Figure 1. Louie + Chloe: Croc Watch
I call them my Cover Protectors, but locally in Port Douglas Louie and Chloe are more widely known as the boofheads hanging out the windows of my ute's canopy (for obvious reasons I keep my head inside). Infamous they are for waiting until I'm about to overtake a hapless cyclist before lunging those boofheads out the window and delivering a booming "woof", Great Dane-style, just as we pull alongside. For reasons known only to Louie and Chloe, this procedure is particularly popular when the cyclists are young, female Japanese tourists.
So "good" we know those dogs are not. Let's then attempt an assessment of what's "good" in Philately. To some, "good" will be as in (a) good aesthetically, (b) good for investment, (c) good for inspiration, (d) good for inclusion in an exhibit; and doubtless there are other applications for "good". To my knowledge, there is no universally accepted definition of the term, as it applies in Philately. I do know that a lot of material which I see or hear described as "good" does not fit my perception of the term. My "good", if I were to actually use that term, would be as in (d) above, good for inclusion in an exhibit. With that particular application, I reckon I'm receiving my fair share of (a) to (c) as a bonus. Figures 2 to 11 have a place in several of my exhibits (but not Figure 12). Let's see if I can persuade some readers to agree that my selections of "good" have multiple attributes. I haven't indulged in the usual individual valuations on this occasion. Suffice to say these items would realize between less than $100, despite scarcity, through to $5,000+ (actual auction realization in one instance).
Figure 2. Charming early portrait of QEII, printed by Waterlow
Original QEII series, issued by most members of the British Commonwealth, are often a delight. Recess printing, the favored process for most series, has a certain charm not always shared by photogravure (exceptions include Singapore, and the vibrant South Africa Zoologicals). As a contribution to the Diamond Jubilee of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, a few items from first sets are featured this month. Figure 2 has not one, but two of the lovely 10/- of Rhodesia & Nyasaland, embellishing a Nyasaland Protectorate KGVI Stationery 4d Registered envelope. It would have been a bonus if the gorgeous £1 denomination had been used rather than 10/- x2, but it is probable that the smaller Post Office at Lilongwe didn't have the £1 available. My one-frame exhibit of this first QEII series won't be aired until I get that elusive £1. It should be emphasized here that this series, and most if not all other traditional QEII, is readily obtainable as a mint set, but the highest denominations on cover or other intact postal article generally really take some finding. The rate for the cover represents 1/3d ½oz. airmail to U.K. x16 + 4d registration fee. I encourage more collectors to consider a one-frame usage exhibit of their favourite QEII series. More suggestions in that regard follow.
Figure 3. Super franking, conveniently sits on standard album page!
I featured the British Solomon Is first QEII series as a usage suggestion in this column back in December 2004. Figure 3 anchored that article, and I repeat my comment "Seldom does one encounter the top denomination of a QEII first Pictorial series on commercial postal article, particularly not one of reasonably 'standard' dimensions." This intact parcel-wrapping of July 1959 likely contained a stock of the recently issued Booklets, for it is addressed to the leading Booklets collector, Dr Bill Mayo, then in U.S., now resident in Sydney. Do I hear "But isn't this a philatelic item?" Well, Philatelists are allowed to receive mail, and if one were posting a package of this weight to U.S., even to a non-philatelist, this is the precise and logical franking which would be applied to such package. The amazing aggregate of £4.2.10d represents 3/2d ½oz. airmail to U.S. x26 + 6d registration fee. With an S.G. catalogue value of £35 each (mint £32) the £1 is an uncommon used stamp. A decade or so ago a £1 on commercial cover (I've noted just three, two being packages to same addressee) would not have realized much more than the equivalent used stamp/s. That of course was in less informed days; nowadays Figure 3 would fetch a considerable premium (perhaps by a factor of ten or more) above four off-cover used stamps. Expect that premium to continue to rise, as more collectors take up the challenge of collecting such material, and learn that this stuff is seriously scarce, and infinitely more desirable than plain used.
