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Stamp News  June 2013 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

 

Usage. Philately's most important aspect?

 

We all have our preferences in Philately and, for those of us who maintain the magic for a lifetime, perhaps suggests our preferences have the settings correctly dialed in.

I've often wondered if a reason for collectors retiring early from Philately was a consequence of not having chosen an aspect which would maintain the captivation sustainably.

That observation, over several decades, is that the more "rounded", or mature the approach to collecting, the better the chances of remaining in for the long haul. For example, if one goes about collecting something finite, say, such as a readily available country, where to once the task is completed?

I recall about 1980, there was a survey of Australian collector's interests, I don't recall who conducted it (either Australia Post or one of the then two magazines, I guess?), the results however indicated the most popular country to collect was Australian Antarctic Territory. Doubtless, that popularity was because on a simplified basis anyone could have a complete collection. How many of those collectors rose to a greater challenge and are still with us. Precious few, I'll wager.

So, what constitutes a well-rounded collection? The answer is probably one constructed so as to embrace the development of the stamps of a given country, or series, to incorporate Essays and other original design elements, Proofs (die, plate and colour trials) and printer's other reference (e.g. imprimaturs) and Specimen material, the issued stamps, perhaps with emphasis on items more out of the ordinary, such as blocks rather than singles, errors and varieties occurring during printing, maybe FDCs, and certainly commercial postal use of the collection subjects.

What is the most important amongst these aspects of collecting? Individual preferences will have it that some will say the Essay which prompted the stamp design is of prime importance, others will opt for the finished product, or an error in printing, and so on. For me, it's the study of the purpose for which a stamp was issued, and how that stamp could be deployed in serving postal use that I rate as Philately's purest and most important aspect: the science of Usage.

Whatever your preference, I think there are many long term collectors who would agree that a good formula for maintaining the thrill of Philately is to embrace everything it has to offer, all the bells and whistles, rather than the entry level basics. Not everyone can start at the top, but building towards an all embracing goal is more likely to stimulate the senses sustainably.

One of many reasons I favour Usage over other categories in collecting, is that one may have a better chance in that category than in others of forming a collection which is a best-of-kind. Specialized catalogues often tell us most of what we need to know about Essays, Proofs, Specimens, and the issued stamps and variants, but why and how the stamps came to be put to use is generally too broad a field to conveniently categorize in catalogue form. There are European catalogues that indicate prices for solo, multiple and combination frankings on cover, etc, of a given stamp, but that is just an introduction. There may be many possibilities for a solo franking, for example, some pedestrian, others rarely encountered.

This month I've selected a representative stamp issue from various Australian series of the SD era, in the reigns of KGVI and QEII (Figure 10 the exception). These selections lend themselves to development in to Usage exhibits from one, to as many as eight frames (or more for the ambitious) in a few instances. With some dedication and perseverance, one could emerge as the owner of a best-of-kind collection for one or more of these series. Try doing that without mortgaging the kids for Traditional categories.

      
                                           Figure 1. N.S.W. Sesqui 9d overload

The commems of the reign of KGVI are reasonably available on covers etc. Some are common, notably internal letter rate, others elusive. They form an interesting series for usage study, particularly as they span four letter rate regimes. Franking aberrations abound. Figure 1 is at the higher level of elusiveness, a multiple franking of the 1937 N.S.W. Sesqui 9d, two pairs, and a trio of 6d Kookaburra for the 4/8d oz. airmail rate by PanAm Clipper service Melbourne-U.S. via Hong Kong. Yes, underpaid by 2d, although this was not detected; hence untaxed. I've not seen a greater number of the 9d on a cover. Valuation : $400

            
                                       Figure 2. Solitary 2d mauve, pays 2d rate

I like underpaid covers; they are more likely to be commercial than overpaid articles. A double-deficiency penalty applied to the sum underpaid, so unless the sender was deliberately hoping to obtain Postage due stamps (and that can occasionally be the case with underpaid articles), the end result was negative. Figure 2 is a particularly unusual underpaid item, bearing KGVI 2d mauve dispensed from a coil machine; the sharp, pointy horizontal perforations confirm that origin. This 1947 (Oct 2) use should have been accompanied by a d Kangaroo, the coil machine for which would have been alongside the 2d machine. Just an instance of oversight by sender, but delivering us a rare solo use of the subject stamp. Coil stamp usage is very popular amongst a select group of enthusiasts. The KGVI and QE stamps of 1937-38 and later incarnations can form a terrific usage study; eight frames the goal. Valuation : $200

           
Figure 3. 1/- Small Lyrebird first issue difficult as a solo franking, seldom more so than in this instance

The Zoological series of 1937-38 and successors, similarly, are highly recommended for a highly interesting usage study. Figure 3 is one of the rarest possible solo franking opportunities for the first perforation 1/- Lyrebird. This 1937 (Nov 2) use Melbourne-Hong Kong represents a rate of 11d per oz. + 1d Late fee (note "4 30AM" in date slug), to ensure processing in that days mail, being handed in after regular closing time. Valuation : $250

                
                                    Figure 4. Early QANTAS passenger postcard

The "little" wartime series of KGVI defins issued between 1942 and 1944 (QE 1d and 1d, KGVI 2d, 2d and 3d) and 5d Emu) is an excellent series for usage study for the more budget conscious. There are many scarce to rare items to be had by the diligent for often quite modest sums. Just don't expect to find FDCs in a hurry for the 2d, 3d and 5d if you're planning to extend your collection to embrace more traditional elements. Figure 4 is a rare solo use of the 5d Dec 5 1950 at Darwin to Brisbane, at the airmail postcard rate introduced just four days earlier. The early QANTAS passenger cards are very collectable in their own right, and the neat private etiquette lower left is a nice addition. My valuation may surprise some, but this is a very desirable usage item Valuation: $200.

