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Stamp News    March  2007

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Evolution of Collecting Decimals - Featuring 1968 'Flowers' Usage 

The appearance of Decimal stamps on 14 February 1966 sparked something of a revolution in collecting in Australia. Many new collectors joined the ranks of Philately, inspired by the concept that a 'complete' collection of Decimal stamps was possible, whereas for pre-1966 stamps such a goal was unlikely for all but the privileged. For Decimal completeness, one had only to keep up with the flow of New Issues. As time rolled by, and the New Issues rolled out (and out, ad nauseam), many collectors dropped by the wayside. Simply put, such a collecting model was and still is boring. Undeterred, the more adventurous took up collecting their Decimals in blocks. Still boring. A relatively small number ventured in to specialisation, embracing constant varieties in positional blocks, Helecon and other paper differences, sheet number and autotron blocks, etc. Much more promising. Better yet, the more ambitious chased printing errors.

Fastforward four decades since the introduction of Decimals, and we find Philatelic evolution has arrived at the last great frontier. The study of postal usage of the very stamps themselves - after all, was this not the purpose for which they were issued? (cynics amongst you will have another theory for that purpose, but we wont go there). Usage is a most fascinating and challenging aspect of Philately, and one which I repeatedly contend will prove one of the most rewarding in terms of both pleasure and profit. And yes, Decimal stamp usage is fascinating, replete with rarities, some of which rival the rarest of the stamp errors, yet when found can usually be obtained for a fraction of the price of errors.

Selecting the 1968 'Flowers' issue for the exercise, I've featured various usages, some of which rival stamp errors for rarity. I've also introduced a table listing of various types of usage of the six denominations of the issue, and have valued each based upon my experience of their relative scarcity. These are usages which I've actually seen, and others will be added (on my website) as they emerge. The table is therefore not exhaustive; it's very much a work in progress, and I would be interested to receive feedback from those readers who find this a useful addition to the column, as well as those who have usage items which could be added.

6c Kangaroo Paw

               Figure 1. A modern rarity most likely to turn up in U.K. Start looking.

I've mentioned before in this column the rare 6c Concessional airmail rate to U.K., available only to U.K. Forces serving in Australia. Of the 1966 6c Bird I've recorded only two such usages, and for the 6c Flower only one, that shown as Figure 1, a 5 May 1970 use from Canungra (Qld). More of these may be found in the U.K., but if so I suspect they will be in tiny numbers only. I feel confident to say this, for a reciprocal arrangement existed in the U.K. for Australian Forces serving therein, and after nearly 20 years of searching I've found only one of the 4p Concessional airmail rate applicable contemporaneously. Figure 1 is a (1) usage in the table below, which I've valued at $200. Don't be surprised if that valuation is exceeded if someone is fortunate enough to find an example and subsequently submits it to Public auction. My thanks to Ron Casey for contributing this item, and for other constructive comments in the composition of this month's column.


                   Figure 2. Equally rare duo franking of the 6c denomination

Given that 'solo' appears to be the widely accepted international term for a single stamp on cover, for the table below I've adopted the term 'duo' for a double-franking of a given stamp. Completing the musical motif, 'combo' is the term used for a combination franking of more than one stamp type. Let's see if these terms catch on! The 6c denomination, perhaps surprisingly, is the most difficult of the six to find on commercial cover. Even for Letter rate use I found only seven examples. The QEII 6c orange replaced this stamp 28.9.1970, and the Letter rate increased from 5c to 6c three days later, so one doesn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to reason why the 6c Flower was so little used for the new Letter rate. Figure 2 is a particular little gem in that it is a pair of the 6c for double Letter rate (ie for an article 1-2oz.), the only such use I've noted. A 4 Dec 1970 use from Government House, Melbourne, to Parkville, the stamps are punctured 'V G' (Victorian Government) as an added bonus. Usage (3) below, this premium example I've valued at $60.

13c Pink Heath 

         Figure 3
. Solo frankings of 13c other than for airmail postcards very scarce

The 13c was the longest-lived of the series, although it's second only in scarcity to the 6c in my census of commercial postal articles seen. Solo frankings are uncommon, and are most usually found for Zone 4 airmail Postcard and Greetings card rates (my census seven and three, respectively). 13c was the Zone 5 rate for these purposes between 10.7.1968 (when the stamp was issued) and 30.9.1968 (after which the rate increased to 15c) but I've yet to see examples, although they'll turn up. Figure 3 is an unusual solo franking of 16 Sep 1970 sent from Liverpool (NSW) to suburban Victoria by Priority Paid mail. That service was double the Letter rate (ie 5c x 2) and it would appear this item has been charged a further 3c for airmail, which strictly speaking was not correct. Where the airmail service was available, and its use would speed delivery, no additional charge should apply. I've not included this use in the table pending clarification, although as a nice and early example of Priority Paid mail for now it's valued at $60.

