Registration at the time appears to have been 60 Groszy. However, armed with this information, which I confess may be flawed from the outset (!), I can't make the franking "work". I'll just have to surrender, and send up yet another flare for assistance. Can any reader come to the rescue?

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 rap@rap.com.au.