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Stamp News    November  2007

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Navigating Australia's First Decimal Series

In the August issue I mentioned that Australia's 1966 Decimals are one of my favourite issues for a study of stamp usage. Further, I promised to eventually feature the series in this column. Well, there is no time like the present. There are, however, too many individual stamps for one month, so I'll conveniently group the series in to three sections; (1) QEII portraits (including coils) and the "Fish", (2) the "Birds", and everyone's favourite, (3) the handsome "Navigators", which we'll commence with this month. The other two "groups" will follow in future months.

These stamps were issued when a Dollar was a Dollar. It took quite heavy parcels, and multiple steps of overseas airmail rates to initiate the use of the $1 to $4 Navigators, in particular. There was quite limited postal demand for these stamps until the early 1970s, when inflation began to escalate. From 1971 to 1974 (by which time the series was replaced) rising postal rates facilitated greater use of the 50c, 75c and $1 for Special Services charges, such as Registration and Messenger/Express Delivery. The $2 and $4 remained largely for parcel rate charges throughout their period of issue. Accordingly, these two denominations are quite scarce on postal articles of any kind.

Here now is an introduction to various types of usage of the six Decimal "Navigator" stamps, and suggested valuations for the selected subjects. I'll provide the popular Tables when the entire 1966 series is concluded. I need more time to find Navigator usage material! Scans of unusual usage items always welcome (at

40c Abel Tasman

            Figure 1. One of many reasons why I love the Lawson correspondence

Solo frankings of the 40c are found for a number of usage purposes. The most often encountered solo use, thanks to a resident Philatelist with a firm of lawyers in Launceston, is on Demand letters paying Registration (25c) and "A.R." (15c) charges. The latter postal service (Avis de Réception) required the recipient to acknowledge delivery, but as the addressee's had left address this service could not be completed, and the articles were returned to the lawyers' office. Around 45% of the total number of 40c covers in my census owe their existence to that source. Figure 1 is another, much rarer solo use. From the Lawson correspondence, a Trading firm in the Solomon Islands, this 19 Dec 1969 use from Cairns pays Zone 2 (which included South Pacific) airmail (15c) plus registration fee (25c). The Lawson correspondence of 1950s-1960s has provided Philately with a wonderful supply of PNG/Solomons-related covers, which mercifully were kept intact. Value : $80.00 (off cover 25c).

Figure 2. Postal service beyond belief, and cost-effective

Unusual usages of given stamps are keenly sought-after, particularly by those who like to share their material with others, such as via the medium of exhibiting. A rather nice usage of a 40c is shown in Figure 2, where together with a QEII 5c we have a 4 Nov 1969 use from Market Street (Melbourne) to New York. The aggregate 45c postage paid Zone 4 airmail (25c) plus Special Delivery fee (20c). This was good value indeed, for the article is backstamped at New York 5 November, the next day! International Special Delivery was the same price as the national fee for that service in those days. It became far more expensive in later years; Australia Post was not about to continue such excellent service so economically! Value : $40 (stamps off cover 30c).

50c William Dampier

Figure 3. 7c arguably harder to find on cover than the 50c

Solo usage of the 50c is uncommonly found for 2nd weight step for both Zones 5 and 4 airmail, when the ½oz. rate for each was 25c. Fully 85% of the total 50c covers in my census, however, have the 50c paying the registration fee (which increased from 30c to 50c 1 Oct 1971) during the 7c letter rate era. Figure 3 is one such, an 18 Oct 1971 use from Albury to Melbourne, rather nice in that it has the 7c Australia-Asia stamp, itself uncommon on cover, paying letter rate. Value : $18 (stamps off cover 55c).

Figure 4. Mr Hanna receives a souvenir from Australia

Again under the "unusual usage" banner, Figure 4 is a desirable 50c usage item, a parcel-wrapping from Melbourne sent 11 Feb 1971 by registered airmail to N.Z. The article originally contained a cut opal (detailed on Customs label on reverse), and Customs Duty on the declared value of $12 has been duly paid at Auckland, evidenced by the Customs Branch label affixed. The total postage of 54c paid second class airmail (24c being 8c per ½oz. x3) plus registration fee (30c). An attractive and scarce item for a usage collection. Value : $40 (stamps off cover 30c).

75c James Cook

Figure 5. 75c Cook somewhat more readily available on cover than it's predecessor

Solo frankings of the 75c are very occasionally met with paying Messenger Delivery service, and for 3rd weight step Zone 4 airmail (25c per ½oz. x3). Figure 5 is an example of the former, a 21 Jan 1975 use from Hornsby to Sydney utilising Messenger Delivery service (65c) plus regular postage (10c), to facilitate fastest possible delivery. The 75c was reprinted in November 1973 to cater for increased usage following the escalation to 75c in the registration fee. Value : $100 (off cover $1). Those who search high and low for rare usage items will be only too aware of just how rare is the 7/6d Cook on any type of postal article. I've seen just two such items, and I've been searching since 1964!

Figure 6. Equally at home in usage section of Navigators or Australia-Asia issues

Colourful items are always welcome in a usage collection, although they are seldom available for scarcer stamps "on cover". Figure 6 is a pleasant exception, and an exhibitor would have the luxury of incorporating such an item under 75c Cook, $1 Flinders, or even the Australia-Asia series, which themselves are not easy-to-find on postal articles. This 8 Feb 1971 use of a parcel label from South Melbourne to Ireland comprises an aggregate $2.25 franking, which was for Zone 5 Other Articles airmail rate for 8-10oz. item (45c per 2oz. x5). The postal rate could have accommodated the $2 Bass, however, in practice, many Post Offices did not maintain stock of the $2 and $4 denominations, so limited was demand. Value : $120 (stamps off "cover" $3.25).

