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Stamp News    February  2010 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Australian Decimal usage. Encouraging auction results.

In this column I've often expounded the virtues of forming a collection of Australian Decimal stamp usage material. Many of these stamps are challenging to find commercially used on covers, postcards and the like, some more so for specific usages, such as solo franking. The challenge, by the way, does not apply to standard, garden variety Decimals mint, used, or philatelic use covers. The life force is rapidly ebbing from these classes of material. Why so? Perhaps because folk expect more in life nowadays, and many would agree common mint and used Decimal stamps are as exciting as non-alcohol beer.

Well, on the other hand, I must say I'm rather chuffed to advise that life signs in Decimal stamp usage collecting are vibrant, indeed, and for those very same garden variety stamps so out of favour mint and used. The well known Trader, Torsten Weller, a like-minded soul when it comes to covers, conducted a 300+ lot on-line auction last December, dedicated to QEII usage material (occasionally with Postal History interface), with Decimal issues predominating. This well-informed offering, with its many uncommon/rare usages, achieved frequent newsworthy results. This month, I feel compelled to share some of these outcomes with readers, particularly, dare I add, any lingering cover skeptics.

Firstly, Torsten is to be congratulated for undertaking this initiative. It takes courage to blaze trails, and rewards can be slow in materializing. From what I can observe from this inaugural event, it would appear that the concept will be viable to develop in to a regular activity, perhaps biannual? And Australia need not be the only country featured.

Here follows some of the more noteworthy results, scans courtesy of Torsten Weller. There were half a dozen QEII £SD results; I'll throw these in as an appetizer. Note: the exponential gap which has developed between used on and used off cover:

1960 8d Tiger Cat
Solo franking cover to East Germany   $120

1961 1/- Colombo Plan x2
on 12 Feb 66 cover (last day £SD)       $150

1963 Royal Visit 2/3d
Combination franking to Austria            $120

1964 Airmail 2/3d
Solo franking cover to Germany            $80

1964 6d Thornbill
Solo franking cover - Vietnam Forces  $100

1965 ANZAC 2/3d
Solo franking cover to France                $200

I've separated the Decimal issues in to distinct usage categories, (a) Airmail rate covers, (b) Airmail rate postcards, and (c) Airmail rate greetings cards (unsealed covers).

Airmail rate covers

                       Figure 1. Uncommon use of the common stamp Department

Not airmail, but we'll place it here for convenience. The Foreign letter rate was then 7c, but Figure 1 has been sent to Switzerland as an unsealed Printed papers rate item (5c for 1st 2ozs.), "Card only" endorsement; the first such usage of this stamp I've noted. The 1967 Christmas 5c on cover within Australia is, unsurprisingly, very common. This subject, however, is an excellent example of "uncommon use of the common stamp". Realised $50 (off cover zero).

                              Figure 2. Most difficult on cover of the 25c Commems

Australia issued four 25c Commems during the 'sixties, of which the 1968 Intelsat is the scarcest on cover. Figure 2 is a nice solo use of the stamp, for airmail rate to U.K. The ACSC cover price of $35 will need to be revised for next edition to reflect $60 realisation (off cover $2.50). Interestingly, the slightly less difficult to find Christmas 25c's of 1967 and 1969 also made $60 for solo frankings.

                     Figure 3. 1.56 million issued, mostly to collectors/speculators 

A difficult stamp on cover, the 1970 Royal Visit 30c is not easy to find commercially used even off cover, suggesting the lion's share of the number printed was consumed by collectors/speculators. Figure 3 is a solo use for airmail rate to Germany, which realised $75 (off cover $1.50), which is a good price for not the most attractively cancelled of usages. ACSC cover price of $35 another one for revision. A 30c Cook solo made $40.

                            Figure 4. Head count now up to three for this stamp.

Will it get to double figures? Early in 2009 I featured in this column a 1974 Christmas 35c solo on cover, commenting it was the only example I'd seen. Two more have since been brought to my notice, including Figure 4 in Torsten's sale, to less usual destination of Sweden. That's three, in 20 years! There are many "sleepers" in the field of Decimal usage collecting. Back then I valued such an item at $100, which is precisely the realisation in the sale under review (off cover it catalogues 70c).

