Figure 1. Stateside for almost three-quarters of a century
A number of parcel tags and parcel-wrapping fragments, franked with high denomination Kangaroos, amongst Robes, were featured by Glen Stephens in his April Stamp News column. These items were stated to have turned up in California, some 75 years after they were sent from Melbourne or Perth. The subsequent new owner sent these items to me for purposes of (a) calculating the postage rates, and (b) attending to some bumps and bruises encountered during their journey (largely remedied by them spending some time in my brass, Victorian-era book press).
California's pleasant climate certainly looked after these items; the colours are fresh and bright. Glen apologized for the "blurry photo taken quickly" for his column, which accordingly did not do justice to the items. Judging from the illustrations which appeared, I was expecting the group to arrive with faded 10/- Kangaroos. This was anything but the case; the shades are bright, and one in particular leapt out at me (unintended pun). It transpires that this is from the scarce "aniline" printing, made in December 1937. ACSC states ". . . most of this printing was withdrawn and destroyed following issue of 10/- Robes definitive in November 1938."
Two shades are listed for the "aniline" printing, and it is the scarcer "dark grey", shown as Figure 1, which so caught my attention upon first inspection. Both this and the "grey" shade from this final printing show a bright orange-pink reaction under UV lamp.
The six postal articles from this "find" are believed to have paid postage for gold bullion shipments from Melbourne and Perth Mints. Post Office rules dictated that articles bearing gold, silver and precious metals, being ineligible for Parcel rates, had to be sent at Letter rates, and could be registered only when paid at Letter rates. In this instance, the rate of £3.14.0d is calculated at Foreign letter rate of 3d 1st oz. + 2d each additional oz. x441 + 3d registration fee. A lot of money on 7 Nov 1938, when this article was posted. I was going to calculate here the value of the 442ozs. of gold conveyed at today's rates, but the sum would be so indecent I decided "maybe later" (and see final paragraph).
Suffice to conclude, we have been left with a wonderful survivor from the conveyance: an intact postal article with Kangaroo £2, the only example of usage of the 10/- dark grey and aniline-pink I've recorded, and a £1 Robes to round out a most attractive and desirable item. Valuation: $5000. ACSC states of imprint pairs of the £2 ". . . probably at least 30 imprint pairs extant", and catalogues pairs at $15000. For my money, the tag is a more philatelically significant item than is an imprint pair.
Figure 2. Robes 5/- to Walt Disney
Figure 2 is not a particularly valuable item, but it's one I particularly like, given its association with the great Walt Disney. This fashioned wrapper (it may have originally been cylindrical?) bearing 5/- Robes x4 + 1/- Lyrebird left Perth 1 Apr 1948, destined for Walt Disney Productions in Burbank, California. What did it originally contain? Whatever it was, it weighed in the 6½-7ozs range; the postage rate of 21/- confirms that [1/6d ½oz. airmail x14]. The sender was a P. Hartland, South Perth; internet searches did not assist with details of sender or recipient (B.D. Hedding).
An unusual and attractive survivor, although I can't help wishing a £1 Robes had been affixed in lieu of 5/- x4. I bought this item on eBay recently, from a U.S. seller, so another repatriated Aussie from California, this time over 60 years after it left our shores. Valuation: $150
Figure 3. £1 Robes x4
Completing a trio of ex-U.S. missives, Figure 3 fortunately does provide us with the £1 Robes, four of them (although 5/- Robes x16 would also have been impressive!), sent Melbourne to Boston on 4 Sep 1945. The aggregate franking of £4.8.0d (88/-) was for 4/- ½oz. airmail x22 (i.e. for an article weighing 10½-11ozs.).
A way heavier than average article, it apparently had ruptured by the time it reached Boston, for on reverse is a handstamp of G.P.O. Boston Mailing Division explaining it was received in poor condition, tying a U.S. "Officially Sealed" label. The rather ungraceful repairs at sides were executed by U.S. Postal Service. Spectacular frankings such as this are rare. Valuation: $2500
Figure 4. Late solo use £1 Arms
The Arms £1 was replaced by £1 Navigator on 26 Feb 1964, so the 10 Jan 1964 solo use of the former in Figure 4 is late indeed. This use from American Consulate General, Sydney, (continuing the heavily U.S.-centric flavour this month), was for 2/3d ½oz. airmail to U.K. x8 (i.e. 3½-4ozs.) + 2/- registration fee. Solo frankings of £1 on cover are rare. Valuation : $900
Figure 5. 7/6d Cook Telegram usage
The 7/6d Cook on any type of contemporary commercial postal article is of great rarity (FDCs are common, so don't confuse the respective beasts). I've recorded just a parcel label, a cover, and Figure 5. This may surprise readers who have not studied Australian stamp usage in the past. I know it surprised the vendor of the lot, and the auctioneer, Phoenix Auctions, where the item recently was offered. In the same sale was a 7/6d solo philatelic cover from Trader, Eugene Stanley. The subject item is used on a Telegram form, together with 10/- of the series, and 1964 Christmas 5d x2, from Nundah (Qld) 19 Jan 1965: note use of Relief 19 cds then resident at Nundah. Denominations 5/- and above are generally found punctured on Telegram forms, so it's a bonus that the 7/6d and 10/- did not meet with that fate on this occasion. Incidentally, 18/4d was a lot of money in 1965 to say just "Bon voyage" to recipient! The Telegram realized $437 (incl premium), so we'll use that figure for our valuation.