Figures 4 and 5. Gilberts to London Missionary Society
The Gilbert & Ellice Is first QEII series is a lovely subject for a one-frame usage exhibit, albeit challenging. I've managed just two examples of usage of the 10/- denomination; only one of the 5/-! One of my 10/- is shown as Figure 4, in combination with the 3d of the series, registered at Betio 8 Oct 1962, from the London Missionary Society correspondence. I sold this cover to the late Dr Ed Druce about 20 years ago, and lamented the fact later, by which time I had commenced usage collecting, and came to realize just how rare are such items. Ed knew this fact, and I was delighted to buy it back in an auction of his material. It's not absolutely necessary to have the highest denomination present in a usage study, but given the opportunity I'll take it. The subject represents 3/3d ½oz. airmail to U.K. x3 + 6d registration fee.
I've included Figure 5, again from the L.M.S. correspondence, as it features solo use of the unusually denominated 3/7d from the 1964 1st Air Service trio. I remember when this odd denomination was issued, and was too philatelically immature to appreciate that it represented the airmail fee for a ½oz. letter to U.K., which by 1964 had risen to 3/7d. I note internet prices for this set at $2.00 mint, $2.50 used, $4.00 FDC. This commercial solo franking, the only example I've noted, is a quantum leap in terms of desirability in comparison.
Figure 6. Parcel to U.K. contained potpourri of collectables
Australia's earliest QEII definitive stamps arguably are not as striking in appearance as some of the contemporary issues of other Commonwealth countries. Nevertheless, they are interesting from a usage perspective. Figure 6 shows a nice usage of the first 5/- denomination issued during the Queen's reign, the fine Cattleman design. This 4 Aug 1964 franking on parcel-fragment is the White paper printing, a pair no less. The 1959-64 series, from which the 5/- is the highest denomination, is an excellent subject for a five to eight-frame usage exhibit, and this item is highly fitting to grace such an exhibit. The 5/- is quite scarce on commercial postal articles, the White paper printing particularly so, and this is the only multiple franking I've noted.
The "PARCEL POST" label was filled out at the P.O., cancelled by an older Parkdale datestamp (presumably used as its smaller dimensions better fitted the space available!), and then affixed to the parcel, together with the 5/- pair, which was cancelled by a more modern Parkdale cds. Looks a treat when written-up in Landscape format!
Figure 7. More than one way to skin this cat
Collectors of covers occasionally find, to their great pleasure, that they have more than one option available to them when assessing an item. So it is with Figure 7, where one could select inclusion in a South Africa 1954 Zoological series exhibit, where it would form a dramatic example of usage of the 6d, or similarly in a "Big cats" Thematic exhibit, or in an Aerophilately incidents exhibit for South Africa, Mauritius or Australia. (I have it in my exhibit for the last mentioned).
On 24 Aug 1960 a QANTAS Lockheed Super Constellation ("Southern Wave"), en route from S.A. to Australia crashed at Plaisance Airport, Mauritius. One mailbag of the original six was recovered, severely affected by fire, as will be noted. A PMG's Dept memo accompanied the article when delivered in Sydney. Survivors to Australia from this incident are rare; more so than The Australian Air Mail Catalogue "from $400" would suggest. A great example of when not to remove stamps from a cover.
Figure 8. Seemingly innocuous cover?
I've indicated my fondness for PNG as a usage subject on numerous occasions in this column. Unlike AAT, Christmas and Cocos Islands, Nauru, and Norfolk Is, commercial mail for this former Territory is reasonably available, although even for PNG usage of some issues take some finding. For example, in the £SD era I've yet to locate an example of commercial usage of the beautiful 1963 QEII £1 stamp. (Can any reader help?). It may surprise most that the 1/2d denomination of the 1964 Health Services is rare on commercial cover (the 8d is no slouch either!). I've seen only two examples of usage of the 1/2d, which is an average of one every 11.5 years of looking. On-line retail prices for the set at $1.00 mint, $1.70 used, and $2.20 FDC, provide no indication of what one is up against when seeking commercial usage, notably for the 8d and 1/2d. The value of Figure 8, which I've recently spotted on eBay, is modest indeed, belying its rarity, yet I find this a delight to include in my exhibit. The aggregate franking of 2/3d was for ½oz. airmail to Germany.
