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Stamp News  January 2013 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 


Mostly the Morgan Collection.


The Morgan Collection (Spink 13-14 November 2012) of Australian Commonwealth was the most balanced collection of its kind to come on the market since the Abramovich collection in the early 'seventies.

By "balanced" I refer to a collection which includes Essays and Proofs, within an otherwise basic, traditional showing. The Gray "Kangaroos" were a daunting act to follow, but Morgan pre-1913 Essays and Proofs were commendable. Morgan and Gray (and indeed other past "name" Commonwealth collections) were relatively poor in commercial usage content, with a handful of notable exceptions in both these instances. Before continuing, it's perhaps interesting to recall that Abramovich was available for outright purchase, at or about the time of ANPEX 70. I shared a Stand at that great Sydney Show (with Lionel Evans: what happened to Lionel?), and there met Dr Leslie ("Les") Abramovich for the first time. He mentioned to me that he was after Kangaroo FDCs of 2d denomination and above. As a barely 20-something, new kid on the block I thought "Here's an opening for me", not then appreciating that such things, with a few exceptions, don't exist (there are early date including a few First Day covers to 5/- prepared by Fred Hagen Ltd).

The asking price for the Abramovich collection was $200,000, then a fortune. I was "advising" Charlie Zuker at the time; Charlie was one of a handful of people in local philately who could handle such sums. Three Trade members, also in that league, namely Ken Baker, Kevin Duffy, and Frank Thornhill, had baulked at the proposition owing to the high preponderance of "fringe" material contained in the collection. "Fully 30% of the value was in the Essays and Proofs", Charlie lamented, and such material was quite unloved (read: unsaleable) at that time.

Back to an overview of the Morgan results.

                                                          Figure 1. Lucky Press

Figure 1 (Lot 35) was the so-called Type 3 Kangaroo Essay, the composite group of four bicoloured impressions, which were distributed to the Press on 2 April 1912. Eight intact sheetlets survive, each in different colour combinations. The Morgan example realized £40,000 (AU$61,200: I've applied exchange rate of £1 = AU$1.53); the Gray examples (there were two) US$50,000 (AU$64,100). (Note: Auction realizations exclude Buyer's premium unless otherwise mentioned). ACSC (2004) is $75,000 each for the sheetlets, which appears reasonable having regard to these realizations.

The Morgan Type 2 Essay, denominated 10/- "rouletted" (actually percé en scie 14½) (Lot 34) made £90,000 (AU$137,700), the highest realization for the collection. Gray had the same, denominated ½d, which went for US60,000 (AU$76,920). Both are unique, 10/- being the highest denomination of the five examples which survive (the other three are also unique) appears to have ignited the imaginations of at least two bidders. The 1d denomination (which is imperf.), Morgan Lot 33, fetched £75,000 (AU$114,750). The latter was bought in the Prestige April 2006 sale for $132,500 (+15%).

                     Figure 2. Major error + Monogram = highly combustible outcome

Figure 2 (Lot 76) at £70,000 (AU$107,100) was always going to get a big price; very few errors with Monogram exist. It had been Lot 2047 at P.J. Downie sale 24 Feb 1970, ex F.G.B. Greenslade (FGBG), where it fetched $1,800. William Morgan bought many rarities at Downie's; I recall he would arrive in the auction room early, a distinguished looking gentleman, and leave the instant he had bought what he had come for (invariably), acknowledging Phil Downie at the rostrum, as he departed.

I met FGBG in 1974; he came to my office, a typical man of the land with large, powerful hands, despite by then being advanced in age. I recall him saying the prices of the day were much greater than in his collecting heyday. What would he think today?

                         Figure 3. On the market for the first time, in late 1990s

Figure 3 (Lot 131), I mention for two reasons: (1) to acknowledge a recent conversation with one of the world's leading auctioneers, with whom I agree marginal markings of Australia achieve prices unparalleled anywhere else on Earth, and (2) because I owned it for a short time in the late 1990s, when it was auctioned (in London) for the first time. In April 2000 I offered it to the Morgan Collection for $27,500, which was declined as being too expensive. Later, I sold it to a Trader (for $28,000) and it ended up in the Greg Pope collection. When that collection was sold through Prestige (January 2004) it made $77,500 (+12%). The buyer? The Morgan Collection. Philately as a profession is seldom dull.

                 Figure 4. Rarity: A Monogram item I would be happy to call my own       

Figure 4 (Lot 216) is that rarest of the rare; a reasonable value for money Monogram item (can't believe I just said that) at £26,000 (AU$37,780). By "reasonable" I mean insofar as most Monograms are concerned. I rate this far more highly, and representative of far better value for money, for example, than the challenged 1st wmk £2 "CA" Monogram (Lot 137), which sold for £32,000 (AU$48,960). Those who inspected the latter know what I mean.

