Stamp News July 2007
Philately of Epic Proportions
A lot of cover for a quid!
A refreshing aspect of this column is that I get to handle material from around the world, the common denominator which binds the column's concept being Australasia as the destination. Think of it as the 21st century version of collecting the world, that popular pursuit no doubt of many readers during their childhood collecting days. In the first three editions of the column we were visited from Great Britain, the U.S., even the International Labour Office, Switzerland.
This month the former Eastern Bloc pays us a visit. Our subject item, the first cover featured (the other three were postal articles rather than covers) originated at Brno, Czechoslovakia, despatched 16 Aug 1939 and destined for Christchurch, N.Z. The cover was sent via Sydney, where it arrived 28 Aug, less than a week prior to outbreak of World War II. It appears the cover was in a 'war' of its own, for on reverse in manuscript is "Received GPO Sydney with cover broken", remedied by affixing a PMG's Department 'FOUND OPEN/OFFICIALLY SEALED' label across the affected area.
Before completing Philatelic study of this item, a few historical comments might not go amiss. Following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in March, 1939, the country was segmented. The two small Czech airlines (I wont begin to provide the convoluted names!) were disbanded, and the aircraft taken over by Deutsche Lufthansa (DLH), which airline carried this item to Greece for onwards transmission to Australia (uncertain if KLM or Imperial Airways provided the Australia connection?). Airmails to other countries were accepted up until the outbreak of war.
The rate of postage by airmail for such a large item predictably was high. At 236.5k (koruna) it represented no less than ten times the basic 23k per 5gms rate, plus 6.5k for registration. By way of comparison, an article of comparable weight (ie x10 basic rate) travelling from Australia to Czechoslovakia at this period in time would have cost 20/- (£1), plus 3d registration.
The route for the journey commenced by rail from Brno to Prague, thence air with DLH Prague - Munich, Munich - Athens, unknown airline Athens - Sydney, Sydney - N.Z. by steamer. Whilst still in Czechoslovakia the article was censored (at Brno - the circular 'D.K./Br.2' handstamp), and Czech currency control labels were affixed to reverse. These invited Official opening of the cover, which when accepted apparently set the process in motion which required the attention upon arrival at Sydney G.P.O.
The highest franked pre-war item from Czechoslovakia to this part of the world that I've thus far recorded. Can any reader up the ante?
Oh, why the introductory 'A lot of cover for a Quid'? On the reverse of the cover is '£1', which apparently was the asking price for the item at some time. Assuming that it had remained in N.Z. since it arrived in 1939, a reasonable assumption (for this is where I received it from quite recently), and Decimal currency was introduced there in 1967, with a little detective work we have come up with it having been priced for sale at £1 at some time between 1939 and 1967! A lot of cover for the money, indeed.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.