                                                       Figure 7.
1975: Inflation bites  

Another item where one has a choice of which stamp takes precedence in an exhibit is shown as Figure 7. We'll include it under the "75c" as this proved the scarcer of the respective stamps in my recent census (75c: 31 vs $1: 40 postal articles). This 2 Jan 1975 cover bearing 75c and $1 was sent Sydney to North Adelaide, the very high aggregate postage of $1.75 representing letter rate (10c) + registration fee ($1 from 1 Oct 1974) + Messenger Delivery service (65c). An article which clearly needed to be there safely and in a hurry, and it was, being delivered overnight. Value : $80 (stamps off cover $1.25).

$1 Matthew Flinders

                          Figure 8.
Postage to Germany 35c? Why not make it $1.25.

The sender of Figure 8 (as in Figure 7) also had a need for speed of delivery. Airmail to Germany (Zone 5) was 35c per ½oz. On this occasion, a mailing from Caulfield (Vic) on 21 Dec 1972, the basic airmail charge was increased by Registration (50c) and Overseas Express Delivery (40c), making for a rather expensive aggregate $1.25. Articles sent by the Express service are uncommon and desirable; this took only two days to reach Germany. Value : $60 (stamps off cover 65c). Solo frankings of the $1 are scarce.

                           Figure 9.
Significant item bearing scarcer perforation of $1

In discussions with usage aficionados, the subject often arises "have I seen the scarcer perforation (14.75 x 14) of the $1 commercially used on postal articles". The answer is I've seen but two usage items, one shown as Figure 9. ACSC Decimals I gives date of issue of the perforation change as "Late 1973. Earliest recorded postmark dates are in September". Our subject was registered at G.P.O. Melbourne on 27 Jun 1973, destined for U.K. The date of sending is confirmed by two separate types of datestamp on reverse. This is some three months prior to previously recorded earliest date of use, and it is unlikely that the sender, the stamp dealer Lionel Evans, was remotely aware that he had affixed a changed perforation $1, for it remained an unrecognised variety until 1976!

Lionel gave me my first chance at Bigtime Philately in the 1960s, so this is a doubly poignant item for me. The postage rate of $1.20 represents 2nd weight step for Zone 5 airmail (35c per ½oz. x2 = 70c) plus registration fee (50c). I valued this perforation of the $1 on commercial cover at $200 when I did the pricing for Decimals I back in 2002. I'm more bullish nowadays. Value : $350 (stamps off cover $23.50).

$2 George Bass

              Figure 10.
Spectacular items such as this have a very, very bright future

In a visual hobby such as Philately, items like Figure 10 are abundantly endowed with that "wow" factor. I'm but one of the steadily growing band of enthusiasts who bestow far greater merit on such items, for visual impact, than can be given for aspects such as the current fixation with the reverse side of a stamp, or geometrically perfect centring for the obverse, which so mesmerises some.

Although reduced from its original dimensions, we have enough information to deduce all that we need to know to analyse this item. It left Kings Cross on 21 Mar 1974 for U.S.A., franked at $21.25, which represented 85 times the Zone 4 25c 10gm airmail rate! The blue crayon "X" indicates that full letter rate had been paid, rather than the concessionary printed matter or commercial papers rates. The conveniently inscribed "LETTER POST" upper left provides further confirmation of the rate paid. The $2 is very scarce on any type of postal article, and one would be hard pressed to find a better example of usage of that stamp than that provided in Figure 10. What's it worth? Well, until such items begin to appear in public auctions we can only guess. Let's say $300 for now. That's what I would willingly pay, and I'll take a hundred at that price, thank you.

$4 Phillip Parker King

   Figure 11
. With really scarce stamps such as the $4 one takes what one can get

The $4 is a very, very scarce stamp on any type of intact postal article. It took many years of searching for me to find the first example. Figure 11 is not an optimum example of usage, but you wouldn't knock it back! A combination franking with the $1, affixed to an unaddressed parcel tag, it left Kingsford 20 Feb 1974. It is most likely to have been affixed to an overseas airmail parcel, my best guess is one to a Zone 1 destination (N.Z. and PNG), to where a 10kg article would cost precisely $5. We'll never know for sure, but as I have recorded to date but four examples of usage of the $4, I would gratefully include this item in a usage collection. Value : $150 (stamps off "cover" $4.25).

Figure 12
. Yet another example of why non-standard covers are essential in Philately

In December 1972, when Figure 12 took to the air destined for Switzerland, one required a rather heavy envelope to initiate the use of the $4 stamp. To U.K./Europe the weight needed to be a minimum 5½-6ozs., and to U.S.A. 6½-7ozs. Standard-sized envelopes cannot bear such weight, so don't expect to find one bearing a $4. Aside from parcel tags/labels, the $4 is likely to come on a non-standard (read "big") envelope. If you want the $1 and $2 to accompany your $4, as in Figure 12, you need an envelope weighing 9½-10ozs. (Zone 5 airmail 35c per ½oz. x20 = $7). Value : $400 (stamps off cover $5.50).

I would be very interested to receive scans of intact usage items bearing the $2 and $4 (send to Uses as late as 1975 are valid for analysis. Don't confuse out-of-period use, such as that on packets received yesterday and today from your favourite Philatelic Trader/Auction House. They do not qualify for the research undertaken for this column.

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.