Figure 6. £1 Bass x3, alas, no £2
The 7/6d Cook is a rarity on commercial postal articles, I've just explained. So too is the £1 Bass, of which I've also seen just three items. The £2 King? I've seen a couple of pieces, for which the rate can't be determined (hence "pieces"), but nothing I can get too excited about, yet. Can any reader make my day? If you have a £2 King on a commercial postal article of any kind, one which has enough information to be able to positively determine the postal rate, please send scan to me at email@example.com Don't send me a scan of an obvious philatelic use, such as on FDC, unless you want to hear me scream from Port Douglas to your place.
Figure 6 is the grandest of the three £1 usage items I've seen. This 27 Jul 1965 package-wrapping fragment from Crow's Nest to U.K. has aggregate franking of £4.4.11d. It would have been a treat if £2 King x2 had been utilized (!), however, it would appear that Crow's Nest P.O. did not have stock of that denomination, or not on that day at least. Some readers may question "but, isn't this just a piece?" A reasonable question, and in reply I quote my qualification for eligibility for cover prices in ACSC: "Eligible [for quoted cover price] are Post Office labels, parcel tags, and fragments of parcel wrappings/coverings which incorporate vital information such as addressee details and registration label if applicable." See also Figures 7 and 8 in this regard.
The rate I've calculated for Figure 6 relies upon the 11d having been employed in error for a 1/2d (i.e. underpaid 3d), although I'm reasonably confident I'm correct, which I'll explain as follows: converting £4.4.11d to pence we arrive at 1019d, which is indivisible by two of the three airmail rate possibilities; 2/3d ½oz. 1st class airmail, and 3/- per 2ozs. "Other articles". However, when we take the third possibility, the 2nd class airmail rate of 1/2d per ½oz., and substitute a 1/2d for 11d stamp, we have 1022d, which divided by 14d (1/2d) gives us 73. This, therefore, is 1/2d 2nd class airmail x73 for an article weighing 36-36½ozs., readily possible for a package of printed matter from Sydney office of Horlicks Pty Ltd to Head office in U.K. Valuation: $1000
Figure 7. $2 Bass x block of 10
I featured Figure 7 in the November 2007 column. It's such a knockout item, the record franking for a $2 Bass, I don't apologise for repeating it in this appropriate place. What I said then I can't improve upon, save for a revisionary footnote:
"Although reduced from its original dimensions, we have enough information to deduce all that we need to know to analyze this item. It left Kings Cross on 21 Mar 1974 for U.S.A., franked at $21.25, which represented 85 times the Zone 4 25c 10gm airmail rate! The blue crayon "X" indicates that full letter rate had been paid, rather than the concessionary printed matter or commercial papers rates. The conveniently inscribed "LETTER POST" upper left provides further confirmation of the rate paid. The $2 is very scarce on any type of postal article, and one would be hard pressed to find a better example of usage of that stamp . . . What's it worth? Well, until such items begin to appear in public auctions we can only guess. Let's say $300 for now. That's what I would willingly pay, and I'll take a hundred at that price, thank you." Well, demand for such items has developed considerably in the past five years, and the 1966 first Decimal series is a particularly popular usage subject, and so it should be. Valuation: $1200
Figure 8. $4 King x5 for starters. An Aristocrat of Decimal Philately.
I've also featured Figure 8 previously, in October 2005, from the same correspondence as Figure 7, similarly reduced. On this occasion the rate of $25, comprising Navigators strip of five $4 King, pair $2 Bass and single $1 Flinders, represents 100 times (!) the Zone 4 25c 10gms airmail rate. I mentioned in the previous appearance of this item that I had offered $1000 to the then owner, which had been refused. Persistence paid off, and the previous owner and I struck a mutually satisfactory deal, which values this item at much more than the 2005 offer. How much more will remain confidential; I hope to enjoy this Aristocrat of Decimal Philately for a while yet, and for good reason. When one sells an item such as this, the outcome is guaranteed: one will come to regret so doing.
