Stamp News July 2013
Hardy Kangaroos: cursory observations
I originally intended to make this month's column an overview of the state of the Kangaroo market, given the recent publishing of ACSC Kangaroos fifth edition, followed shortly thereafter by the sale by Phoenix Auctions of the Hardy Kangaroos. The plan was to make comparisons with the Gray (2007) and Morgan (2012) sales of our first stamp series.
When one actually sits down to present such cross-comparisons, however, it is surprising just how little of the more highly priced items (upon which most readers would probably prefer the focus) conveniently lend themselves for the purpose of meaningful comparison.
I was going to change direction of subject matter (read: I was going to totally cop out), but it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the outstanding success of the Hardy Kangaroos auction, and to extend my congratulations upon that success to the Hardy Family, and Phoenix for a superb marketing campaign. So, an abridged version of what was originally planned is the compromise.
The late Stuart Hardy was a willing contributor to the ACSC when I was proprietor. A confirmed Traditionalist, Stuart eschewed Essays and Proofs (with one notable exception - see later), developing a completely "coverless" collection. With a twinkle in his eye he once remarked, as I was wading through a volume of used Kangaroos in the stamp den, "Rod, you wouldn't believe how many 4d Kangaroos I've removed from registered covers in my lifetime". I didn't want to know, particularly after laying eyes upon page after page of selected used 4d's.
Previously in this column I've mentioned that I believe Arthur Gray picked the peak of the modern cycle when he sold his Kangaroos. Am I correct? Some of the comparisons which follow suggest I may be.
The three collections, Gray, Morgan, Hardy, despite being of a common (unintended pun) subject, were structured to reflect the individual tastes of the respective collectors. Morgan was essentially a strategically constructed collection for exhibition purposes; Gray, prior to Australia 1999, was a closet collection, formed by a passionate collector, subsequently fashioned in to the knock-out collection of Kangaroos of all time. I cannot see this collection ever being exceeded, frankly. Hardy by comparison with the others was never a committed exhibitor; his was a collection assembled for pure self-indulgence, with an eye to future realizable value, and why shouldn't it be?
Firstly, an observation which became apparent as I sat through the Hardy sale (this will raise my stocks with the national auction houses immeasurably), is the power of what I'll call: The Local Factor. Gray and Morgan were sold abroad, precluding most Australian collectors from participating in person, often the essential element if unprecedented sparks are to fly, most Auctioneers would agree. It was clear in Hardy, on numerous occasions, that there were bidder's intent upon taking home items irrespective of price, purely because they wanted a part of this legendary collection. Exuberance in these cases often won over rationality; value for money was not necessarily a consideration.
The Hardy sale also demonstrated the powerful marketing advantage enjoyed once an item is recognized in the ACSC tabulation. Some of the less exciting variations, in the eyes of this writer at least, such as the curious ½d "AUSTBALIA" (a Clayton's variety some would argue), the bicoloured Duty and Vignette varieties, and the enigmatic "No monogram" strips (the philatelic world looks on in awe at Australia, the only country which values an unprinted selvedge more highly than one with a printed marginal feature), would be nothing without catalogue recognition.
Let's now examine some specifics:
£1 Watermark sideways
The $233000 realization (premium included) for the Hardy unused example (punctured "OS") was an amazing result. Starting in the room at just $30000, it was unforgettable to sit there and watch the seemingly never ending duel between two collectors of great means push it to the gravity-defying $200000 hammer price, despite the "thin spot at base". Unique unused, but twelve used are recorded; the Gray used realized just US$7000 (AU$8970), although it must be said this was not one of the finer examples.
This was Stuart's favourite stamp in his collection, and he would have been chuffed with the result. From a more analytical viewpoint, albeit a personal one, I don't see this as an important item; just an extraordinarily expensive one. The £2 Die proof, by comparison, I regard as a far more important item, and one that represented comparatively good value.
Of the £1 Sideways price, I would go so far as to say that if there was a competition to establish the most unjustifiably highly priced 20th century stamp of the British Empire, this would be a serious contender. Superb marketing by Phoenix, and a text book example of the aforementioned Local Factor in play.
£2 Small multiple wmk. imprint block
A convenient item to make comparisons; only two blocks are in private hands. The Gray block made US$95000 (AU$121790); Hardy $62500. An irresistible example to support the contention that the marketing of his Kangaroo collection in February 2006, the peak of the modern cycle, was a masterstroke by Arthur Gray, one that rightly earned him the title "The Guv'nor".
£2 CofA wmk. imprint block
Another convenient comparison unit; all three collections had one, much the same as one another. Results were:
Gray (US$35000) $44870
Morgan (£20000) $30600
Phoenix appear to be gaining traction from the momentum which generally ensues following a series of successful sales, such as Hardy. For example, the recently discovered and thus far unique KGV 1d red Sideways wmk., and the 4d and 1/4d specialized studies from the renowned Pericles collection, have gravitated to Phoenix for an upcoming sale. The Pericles outstanding KGVI was sold by Millennium in February 2012.
Back with some nice covers next month!
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.