The subject unique 6d item, showing double "CA" Monogram (Harrison had replaced Cooke's "JBC" Monogram with another "CA"), has been coveted by specialists for generations. It was Lot 154 in the J.A. Kilfoyle Sale (H.R. Harmer Oct 16-17 1961), where it realized £120 (by way of comparison, the celebrated KGV 2d Tête-bêche pair realized £250 in that sale). ACSC values the strip at $60,000 (2004: actual item under review is illustrated p2/63); the unique Tête-bêche is $250,000 (2007). The latter is a far more important item, in my opinion, than the Hardy imperf. Kookaburra minisheet, which realized $326,000 (including Buyer's premium), and I believe would exceed that record were it to reappear on the market now. Kilfoyle's imperf. Kookaburra minisheet, incidentally, sold for £105, or less than the 6d double Monogram strip! The difference between "important" and "highly priced" is well demonstrated in these respective items.

Why do I (and specialists long before me) so like the 6d Monogram strip? In my case because it's one of the few Monogram items where the marginal markings actually have meaningful philatelic significance. Australia, as already mentioned, is in a league of its own in the pursuit of marginal markings, particularly Monograms. Curiously, positional configurations without Monogram often realize more than those with Monogram. Such is the power of catalogue recognition, irrespective of philatelic importance, or otherwise.

                                                Figure 5. Return of an old friend

Figure 5 (Lot 226), the Die proof of the 6d chestnut, realized £16,000 (AU$24,480). It was ex-Gray, where it had been bought for US$26,000 (AU$33,330, remember excluding Buyer's premium). Better value was to be had on 18 March 1999, in my auction of that date, where Arthur Gray had bought it for $6,750. The vendor at that time mentioned to me that he had bought it in Brisbane in the 1970s, as he recalled for $250. Ah, the 1970s.

Figure 6. £2 Kangaroo usage items often the exception in otherwise "usageless" collections

Gray Kangaroos were relatively weak in usage material although, paradoxically, two great items were present: the £2 cover, and 2/- Plate proof pair commercial usage - an enigmatic item if ever there were one! Morgan had just two usage items (offered as single lots, that is), both parcel tags bearing the £2. Lot 345 had attractive franking of the CofA wmk 5/- to £2. It was, however, unaddressed; a destination is generally essential to positively identifying the postal rate. Fortunately, Lot 344 (Figure 6), shows the destination, U.S.A., and the rate deciphers as: £3.17.10d = 934d: Foreign letter 3d 1st oz., additional ozs. 2d x464 + 3d registration fee. This for a 29lbs 1oz. shipment from a smelting company, presumably of gold. Nice. It realized £850 (AU$1300), very good value for money; Lot 345 at £750 (AU$1,150) not dear, either.

Figure 7. These "old friends" not seen for over 40 years

Lots 497 (Figure 7 left) and 498 (right) came from an early substantial purchase of mine; probably one of the most remarkable of my career thus far. Briefly, in 1969, I was asked to quote for a very large mint accumulation, housed in Perth. An inventory was supplied and, amongst much other 1920s/1930s Australia, there were over 1,000 (as I recall) KGV 1½d reds. The inventory contained no details other than quantities, so I entered 4c per unit, the then going buying price for mint of this stamp.

I won the tender for the accumulation, and hopped aboard a plane Melbourne-Perth, my first ever flight. It transpired that the originator of this accumulation was a former Postmistress of Perth G.P.O., and she had an eye for the unusual. Bought on her own account was anything out of the ordinary which came in to stock; double/misplaced perfs, imprints/plate nos., varieties, unusual shades, etc, in fact everything present in the accumulation was in the nature of irregular material, and entirely unmounted mint. I had indeed kicked a goal.

Lot 497, an incredibly deep golden scarlet (more so than the catalogue illustration indicates), was previously recorded only punctured "OS". I now owned it in a superb complete sheet of 120 which, at the realized £150 (AU$230) for the Morgan single, would be handy about now. Similarly, Lot 498, the 1½d "imperf." at base block of six at £16,000 (AU$24,480), I probably ought to have kept, given its initial cost to me of 4c x6. It was in fact a block of 12 when I had it (doubly ought therefore to have kept it). I sold it to Charlie Zuker in 1970, and it was offered as Lot 135 in the Harmers Sydney 4-5 December 1975 sale, by then with a B.P.A. Cert, estimated $650/750 (I don't have prices realized for that sale).

There is much more to the story of my "Perth G.P.O." purchase, and the said "imperf." block in particular, but that is for my memoirs.

                                         Figure 8. My personal favourite in Morgan

Figure 8 (Lot 517), 2d "OS" overprint inverted cover-front, first appears in the Holding sale (associated with the late Kerry Packer, in his time Australia's richest person) Harmers Sydney 2 June 1982, Lot 190, description then stating "Also included, one item of correspondence relating to origin." (The correspondence was copy of letter from Govt Accountant who discovered the error, and his account of the circumstances.) It realized $1450.

As an aside, Holding (as Lot 211) contained a complete sheet of 1928 Kookaburra minisheets (not imperf.), described in the glass half empty style as having ". . . two small rust spots and minute ink mark in selvedge, pin hole in upper and lower selvedge, some small perf separation at top, folded central vertical perfs, few slight bends and faint gum browning, nevertheless a good item." (emphasis is mine). It fetched $2000! How times have changed. That item would struggle to make four figures today; read on to see what the invert on cover realized!

