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Stamp News  May  2011 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

 

A Tale of Two Collections

 

Last month I concluded by stating for this month "I'll provide an overview of the Lord Cornwallis auction of Australian Commonwealth stamps, containing an interesting cover or two, due to have taken place on March 17." The sale, by Grosvenor Philatelic Auctions, duly took place, but when I penned those words I hadn't studied the catalogue. I knew his late Lordship had recently purchased the great £2 Kangaroo cover (Figure 3), formally in the Arthur Gray collection, and I was hoping that such a distinguished, elderly collector might have had other important covers, perhaps some I hadn't previously seen. Sadly, upon studying the catalogue, it transpired that this was not to be. Albeit a reasonably valuable collection, it was no more, no less than another in the never-ending stream of traditional attempts at Kangaroos/KGVI, largely mint, with barely a handful of covers (and one tag) to delight this columnist. It appears his Lordship had developed a taste for covers only at the conclusion of his life.

That absence of sufficient, suitable material for comment left me with the dilemma of how to gainfully "fill" this month's column. Fortunately, I've been rescued by an unlikely event. Two days after the Cornwallis auction, that venerable German auction house, Heinrich Köhler, more usually associated with 19th century classics, offered a 20th century cover collection, in itself a "classic". The Peter Koegel collection of postwar Berlin, a study of usage of the stamps and related stationery issues of the decade or so following the war, mostly commercial usages, offered in two parts (the first was September 2010). This may not appear a particularly exciting subject to some, but Köhler was able to mould this collection in to no less than 914 individual lots: and that from an acclaimed international auction house.

Most refreshing to see recognition of "modern" usage on such on grand scale. Most of the stamps of the subject era are readily available mint or used (off cover). Few in price would break even a modest philatelic budget. However, Germany is probably the philatelic world's superpower in the study and collecting of 20th century Usage. The Germans have long been at the forefront in recognition that there is more to Philately than filling gaps with mint/used stamps. Michel's superb Germany Usage catalogue, where every stamp is priced on commercial cover (and sometimes other postal articles) as a (i) solo franking, (ii) double franking, and (iii) mixed franking, with another stamp issue/s, has fostered an extremely buoyant market for usage material. And Koegel raised the bar in usage study to an impressive level. Now, some comment on items from the respective Cornwallis (Figures 1-3) and Koegel (Figures 4-11) collections. Kind acknowledgement is provided to the Grosvenor and Köhler auction firms for use of their on-line scans. Realisations exclude buyer's premiums; conversions are approximate at £ = AU$1.65 and € = AU$1.40

       
        Figure 1. 5d Kangaroo covers seldom seen this atractive, and such good value

5d Kangaroo covers seldom seen this attractive, and such good value 5d Kangaroo covers are scarce, and attractive registered items, such as Figure 1, are rare. Used 29 Oct 1913 from Norwood to Belgium, this registered mourning cover sold for £550 (say $910). A very sound buy; I'd have thought $1500/2000 was closer to the mark for this highly exhibitable item.

                
      Figure 2. The perfect manner in which to collect your Kangaroo high value "set"

The 5/- and above denominations of Kangaroos are more usually found on parcel tags than covers. Either way they are very scarce to extremely rare items. The Gray sale contained no less than two tags bearing a "set" of CofA wmk 5/- to £2; both sold for US$2500, or AU$3380 approx. Figure 2 was a similar although different item in Cornwallis. Despite a corner fault in the £1, it realised £2600 ($4290). The Gray sale was an opportunity lost for most cover/entire collectors.

