Stamp News November 2009
The KGVI 1938-55 Pictorial series of Fiji was an early usage subject in this column. The series was featured in March 2005, at which time I commented the 10/- and £1 on commercial postal articles had eluded me. Chris Rainey, the imminent British Empire Postal History dealer informed me, likewise, that he had not seen denominations higher than the 5/-, and he has been a specialist in the field for longer than I. During the past four years, however, I've been able to unearth two usage items for each of the 10/- and £1, which provides an excuse to revisit this attractive series, which I've been fond of since I was a kid in the 'fifties.
Space won't permit me to feature every stamp in the set, but the selection provided ought to be adequate to confirm that this is indeed a handsome series, and a very worthy subject for a usage study. This is but one of many fine series', within British Empire KGVI and QEII issues, for which attractive usage studies can be assembled. The same can be said for Pictorial series' for any number of Foreign countries, and I'm encouraged to see more and more philatelists taking up usage challenges, often sharing their enthusiasm by exhibiting their endeavors.
Figure 1. ½d Native sailing canoe solo
I've now seen every denomination, colour and perforation change, and Die variation listed by S.G., and even some of the listed varieties (!) on commercial postal items. Along with the said 10/- and £1, I found the little ½d perf 14 to be one of the most elusive of the entire listing. Figure 1 is that stamp, fortuitously a solo franking, sent 30 Sep 1941 from Savu Savu East to N.Z. ½d was for the Printed papers rate. I've seen very few ½d solo frankings; most unsealed envelopes, which originally contained Christmas cards. This is the only perf 14 solo I've noted. Value : $100 (off cover $3.50 - calling SG catalogue value a Dollar for a Pound, which is probably a fair retail price).
Figure 2. 1½d Die I ("No man in canoe")
The 1½d Die I as a solo franking is usually met with on postcards, sent "home" by visiting tourists on island cruises. Figure 2 is a little more unusual in being a pair, paying 3d Foreign letter rate (for which of course the 3d denomination is commonly utilized), sent 24 Feb 1941 Suva to U.S. Value : $35 (off cover 70c).
Figure 3. 2d Map of Fiji islands Die II, and the 2½d Surcharge
The 2d Die II is another difficult stamp to find on commercial postal article. The stamp had been in use for but a few months before a rate increase from 2d to 2½d for British Empire rate rendered it little more than a make-up value. Most were surcharged to reflect the rate rise. Figure 3 is an excellent usage item, bearing the 2d as a component in the make-up of a 1/10½d franking, including the surcharged stamp x7 (one is on reverse, together with a 3d). Sent 23 Oct 1941 from Suva to Honolulu by surface (3d), and Honolulu to S.F. by air (1/7½d). An unusual combination of sea and air, sent only weeks before the first Transpacific air mail service commenced; equally at home in a Postal History collection. Value : $150 (stamps off cover $20.85).
Figure 4. 2d Government Offices nice solo
Usage aficionados love rare solo frankings, and Figure 4 is a great example of the genre. This 9 Dec 1953 solo use of 2d Govt Offices, from Govt Building Suva, is for the unsealed Foreign printed papers rate (2d 1st 2ozs.), and probably contained a Christmas card. Value : $100 (off cover 70c).
Figure 5. 3d Canoe and Arms of Fiji
Another pursuit for a usage collection is to include items which are anything but pedestrian in nature. For example, the 3d value is common as a solo franking for the Foreign letter rate. Only if space is ample, particularly when exhibiting, would one bother to include an example of such usage. Better to opt for a more unusual usage, such as Figure 5, where the 3d x4 have been mustered to pay the 1/- Airmail postcard rate to U.S. An 11 May 1956 use from Suva, logically one would have expected a solitary 1/- stamp to have been available for the purpose. Note also the late use of a KGVI reign issue; a QEII 3d did not issue until 1 Oct 1956. Value : $50 (off cover $1.20).
Figure 6. 5d "Blue cane"
A "glamour" stamp when I was a kid, the 5d "blue" sugar cane is nowadays a little passé, mint or used off cover, that is. Commercially used on postal articles, however, it is elusive, and sought after. Figure 6 is another of those items which are suited to either of a Usage or Postal History collection. A 7 Sep 1939 use from Lautoka to India, the 5d pair + 3d pair + 1d paid the 1/5d Airmail rate to India. That rate had been introduced just the day prior, increasing from the "all-up" scheme airmail rate of a mere 2d! The declaration of war against Germany, by France and Britain, four days before our subject left Lautoka, had seen to the suspension of the cheap airmail service. The 1/5d denomination in this series was issued 13 Jun 1940 to service this rate, and airmail to various other countries. Value : $200 (stamps off cover $22.80).
Figure 7. 6d Map of Fiji islands Die I solo
Another elusive stamp on postal articles, the 6d Die I is particularly scarce as a solo franking. Figure 7 is a solo use of 17 Jun 1938 Suva to U.S., representing Foreign letter rate (3d) + registration fee (3d). Value : $150 (off cover $24).
