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Stamp News  March  2011 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 


Highly recommended Australia Post products.

The reasoning behind this seemingly unexpected introduction, from me that is, will be revealed shortly. The subject matter for this month's column evolves from the announcement in last month's Stamp News by former columnist, David Mallen. David, who penned Australian Stamp Variations, advised that after 54 years he has unfortunately decided to cease collecting, citing expenditure of over $5000 per annum to buy all Australia Post's variations, in order to compose his column. Perhaps if that $5000 could be spent more satisfyingly, David could reignite his philatelic passion.

Australia Post does produce generally very attractive products. Attractive, but generally without potential to elevate collections to the lofty heights that most collectors quietly aspire to achieve. Without potential, that is, in the form in which 99% of collectors pursue the Hobby. Sameness is not a recipe for a collection which begs distinction from all others. Evergreen, sought-after collecting subjects require lateral thinking, such that simply following the pack cannot hope to deliver.

It may surprise that, actually, I like Australia Post products. Indeed, I spend significantly more than, say, $5000 per annum acquiring products ex Australia Post. Interestingly, some of those products were originally supplied by Australia Post free of direct cost. To enlighten, such material forms the theme for my proffered "highly recommended Australia Post products". I suggest that with an annual budget of $5000, one would in reasonably few years achieve a best-of-kind collection of the subject: Official Postal Labels, as they are known by specialists. Dedicated to the subject, there is an excellent publication, The Official Postal Labels of Australia, by Eric J. Frazer, published by the Cinderella Stamp Club of Australasia, Sydney. Some readers may recall I first introduced this collecting field to my column in April 2005.

                                                        Figure 1. Pretty in Pink

At some stage between 9 Jul and 28 Aug 1942, en route from Quebec Canada to Sydney, Figure 1 finished up in the drink. The obverse shows handstamped rectangular "RECEIVED DAMAGED/BY WATER AT/G.P.O. SYDNEY 3", and a more apologetic P.O. label on reverse states "It is very much regretted that the cover/of the enclosed article was inadvertently/damaged while in transit through the /post.", to which a G.P.O. Sydney datestamp has been applied prior to affixing to the article. The P.O. stock number for this label is "M.B. 172." (see upper left). A rare item, supplied free to the addressee! Not so today, for I value it at $250 (the Canada stamp was lost during immersion).

                            Figure 2. 1940: When there was a label for everything

The sender of this 26 Feb 1940 Royal Insurance Co cover, Figure 2, registered at tiny Woodleigh Vale (Vic) P.O., apparently omitted to seal the envelope. A diligent P.O. Clerk noticed and remedied the oversight by affixing the P.O. label "FOUND OPEN.". This was "P.M.9." (see upper right) in the P.O. labels arsenal, and the Clerk dutifully signed his name in the space allocated. These labels received printing "batch" details, which were located lower left; curiously removed from this example. Value : $60 (stamp off cover $1)

                                           Figure 3. Humble tag, with attitude

Must have been something about black on pink labels in the P.M.G.'s Dept in the 'thirties and 'forties? Figure 3 is a very rare P.O. label, issued in N.S.W. only apparently, from about 1936. It later became "P.M. 101." for more general use nationally, but initially showed no code identification. It reads "THIS wrapper was received/without contents. If the/addressee will inform the/Deputy Postmaster-Gene-/ral what it is believed to/have contained, a search/for the missing contents/will be made among the/articles received without/addresses." Phew! This use is on a tag from South Annandale, sent 9 Nov 1936 to Jamberoo. The tag has dislodged from its package (most likely commercial papers for which the rate was 1d per 2oz., i.e. 7d for article weighing 12-14ozs.), and accordingly was sent to Dead Letter Office, Sydney. There the label was affixed and tied by double-circle datestamp of 12 Nov 1936. Great item for my taste, value : $400 (stamps off cover $3)

                              Figure 4. 1937: When letters could be "URGENT"

Another very rare label, used in association with the Express Delivery service, is shown as Figure 4. Sent from Birchip (Vic) 6 Nov 1937 to Melbourne, it bears ""URGENT LETTERS"/FOR UMMEDIATE DELIVERY/BY/TELEGRAPH MESSENGER." label affixed, adhering at left side only so as to reveal address when label is raised. The label was coded "C.O.15." upper right. An optimal usage item for the 6d Kookaburra as a bonus. Value : $400 (off cover $2)

