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
PO Box 300
Diamond Creek Vic 3089 Australia
Tel: +61 3 (03)