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Stamp News  March 2013 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

 

New publication with multiple applications

 

With Philately largely on vacation during Australia's summer months, I confess to being a bit light on for ideas as I was about to pen this month's column. As luck would have it, on the final day for submission of copy, to my rescue came a parcel containing the latest edition of the two-volume Australian PictorMarks, now in convenient A4 page format.

This remarkable publication, dedicated to Australian Pictorial and Commemorative Postmarks, 1879-2012, comprises over 1200 pages, excluding introductory notes and an exhaustive subject index (over 14000 entries!). It is an incredible achievement for the tireless Editors, Colleen Woolley and Janet Eury. The graphics and layout are excellent; the faint "security" design page background I particularly like (easier on the eyes!), and the Table of Contents directs one to many interesting articles related to and beyond just the postmarks.

This publication has a place in the library of every collector interested in Australian postmarks, Thematic/Topical enthusiasts (there are many, many popular and less well known subjects featured, conveniently located in the index), and Trade members who prefer not to sell valuable postmarks for the price of the daily newspaper. What other field in Philately caters so well for such diverse interests, for sports lovers, as special postmarks for AFL (25 listings), Rugby (League - 4, Union - 6) and Soccer (6)!

Further details, including how to order the publication, are provided at conclusion of this article. Firstly, however, some examples of postmarks represented, and some comments on the collecting of commemorative/souvenir covers in general, which I hope readers may find worthy of consideration in their collecting pursuits.

 I'll start with some history! Australian PictorMarks was the brainchild of the late Clarrie Peck, to whom the Editors so appropriately dedicate the volumes. I first met Clarrie, in 1970, in my bedroom. I hasten to add, that was my first place of business, and Clarrie had earlier phoned to enquire had I managed to bring back from ANPEX 70 in Sydney any of the flavor-of-the-month Cook minisheets, overprinted by the ANPEX Committee. These were rationed at the Exhibition, but as a Stallholder I had received a modest allocation, one of which I was relieved of by Clarrie.

Many years later, when I was proprietor of Brusden-White Publishing (and by then not bedroom-based), the publisher of the ACSC series, I unsuccessfully attempted to buy Clarrie's publication; I was keen to expand its scope. Colleen and Janet clearly were better at negotiating and, besides, they have delivered a finer product than I could ever have hoped to emulate.

         
                          Figure 1. The first commem postmark dedicated to Philately

The commemorative postmarks listed in Australian PictorMarks to about 1920 are generally quite rare and/or highly priced (e.g. the 1920 First Aerial Mail ("Ross Smith") at $5000 is not rare, just in demand). The earliest commemorative postmark relating to Philately, the 1905 Golden Jubilee of 5d NSW stamp ("Diadem") is not particularly scarce, and postcards can often be found for less than the catalogued $200. Figure 1 is my somewhat less usual example, being an "Executive Committee" edition of The Sydney Philatelic Club postcard, signed by President (A.F. Basset Hull) and Hon Sec (J.H. Smyth), leading Philatelists of the day, addressed to Hon Sec of the Philatelic Society of N.Z.

            
Figure 2. Exercise in futility: commercial use of all 52 Olympic Games commem postmarks

Most collectors of commem postmarks, sensibly, seek them on covers produced specifically for the purpose. Such covers need not have been sent through the post; indeed, the vast majority of collectors prefer them that way. I'm one of the few odd ones out, in that regard: I go out of my way to find commem postmarks used postally on cover/card.

I appear to share that preference with Gary Watson who, on 22 February 2013, placed his personal collection of 1956 Olympic Games commem postmarks, commercially used, for auction at Prestige. Gary had 36 covers/cards, acquired "at the rate of about one per annum!" With Australian PictorMarks comment: "In all periods, commercial or official covers are much scarcer than philatelic items. They should command high premiums but most collectors prefer philatelic covers", I'm sure we would be in agreement.

Figure 2 is one of the handful of Olympic commercial items I have bearing a commem postmark (cyclist and runner), to add to the three 1/- airmail postcard rate items offered at Prestige. Even the Watson and Perry commercial collections of these postmarks combined would fall somewhat short of the 52 in the series.

            
     Figure 3. Unclaimed mail bearing commem postmarks likely to be a slim collection

Another of my few commercially used commem postmark covers was an initiative for the 1975 Fifth International Conference on Atomic Spectroscopy (try saying that in a hurry). Suitable individuals were sent details of the five-day event; sadly Assoc Prof C.M. Harris, intended recipient of Figure 3, was deceased by the time the cover arrived at University of N.S.W.; it was returned to sender. An item of multiple philatelic appeal was thus created: (a) commercial use of the postmark, (b) exhibition item for Thematic/Topical collection of the subject, (c) scarce solo use of the 11c stamp (non-standard article up to 50gms), and (d) unusual and attractive use of green ink for "unclaimed" marking. A specialist would seek to obtain this postmark used on each of the five days it was current.

       
         Figure 4. Pictorial and Commem postmarks just the tip of this philatelic iceberg

Australian PictorMarks provides details of the types of covers one may encounter when sourcing this type of material. There often was a dedicated inscribed/illustrated cover (sometimes plural), usually referred to as the "official" cover (such as that featured under Figure 3), and various types often appear in the catalogue, suitably priced, along with registered versions (some are very sought-after, and priced accordingly), together with date ranges a given postmark was in use (First day is usually priced highest, but specialists will appreciate it is the other days which can take some finding).

One of my many sideline collections is of commercial use of covers produced to commemorate a given event. Often such covers did not receive a special postmark, but arguably have a place in a commem/souvenir cover collection. The earliest I have is shown as Figure 4, produced by Victoria stamped-to-order in 1881 for a Melbourne Town Hall event, inscribed "Ye Olde Englishe Fayre". A delightful item.

    
                Figure 5. Dedicated slogan postmark/commem covers also welcome

Figure 5 could also find a place in a collection embracing the commemorating of events. On this occasion, a commem slogan cancel has been employed. Colleen and Janet might have a unique response to a request that they produce a catalogue for commem slogan postmarks! However, such material is highly collectable, and rightfully many collectors of hand-held commem postmarks incorporate these in their collections. This type of material is often scarce, yet can be bought for very modest sums. The same, of course, can be said for so many of the items catalogued in Australian PictorMarks.

        
                  Figures 6, 7, 8. Provincial town celebrations and commemorations

Just three more of the myriad types of commercially used special event covers one can encounter (sans commem postmark), are shown in Figures 6, 7 and 8. Such material, when found, can usually be obtained very affordably, and can add welcome diversity to a collection which otherwise may consist largely of philatelic covers.

Appetite whetted? Why not then embark upon a challenge beyond the Traditional? Here are contact details for this highly recommended publication . . . go on:

Colleen A. Woolley OAM JP
Australian PictorMarks
PO Box 300
Diamond Creek Vic 3089 Australia

www.ozpictormarks.com

Tel: +61 3 (03) 9438 5137

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.