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Stamp News    February  2007

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Usage of the £sd Birds

The term 'usage' appears to be the new buzz term in Philately. Simply put, 'usage' is the given name for the study of the manner in which stamps (singular or plural) are used. The study is relevant only when (a) stamps have been used in the normal course of paying for a given Post Office service, (b) are affixed to an article which is sufficiently intact to enable the postal rate paid to be computed (eg complete cover, parcel label/tag, parcel-wrapping fragment), and (c) are used during appropriate period of currency. Study of 'usage' has little or no relevance when the subject under review is contrived for deliberate Philatelic gain (eg FDC, commem/souvenir and deliberately overpaid covers), has crucial elements removed, and the franking used is well outside of the period of issue (as is commonplace on Philatelic mail received nowadays).

The study of 'usage', and its inclusion in a collection, adds interest and character, pleasure and potential profit well beyond basic stamps. It's also fun! This month I've selected the 1964-66 Birds series of Australia for a 'usage' commentary. Illustrated is an example of use of each of the eleven items in the 'set', including the three Helecon printings (6d, 9d and 1/6d), and the Cream paper printing (2/5d). None of these stamps are 'easy' to find on commercial cover, although the 2/- and 2/5d (more particularly the White paper), which saw use for registration purposes, have survived to a greater degree than the other denominations, which were more generally used for the lower-surviving heavier (and therefore often larger) Letter and Parcel rate articles.


                                     Figure 1. Thornbills x2 flying to Singapore

Mail to S.E. Asia is hard-to-find prior to the lifting of the 'White Australia' policy, and it's therefore pleasing to present Figures 1 and 6 which are to that region. The former is a pair of the 6d Thornbill used from Canberra 19 Oct 1964 to an ex-pat in Singapore, paying the airmail rate which was 1/- per ½oz. Value : $80 (stamps off cover 60c).


              Figure 2. Tantalising combination of usage and Postal history elements

'Usage' and 'Postal history' are not necessarily mutually inclusive. At times a 'usage' item will not have sufficient attributes to warrant inclusion in a pure 'Postal history' collection. Similarly, a 'Postal history' item, despite perhaps being replete with wonderful ancillary postal markings, may not necessarily bear franking of a type which would lend it for inclusion as an example of 'usage' in a traditional collection. Figure 2, however, is in that exemplary category which would enable it to find a grateful home in either a traditional or Postal history collection. A 25 Sep 1965 use of a pair of 6d Thornbill (Helecon paper) from Sydney to Israel, paying the 1/- ½oz. airmail Greetings card rate (the normal airmail rate was 2/-), the article failed to find the addressee and was returned to sender. Three handstamped markings attest the misadventure. This is a rare rate, and ironically probably would not have survived had it found its target! Value : $150 (stamps off cover 60c).


                                       Figure 3. Bandicoot and acrobatic Magpie

An unusual franking combination is that in Figure 3, 11d Bandicoot above an uncomfortable looking inverted 9d Magpie, former paying combined Letter rate (5d) and Certified mail fee (6d), and latter the 9d Acknowledgment of Delivery fee. Sent from Wollongong to Shellharbour (NSW) 2 Dec 1964, the manuscript 'AR' (for Avis de Réception, the international term for the additional service) denotes the action required of the Postman upon delivering the article. This is a nice item, both stamps are difficult to find on cover, and this is the only instance I've noted of their combination on the one article. Value : $100 (stamps off cover $1.80).


   Figure 4. Rare solo franking of 9d Magpie and it's the scarcer Helecon printing

For solo franking enthusiasts, that in Figure 4 is proving elusive. I've seen only two (both Helecon paper), affixed to 'AR' cards. This is a good example of a less traditional 'usage' item, which a specialist would be delighted to find a place for in a collection. Instances where a 9d Magpie solo franking can be used are few (airmail Postcard/Greetings card rate to certain foreign countries in Asia is another - although I haven't seen any) and this 3 Mar 1966 use at Sydney is notable also for being post-Decimal. My valuation for this item may be seen to be on the anorexic side, particularly if it were to be offered at Public auction. I know of at least eight bidders if that were to eventuate, and price would be no deterrent to some! Value : $150 (off 'cover' $2).