             Figure 4. 1974 - 13c uprates Letter rate item for Priority Paid service

Usage specialists delight in finding a given stamp utilised to uprate a basic Letter rate item for a specific Post Office service, particularly a less common service such as Priority Paid. Figure 4 is a scarce use of the 13c to pay the Priority Paid service fee, uprating an otherwise basic 7c Letter rate item. This was processed at Ipswich (Qld) Post Office 30 Apr 1974, and a manuscript notation in the datestamp tells us it was received at '9.16A(M)'. Sent to Melbourne, the time-clock (on reverse) shows an arrival in that City the same day at 10.45PM. Not bad for 1974, and where time was of the essence arguably good value for the 13c premium. Typically, a 20c stamp would have been employed for combined Letter/Priority Paid rate, and in fact this is the only example I've seen of a 13c usage for this uprate. An example of (7) usage, valued at $75.

15c Tasmanian Blue Gum


                         Figure 5. 15c in search of Mr Gilmore cruising the Pacific

Mail to Zone 2 (broadly the Pacific and Malaysia) is rather hard-to-find. Figure 5 suggests why this is generally so with mail addressed to the Pacific. While tourists are likely to write home to family and to be the envy of friends, the reverse is less likely. Holidays usually are not long enough to facilitate a response. Our subject item is unusual in that it was sent to the box number of a Cruise company, and may well have arrived at its destination before the addressee. A (2) usage valued at $35.


           Figure 6. Multiple appeal - for Usage, Stationery, and other aficionados alike

Postal Stationery specialists look for items which have been uprated with stamps, particularly for a Post Office special service. Figure 6 is a good example of a Stationery uprate, an otherwise unmemorable 7c Envelope, but with 15c affixed to uprate it for the Certified mail service, sent from Southport West (Qld) 25 Nov 1972 to Hay (NSW). The office to which the item was sent was apparently not open to facilitate the requisite signature of receipt, which the Certified mail service provided, and the article would have returned to the Post Office with the Postman, who firstly would have left a notice advising the addressee that a Certified item was awaiting. The rectangular handstamp, applied at the P.O., provides for three such notices to be issued before an article is returned to sender as undeliverable. Southport West P.O., a few blocks south-west of Southport P.O., was opened only from 1970-79, and accordingly postmarks are rather scarce. Figure 6 therefore has appeal for Usage, Stationery, Postal History and Postmark collectors, and is a good example of just how much Philatelic interest (and value) can be lost when covers are wood-chipped. A (10) usage valued at $18 (premium applied for scarcer postmark and P.O. handstamp).

On the subject of 'wood-chipping', days before I completed this column I sat through the Stanley Gibbons Melbourne auction (3 Feb 2007). I couldn't help but marvel at a section of six lots of Australian bundleware (Lots 243-48), comprising issues from 1966-2004, and denominations from 1c to $5. According to a detailed inventory provided with the lots, there were precisely 1,003,700 stamps present. With carnage of covers on that scale it's not difficult to see why the ratio of intact covers to off-cover used stamps is so imbalanced. The realisation for the six lots was $1,925. What would the hourly rate for this labour of love equate to? I suggest it'd be comparable to that of the most lowly recompensed human beings on earth. The realisation was at the rate of 1c per 5.2 stamps. I'd love to have had the opportunity to buy intact the covers which produced this hoard. Let's say a million covers at 5c each. $50,000 rather than $1,925 (less auctioneer's commission), and no laborious soaking, drying and bundling! And I'd wager that my offer, 'generous' as it might appear in comparison with the auction outcome, would deliver the most profitable deal of my Philatelic career.

20c Sturt's Desert Pea


              Figure 7. Another Cruise item, this time with 20c seeking Cadet Sherring

Figure 7 is an uncommon example of the Zone 3 (parts of Asia) airmail rate, which was 20c when this item left Villawood (NSW) 7 Jan 1971 bound for Japan. I have seen only four usages of this stamp for this rate, all to this Cadet on S.S. "Cathay" (others are addressed to Hong Kong or Philippines). A (4) usage valued at $35.


                          Figure 8. Seemingly common item more than it appears

Combo (combination) usage of a given stamp for the specific purpose of uprating an article for an additional Post Office service, I've mentioned, is sought-after by specialists. Figure 8 is the only example I've noted of a (5) usage of the 20c to uprate a 5c Letter rate item for the combined Certified fee (10c) and Acknowledgment of Receipt ('A.R.') service (10c also). The latter provided for the recipient of an article to sign an attached docket which was then returned to sender, confirming the article had reached it's 'target'. The legal profession liked the A.R. service as it confirmed receipt of demand and other nasty letters. The subject item was in fact sent by a legal firm, from Launceston 30 Sep 1970 to Rossarden (Tas) where it was endorsed 'unknown' and was returned to sender, ironically negating the purpose for the additional postal expenditure. Valued at $30.