Figure 9. $20 Painting solo, with added technical interest
The 1990 $20 Painting as a commercial solo franking on standard-size cover would be nigh on impossible were it not for a fortuitous occurrence. A little background on that event will assist in explaining the existence of items such as Figure 9.
In the mid-1990s, the Australian Taxation Office and Australia Post united to provide a priority service for the processing of annual Tax Returns. This service received the catchy TaxPackExpress monicker. For the sum of $20, Australia Post would deliver your Tax Return forms with haste to the ATO, which would then process your tax refund, er, with haste (one assumes you wouldn't pay $20 unless you were expecting a refund). The dedicated envelope containing the tax forms was retained by A.P., in the capital city of the State where posted. David Maiden, then CEO of the Philatelic Sales section of A.P., generously offered these TaxPackExpress covers to APTA, in recognition of the excellent relationship which existed, and still does, between the respective organizations. The directive was to auction off the material amongst the membership, with funds to be deployed for worthy philatelic causes, such as upon the impending Australia 99 Exhibition.
I was acquisitive at the APTA auctions (there were two); you would expect no less of me. Figure 9 was amongst the batches of lots I bought, bearing a corner example of the $20 with portion of Colour control, adding a nice technical element to the usage story. Valuation: $30
Figure 10. CPS $20 Cute Koala TaxPackExpress
Related to the circumstances explained under Figure 9, we have Figure 10. Posted at the National Philatelic Centre (NPC), Melbourne, one could be forgiven for saying "Hey, but this is philatelic, isn't it?" Of course it's not as it so happens; the NPC is a centrally located P.O. in Melbourne, and receives its fair share of mail posted in the everyday course of events.
I felt the use of Counter-printed stamps in payment of this service was pretty special, and so went to the trouble to conduct a census of the number of CPS covers present in the many APTA auction lots processed: the headcount was just 25. Most were NPC, with a sprinkling of Adelaide GPO and CPH (Parliament House P.O., Canberra). Naturally, I made a point of buying as many lots as possible containing these stamps, and where I missed out, I negotiated to buy from the lot winners.
Remarkably, I was able to assemble a set of the six designs of the Kangaroos and Koalas in the CPS series then current. This set is the pride and joy of my more modern decimal usage material. I featured another of these six covers in the February 2003 column, where I arrived at a valuation of $50. Others of the 25 covers existing have since changed hands for much more, so a serious revision is called for. Valuation: $250
Related to this month's subject, regular readers will be well aware that I'm very fond of high denomination 20th century stamps used on commercial postal articles, not just high denominations of Australia or NZ, but those of the whole world. Such items can represent spectacular examples of Philately as Art, while others qualify as candidates for my interpretation of the title: Aristocrats of Philately.
Frankly, I find such items far more philatelically worthy than, say, ultra high denomination British Empire 20th century stamps mint; items such as KUT to £100, Malaya KEVII and KGV to $500, Northern Nigeria KEVII £25, etc. I know these items have stunning catalogue values, but I'm undeterred in my opinion of them. They were supplied by New Issue services to the well-heeled, who had performed no more than ticking the box on their New Issue standing order form, along the lines of: "Please supply all denominations", as distinct from the boxes reading ". . . denominations to 1/-", ". . . to 5/-", ". . . to £1", etc.
The great Robson Lowe wrote a fascinating, indeed very courageous article in a U.K. philatelic magazine at the height of the 1970s boom, contemptibly labeling the ultra high denominations as "Cinderellas". And this at a time when, it's fair to say, the Lowe organisation was benefitting financially more than most from the crazy prices being realized at auction for these stamps. These days the more politically correct term for such stamps is "Revenues", however, R.L. made his point, to me at least. I must conclude that despite such informed comment from this most influential of Philatelists, no impression was then made upon speculators (the target market for such material), however, so I'm not likely to create even a ripple in the pool of current demand for such stamps.
To conclude, with yet another touch of nostalgia, in April 2006 I made reference to the 34 separately catalogued "mega rare" Australian watermark varieties (inverted and/or sideways) found amongst Kangaroo and KGV Heads issues. The amazement to me at the time was that it could well cost a million dollars (i.e. an average $29,400 per item) to put together a complete "collection" of these varieties (a friend at the time irreverently made the comment: 'Yeh, a million bucks and nothin' to show for it').
We haven't enjoyed a King George V in the ACSC series since 2007 edition, so I decided to see what 2012 SG "Part 1" values these 34 items at, taking the dearer of mint or used where both are listed. I came up with £678,500 (more than the value of that 442ozs. of gold mentioned above: I'll take the gold).
The Stuart Hardy collection contains its fair share of those 34 watermark varieties, so it will be interesting to note market sentiment for such material when Phoenix Auctions commences the Hardy sales late this year.