Stamp News January 2010
Add hundreds of covers to your collection, in the tens
Firstly, best wishes to readers for a prosperous and happy New Year. In this, the start of a new decade, why not broaden your philatelic horizons by embracing cover collecting? If you already are a devotee of that most exciting of philatelic pursuits, how about setting yourself a challenge to add hundreds of interesting covers to your collection during every year of the 'tens. I intend to be adding hundreds, to the power of two.
This month's column focuses on philatelic covers, rather than my staple, commercial material. The arrival of a very smart new publication, Australian First Day Covers (AFDC), is responsible for that divergence. The author is Michael ("Mick") Moore, with the assistance of Colleen Woolley and Frank Pauer. Colleen, with Janet Eury, is the publisher of another excellent philatelic cover publication, Australian PictorMarks. Frank is a cover collector par excellence, with the incomparable collection of Australian philatelic covers, along with rapidly expanding commercial cover sideline activity. The twentieth century philatelic giant, the late Robson Lowe, once referred to me as an "obsessed collector", which I subsequently learned was one of his highest accolades for a Philatelist, fortunately. That being the case, Frank would be a serious contender were I invited to bestow such a title!
In the 'eighties, I developed a chance interest in Australian philatelic covers, whilst I was researching early Commercial Philately, one of my many collecting interests. From the 1930s onwards, many Philatelic Traders tinkered with their own brand of First Day cover, and Souvenir cover in some instances. The branding of such covers was seldom obvious, and I thought it would be fun to attempt to put a name to as many of the encountered cacheted or inscribed covers as I could. Those findings culminated in the production of a dedicated philatelic covers auction, held in April 1997. That event appears to have rekindled interest in FDC's and the like; I first met Mick Moore around that time.
I can't add much substance, if any, to Mick's fine publication, so have drawn upon my research in to some Traders featured in AFDC, thereby hopefully adding a touch of social interest.
Fred Hagen & Co. (Sydney)
Figures 1 and 2. 1909: One of Hagen's distinctive advertising etiquettes, 1904: The dapper "Fred"
Fred Hagen was a pioneer Philatelic Trader, commencing a professional career in 1891. In 1913 he produced First Day, or early Sydney usage covers for the fledgling Kangaroo stamps. These were plain envelopes; at least eleven for the 1d survive, and one or two for other denominations between the ½d and 5/-. The Royal Collection contains a number of these "Hagen" covers, originally prepared for the wealthy pastoralist, H.L. White of "Belltrees", Scone. The Arthur Gray Kangaroo collection contained a cover for each denomination, made for a Mr. L. Hunter of Bathurst, a few of which are attributed as First Day Covers. The Gray set realized US$52,500 (excluding buyer's premium), easily a record for a series of Australian philatelic covers. A later manager of Hagen's firm (by then Fred Hagen Ltd.), E.T. Jones, produced Australia's first illustrated FDC, for the 1928 3d Kookaburra.
J.H. Smyth & Co. (Sydney)
Figure 3. 1973 generic FDC with distant (rather) connection to Smyth
James H. Smyth, an art auctioneer in Ireland, migrated to Australia in 1890, and by 1893 had established a philatelic dealership in Sydney. In 1905, Fred Hagen (see above) bought the Smyth business, which became Fred Hagen Ltd., with Smyth as a partner. Smyth left the partnership in 1910, re-emerging as J.H. Smyth Ltd. Upon Smyth's death in 1923, employee Miss Edith West became Director, joined by Romney Gibbons as co-director in 1925. The firm traded until the mid-1950s, and from 1937 to 1953 produced a series of largely generic First Day covers. The firm of Baker & Moloney (established 1948) bought J.H. Smyth Ltd. in 1953. Founding partner, Ken Baker, who by 1950 had retired from the partnership, explained why it had been a simple decision to offer £10,000 for the old firm; there was £10,000 in its bank account.
