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Stamp News  February  2011 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Recent Auction Action, and general.

This month, some recent noteworthy auction results are discussed, and other subjects relevant to this column. Some of the auction items are excellent examples of that oft used term: "Uncommon use of the common stamp". Firstly, however, two updates for the December, 2010, column.

Back then, I offered five suggested "Don'ts" for 2011. The first was "Don't remain transfixed by New Issues. Buy only those which will go up in value". After submitting copy, I received the October 2010 issue of the Brighton Philatelic Society Bulletin, in which friend, and fellow BPS member, Brad Baker, was the featured "Interview" for the month. Brad was asked "Do you have any advice for new collectors wishing to develop their hobby?" He responded: "Try not to spend too much on modern material; it's like buying a new car. Once you take it out of the Post Office it is worth less." Brad, diplomatically, was careful to place a space between "worth" and "less".

Coincidentally, 2011 is my 50th year of proud membership of the BPS. I'm quietly hoping this might be the year I get to do an "Interview".

                                       Figure 1. 2/6d Aborigine solo to Grenada

In December 2010, I mentioned that I had yet to see a commercial solo franking of the 1952 2/6d Aborigine, the original watermarked issue. On a headcount basis, I pointed out that a solo franking was actually rarer than the sideways/inverted watermark variety of the stamp, of which four used examples had thus far been found. Two solo frankings of the watermarked issue have now been brought to my attention, for which I thank Andrew Brockett and "Wayne". Both are for the 2/6d ½oz. Airmail rate to B.W.I., the former (Figure 1) to Grenada (1953: note nice "MISSENT TO BARBADOS" marking) and latter Jamaica (1956). Doubtless more will be found, but this will remain one of the more elusive solo frankings for an issue of the reign of King George VI.

                     Figure 2. 5/- "White" Cattleman attractive combination franking

Figure 2 is from the Prestige December 2010 auction (as are Figures 4 and 5), a 12 Nov 1964 cover from German Restitution Office, Sydney, to Dusseldorf, featuring attractive use of the 5/- Cattleman white paper printing, which is a very scarce stamp on cover, particularly a standard-sized envelope. 5/6d was for 2/3d ½oz. airmail + 2/- registration fee + 1/3d Express Delivery. $575 (auction prices exclude Buyer's premium) was a respectable realization (estimate $250); I was underbidder. I particularly like usage items bearing this handsome, real Australiana design, and have been endeavoring for some years to assemble enough material for a one-frame exhibit of the stamp issue.

                                  Figure 3. 35c Christmas '72 in strip of four, no less

The 1972 Christmas 35c is an elusive stamp on cover, and Figure 3 is the record franking I've noted, a Jan 1973 use of a strip of four paying quadruple airmail rate Melbourne to U.K. It realized $300 in Torsten Weller's December 2010 auction. Not expensive.

                                                          Figure 4. 6c Bird solo

Figures 4 to 7 are examples of the scarce U.K. Forces in Australia concessional airmail rate. Figure 4 is a 14 Apr 1969 use of 6c Honeyeater for the airmail letter rate, Canberra to U.K., bearing Defence Forces Postage Concession handstamp. A nice example from the Prestige sale, estimated at $200, and a sound buy at $150. Only the fourth example seen of usage of this stamp for the privileged rate. Given the 1966 Decimal series has become quite popular as a usage subject, and the "Birds" have even more followers, I had expected the estimate to be exceeded. Incidentally, for any reader wanting to consider the '66 series, one of my favourites, it was featured in three past columns: Nov 2007, and Apr and Sep 2008 (see under "Rod's Columns").

                                              Figure 5. 6c Gemstones rare pair

The 6c Gemstones used for the U.K. Forces rate is almost as scarce as the 6c Bird. Interestingly, the former is the only 6c stamp I've noted used for the double rate (Figure 5); the Bird, QEII and Flower have thus far been seen only as single rate items. This 22 Nov 1976 use from Canberra, with "BRITISH DEFENCE FORCES MAIL" handstamp, was bought by me at Prestige for $115 (estimate $150), with which I was very pleased. Predictably, I rate it a gem. Only two multiples thus far recorded, and five solos.