The Packer interests were my exclusive and biggest client in the 1970s, although I didn't sell the subject 2d opt. inverted item (or Kookaburra minisheet!) in to the mix; I think perhaps Harmers included a number of "other vendor" selected items in the sale to render it a quasi Rarity sale.

The item next appears as Lot 469 in Gary Watson 14 Sep 1987, estimate $4500/5500. Then, as now, great items often go unloved; it's unsold and I buy it after auction. Fair to say, by 1987 I was more bullish about covers than I had been in 1982.

I advertised it on the back cover of March 1988 The Australian Philatelist, "POR" at the time. A deal was struck with the Morgan Collection and, in a package with two other items, this went in at $6600. (My thanks to Geoff Kellow for details of earlier history of this item.)

In Morgan it realized £55,000 (AU$84,150), one of the most profitable items in the collection (and another one I let get away). Despite that comment, I regard this as reasonable value for money, for an item with an evergreen, bright future. Spink catalogue description "One of the great rarities of Australian philately" I wholly confer with; in fact, I rate this item one of the ten greatest items in Commonwealth philately (I'm presently compiling my "Top 100"; more details later, but expect it to be controversial). The imperf. Kookaburra minisheet tops another chart; the Top 100 most expensive items of Commonwealth which, incidentally, I won't be compiling.

                                Figure 9. Difficult not to be impressed by this item

Figure 9 (Lot 579), the rather lovely 1/4d Die proof was ex J.B. Williamson (Sotheby 18 September 1981 - Lot 253), where it realized £440. Morgan realization was £35,000 (AU$53,550). The Williamson Kangaroo Second wmk 5/- vertical pair with the visually challenged "doubly printed" yellow portion (Lot 84), a not particularly attractive item for my taste at least, was Morgan Lot 172, where it fetched £3,200. In Williamson it went for £320, or nearly 75% the realization of the 1/4d Die proof.

This comparison I find an interesting exercise in the changing perceptions of importance which have developed in Commonwealth philately during the 30 years separating the sale of these two collections. The transition to appreciation of Philately as Art, seldom more obvious than when comparing a beautiful cover with stamps off cover, appears to have been applied in reassessing the ex-Williamson items in that duration.

                                             Figure 10. Technically significant item

Figure 10 (Lot 644) is a better item, in my opinion, than most of the "Plate nos." of the 1930s/1950s, many of which fetch very fancy prices, even when a large part of the number is absent! It is certainly as rare as most such "Plate nos.", and in fact was not recorded by specialists until the 1990s; it had previously been surmised that sheets of 160 of the 1/- were entirely divided in to panes of 80 for distribution to P.O.'s. ACSC (2006) has it at $800 unmounted, $400 mounted, which does not accurately reflect rarity; only a few blocks of eight are known. At £600 (AU$920) this was a sound buy indeed.

                      Figure 11. A realization worthy of a new edition of ACSC "QEII"

Figure 11 (Lot 681), another former Downie item, where it was first time on the market 8 Dec 1970 (Lot 2276), fetching $925, knocked down to William Morgan. Then described as having a 6mm tear, the glass half full description in Morgan was "a few small defects". Heady realization of £17,000 (AU$26,000) suggests ACSC's $5000 (2006) may need reviewing.

                       Figure 12. Classic cover, great provenance, price realized belies

So ends the Morgan Collection comments; however, It would be remiss of me not to make some mention of the Millennium Carrington sale (7 November 2012) before concluding.

This fine collection of New South Wales contained many important items, amongst which were many lots sold at prices which satisfy my Value Buyer Charter. I think it fair to say N.S.W. is in need of a White Knight collector, particularly for the imperforate issues. That section of issues of the Colony has the potential to deliver an exhibitor an International Grand Prix, a goal which appears lost on the present generation of Commonwealth collectors. A few of these collectors are spending the sort of money which, spent wisely on N.S.W. imperfs, could deliver an Australian collector the second award of this status. Sadly, a Grand Prix at an International will probably never be achieved for a Commonwealth collection. If it was going to occur, Arthur Gray would by now have been the deserving recipient.

Space permits the selection of just two items from Carrington which, for my taste, represent excellent value for money. Figure 12 (Lot 147) is a lot for comparatively little, realizing $5,500 against a reasonable estimate of $7,500. For that, one gets fine examples of two classic stamps, Sydney View Plate 1 1d and 2d, on an attractive cover used Sydney to London (3d Ship letter rate), which once graced the collections of two internationally esteemed philatelic connoisseurs, Burrus and Amundsen.

       Figure 13. Again, a lot of cover, and for the price of common Commonwealth items

Similarly, Figure 13 (Lot 192) is a very attractive item for a comparatively paltry sum: $2,500 against modest estimate of $2,000. Nice examples on cover of Sydney View 3d and Plate II 2d from Parramatta to London, on this occasion (2d Inland + 3d Ship letter rate). Many common Commonwealth items sell for greater sums than this.

Who's advising on philatelic inclusions for self-managed Superfunds? Did the advisors have a rostered day off on Carrington sale day?

Best wishes to readers for a safe, happy, and prosperous Philatelic New Year.


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.