Airmail rate postcards

                              Figure 5. Odd denomination had dedicated uses

The 1966 13c Avocet, an odd denomination, had three primary usages; two were for reduced airmail rates to U.K./Europe. In the April 2008 column I featured one such use, a solo franking for Greetings card rate, and mentioned it was the only example I've noted. That item was valued at $100. Airmail postcards are more frequently encountered; at least eight of these have been noted. Figure 5 is one, to Germany, which realised $80, a very respectable result (off cover is 30c).

                                             Figure 6. Modern usage rarity

Figure 6 is but the second solo franking I've noted for the 1976 PNG Independence 25c; the other was also a Zone 5 airmail postcard. In my February 2009 column I featured the other recorded item, which to that point in time was, in fact, the only commercial usage item of any kind for this stamp I'd seen, adding "likely to be a $100/150 item at auction". That estimate was a bit light on, as it so happens; Torsten's realised $270 (off cover it's, well, pretty useless). Now, astute readers may well declare "but you can have fully ten complete sheets [ie 1000 mint stamps] for such a price". True. I'll still take the postcard.

Airmail rate greetings cards (unsealed flap)

                               Figure 7. Greetings card rate the one to seek out

The airmail rates for Greetings cards and postcards are usually, if not entirely, the same. The former usage, however, is less often encountered than the latter, at a guess by a factor of 1 : 4. Torsten's realisations for greetings card items, compared to similar stamp usages for postcards, generally confirm the respective relative scarcity. Figure 7, for example, an airmail rate greetings card to Sweden, bears the 1971 Australia Asia 15c. This realised $150, compared with the valuation of $75 placed upon an airmail postcard use for this stamp, in my February 2009 column. The used stamp off cover catalogues a humble $1.

                           Figure 8. 1971 Animals 12c, 18c, 24c: All a challenge

I seldom come across nice usage items of the 1971 Animals 12c, 18c and 24c, particularly the last mentioned. The primary use for the 24c was for the 4th weight step for letters within Australia; ie generally awkward articles, with low survival rate. The 18c was at one time for the 3rd weight step, but for a while 18c was also for Zone 5 airmail postcard and Greetings card rates. Figure 8 is an example of the latter, to U.K. It realised $170. Nice price. My February 2009 column valued use on a postcard at $75 (off cover 30c). Torsten's example on a postcard made $80.

            Figure 9. 1972 Rehab 12c, 18c, 24c: longer lives, slightly less challenge

The 1972 Rehabilitation 12c, 18c and 24c, which replaced the Animals, were current for a longer period, and are a little less difficult to find on commercially used articles. Torsten again had solo frankings of the 18c, for Zone 5 airmail postcard and Greetings card rates. Figure 9 was the latter use, and realised $160; the postcard made $80. My February 2009 valuation for a postcard was a less courageous $45.

                              Figure 10. Olympic Games issue = added demand

The 25c of the 1976 Olympic Games quartet is more difficult to find on commercial cover/card than the 40c. The higher denomination is primarily encountered for the Zone 4 (North America) airmail postcard rate; the 25c was for more obscure purposes, such as Zone 1 (eg PNG) airmail postcards. In the March 2009 column I featured a 25c solo paying Zone 5 airmail Greetings card rate, and suggested that rare item might fetch $100/150. Figure 10 is a similar use, and realised $230. Another solo use, for airmail postcard, made $160 (off cover is 40c). Olympic stamp usage has a strong international following.

                                Figure 11. 1976 Scenes, attractive usage series

The six stamps in the 1976 Scenes series lend themselves to a colourful one-frame usage exhibit. In fact, I have such. Figure 11 is one of the more difficult usage items to find for an exhibit, an airmail Greetings card rate cover to Sweden. It realised $120 (off cover 25c).

     Figure 12. Has anyone considered Christmas 1957 to date as a usage exhibit?

Christmas stamps became more "interesting" from 1967, when above base rate denominations were introduced. A collection of Christmas issues usage from 1957 to date would make a nice exhibit. Figure 12 is a 1979 25c solo for surface (not airmail) Greetings card rate to U.K., a very scarce usage, and realised $60 (off cover 40c).

In conclusion, the market is probably at a stage of development where it would be receptive to, and would benefit from an on-line price guide for Australian stamps on commercial covers/cards, etc. I suppose I'm odds-on to draw the short straw to undertake such a challenge. I may be tempted, but wonder how many (or more likely, how few) would be prepared to pay a reasonable service fee to access such information? Life is pretty good living in Australia's Tropics, the world's finest, and I can't see myself being chained to a computer day in, day out, for perhaps a year, without due justification. Feedback from readers essential! Contact me by email,

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.