25c Cooktown Orchid


                   Figure 9. Always a bonus to have ancillary service label 'tied'

The Messenger Delivery service was expensive, and it's therefore no surprise that it was little used. Figure 9 is such a use, from Caulfield East (Vic) to Melbourne 20 Jul 1970, when the rate for the service was 20c (plus 5c ordinary Letter rate). The P.O. label denoting eligibility for the service has been neatly 'tied' by the datestamp (owing to it having been affixed alongside stamp rather than at opposite corner which is usually the case), which is welcomed by specialists. The two vertical blue lines at left are another indicator of the special service. A (2) usage valued at $40.


                 Figure 10. Unusual example of double Greetings card airmail rate

Airmail Postcard and Greetings card rate items are rather uncommon, and much more so double rate items for the latter. Figure 10 is such an item, a 4 Dec 1970 sending from Melbourne to San Francisco, most likely of a heavier than average Christmas card. The Zone 4 Greetings card airmail rate was then 13c, and the 1c + 25c paid the 26c double rate (-1oz.). A nice example of a (12) combo usage of the 25c, much above your typical garden-variety such use, valued at $25.

30c Waratah (First cylinders)


           Figure 11. 30c the commonest denomination on cover - but not so for triplets

For most of its life the 30c Waratah (First cylinders) enjoyed plenty of use, as registration fee for Domestic mail, and airmail rate to high traffic Zone 5. Over 69 million were issued (cf. 9 million for the scarcest denomination on cover, the 6c). There are, nonetheless, scarcer 30c usages to look out for. Figure 11 is one such, a 6 Nov 1970 franking of 30c x3 for combined Zone 5 airmail double rate (60c for -1oz.) plus registration fee (30c), from West Melbourne to Mexico. A rather expensive exercise as the article failed to find the addressee and was returned to sender. Valued at $35.

30c Waratah (Second cylinders)


                                         Figure 12. Oils ain't oils in Usage pursuit

The 30c Waratah provided Philatelists with a rather unusual variety in 1971. It transpired that when a new printing was required prior to replacement of this stamp by the 30c Aboriginal Art (due for issue 29 Sep 1971), it was discovered the Note Printing Branch had inadvertently destroyed the original set of printing cylinders. The N.P.B. was therefore compelled to prepare a replacement set of four cylinders, the pink cylinder of which shows considerably more white in the petals, thereby delivering to Philatelists a very collectable 'different' stamp. The Philatelic Branch approved the proof sheet from the new cylinders on 23 Jun 1971. The earliest date of use I have noted (on cover) is 22 Jul 1971. Given the imminent appearance of the Aboriginal Art replacement, this late printing of the 30c Waratah saw comparatively little use. Figure 12 will prove an elusive example of usage. A 17 Nov 1971 use from Liverpool to U.S., it is not difficult to determine why this will be hard to find. The Zone 4 airmail rate increased to 30c only on 1.10.1971 and the 30c Aboriginal Art, remember, was issued 29.9.1971. It's not Rocket Science, is it. Zone 5 airmail use will also be uncommon as the rate increased to 35c on 1.10.1971, leaving a window of usage opportunity for the 30c solo of less than three months. I've seen only this one example of a (2) usage and it's valued at $50. More will turn up, but I'm confident this valuation is sustainable. Here now follows the Table. Figures in bold represent current Brusden-White (BW) value on commercial cover in ACSC Decimals I. The values in that catalogue, which I provided, relate to the most often seen (ie 'garden-variety') usage of the given stamps. Scarce usages command premium values, and this table provides something of an insight in to what is evolving in that regard in the marketplace. I hope readers find this development a 'tantalising' revelation.

BW N    SG N                                    Description                         Solo      Duo    Combo

                                                              1968 Flowers

  483           420    6c Kangaroo Paw:

                             (1) U.K. Forces in Australia Concessional airmail          200.00

                             (2) Letter rate (from 1.10.1970)                                      30.00

                             (3) Letter rate second weight step (1-2oz)                                        6.00

                             (4) Make-up use                                                                                        25.00

  484          421     13c Pink Heath:

                             (1) Letter rate third weight step (2-3oz)                          25.00

                             (2) Other articles rate (4-8oz)                                        25.00

                             (3) Airmail postcard rate - Zone 5 (to 30.9.1968)

                             (4) Airmail postcard rate - Zone 4 (from 1.10.1968)          30.00

                             (5) Airmail Greetings card rate

                                             - Zone 5 (to 30.9.1968)                          

                             (6) Airmail Greetings card rate                                      35.00

                                             - Zone 4 (from 1.10.1968)

                             (7) 13c as Priority Paid uprate (7c Letter rate era)                                      75.00