Baker & Moloney had produced its own generic FDC from 1951, later popularly known as "Royal" brand, so named for the famous Arcade, where the firm was located. No "Smyth" FDC's were produced after 1953, when the firm was bought. Figure 3 is an abnormally late use of Baker & Moloney's second type "Royal" generic FDC, produced in four distinct background colours, between 1953 and 1957. A Mr. James Brown, Kangaroo Flat (Vic), apparently bought a wholesale quantity of this generic cover, for I have it utilized as an FDC for issues as late as the 1973 Christmas set, often in all four colours!
Orlo-Smith & Co. (Melbourne)
Figure 4. 1913 use of N.S.W. Letter card to S. Orlo-Smith
Stanley Orlo-Smith commenced Philatelic Trading in Melbourne in 1910. His firm produced inscribed generic FDC's from 1927 until the late 1940s. Orlo-Smith's greatest contribution to Australian Philately, however, was publishing The Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalogue, from 1926. I was proud to be a later proprietor of that venerable publication, from 1992-2002.
Orlo-Smith in 1930 negotiated the sale to King George V of the J.R.W. Purves Australian Commonwealth, then the world's best. The Purves collection included the H.L. White Kangaroos, and the "FDC's" mentioned under "Fred Hagen & Co", above. Purves was a mentor in the early years of my career, and once mentioned that Orlo-Smith had suggested during negotiations that a higher offer for the collection might be forthcoming, given a little arm-wrestling. To that suggestion, Purves' snapped back "Good Lord, man. You don't do that sort of thing to the King of England!"
John M. Gower and "Wesley" (South Australia)
Figure 5. 1931: Early Gower enterprise
John M. Gower and his Wesley Cover Service (WCS) are venerable names in Australian philatelic cover history. Their stories are well recorded in AFDC, including the back-dating of the Largs North datestamp saga. I have a "Wesley" cover intended for the 1959 QEII 3½d (issued 18 March 1959), bearing the 1959 QEII 3d, not issued until 20 May 1959, but tied by Largs North datestamp of 18 March 1959. Oops! A WCS pre-Decimal price list I've seen includes prices for FDC's of Kangaroo issues, every denomination from ½d to £2. The £2 is priced at £25. I've never seen such a confection; mercifully it appears no one ever ordered one. The mind boggles as to what cancellation such an item would have borne should an optimist have placed an order! Remember, the stamp was issued in 1913, and Largs North Post Office opened only in 1947. Has any reader seen a "Wesley" 1913 Kangaroo contrived "FDC"?
Figure 5 is a membership application form for The Kangaroo Pen Friends' Club, Gower's first enterprise. It was contained in a 1931 1st flight cover, prepared by Gower.
Stalley and "Wide World" (Adelaide)
Figure 6. FDC's not Wide World's only philatelic enterprise
The Stalley's and their Wide World covers are a great chapter in Australian commercial Philately, and are adequately acknowledged in AFDC. The firm also marketed stamp packets. Figure 6 is a Wide World product c1958, with 39 of its original 48 "6d" packets still intact! I recall seeing (and buying from) such products in the 'fifties. I was about to raise the question "where has such an item been for the past half century", but suspect I've had it for at least half that time, so have half answered my own proposed question.
Miller Bros. (Melbourne)
Figure 7. Miller Bros. had their own Special Edition Post Office "Specimen" pack
The Zelenko's, of Ukrainian descent, made a wise commercial decision in the 1930s to anglicize their name; "Miller" derived from their mother's family name, Mlynarzewicz. AFDC has many such social touches, which I found most interesting. "Miller Bros." were largely wholesalers to the Trade, and influential in FDC production, particularly in the 1940s.
Possibly of even more lasting an impact on Philately was the brother's involvement, during the 1940s, in worldwide marketing of Post Office "Specimen" sets. These contained contemporary cancelled-to-order ½d to 5/-, and "SPECIMEN" overprinted 10/- to £2. On such a grand scale were their sales, the brothers were permitted to receive their stock as intact sheets or formes (in the case of the overprints). This is the principal source of the multiples found in today's marketplace. Miller's even had their own special edition P.O. pack (!), see Figure 7.
