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Stamp News    June  2010 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

What's hot? Try Decimal stamps on cover, for one

Readers may be forgiven for speculating I have shares in Torsten Weller's on line auction business (sadly, I don't). I featured in the February column some usage results from the last auction, and some realizations in the May auction are sufficiently newsworthy to justify repeating the exercise this month. Torsten has grabbed hold of the usage baton, and is running with it. Like Usain Bolt.

                   
                                              Figure 1. 20c Wheat solo rarity

Airmail Zone 3 material is hard to source, a fact which I've previously mentioned in this column. Lot 70 (Figure 1) was a solo use of the 1969 Primary Industries 20c, for airmail rate to Japan, a Zone 3 destination. It realized $360, which few would argue is not "hot". Rare usage items such as this, and most other items featured this month, would be quite comfortable offered in even a major Australian public auction.

                   
                                 Figure 2. Nice pair of 15c Timber to Germany

Lot 71 (Figure 2) is a welcome make-up for the 30c Zone 5 airmail rate, to Germany. Welcome, because had the sender used a 30c Flower we wouldn't have seen a realization of $210, as occurred for the 1969 15c Timber pair usage, would we.

                  
                                         Figure 3. Sweet solo use of 7c Sugar

By the 1960s, airmail had largely replaced surface mail, which explains why a stamp such as the 1969 7c Sugar, issued for the Foreign surface letter rate, is rare as a solo franking. Lot 80 (Figure 3) is only the third example of usage for that purpose I've noted. At least two bidders also have found this to be an elusive item, for it realized $320. Interestingly, only the 25c Wool from the 1969 Primary Industries series, the top denomination, is relatively easy to find as a solo franking. It was for the Zone 4 (U.S.A. primarily) airmail rate.

                 
                Figure 4. Not enough $2 Navigator usage items circumnavigating

The $2 and $4 Navigators from the 1966 first Decimal series are quite rare on commercial postal articles. I went for a decade and a half searching before I found my first examples. Lot 137 (Figure 4) is a nice use of the $2, with a 25c Aboriginal Art , paying Zone 5 35c airmail rate x5 + 50c registration fee in 1972. The "LETTER" label is a Post Office addition, indicating full letter rate was paid, rather than parcel or other more economical rate. Another very respectable result: $525.

                  
                 Figure 5. 1972 Primary Industries, as popular as the 1969 series

From the 1972 Primary Industries set of four, I've found only the 30c to be reasonably available; it was primarily for the Zone 4 airmail rate. The 20c is difficult to find on any type of postal article, Lot 140 (Figure 5) has it paying Zone 2 airmail to Indonesia in 1972, with the 50c Pioneer paying registration fee. This item went for $190.

                  
                                  Figure 6. Cheerful 1972 Christmas stamp

My cover prices in ACSC Decimals I, II and III, particularly for stamps such as the 1972 Christmas 35c, are looking a little insipid, unlike the stamp itself. Lot 144 (Figure 6), a nice solo use for Zone 5 airmail, sold for $240, against the catalogue price of a paltry $45.

                 
                    Figure 7.
$1 Navigator "scarce" perf. really is scarce on cover

Lot 156 (Figure 7) is but the third cover noted by me bearing the later perforation 14.75 x 14. The aggregate franking of $1.85 for this item paid 45c per 50gms Printed matter rate x3 + 50c registration fee to U.K. in 1973. It realized $200, and is featured as my "bargain buy" of the sale. I don't believe $400/500 would be too much to pay for this rare item. In an auction of close to 400 items, inevitably a number of items will sell economically. Other very sound purchases were noted amongst the post-1980 issues results. The later material is often as scarce as the 1960s and 1970s issues.

                   
                          Figure 8. 1973 Christmas 30c proving elusive on cover

The 1973 Christmas 30c is on par in scarcity with its predecessor, the 1972 35c (see Figure 6), on commercial cover, and Lot 158 (Figure 8), a solo use for Zone 5 airmail, would appear to confirm that assessment, for it realized $230. I really must do something about my ACSC valuation of $25 when catalogue revision time comes around.

                 
                                    Figure 9. Striking solo use of $1 Painting

Overseas Express Delivery items are scarce in their own right; the service was expensive and consequently not widely used. Lot 195 (Figure 9) has the 1974 $1 Painting as a solo franking for that service, which was 65c, in addition to the Zone 5 airmail rate of 35c. This is the first solo use I've noted of this stamp for such purpose. A sound buy at $170.

                 
      Figure 10. 1975 PNG 25c: One of many "sleepers" amongst Decimal usage

I've previously mentioned how rare on cover is the 1975 PNG Independence 25c. I featured a Zone 5 airmail postcard solo use in the February column, which realized $270 in Torsten's inaugural usage auction. Lot 205 (Figure 10) is another rare solo use, for surface letter rate to countries outside Asia-Oceania. The latter made $200, another sound buy, given this is the first such usage I've noted for this stamp.

                 
          Figure 11. $4 Painting surprisingly difficult on commercial postal articles

The 1974 Paintings $1 and $2 are plentiful as combination frankings, particularly on registered articles. Not so the $4; I doubt that I've seen even ten items. Of course it's common used out-of-period (it was discontinued in 1979), and many readers will have seen the stamp used on covers/packages containing purchases from auction houses and favourite Traders, during the past 20/30 years. These are next to worthless to usage collectors. Lot 216 (Figure 11) was an attractive and desirable 1976 usage of the $4 (and 25c Olympic) for Zone 5 airmail (45c per 10gms) x5 + $2 registration fee. It made a healthy $340.

                 
                               Figure 12. 1978 Trees usage justifiably popular

In the November 2008 column I featured exclusively 1978 Trees series usage. Perhaps that galvanized interest, for items bearing the three above base rate denominations are proving very popular. Lot 247 (Figure 12) is a good example of how the market has developed more recently. The 45c was intended for Zone 5 airmail when issued, but that rate increased to 55c not long after issue, hence the additional 10c stamp in the subject item. This sold for $210.

                        
            Figure 13. Notable eBay realization to complete this month's column

Figure 13 was a recent eBay sale. Commercial articles bearing mixed £SD and Decimal frankings, which was allowed until 14 February 1968, two years after introduction of Decimal Currency, are very scarce. I collect them, but would not be able to assemble a one-frame exhibit, after 20 years of hunting and gathering. This airmail postcard to U.K. bears QEII 3d x2 (ie 5c equivalent) and 4c x2, correctly making up the 13c rate. I thought this would be a nice addition to my modest holding, and courageously bid US$55 (the starting bid was $6). It sold for US$380! It's now eight years since I commenced this column. It's fair to say usage collecting has come a long way in that time. Certainly, Decimal usage is very popular; readers of this month's column doubtless will agree! I see this popularity as justifiable; material is difficult to source, and once found often has an interesting philatelic story to explain the reason/s contributing to scarcity. A growing band of devotees of this material are assembling collections which set them apart from those with more basic collecting aspirations. I'll end with this Tip of the Day: Don't overlook £SD covers. They are increasingly appearing undervalued when compared to their Decimal successors.

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.