   
                                 Figure 3. A philatelic aristocrat, for an Aristocrat

Rather fitting that Lord Cornwallis came to own one of the aristocrats of Australian Philately, Figure 3, albeit for a preciously short time. In the Gray sale this item realised US$13500, then approximately AU$18270 (remember, buyer's premium exclusive). The buyer was leading Australian Trader, Richard Juzwin, who, with a fair degree of courage, bought it for stock. I wasn't aware that Richard was the buyer when I penned for this column, a few days after the Gray sale, the following comment regarding this item: "A good result, to be sure, but an item such as this has a very bright future, and the buyer may rest assured that time will vindicate his courage in securing this great showpiece." Richard subsequently sold the cover to his Lordship for $35000. It realised £14000 (estimate was £9000/10000), or AU$23100, a useful improvement on the Gray result, over four years earlier. Trust me, very few ex-Gray Kangaroo lots subsequently have or would sell for more than they fetched in that sale. Many have sold for much less. Arthur was never going to sell his beloved collection at any time other than his perceived absolute market pinnacle. Nor should he, and subsequent history has proven his judgement a philatelic masterstroke. Any "bargains" in Gray were almost exclusively restricted to the small number of covers/tags present, the market for which has powered along in the duration. Incidentally, the Cornwallis 6d Second wmk. inverted, for which $46500 was paid, a record for an Australian variety of that kind, realised £19000 ($31350). I had expected the estate would take a complete hiding on this item, which surely is a contender for the least attractive expensive stamp of Australia (no place for a scan in this column, it shall be noted). I was wrong. The lure of "completeness on SG catalogue basis" is a phenomenon lost on me, in perpetuity.

We move on now to that other collection, the Peter Koegel collection of purely covers and other intact postal articles of Berlin. I've selected eight items from the 1949 West Berlin Views definitive series. This included the then highest denomination stamps, with which I can make slightly tenuous comparisons with the current Australian definitives, which included our highest denomination stamps, the Arms series. Indeed, most industrialised countries have a comparable, contemporary definitive series. Also, I have a Usage collection of the West Berlin series, mostly to Australia/N.Z., which I'll regard more highly after studying the Koegel auction results! I appreciate that the German stamps may have limited appeal for some readers, but please bear with me. The concept of this type of collecting has global applications, as I'll allude to later.

          
           Figure 4. Solo frankings usually most readily understood in Usage stakes

The 5pf stamp was the approximate philatelic equivalent of Australia's 1d stamp, which in 1949 was the 1d Princess. Figure 4 has a 5pf solo, representing the "airmail postage fee on a postal matters otherwise open-letter" (English translation from catalogue). I won't attempt to establish Australia's comparative postal equivalent for this service, or the others presented below; there may not be an Australian equivalent (and besides, if I make an attempt I'll probably get it wrong). The German postal system by 1949 had evolved from an ancient service, once administered for centuries by the Old German States, and doubtless some quaint services still lingered from those times. I'm sure that to German specialists these usages will be readily understood, and of course much may be lost in the catalogue description translation. The subject item, from 1957, realised €750 ($1050). One cannot imagine an Australian 1d solo franking of that era realising more than a few percent of that sum. This item was offered with an Expert Certificate, which is a measure of just how seriously the Germans take their Usage. Australia collectors seldom demand certificates for highly contentious stamp items priced at thousands, to tens of thousands of Dollars.

            
                                   Figure 5. "Postzeitungsgut" package usage

Figure 5 is a 1955 use of 30pf "as correctly stamped single to support part of a complete Postzeitungsgut package for 21 newspapers" (to quote translated version of catalogue description). The realisation was €720 ($1010 approx.). Remember, most of the stamps from this series used off entire are of little or virtually no commercial value.

              
            Figure 6. Mixed frankings for "corporate air mail" uprate sought-after

Mixed frankings featured widely in Koegel, and many, such as Figure 6, realised surprising sums. This 50pf and 5pf combo, for 1949 correctly stamped postage uprate for "corporate air mail" went for €700 ($980).

             
     Figure 7. More mixed frankings, for "Application for withdrawal of a mission"

Still on mixed frankings, Figure 6, the 60pf and 10pf used in 1952 on "Application for withdrawal of a mission" form (1934 printing), made €1350 ($1890), against an estimate of €500. The catalogue description refers to use of this printing form after 1945 being rare, suggesting postal ephemera may have played a significant role in the result for this lot.

             
                               Figure 8. Solo franking again, and clearly elusive

2Dm was the approximate philatelic equivalent of 4/-, and a solo franking of any kind is uncommon. Figure 8 in the English translation was described as "a correctly stamped single on registered special delivery letter of the 2nd-weight category", used in 1950. It fetched €1300 ($1820); estimate €250. The Australia 5/- Arms, a reasonable contemporary comparison, is rare as a solo franking. It's not likely, however, that one of those is going to realise that sort of money, at least not any time soon.

