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Stamp News    February  2009

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Don't Forget to Write!

Long gone it seems are those days when it was mandatory on holidays to send postcards back home, to family and friends. Understandable perhaps when one considers that nowadays a live image of adventures far away can be beamed anywhere via a mobile phone, along with a "wish you were here" narrative.

Postal Administrations probably also are a little nostalgic towards this change in etiquette. Postcards are one of the most expeditious articles to transmit via the postal system, and in their heyday contributed significantly to postal revenue. Concessional postage rates for postcards have generally applied to encourage their use. No greater incentive provided was that for postcards sent by airmail, where savings of up to half of the regular airmail letter rate were applicable.

This month I've featured postcards sent overseas from Australia at airmail rates, with a variety of solo frankings paying the respective concessional rates applicable. I've confined the period of the exercise to the first half of the 'seventies, for two reasons. Firstly, this period coincides with the advent of reasonably affordable air travel for the masses, thanks to the advent of the mighty Jumbo Jet, and secondly because the postage rates were rather volatile during this era. My thanks to Tim Rodger, a pioneer usage aficionado, for suggesting this theme, which proved to be enjoyable to research.

This material is surprisingly difficult to find, and for most of the eight selected subjects I've seen only one or two examples. More will turn up in time, but for the present it appears recipients of postcards are inclined to be possessive.

                       
                               Figure 1.
Brisbane "Sizzling hot" on 20 January 1971

Postcards can be a little snapshot in time. The sender of Figure 1 provides the day's weather report in Brisbane to the recipient in N.Z. Postmarked 21 Jan 1971, a postcard by airmail then cost 7c to send, compared to 10c for a letter to N.Z. The rate later increased to 8c (see Figure 2) and then, surprisingly, reduced back to 7c thereafter! More of these should turn up in N.Z., but thus far this is the only 1971 7c Australia-Asia stamp I've noted recorded for this postal rate. Value : $50 (off "cover" 30c).

                      
                    Figure 2. "Surfer's" in 1972, and some things remain unchanged "

Surfers Paradise is most impressive crowded with people all shapes and sizes", confides the sender of the 26 Aug 1972 postcard to N.Z. shown as Figure 2. On 1 Oct 1971 the airmail postcard rate to N.Z. was increased from 7c to 8c, and remained so until 1 Oct 1973, when 7c curiously again applied. Airmail postcards from N.Z. to Australia in this period are hard to find, so it's unsurprising that our reciprocal subject similarly is proving difficult to locate. It appears tourists generally preferred the privacy of letters or aerogrammes. Value : $35 (off "cover" 20c).

                      
                           Figure 3. Good example of brevity afforded by a postcard

"Hope all is well" would have satisfied the sender's promise to send a postcard in the instance of Figure 3. Posted at Hamilton (NSW) to U.K. on 19 Jan 1971, the use of a 15c Australasia-Asia stamp is very scarce. The Zone 5 airmail postcard rate increased to 18c on 1 Oct 1971 (and back to 15c on 1 Oct 1973!), providing a time frame of less than eight months in which this stamp could be employed for the 15c rate. This is a difficult stamp to find on any commercial postal article; I've not seen any others on a postcard. Value : $75 (off "cover" $1).

                    
           Figure 4. 1972 QSL card bears Kangaroo in format of considerable scarcity

High denomination "Kangaroos" in used condition generally realise far more than would the Figure 4 Kangaroo. None are anywhere near as scarce as our subject, however. This is an example of the Zone 5 airmail postcard rate increase to 18c from 1 Oct 1971, mentioned above. It's particularly unusual in being addressed to Kenya, an obscure Zone 5 destination (compared with U.K./Europe). This 7 Mar 1972 use from Clayton (Vic), was correspondence between "Ham radio" buffs; the article known as a QSL card. The time frame for use of this stamp for this rate was ten months. Value $75 (off "cover" 30c).