In the early 'seventies, an elderly gentleman came in to my office and proceeded to explain to me that he had worked for Miller Bros., in the 'forties. One of his jobs was to breakdown the piles of intact sheet material, as they arrived from the Post Office. The removal of imprints, and other premium portions was a priority. On one occasion, during such an operation, my guest duly came to the supply of King George V 4½d Die II. As he removed the imprints, carefully turning the numerous sheets of that issue, he happened upon one only sheet which had completely missed being cancelled. A nice find, to be sure.
Until the release of Archival material in the 1980s, this find was the source of the previously circulating small number of mint 4½d Die II. The unique imprint block of four from the find (since reduced to a pair), coincidentally, came to be owned by me later in the 'seventies. I don't believe that all 120 uncancelled stamps from this find have been released on to the market; their rarity does not support such a quantity.
S. Mitchell (Perth)
Figure 8. Mitchell signature on 1949 Airletter "Price list"
"S. Mitchell" produced many significant FDC's between 1927 and 1954. Little is known of the man, other than he was also a tailor, thought to be of Greek origin (possibly S. Hadjinihalakis was his actual name). Figure 8 is a 1949 use of the then current 7d Airletter, with Mitchell printed price list for Australia and, curiously, Egypt, Greece and Albania. This may add substance to speculation on his origins.
Figure 9. 1928 cover to Australia's first Philatelic Auction House
Even Auction House proprietors tried a hand at FDC production. Brisbane's Maurice Wagner, who conducted Queensland's first stamp auction (11 August 1931), employed a generic FDC from 1937 to 1953, under his retail brand, The Standard Stamp Co. Melbourne's Tam Mappin (Mappin & Curran), who acquired Australian Stamp Auctions in 1958, issued branded FDC's, intermittently from 1955. That auction firm was Australia's first, conducting its inaugural sale on 23 June 1925, under the title of W.J. Butcher & Son. Figure 9 is addressed to the "son", Wilfred, in 1928. Note the irreverent use of early Tasmania stamps, which, if one looks closely, can be seen to have previously been used, for Revenue purposes! Coincidentally, I've seen 1940s and 1950s FDC's addressed to W.H. (Wilfred) Butcher.
The auction rooms address shown in the subject cover, 31 Queen St, Melbourne, became occupied by Mappin & Curran when that firm acquired Australian Stamp Auctions. I recall being at Mappin & Curran in 1961 when a stamp auction concluded. An army of ancient gentlemen, or at least they appeared so to pubescent me, marched out of the auction room. Collectively, what stories those gentlemen could have told of contemporary Philately in Melbourne, some perhaps back to early 1900s.
Wagner's auction business, later Dominion Stamp Auctions, also provides a fond memory. In 1968, at the auction of the Chas O. Dunn collection (Dunn was an early Commonwealth specialist), I bought my first mint £2 Kangaroo, First wmk., for the then rather large sum of $400. It was beautifully centred, with a tiny corner crease, which left me feeling slightly uneasy. That small deficiency, fortuitously, didn't bother an Airline Pilot client, who relieved me of the stamp for a modest profit of $50, within a week of my acquisition. That probably rendered me the briefest ever proprietor of the stamp.
Figure 10. One for older generations amongst readers
W.J.D. Rochaix, of Rosehill N.S.W., was a FDC collector, whose collection I bought many years ago. That collection has long since gone through the philatelic mincer, but at the time of processing the collection I couldn't resist keeping Figure 10. Some readers will recognize "Dagwood", but few will have guessed that he had an interest in Philately. The solo usage of the 3½d U.P.U. (not First Day) is also noteworthy. It's an uncommon use of this stamp for 2½d Letter rate + 1d Late fee (posted 11pm). There's my mandatory commercial cover comment.
Australian First Day Covers is recommended to any reader with even a distant interest in Aussie FDC's. An inspection by collectors who were processing their own FDC's in the 'fifties, 'sixties or earlier, will invoke your special trip down memory lane. Available from Australian Cover Society, PO Box 2066, Bayswater 3153, $95 plus postage. Some Stamp News advertisers, including Prestige Philately, carry stock, or ask your local or favourite Trader if he/she can supply. While you're contemplating ordering your copy, why not consider joining the progressive Australian Cover Society? (www.acs-inc.com.au).