                          Figure 5. 1/6d Galah, and Bandicoot again joins the cast

The 2/- and 2/5d Birds I've mentioned are usually found as franking components for registered mail. Seldom seen so involved however is the 1/6d, and Figure 5 shows an unusual composition with 11d Bandicoot for the combined Letter rate (5d) plus registration fee (2/-). This 28 Jun 1965 cover from Kilmore (Vic) to Melbourne is from the Industrial Acceptance Corp correspondence, the source of the majority of registered covers I've seen bearing 'Birds' frankings. Of just 16 1/6d Galah covers in my present census, most were with the 6d or 9d for airmail rate to U.S. and U.K./Europe, respectively. Value : $60 (stamps off cover $1.30).


              Figure 6. 1/6d Helecon in pursuit of Miss Baker on her Grand Tour

The 1/6d Galah is another rare solo franking. This 15 Sep 1965 use of the Helecon paper printing from Brisbane to Thailand, for the ½oz. airmail rate, is in fact the only solo use I've seen. My valuation comes with the same qualification to that given for Figure 4. Value : $150 (off cover $1).


                  Figure 7. 2/- Whistler for registration fee on otherwise free article

The 2/- Whistler is probably the 'easiest' of the Birds to find on cover. It saw adequate use on National registered mail, and I've seen enough paying the 2/- ½oz. airmail rate to U.S. to be convinced that there are plenty of them over there. Figure 7 is however a more uncommon use. Granted, it's on a registered cover, but in this instance it's a solo franking paying the registration fee on a Business Reply Post cover, for which the regular 5d postage was free for the sender. It was the recipient who paid postage for this service, but any additional Post Office service (as in registration in this instance) had to be borne by the sender. Value : $40 (off cover 50c).


                    Figure 8. Special Delivery, special use of a 2/5d Blue Wren

The majority of the 80 2/5d Wren covers in my census were from the Industrial Acceptance Corp source (see also Figures 5, 7 and 9), paying combined Letter rate + registration fee. For the record, the census comprised White paper x 52 and Cream paper x 28. Figure 8 is the only solo franking I've seen for another postal purpose. This use of the White paper printing was for the very unusual combination of 1/2d for a non-standard (the dimensions determined that category) airmail letter weighing 1-1½oz., plus Special Delivery fee of 1/3d. The article was sent from Tara (Qld) to Brisbane on 6 May 1964. Value : $100 (off cover $1.50).


Figure 9. Credit binger's 1960s-style rendered 2/5d 'Cream' Wren reasonably available on cover

I don't know where we would find even a tiny number of 2/5d Wren Cream paper printing on cover were it not for that source (again) shown in Figure 9. This is a 19 Nov 1965 use from Townsville to Melbourne for combined Letter rate + registration fee. I priced this stamp on cover at $40 for Brusden-White's Queen Elizabeth II 1952-1966 last year, but that is already looking a little too conservative. Valuation : $50 (off cover $3).


                             Figure 10. 2/6d Robin a real challenge on cover

My census for the 2/6d Scarlet Robin yielded only 12 covers, ten of them rather unattractive covers formerly containing passports, addressed to British Passport Office in Canberra. Figure 10 is one such item, a 29 Oct 1965 use from Sydney of 2/6d plus QEII 5d for 11d Letter rate third weight step (ie 2-3oz.) plus registration fee (2/-). Sadly, I no longer have the remarkable 2/6d solo franking to Brazil with red colour omitted (!), which realised $625 in my 1979 Rarity Sale, to show you this month. I note that item is now priced at $12500 in Queen Elizabeth II. Valuation for the rather more humble item featured : $50 (stamps off cover $2).


                              Figure 11. 3/- Ibis the one to find in 'Birds' usage

I found only six covers bearing the 3/- Ibis, Figure 11 being a pair plus 6d Thornbill. These paid double airmail rate to U.K. (ie 4/6d for ½-1oz) plus registration fee (2/-), used 4 Nov 1965 from Burleigh Heads (Qld). This stamp is surprisingly scarce on commercial cover, and from my recent census has proven to be the most elusive issue of the 'Birds' series. Value : $80 (stamps off cover $2.30). For those who may be interested, the overview of the relative scarcity of the stamps in this series, as indicated by my census was (in order of scarcity): 3/-, 2/6d, 9d, 1/6d, 6d, 2/5d (Cream), 2/-, 2/5d (White). Be aware however that the count of 2/5d's is skewed somewhat by the presence of that one hoard to which I frequently refer.

Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962. He founded Rodney A Perry Auction Galleries (now Millennium Philatelic Auctions) in 1971. As a collector he has exhibited   nationally and internationally. Rod prefers his used stamps on cover and likens taking a stamp off its original cover to converting a tree to woodchips.