Figure 9. Incredibly expensive "Clipper" service delivered us many great covers
So concludes our tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, long may continue to reign. A brief ode now to the Queen's father, King George VI. I have but a relative handful of KGVI usage collections; it's just too hard to obtain examples of usage of many of the high denominations. Hong Kong is an exception, for which I have Figure 9 to thank for making that collection possible. This 16 Oct 1940 cover was sent by air via the Pan American Airways Clipper service to U.S. The high franking of $28 includes the first $5 and $10 (a pair), the key stamps for inclusion if one is to attempt a credible usage exhibit. The rate for this service was $3.50 per ½oz., so the article is an x8 multiple. Before the War ended it, the Imperial Airways "All-up" Empire Airmail Scheme allowed those in Hong Kong to send a letter by airmail to even distant parts of the Empire for just 15c per ½oz! The study of Clipper service rates is one of my favorite areas of Philately, delivering to us as the service did some of the highest franked items possible. The featured subject is further enhanced in that the mail service was delayed for three days at Guam, initially having left on 19 Oct 1940, only to have to return due to inclement weather.
Figure 10. For when one can't have a Plate Nº
Still on KGVI, amongst the more sought-after items for Australia specialists of this reign are the so-called Plate Nos. (these served another purpose: more on that next month). Collectors were in for a treat on 22 February, the day Millennium Auctions offered the Pericles collection of KGVI, with the largest offering of Plate Nos. since I sold the Hicks collection in the late 'nineties.
Figure 10 would be a worthy spacefiller for the absence of recorded Plate Nos. on the 1944 Wmkd. printing 2d bright purple (there are Plate Nos. recorded for the No wmk. printing). This is the only example I've seen of the generous 2d per ½oz. airmail rate available to R.A.F. Servicemen in Australia, when writing back home. (The rate to all others was 1/6d). Note the rectangular "MAIL OFFICE/R.A.F. MISSION/TO AUST./AND NEW ZLD./6 OCT 1947", and two-line "ON ACTIVE SERVICE/CONCESSIONARY AIR SERVICE" handstamps. The cover was actually postmarked at South Yarra. I love items such as this: consider comparable rarity to a Plate No., fraction of the price, real sociophilatelic significance.
I'll feature Australia KGVI rare usage next month, and include some comments on the Pericles results.
Figure 11. Mail burglars nowadays less likely to find "negotiables"
Difficult item, Figure 11, to allocate to a usage collection, despite it bearing a (largely obscured) KGV 1½d purple-brown (no variety visible in scant portion exposed), and probably unique adaptation of 1d carmine-rose Large Multiple wmk. selvedge (!) to facilitate repair of damage to article. The "Opened by/Burglars/P.O.Ballarat" (there is another strike on reverse) adequately explains the dilemma. The Ballarat Courier of 13 April 1920 reports how the window of a small room between the Postmaster's room and the mail room had been forced open, and "several hundred letters had been opened, and in many cases torn up." , in the pursuit of negotiables. The crime remained unsolved, so just how it was known that there was more than one perpetrator is unexplained.
This is the only example of a handstruck marking being employed for such an incident. So where does this item "fit" in an exhibit? It's a welcome addition to my Postal history exhibit: "N.Q.R.: Misadventures in the Australian Postal System".
Figure 12. Billy Blood Drop, perhaps not good philatelically, but good cause
Most readers will agree that Figure 12 is unlikely to be seen by many as "good", although it is an essential item if one collects pictorial postmarks, or a Theme embracing the subject matter. There was a time, during the Great Boom we had to have, when this item was being snapped-up at around $250. For those who weren't around in 1980, or were but can't remember, that indeed was what this item was worth, before a Poseidon proportioned crash a short time later rendered it next to worthless.
I wasn't in that area of the market in 1980; I was too busy selling other unrealistically valued material in my auction business. However, a couple of months ago, I sold on eBay what I believe to be the very first example of this item I've ever sold, at least as a standalone item. More than 30 years after it crashed to Earth, my lucky example realized $9.99, and that's US$!