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Stamp News    January 2009

                              Philately of Epic Proportions 

The former Gilbert & Ellice Islands, to Australia


                                                                           Figure 1

   
                                                                           Figure 2

One doesn't find much mail from Gilbert & Ellice Islands to Australia, at least not many articles above the base airmail rate. I had not expected to ever feature that tiny island group in this column; high denomination frankings simply had never come to my attention.

That changed rather dramatically recently, when I was shown a recent "find" of a hoard of 1960s/1970s "Gilberts" material, addressed to Kerr Bros. of Sydney. The firm, according to present website, is an export group, established 1958, with offices and/or associated businesses in such places as present day Kiribati and Tuvalu. That explains the provenance of this recent discovery. It's noteworthy to mention that the subject items this month, and the large amount of material which accompanied them, were found at the bottom of a large carton of bundleware. Apparently the "bundler" had yet to reduce these covers to their lowest common denominator. The carton, I'm told, was a lot in a Sydney auction, and the purchaser had not dug deep enough in the carton to be aware what "treasures" lay beneath the minimal value bundleware above!

Figure 1 is the highest franked entire in the discovery, $3.60 representing the 15c ½oz. airmail rate x24 (ie the article weighed 11½-12ozs.). Sent from Tarawa on 13 February 1972, the franking includes the $1 (x2) from the 1968 local scenes series, the first occasion on which I've sighted this denomination on entire. Just missing out on the highest aggregate franking is Figure 2, which at $3.45 represents x23 the 15c rate. I've illustrated it for the $2 denomination is present; a modern rarity on entire, and again the first (and only) I've seen.

The discovery included a 1977 large piece, franked with The Gilbert Islands $1 x4, $2, 50c x4 and 40c x2 = $8.80, a whopping franking, but sadly not eligible for analysis in this column, owing to the removal of crucial detail.

The "find" itself is encouraging to those who thrive upon the thrill of the chase in Philately. May 2009 bring readers their fair share of such excitement.

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.