                                  Figure 5. Prominent label, great Usage item

Figure 5 is another example of those items which would be equally at home in a Postal History or a Usage collection. For P.H., it's an attractive example of the very expensive ($4 for a standard letter!) Australia Post Courier service, from Stirling Street Perth to Albany, sent 4 Feb 1980. This self-adhesive label is rarely seen used on letters, perhaps unsurprisingly given the cost of a regular letter at this time was just 20c. For a Usage collection, it could take a prominent place in a one-framer of the Paintings series. Value : $100 (stamps off cover 40c)

                          Figure 6. Express Courier between the two Territories

The Express Courier service commenced in 1984, and Figure 6 is an early example (1 Jun 1984) of its application. Another expensive service, this example comprises a garden variety 30c PSE which has been uprated with an NCR Cash register receipt for $3.00, the cost of getting a letter as quickly as then possible, from Darwin to Canberra City. This P.O. label was coded "PM128". Value : $35

                                  Figure 7. No stamps but, hey, who cares!

A colourful example of how P.O. labels can make something desirable of a stampless cover. The cost of the Express Courier service from Surfers Paradise to Brisbane was paid in cash, evidenced by the 'PAID AT/15 DEC 1987/EXPRESS COURIER BASE/GOLD COAST" handstamp in pink, a rare P.O. marking in itself. The self-adhesive Express Courier ("PT248") and "SAME DAY" ("PM129" - seldom seen) labels were then added, making for an attractive package for the P.H. collector. Value : $40

                           Figure 8. "in your box within two hours of posting"!

The first example I've noted of this unusual P.O. label, Figure 8, which appears to have been a precursor to the short lived (1992-94) Boxlink service. This "Fast City Interchange Mail", boasting "This letter was in your box within two hours of posting", was for box holders at Perth region P.O.'s. The service may have been exclusive to that area. An excellent example of how removing stamps from covers can trash an otherwise very worthwhile philatelic item. I ask what use would this stamp provide off the cover? Value : $100 (off cover, less than zero)

Figure 9. Overseas Express Delivery Aerogrammes one-framer: Mission Impossible

Probably not a good idea to conceive a one-frame exhibit entitled "Aerogrammes: Overseas Express Delivery uprates". You may never fill page one of the exhibit; Figure 9 is the first such uprate I've seen. A 33c Aerogramme, uprated 3c to reflect a rate rise for that service, sent from Chatswood (N.S.W.) to Israel, the sender made every effort to have the article arrive before the addressee moved on, paying an extra $2.25 for the acceleration promised by the Overseas Express Delivery service. Delivery took six days, which doesn't appear to be much value for money? It may well be that the additional "service" in fact did not reduce the time frame for delivery to Israel? We should not be concerned, however, for the initiative has delivered a welcome philatelic item, at home in a Stationery, P.H. or Usage (for $2 stamp in particular) collection. Value : $50 (stamps off "cover"? Not much.)

                                            Figure 10. SAL and franking of $2 Nav  

The $2 Navigator is a difficult stamp to find on commercial postal articles during its period of issue. Of course it's common, virtually worthless on articles of the past 30 years or so, long after it was replaced by the $2 Painting, in 1974. Figure 10 is a particularly attractive usage item, an 8 Nov 1971 cover from Sydney sent at letter rate by the now defunct S.A.L. (Surface Air Lifted) service, to Sir Hudson Fysh, co-founder of QANTAS, in London. Note the trio of P.O. labels, the Customs label denoted "N.C.V." (no commercial value). The service provided a more economical means to send a letter, at a time when the full airmail service was 35c per ½oz. I don't have ready access to my rate details to deduce precise figures; they were packed securely when we bunkered down to survive Cyclone Yasi. I'll endeavour to post details on my website, together with deductions for other rate detail omissions this month. I've seen very few S.A.L. letters; the service was mostly utilized for heavier articles for cost effectiveness. Value : $400 (stamps off cover $1.50)

Would you agree that these Australia Post "products" provide colourful, pure Philately? I'd suggest they also provide yet another cure for the disillusioned amongst collectors. Items such as these have a very bright future, appealing as they do to collectors who crave individuality. They are finite, highly recommended Australia Post products. Modern material purchased direct from the Post Office? Well, we shan't go there, shall we? Other perhaps than to conclude that finite those products are not. To finish on a very different note, I alluded to our close encounter with Yasi; others were not so fortunate. That event, together with the floods which have devastated so much of Australia, justify that oft raised question "what have we done to so anger the gods"? In a rare, light hearted moment amongst the widespread unhappy events, the ABC's Media Watch recently focused on a provincial newspaper headline, which declared "30,000 pigs seen floating down river". Quite a sight that would have been, but for the fact that upon confirmation from the source of the quote, it transpired that based upon the comment made to the reporter, the headline should have read "30 sows and pigs seen floating down river".

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.