                    
                   Figure 5. 18c Rehabilitation off to more typical Zone 5 destination

Figure 5 shows a 3 Sep 1973 use of 18c Rehabilitation stamp from Killara (NSW) to London. Four weeks later the airmail postcard rate to Zone 5 countries reduced to 15c. Value : $45 (off "cover" 50c).

                     
                                  Figure 6. Message brevity again, Deutsch-style

The Zone 5 airmail postcard rate see-sawed between 15c and 18c during the period of research, as mentioned above. During the second 15c regime, from 1 Oct 1973, it became possible to use the 1972 "Pioneers" 15c as a solo franking for this rate, for the first time. Such use would be for a duration of twelve months only, for the rate increased to 18c again, on 1 Oct 1974! Figure 6 is a 27 Jan 1974 use from Melbourne to West Germany. More are bound to turn up, but yet again this is another instance of just the one example having thus far come to my attention. Value : $35 (off "cover" 15c). Conservative valuation as I expect for this stamp more will "turn up".

                      
                                   Figure 7. A trip to The Barossa in 1975. Lovely.

The two 11c stamps issued in 1974-75, from the Education and Scientific series', are difficult stamps to find on commercial postal articles, particularly as solo frankings. Amongst the few possibilities for solo use was the airmail postcard rate to N.Z., from 1 Oct 1974, when the rate increased from 7c to 11c. Figure 7 is one of barely a handful of the 11c Education I've seen used for this purpose, a 10 Mar 1975 use from Adelaide to Auckland. The fortunate sender had recently visited the Barossa Valley. Value : $40 (off "cover" 25c).

                      
                                   Figure 8. Scientific 11c solo revisits the column

Figure 8 is the other of the 11c stamps, a 24 Jun 1975 use of the Scientific issue, from Townsville to Queenstown. I featured this item in the July 2007 column, when I mentioned it was the first such usage I'd seen in 18 years of record keeping. I've now seen one other. I valued Figure 8 at $100 in 2007, but believe it would realise somewhat more at auction now. Let's be conservative, however. Value : $125 (off "cover" 25c).

                   
                                                     Figure 9. Another revisit

Interest is Usage collecting has gained in momentum considerably in recent years. Those wanting more from their Philately have come to recognise that "Usage" has much more to offer than stamps mint/used off cover alone can ever provide. There is every reason to accept the trend in the popularity of usage will continue to ascend. Indeed, realisations at auction are already confirming the developing popularity for scarcer usage items is more than anecdotal. The following two subjects provide an insight. Figure 9, a rare solo usage of the 1966 QEII 3c for Defence Forces concessional air letter rate, was featured in the February 2008 column. I then wrote "Some readers may be surprised when I say I know of a number of specialists to whom $150/200 would not be too much to pay for this item.". Apparently buoyed by my enthusiasm, the owner of this item entered it in the Mowbray's Australia auction of 18 October 2008 (Lot Nş 1017), with an estimate of $200. It went on to realise $763.75 (including premium)!

              
                                    Figure 10. Handsome solo use of 75c Cook

Prestige Philately, in the 29 November 2008 sale, had as Lot Nş 423 the item shown as Figure 10. A 1972 solo use of the 75c Cook from Brisbane to U.K., the stamp paid the combined airmail (35c) plus express delivery fee (40c). This is a very scarce usage, and an advertising cover added to it's allure. I was interested in this lot, and the mention of "flap fault" did not deter me. The cancellation I would have preferred to have been placed lower, so as to more fully reveal its details, however at the estimate of $100 I would be a starter. It went on to sell to another bidder for a very respectable $310.50 (including premium). I've not noted a higher realisation for a usage item bearing this stamp (the same can be said for the preceding subject!). Usage is indeed becoming more broadly recognised for its importance in Philately.

For those who find Australian Decimal stamps boring (and I can't disagree that mint and used off-cover can be mundane), I highly recommend that consideration be given to a study of usage of these stamps. It's a mighty challenge, worthy of the most adventurous and ambitious of Philatelists.

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.