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Stamp News  November  2011 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 


PNG and neighbouring Solomon's

In the sensational 'seventies, fellow Philatelic Auctioneer and friend, Phil Downie, and I decided to have some fun. We would speculate in a given Australian stamp issue, and see who in time had made the wiser choice. Phil chose the 1932 5/- Bridge CTO, and I the 1950 2 Arms mint. We reasoned that in those crazy days, a guaranteed formula for making money would be to soak up the available and ongoing supply of our respective selection, thereby placing increased pressure on price in what was an already overcooked supply and demand imbalance. Good old fashioned speculation, rightfully frowned upon then, and now.

Phil soon amassed over 400 Bridges, and after what was deemed an appropriate incubation period, we slowly and very successfully released stock in to a market frantic for such material. I never counted the number of mint 2 Arms I garnered. There was in my safe deposit facility, however, a stockbook labeled "2 Arms mint". On one visit, Ian Matthews accompanied me; the facility was in the basement of the then Melbourne Stock Exchange, where we were domiciled. A Rarity Sale was in preparation, and I felt I needed backup to transport material worth a large sum in the lift to the 16th floor. As I fumbled around in one of our several containers, Ian spotted the "2 Arms mint" stockbook and, whilst I was preoccupied elsewhere, quietly thumbed through the many pages of haphazardly arranged singles and blocks, amongst which were scores of imprint/no imprint blocks. Closing and replacing the stockbook, Ian remarked "Now that's indecent".

By the time I came to market the Arms hoard, the obsession with unmounted mint had well and truly taken grip, and I realized I may have a problem getting "out" of the mounted singles. As luck would have it, the "investment" market at the time in the U.K. was going absolutely gangbusters, so I thought I would try a long shot. I would offer the mounted mint to a London firm, which was a real mover and shaker in that market. The firm had the 2 Arms advertised as a "hot investment" for 125 mint, without qualification as to whether their mint were unmounted or mounted. I tried them with 100 mounted mint for 8500, and to my amazement, even to this day, they accepted. That's how crazy that market was. Today I would rather have my solitary 2 Arms on commercial cover than those 100 mint stamps. Few would argue that today the cover is not worth more. In the 'seventies, however, one wouldn't have been able to give that cover away. To conclude, Phil and I never did calculate whose stamp choice was the more successful. We were too busy spending much of the proceeds on fine dining, wine and song. The rest we wasted.

The inescapable truth behind this story? Most Australian stamps, mint or used, and indeed most stamps of the world in those grades, even expensive issues, are readily available, if you have the readies. Ironically, in the 'seventies, the most challenging material to sell was that which actually had a bright future. Frustrating to add, not a lot has changed in that regard in the ensuing decades. Count me amongst that minority who prefer that their philatelic material has a bright future, and this month I'm featuring a few items I regard as being in that category; from PNG and close neighbour, the Solomon's. No readily available material here.

                                       Figure 1. Black stamps a personal favourite

I've featured PNG in this column on three prior occasions, the first in May 2004. Back then I didn't know of any other collector of usage of PNG stamps. I displayed my PNG at The Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria about that time, and at the conclusion of the meeting an elderly collector whom I've known since I was a kid came to me for a chat. He had specialized in the stamps, cancellations and Postal history of New Guinea, Papua and PNG for over 60 years, and went on to say how much he had enjoyed this introduction to the concept of specializing in how the stamps of PNG were actually used. In all those years of collecting, he confessed that it had never occurred to him, or his friends with similar interests, to actually study the manner of use of those stamps of which he was so fond. Usage study really is in its infancy. PNG usage study has blossomed since 2004, and I know from monitoring the bidding on eBay and in the Australian auctions that there are quite a number of enthusiastic followers, and so there ought to be, for PNG is an imminently suitable stamp issuing country for the science of usage study.

Figure 1 has two nice examples of usage of one of my favourite stamps in the early PNG period. The 1958 3d black was a relatively short-lived issue, and is uncommon on commercial cover. It's found as a solo franking mostly for Printed matter and Commercial papers. That rate increased to 5d on 1 October 1959, but these items posted on 29 Oct and 1 Dec 1959 were still franked at the obsolete 3d rate. The earlier has been conveyed without action, but the other was treated correctly, having been taxed 3d, or double the deficiency of 1d. Couples such as these make an interesting page in an exhibit, and this is also a scarce and highly collectable use of the 3d stamp, as a Postage due prior to the issue of the Postal Charge series. Values : $60 and $100

                                                     Figure 2. Unassuming rarity

The only examples of usage of the 1962 Malaria 2/- I had noted are a pair and a block of four (!) on separate covers with other stamps, from the legendary Lawson correspondence. eBay to the rescue, and the first solo franking has finally turned up, a 5 Jun 1962 use Rabaul to U.S., paying 2/- oz. airmail rate. Figure 2 is that unassuming item. Value : $150

                                                    Figure 3. Drab in colour only

In the June 2006 column, I featured the early photogravure stamps of PNG, including the 1965 Canoe Prows 1/6d and 4/-. The Lawson correspondence did not contain the 1/2d, and until Figure 3 turned up, again on eBay, I had not seen that denomination on any form of commercial postal article. This item is a bottler, being a 26 Jun 1965 solo use for 1/2d airmail postcard rate to U.K., the primary purpose for its issue. Items such as this are, to me, an absolute joy to own. Value : $200