                                          Figure 6. 4c Stinger: great usage item

Figure 6 was spotted on eBay last December, the 4c Stinger as a solo franking for the U.K. Forces airmail postcard rate, used 12 Jul 1978 at Naval P.O. Balmoral to U.K., showing Navy Postage Concession Rate unframed handstamp. The Air Mail etiquette is neatly and conveniently tied by datestamp.

This was the first example of the 4c airmail postcard rate I'd seen, and knowing pioneer usage aficionado, Martin Walker, would be after this, I sniped in what I thought was a courageous US$510 bid, only to have Martin pip me at the post, $517.50 being the realization. This is a very special item, a stamp which in itself is a rarity as a solo franking, used for a legitimate and extremely rare postal rate. Postcard traders/collectors see little merit in modern postcards. In this instance such attitude would be akin to not seeing the forest for the trees. Knowledge is power, that evergreen term.

                                           Figure 7. 4c QEII never looked so good

Martin kindly sent me a scan of the only other U.K. Forces 4c airmail postcard known to us, shown as Figure 7. Note Navy Postage Concession Rate handstamp, and Lt. Commander C.P. Addis, HMAS Penguin, personalized handstamp, written at Alice Springs 20 Jun 1975 (note also comment ". . . Darwin (remarkably recovered from the cyclone)"). Superb example of uncommon use of the common stamp, indeed one of Australia's most common stamps.

                                                Figure 8. £2 Arms "Specimen" block

Also in the Prestige December 2010 auction was the Arms "Specimen" set, in blocks of four, Figure 8 being the £2, stated to be the first multiple recorded [the 10/- and £1 in blocks are listed in ACSC]. The trio realized a staggering $22000 (excluding Buyer's premium). This is only an opinion, doubtless one that the buyer (and underbidder) will dismiss, but I regard this realization as absolutely remarkable for what after all are contrived confections, made wholly and solely for collectors, with no postal validity, rarity factor no argument, however, of little if any philatelic significance; "Philatelic fairy floss", they could fairly be labeled. On the other hand, in terms of philatelic significance, compare the "Arms" cover which follows.

                                          Figure 9. £2 Arms cover more to my taste

Yes, this is the third occasion on which I have featured Figure 9 during the past nearly nine years. I rate it one of the great postwar covers of Australia. In comparison with the postally impotent £2 Arms Specimen block, this £2 is a postal hero. Not only did it serve to pay an extremely high postal rate (with the 10/- it paid a multiple of 25 times the 2/- airmail rate), it is one of only two recorded usages of the £2 on an airmail cover, and it survived an aircraft crash which, tragically, 33 persons did not. The cover was salvaged from the BOAC Belfast, which crashed at Singapore on 13 March 1954. The £2 Kangaroo airmail covers, of which there are also only two, have sold recently for $21000 (Kevin Nelson, excluding Buyer's premium), and $35000 (Private Treaty). I'm not valuing the £2 Arms covers in that league, although they are heading in the right direction. What I am saying is I, for one, have great difficulty reconciling the $22000+ paid for the Arms Specimen blocks.

                             Figure 10. 9d Macarthur nice used block, on cover!

Figure 10, 22 Feb 1935 Preston (Vic) to London, nice 9d Macarthur block for double airmail rate. For my money, a lot of cover for just $270, the realization at Craig Chappell's December 2010 auction. A used block off cover is rare enough. I rate this item a contender for the pre-eminent usage item for this stamp. Frankly, I'm constantly puzzled why great items such as this can come and go largely unnoticed, when so many relatively common items are sought after. I made a similar comment on the solo franking of the 9d Macarthur in the Kevin Nelson sale, in last month's column.

Surely the attributes of attractive usage items of Australia's 1927-40 commems and special issues cannot be overlooked by collectors indefinitely? I certainly rate them one of the best value for money sectors in Australian Philately.


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.