 
                             Figure 5. Most wouldn't give this item a second glance?

The 1947-52 KGVI defins, those spanning from 1d Princess to 2 Arms, are a cracker series for the usage aficionado. A super eight-frame exhibit is possible, although the 2 will be a challenge. Of that, I've seen three tags, a couple of Business Reply frankings for aggregate multiple sendings, and just two airmail covers. Figure 5 is a rarity, also, and would escape the attention of all but the most diligent. It's an Official use Nov 12 1951 of the KGVI 3d from the Booklet plate (note perforated selvedge at top), which was released in sheet form at post offices in late Sep 1951. Govt Depts must also have been allocated some to use them up. The postage rate increase Jul 9 1951 from 3d to 3d rendered this stamp valid only for Printed matter, etc. This is the only commercial use I've noted. Valuation: $250. Rarer than a "Plate no." of the KGVI 3d, at a fraction the price.

         
                                  Figure 6. More to this than initially meets the eye

The 1956 Olympic Games set can make for an attractive one-frame usage exhibit; I have one of which I'm rather fond. Figure 6 is not featured so much for its usage appeal per se; the 2/- is readily available as a solo franking to G.B., Europe, U.S., etc. Look carefully however and you'll see this is the ACSC-listed Retouch under "th" of "XVIth". Constant varieties on commercial cover is a fun theme, and over time one could probably mount up a one-frame exhibit. Chances are, not a single item in that exhibit will have cost any more than the price of a normal. Valuation: $80

         
                                  Figure 7. "Surfer's" in 1965, the year I first visited

Very different place, Surfer's Paradise, to how it was in Sep 1965 when Figure 7 was posted, at Southport. The P.O. must have had the 2d and 3d dispensing coil vending machines installed, for the sending has affixed four of the coil 2d, fortunately including a joined pair. These paid the 8d oz. airmail rate to N.Z. The QEII defins of 1959-62, 1d to 5d, are another terrific little series for the usage specialist; plenty of good plate varieties also for the more traditional collector. Valuation: $100

       
                     Figure 8. "Zone 3" in White Australia Policy era particularly difficult

Without becoming too political, the White Australia Policy in place until 1980s is an embarrassment our successors will have to bear for many generations. A philatelic fall-out as a consequence of that position is that mail to and from the so-called "Zone 3" countries (the non-British Empire "Other Asian Countries" group) is scarce. Figure 8 is to one of those "other" countries, Japan, but to a passenger en route to U.S., aboard a visiting ship, sent from Melbourne Jun 4 1963. The rate of 1/6d per oz is paid by a very scarce solo franking of the 1/6d Christmas Bells, from the Floral series of the era, another good subject for a one-frame usage exhibit. Valuation: $150

            
                        Figure 9. The most elusive on cover of the popular Birds series

The photogravure 1964-65 Birds rightly are a popular usage study. Attractive and colourful designs of the world's most popular theme ensure that. Figure 9 is a rare solo franking of the 2/6d Scarlet Robin; I've found this to be the most difficult on cover of the seven denominations of the series, period. From Boulder to Philippines, it appears to be a franking error for double 1/6d per oz.; the rate earlier had been 1/3d per oz., which of course equates. Postage calculation errors are relatively common, probably more so nowadays than ever given the complexities, so allowance for human error is a constant in assessing postal history/rates/usage. Valuation: $200

            
            
                                                       Figure 10. Nice new find

It's rare that something new turns up that excites me. My passion is for items which survive by chance, so understandably Figure 10 was bound to get my philatelic red corpuscles multiplying. It's a completely new find, never before on the market, after more than 90 years in the closet. My thanks to Millennium and Geoff Kellow for bringing it to my attention; watch for it in an upcoming auction.

This 19/- franking (just short of requiring a Kangaroo 1 bicolour!!) was once attached to a parcel sent from Mumbil NSW to the Sydney Mint. 19/- was for a 75lbs parcel, the rate comprised of Intrastate 9d for 2lbs. + 3d each additional lb. x73 = 19/-. Presumably gold/coins going to Mint? The parcel would have required two able-bodied men to lift. What to do with the overlapped 2/-, well may some ask? When not tied by a cancellation, etc, I prefer to steam them so as to expose extended from displayed side of article. Such items present in an exhibit better that way, and a subsequent owner can always revert to the original if preferred.

In an era when attention focuses on discoveries of unimportant, albeit expensive items, this is a refreshing, and important find, in my opinion. I would prefer to own this item than, for instance 100 bog standard used 10/- Kangaroos. Yes, those may be worth more in monetary terms, but in terms of philatelic significance, far less. That differential is rapidly becoming recognised in the marketplace.

These words were penned days before the Australia 2013 EXPO. I hope those who attended had a wonderful time. Doubtless, many stories will trail following this momentous event!

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.