                                                          Figure 4. Budgies beware

Concluding the PNG quartet, all of which are eBay wins by the way, is Figure 4, the striking 1974 30c Tarangau (Kapul Eagle), as a solo franking 12 Nov 1974 Konedobu to Sweden, for oz. airmail rate. I had not a solitary example of usage of this stamp, so again a primary purpose use was very welcome. It flew in at a total cost of US$8.75, or less than the $9.00 retail for a common mint set; just one of those inexplicable things which make Philately so enjoyable a pursuit. Incidentally, if you relish a little philatelic cross pollinating in your collecting, you really must get on eBay if you're not already participating as a buyer. The average of two hours a week I spend trawling on eBay is one of the truly fun episodes in my philatelic life, producing many hundreds of items, emanating from scores of places around the globe, and enriching and adding diversity to my collections.

                          Figure 5. One of two Solomon's 4d solo frankings seen

On to Solomon Islands now, or British Solomon Islands as they then were; the only other time that country has featured in this column was in December 2004, when I focused on the first QEII Pictorials set. The KGVI Pictorials are the subject on this occasion, and as I don't have a 10/- usage item, we'll regard this as just an introduction to this charming series. I do have a couple of examples of the elusive 4d denomination, however, which was withdrawn early in its life. Rather pleasantly, both are solo frankings, shown as Figures 5 and 6. The first is a 7 Jun 1939 use to Sydney from the tiny P.O. of Vanikoro. It paid triple 1d British Empire rate.

                                                           Figure 6. The other

The Figure 6 solo use of the 4d was registered from Tulagi on 20 Nov 1939 to British Columbia, paying 1d British Empire rate + 3d registration fee. Another eBay win, I paid quite a high price at the time, not outbidding another Solomon's collector however. I subsequently learnt, from the underbidder, that the backstampings have amongst them a scarce Canadian datestamp! In the days when eBay allowed the world to know who was bidding, I was contacted by that underbidder, who was attempting to buy this item as a surprise for her husband. I felt a bit of a heel in not acceding to her request. For the sake of the exercise, I'll value the two 4d items at $250 each. I suspect they would fetch more if offered at public auction, given these are the only two usages I've encountered in over 20 years.

        Figure 7. One wonders does DJ's have mail order clients in Solomon's nowadays?

The venerable firm of David Jones had at least one mail order client in the Solomon's in 1955, at Honiara. The convenient self-addressed envelope shown in Figure 7 has printed on reverse "BEFORE YOU SEAL THIS/Is your remittance enclosed?" I've seen quite a few of these covers over the years, also from other parts of Australasia; there must have been a cover collector in DJ's mail room! An attractive composition for the 1/2d oz. airmail rate to Australia. Value : $30

                                                  Figure 8. Secret Bank account?

The second "Bank" fashioned envelope featured this month (see Figure 1), black also a key element in a striking design for the 1/-, don't you think? Again from Honiara, on 4 Jan 1955, Figure 8 is a more typical composition for the 1/2d airmail rate. Interesting to speculate why Fairymead Sugar Co Ltd of Bundaberg would have a bank account in Solomon's? Value : $25

                               Figure 9. Swiss meticulous treatment of incoming mail

Figure 9 shows to good effect why this series is a charming subject for a usage study; it would be an excellent subject for a one-frame exhibit, although one would need better luck than I've had in obtaining a 10/-! This lovely composition for the 2/6d oz. airmail rate to Switzerland, sent via Honiara 8 Sep 1952, has the Swiss "killer" wavy-lines obliterator utilized to cancel the hitherto uncancelled d and 2d (it was cancelled at Honiara, but apparently too lightly for meticulous Swiss Postal inspector). This cover originated at a plantation near Renard Airstrip,Yandina, and was serviced at Honiara in transit. Value : $150

                                                     Figure 10. Attractive quartet

A nice composition in Figure 10 for 3/5d oz. airmail to U.S., including 2/6d which is elusive on cover, from Honiara on 9 Jun 1954. Mr Chariott at the General Chevrolet Co one would expect must have come in for some ribbing over that name in his workplace. Value : $150

                                               Figure 11. A challenge out of left field

Not from the KGVI series, but from Solomon's nevertheless, I couldn't resist including Figure 11, spotted whilst I was selecting the other subjects. Aside from being a scarce franking, and a multiple at that (for triple 1/3d oz. airmail to Australia), the Freedom from Hunger 1/3d is one of but 77 stamps in this Omnibus series. What a superb challenge to set about finding a commercial cover/card for every British Empire country which participated in the series? Get on eBay and get started, you've no time to lose. Value : $30

                                               Figure 12. Another from left field

To finish off this month, another challenge. Still in the Pacific, New Caledonia from 1928 to 1940 issued a series of three stamp designs, in denominations from 1c through to 20f, which form a definitive series of 42 in total! Some of the colour combinations (all are bicoloured save one!) are wonderful, as are the designs and often unusual denominations. Figure 12 shows the 10f and 2f 50 (the solitary monocolour of the series), Navigators no less for topical collectors, sent Noumea to Sydney 26 Sep 1941 by Pan American Clipper Flight 32, opened by Censor in New Caledonia. What a great series for an eight-frame usage exhibit. Besides, it's French. Value : $40

Next month I'm featuring Australia's 1970s Paintings series, courtesy largely of two recent eBay wins of the elusive $10 denomination!

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.