Stamp News June 2007
Philately of Epic Proportions
With thanks to unknown staff member at Department of Minister of Labour and National Service!
This column, which features highly franked, commercially used postal articles of the world destined for Australasia, appears to be a 'hit'. I'm pleasantly surprised at the number of readers who have taken the trouble to email me in response to the two editions of the column. Some have sent interesting scans, one of a cover which is far and away the highest franked item from Italy to Australia I've recorded, and this cracker cover will feature in the column in due course.
In life in general it is 'biggest' which is usually 'best', rightly or wrongly, and so it can be in Philately. Some Philatelists pride themselves upon having the biggest recorded multiple of a given stamp, the biggest collection of its kind, even the biggest realisation when they sell, and it should come as no surprise therefore that biggest franking will also have its followers. Unashamedly, I'm one.
This month, the subject item is from a particularly unusual origin, the International Labour Office, which was an International Organisation situated in Switzerland. The Swiss Post Office provided the stamps for this, and other international bodies, suitably overprinted, primarily for the use of Organisation officials. Not a 'cover' (I will eventually feature some in this column!), but the subject is consistent with the items featured in the first two editions in that it is a postal 'article'. This is a parcel-wrapping portion, excised in such a manner as to mercifully retain the crucial details to enable us to Philatelically decipher what we need to know.
1947 parcel-wrapping portion from unusual origin
Here, then, is what the article tells us. It will be seen that it was received at Geneva Post Office on 8 Dec 1947, destined for Canberra, Australia, from where it was re-directed to Melbourne. The weight of the original article is conveniently given as '310 g' at top left corner, and postage rate at upper right was computed at '62.35'. The 'Imprimé' handstamp indicates that the rate is for printed matter, the contents being confirmed as such by 'Service des Publications' imprint at lower left of address label. The 'Par Avion' label of course tells us the airmail service was used.
At nearly a third of a kilogram, this was a rather heavy item, and it's unusual for printed matter of any type to be sent airmail. Such material was usually of a publishing or advertising nature, generally of little or no time-value. The postage rate of 62.35 Swiss francs is huge; higher by far than any item I've recorded from Switzerland proper during this era. I believe it represents a multiple of 43 times the basic 1.45 Swiss francs airmail rate to Australia. All becomes clear, however, when we note to whom the article was destined; The Minister of Labour and National Service. Clearly, the contents were regarded as time-sensitive, and of course given who sent and received it, cost was not an issue.
To provide an indication of the postage rate, consider that the basic airmail rate in 1947 from Australia to Switzerland was 1/6d. 43 times 1/6d equals 64/6d (or £3.4.6d), enough to have a £2 Kangaroo as a component in franking composition! But the £2 Kangaroo was obsolete by 1947, you say? You'd be wrong, for as late as 1948 it was possible to specially requisition a £2 stamp (the £2 Arms was not issued until 1950). An alert Postman at Footscray became aware of that little known fact, and in that year made application for 60 £2 stamps at Melbourne G.P.O. He was dutifully supplied with a pane of 60 £2 Kangaroos, Small Multiple watermark. Lovely. I'm not suggesting that a little insider trading took place here, but Postmen know Postmen, who know …
Higher denominations of International Labour Office issues saw little postal use, evidenced by their catalogue values being higher for used than for mint. An article bearing four each of the two very highest denominations is special indeed. This is an outstanding item for an exhibition collection, and unusually for an item of 'epic proportions' it is of accommodating dimensions!
It appears we must thank an unknown staff member at the Department of Minister of Labour and National Service, Melbourne office, who in sympathetically excising this portion of a parcel-wrapping preserved for Philately a wonderful item.
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.