                 
                  Figure 9. Double frankings, yet another passion of the Germans

Michel, as I mentioned above, has a dedicated price column for double frankings of most given stamp issues. That has ensured a ready market for such material. Figure 9 is such a beast for the 3Dm, second highest denomination (and catalogue value) to the 5Dm in the 1949 original series, described "courier return form-letter up to 45gr with a declared value 10.000 Dm . . . known in this form, only a few items". Akin to our Compensation scheme one imagines. Clearly a special item, it realised (against an estimate of €800) €2100 ($2940). A significant sum for a 1958 usage item. Australia has many contemporary usage items of similar rarity. Relatively, most sell for a song.

             
                                             Figure 10. "10/- Arms" usage item

The "top value" of the series, the 5Dm, is roughly comparable to a 10/- Arms. The latter is an uncommon stamp on entires, so no surprise that it's West Berlin philatelic equivalent is not going to come cheap in usage form. Figure 10 has the 5Dm and 60pf used in 1950 "as a fee for a "Silent insurance" back to a postal delivery certificate for a sealed-value package with a declared value "DM 500" . . . certainly a sign of the rare uses of the 5Dm.". Phew. No wonder an Expert Certificate accompanied this lot. Realisation was €1150 ($1610). Forgive me if I find this form of pursuit in Philately more stimulating than, say, the debate over gum on mint stamps being "original" or "aboriginal".

                
                                         Figure 11. Nice item, despite avulsion

A 70pf (and 7pf) denomination for this series appeared later, in 1954. Interestingly, the 70pf is the most highly catalogued used stamp of the series. On postal entire it also appears to be one of the most elusive. Figure 11 is described as "on rare postage report of the postal office "message for card number or money order fee" for a number of unstamped card form, at the top left a small avulsion . . . rare use!". Now, "avulsion" is not in my trusty, 1960s "High School" dictionary, now domiciled in my office, so of course I reverted to the internet. Google provided, and I'd like to share this with you for fear there might be readers who, like me, are wanting: "Avulsion in general refers to a tearing away. Specifically, it can refer to a form of amputation where the extremity is pulled off rather than cut off." Ouch. Doubtless, this term is destined to become frequently utilised in auction catalogue descriptions beyond Germany. A 1956 use, it fetched €640 (near enough to $1000) despite €200 estimate.

A number of interesting comparisons between Cornwallis and Koegel emerge, for me at least, and I hope for some broadminded readers. Lord Cornwallis, who passed away at a reasonably grand age of 89, doubtless derived great pleasure from his Philately. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, he was of a traditional background in his approach. The "if it's in the catalogue (per se), perhaps I should have it" approach. The traditional "completeness on SG catalogue [or ACSC] basis", referred to above. That mindset was certainly the way to "go", particularly in the 1970s. It is now the 2010s, and the GFC has visited upon us; in Philately "traditional" the most impacted. Perhaps, like hairstyles, that traditional approach will again have it's day. We'll see.

Uncharitably, perhaps, I found Cornwallis a less than inspiring collection: it's all been done before, often better. Koegel, on the other hand, was a collection of the present, and future, as I see it, and the results suggest I'm not alone. The model adopted for that collection can be applied to a 20th century Usage collection for most industrialised countries. Think about how the model might be applied to your favourite collecting country. Of the thousands of suggestions one could provide for such endeavour, I'll provide just half a dozen, contemporary foreign countries definitive series', which I like as subjects for this exercise: Austria 1948 Provincial Costumes, China 1946 C.N.C. surcharges, Denmark 1946 Arms (every colour in your Derwent pencil set), Germany Allied Occupation 1948 Architecture (great "sister" set for the West Berlin series featured), Italy 1950 Provincial Occupations, and Japan 1952 including the Airs.

Köhler, in featuring this collection in the manner in which they did, emboldens my passion for Usage. I see it as an attestation to the expanding popularity of 20th century usage, and a vision of things to come, globally. Would the country which gave us AUDI, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Porsche get it wrong? I don't think so. Collecting stamps used off cover never seemed more pedestrian.

 

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.