                                   (8) Make-up use                                                                               20.00

 485    422       15c Tasmanian Blue Gum:

                             (1) Combined Letter rate (5c) and Certified fee (10c)       15.00

                             (2) Airmail rate - Zone 2                                               35.00

                             (3) Airmail postcard rate - Zone 5 (from 1.10.1968)         30.00

                             (4) Airmail postcard rate - Zone 4 (from 1.10.1971)         35.00

                             (5) Airmail Greetings card rate                                      30.00

                                  - Zone 5 (from 1.10.1968)

                             (6) Airmail Greetings card rate                                      35.00

                                  - Zone 4 (from 1.10.1971)

                             (7) Combined Letter rate (5c) and                                              15.00

                                  Registration fee (25c)

                             (8) Parcel rate Scale 1 (3lb.)                                                     25.00

                             (9) Airmail rate - Zone 4 (from 1.10.1971)                                   30.00

                             (10) 15c as Certified fee uprate                                                                 12.00

                                    (7c Letter rate era)

                             (11) 15c x2 Registration fee* uprate for 6c                                                 20.00

                                    Letter rate (*30c from 1.10.1970)

                             (12) Make-up use                                                                                    12.00

486     423          20c Sturts Desert Pea:

                             (1) Registration fee for postage free article                    75.00

                                  from Defence Forces Vietnam                       

                             (2) Defence Forces in Asia airmail rate                         40.00

                                  - fourth weight step (1-2ozs.)

                             (3) Airmail rate - Zone 4                                               30.00

                             (4) Airmail rate - Zone 3                                               35.00

                             (5) 20c x2 Defence Forces in Asia airmail rate                              45.00

                                  - eighth weight step (3-4ozs.)

                             (6) 20c as Certified (10c) Acknowledgment of                                             30.00

                                 Delivery (10c) uprate (5c Letter rate period)

                             (7) 20c as Registration fee uprate for 5c Letter                                             8.00


                             (8) Make-up use                                                                                        8.00

  487   424        25c Cooktown Orchid:

                             (1) Combined Letter rate (5c) and                                 6.00

                                  Registration fee (20c)

                             (2) Combined Letter rate (5c) and                                40.00

                                 Messenger Delivery fee (20c)

                             (3) Combined airmail rate (5c) and Registration            40.00

                                  fee (20c) Defence Forces in Asia

                             (4) Registration fee (25c from 1.10.1968)                      30.00

                                  on Business Reply Post

                             (5) Airmail rate - Zone 5 (to 30.9.1968)                         12.00

                             (6) Airmail rate - Zone 4 (from 1.10.1968)                       6.00

                             (7) Airmail rate - Zone 3 (from 1.10.1971)                      60.00

                             (8) 25c x2 Airmail rate Zone 4 - second weight                             15.00

                                 step (-1oz.)

                             (9) 25c as Registration fee uprate for 5c Letter rate                                      6.00      

                            (10) 25c as Messenger Delivery uprate                                                       25.00

                                  (6c Letter rate era)

                            (11) 25c x2 Registration fee* uprate for 7c Letter rate                                  30.00

                                  (*50c from 1.10.1971)

                            (12) Make-up use                                                                                      6.00

  488A    425      30c Waratah (First cylinders):

                             (1) Combined Letter rate (5c) and                                  6.00

                                  Registration fee (25c)                                      

                             (2) Registration fee (30c from 1.10.1970) on                  30.00

                                  Business Reply Post

                             (3) Combined Letter rate - third weight step                   75.00

                                 (18c for 2-4ozs.) and Priority Paid fee (12c)

                             (4) Defence Forces in Asia airmail rate                         50.00

                                 - fifth weight step (2-3ozs.)

                             (5) Airmail rate - Zone 5 (to 30.9.1971)                           5.00

                             (6) Airmail rate - Zone 4 (from 1.10.1971)                      15.00

                             (7) 30c x2 Defence Forces in Asia airmail rate                              75.00

                                 - eleventh weight step (5-6ozs.)

                             (8) Combined airmail rate - fifth weight step                                  75.00

                                  (30c for 2-3ozs.) and Registration fee

                                  (30c) Defence Forces in Asia

                              (9) Airmail rate Zone 5 - second weight                                       12.00

                                  step (-1oz.)

                             (10) 30c as Registration fee uprate for                                                        6.00

                                    6c Letter rate

                             (11) Make-up use                                                                                     6.00

  488B    425B     30c Waratah (Second cylinders):

                              (1) Airmail rate - Zone 5 (to 30.9.1971)                        40.00

                              (2) Airmail rate - Zone 4 (from 1.10.1971)                     50.00

                              (3) 30c as Registration fee uprate for 6c Letter rate                                    20.00

                              (4) Make-up use                                                                                     20.00


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.