Stamp News March 2006
Woodchip-free Zone 'He chose wisely'
I confess I like stories with a happy ending, particularly those of the Philatelic variety.
Back in 1984 when we were preparing a ‘blockbuster’ auction to be held in conjunction with the memorable International Philatelic Exhibition, AUSIPEX 84 , I persuaded a youthful member of our staff to take this marketing opportunity to cash in his ‘schoolboy’ collection. The collection comprised traditional British Empire issues of early reigns in typically varied quality, with a preponderance of ‘short’ and partial sets. The game plan was to get this lad started on some serious Philately, and the proceeds from the sale of the traditional collection would be his ‘seed capital’.
We catalogued the collection as two lots only, but offered them as Lots 1 and 2 in the auction for high exposure. Lot 1 read ‘British Commonwealth QV to KGV extensive mint collection in “New Ideal” album, mounted in “Hawids” with pencilled SG numbers (4,000+). STC £26,500+”, and Lot 2 “The companion volume of used issues (5,000+). STC £37,500+”. Our lad had diligently calculated the ‘STC’ (‘Stated to catalogue’ for the uninitiated) and quantities, and we were confident of their accuracy. Estimates in the catalogue were given as ‘$1000-1500’ for each lot, a little on the conservative side agreed, but not greatly having regard to the nature of the material.
Inspection of the auction lots was available at our Stand at the Exhibition, and in the days prior to the auction a Standholder handed in a completed Bid form with bids indicated for Lots 1 and 2 in the amounts of $6000 and $5000, respectively. I asked had he inspected the lots and he replied “Too busy. I’m bidding on the basis of the stated catalogue values”. I confirmed that whilst I believed the catalogue values to be accurate, he really ought to inspect the lots as the composition of the collections was rather ordinary. He abstained.
The day prior to the auction another dealer dropped in a Bid form, on this occasion with the words ‘Buy’ against Lots 1 and 2. I hadn’t been present when his bids were lodged but was informed that he also had not inspected the lots, and had since returned interstate. Concerned, I rang him that evening to indicate that his ‘buy’ bids were going to require him to have to pay far in excess of the realisable value of the lots for his intended ‘stripping-down’ for the purpose of resale. He wouldn’t be talked out of bidding (perhaps he speculated that I wanted the lots for myself and was attempting to eliminate some opposition) and I concluded the conversation with “You’re going to be very disappointed”. Come auction day the lots were not bid upon by the room attendees and accordingly were ‘knocked-down’ to the ‘buy’ bidder at $6250 and $5250, respectively. Naturally, our vendor was absolutely delighted. For years later I had to repetitively endure from the hapless buyer “I’m very disappointed” and “ Mate, I’ve lost heaps on those dud AUSIPEX auction lots ”. Actually, I didn’t mind the whingeing too greatly for it enabled me to cheerfully counter often with “Well, mate, I won’t say I told you so, but I told you so”. Clearly, our buyer had chosen unwisely, and this is not intended to be the ‘happy ending’ alluded to in my introduction paragraph!
Flush with a credit of $11500 (staff didn’t pay seller’s commission in those days), the young man took my advice and bought Lot 210 in the auction. This was a collection of Australian cancellations described as “A unique opportunity to purchase the best of its kind in existence”. The estimate was $10000-15000 and he managed to buy it for $11000. The following day at AUSIPEX the proud new owner further took my advice and extracted the off-cover cancellations from his newly won lot and satisfactorily ‘flogged’ them to a Standholder, thereby recouping much of his purchase price. He was now left with the core section of the collection, that with the greatest potential, the cancellations on thousands of complete covers, many of them registered. That initial purchase has since been greatly expanded to form one of the most desirable and valuable Philatelic holdings of commercial covers in Australia. “What’s the value of the covers from Lot 210 these days?”, I hear you say. Oh, several hundred thousand Dollars and climbing. “And the value of Lots 1 and 2?”, you add. Probably little more than our 1984 auction estimates, assuming anyone would want them. Our lad had indeed chosen wisely.
In the days following our auction I noticed that a Standholder had a rather nice 10/- Kangaroo solo franking cover for sale at $200, a full price although a rare item. I recommended the lad buy it and he nervously agreed; it was far and away the most he had ever outlaid for a single Philatelic item. I obtained a 10% Trade discount for him to lessen the sting. That cover is shown below.
The above is the only solo franking of a 10/- Kangaroo I’ve seen. Sent on 5 Jul 1939 by registered airmail from Newcastle West to Buenos Aires, Argentina, the ½oz rate to that destination was very high indeed. There was a choice of 9/6d for the Australia-UK-France-Argentina service, or 10/- for Australia-US-Argentina. Registration was an additional 3d so this item is either underpaid by 3d (ie 9/6d + 3d = 9/9d) or overpaid 3d (10/- + 3d = 10/3d). I’m inclined to think the latter; the registration component was simply overlooked (probably as a consequence of the P.O. Clerk being in shock at the cost of sending a humble envelope to South America by this means). The correspondence appears to have been of a private nature (The Mrs Fox & Scott no doubt enjoyed their exotic location) and an additional 6d for the quicker airmail service would have been unlikely at this level of cost to have deterred the sender from utilising it. This is a great item and today would easily realise $7500 at auction. Our lad had chosen well, yet again.
Rare covers don’t have to be expensive (yet!)
Just as I was about to submit this column to the publisher the item above arrived on my desk. An eBay ‘win’ (at US$53 – a ‘snip’) it is a 31 Oct 1960 commercial use from Norfolk Island to U.S. at 2/- airmail rate. The franking composition for the rate includes a 1/1d on 3½d Surcharge, the very first commercial use on cover of this stamp I’ve seen, 9d from the Pictorial series (second I’ve seen) and the 2d. Norfolk Island £SD issues in particular on commercial cover are really difficult to find (but when found are often inexpensive considering their scarcity). So difficult to find in fact that I haven’t bothered to try and assemble a Reference collection for this country. Even a one-frame (16 page) exhibit would be a difficult although not impossible challenge. The ‘thrill of the chase’ proceeds unabated.
Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962 and a regular Stamp News advertiser since the 1960s. 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.