Figure 8. 1/- Spearing fish by torchlight
Not a sport to try at home, particularly not if home is tropical Australia, the 1/- stamp design nonetheless is striking. The solo usage of 26 Dec 1947, shown as Figure 8, is uncommon, Airmail postcard rate to Switzerland, from Suva as usual. Value : $60 (off cover 70c).
Figure 9. 1/5d Arms of Fiji
The unusual 1/5d denomination might be expected to be little used, but the S.G. catalogue value of 10p (!) suggests otherwise. It is not uncommon on cover, although multiple frankings do not abound. One occasionally sees the 1/5d x2 for the 2/10d ½oz. Airmail rate to North America, such as in Figure 9, an 8 Jan 1947 use of a pair from Suva to Canada. Value : $75 (off cover 20c).
Figure 10. 1/6d Arms of Fiji
The perf 13 printing of the 1/6d was issued 16 Feb 1955, well in to the reign of QEII, for whom a 1/6d denomination did not appear until 1 Oct 1956. This late KGVI stamp saw limited use, evidenced by the S.G. catalogue values of £1.25 mint, in comparison with £15 used. Unsurprisingly, I've found it to be rather scarce on commercial postal articles. Figure 10 is one of the best I've seen, a 6 Mar 1956 use of 1/6d x2 + 3d, Suva to Germany, representing ½oz. Airmail rate (2/9d) + registration fee (6d). The circular handstamped "AV/2" is a very scarce marking relating to articles for overseas airmail transmission. Value : $250 (stamps off cover $30.30).
Figure 11. 2/- Suva Harbour "abnormal" solo use
One encounters more than the odd franking error emanating from Fiji, particularly from the smaller Post Offices. I've noted three solo uses of the 2/- for the ½oz. Airmail rate to U.S., which rate was actually 2/6d at the time. The rate to U.K. at that time was 2/-, which appears to have been the basis for the three errors mentioned. Figure 11 is one, a 12 May 1951 use Lautoka to U.S. As a term for an underpaid solo franking, I would like to propose "abnormal solo". Will it catch on? Such items are eminently collectable. Value : $50 (off cover 40c).
Figure 12. 2/6d River scene solo
Rather expensive in 1953 to send a letter by airmail from Fiji to North America. 2/6d sterling, or 3/1½d Australian, compared with 2/- from Australia, was a considerable difference, particularly as Fiji is that much closer to the destination! This 21 Feb 1953 item, Figure 12, from Suva to Canada, has the stamp tied by the pro-tourism "HAPPY HOLIDAYS IN FIJI / PARADISE OF THE PACIFIC" slogan cancel. Value : $50 (off cover $1.50).
Figure 13. 5/- Chief's hut solo
One doesn't see even a handful of 5/- solo frankings; I've noted four only. As for Figure 13, they are all double airmail rate to North America. This Mission cover of 7 Aug 1953 went from Suva to U.S. Value : $80 (off cover $1.75).
Figure 14. 10/- Paw-paw tree solo
A rare item, indeed, Figure 14 has the 10/- paying quadruple the airmail rate to U.K. (2/6d per ½oz.). Sent from Navua, the article was registered, for which the fee was 6d. Either that sum was paid in cash, or was inadvertently overlooked. As mentioned under Figure 11, Post Office personnel in Fiji didn't always get it right. A QEII 10/- had issued 1 July 1954, more than three months earlier, but apparently Navua had residual stock of the KGVI stamp, which is unsurprising; demand for the highest denominations was small. Value : $750 (off cover $40).
Figure 15. £1 Police bugler solo A usage collection of the ½d to 5/- denominations of this series is achievable, given time and dedication. Good fortune, however, is what one needs in abundance to find the 10/- and £1 on any form of commercial postal article. As mentioned, I've seen just two of each denomination, and that's in 20 years of enthusiastic searching. Figure 15 turned up in N.Z., to where it had been sent, nearly 60 years before it came to my attention. Used from Nadi Airport 8 May 1950, less than two months after the stamp was issued, the package to which the address label was affixed originally contained photographs. The rate is 20 times the 1/- ½oz. Airmail rate to N.Z. via Australia. Therefore, the package weighed between 9½ and 10ozs. Value : $1500 (off cover $50). Items such as this, even at my suggested valuation, are very cheap, considering their philatelic importance in an exhibition collection. Every auction contains many, many items which sell for far greater sums, yet have relatively little or no importance, if they were to be exhibited. Items such as Figure 15 will begin to come in to their own as more and more enlightened Philatelists begin to ask themselves the question, "If it's not worth exhibiting, is it really worth having?". I'm certain I'm not alone in rating this an attractive stamp series, and they never look better, in my opinion, than they do used on postal articles; which of course is precisely for what they were intended.
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.