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Stamp News  November 2012 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

 

Sideline collection suggestions.

 

A sideline collection or two, distinct from one's prime collecting interests, can be a fun and rewarding pursuit. For starters, sideline collections decrease the odds that you will come home empty handed from an auction or Show.

Most collectors are stimulated by adding material to a collection, so isn't it logical the more collections the greater the stimulation?

By "sideline collection", I refer generally to a collection for which a more modest approach is adopted, compared with that expended for a principal collection.

Most senior philatelists have sideline collections. The great U.S. collector, John R. Boker, Jr. (1913-2003), amassed some of the most prestigious collections of 19th century stamps ever seen. Before his death in 2003, the Collectors Club of New York declared him, in 1996, to be the "outstanding philatelist of the last half of the twentieth century."

The sale of Boker's German States collection, from 1985 to 2000, was so extensive it required eighteen auctions by Köhler to complete. I believe it realized the DM equivalent of something like AU$30 million.

In the Harmers of London catalogue for the Boker "Australian States Miscellany" auction, which I attended in 1981, the introduction provided by the auction firm stated, seemingly in disbelief, that another interest of Boker's was U.S. precancels! An interesting sideline collection indeed for so influential a collector.

On a more modest scale, in the 1970s I formed two major collections. My Victoria (there were actually two collections: Traditional and Postal history) is well known, the other is not. More on that later.

The 1970s was a wonderful time to form specialized collections. Similarly, so are the 2010s. It's all a question of what one selects as a speciality. Despite the 'seventies being a boom decade, it was only the obvious traditional material, the perceived "blue chips", which were the subject of the speculative mania. Essays, proofs, show-stopping multiples, and covers, were not the flavours of that decade.

In the case of the Victoria collections, I was able in the 1970s to buy world class rarities virtually unopposed. I couldn't believe my luck. The second collection, formed simultaneously, may come as a surprise to those who know me today. I had a Traditional KGV collection! And no ordinary collection was it; I hasten to add, albeit a short-lived one. I had bought the fabled 2d téte-béche pair in 1975, and via an exchange of stock with Phil Downie, around that time, I ended up with the 1d red "rusted cliché" pane. Phil had owned the pane since the 'sixties. Also, there were the 1914 "Unissued" 2d and 1/-, and the beautiful Die proofs of the 1/- in olive, black and indigo. I appear to have started at the top, and was planning on working down.

Harmers of Sydney in the 1970s dominated the Australian Commonwealth market; all of the "name" collections went their way. I pillaged and plundered my way through such great collections as H.F. McNess, ending up with many of the other famous KGV items, such as the Imperforate three sides varieties (I didn't like wmk. varieties even back then).

However, it was to be the sudden passing in 1979 of the doyen of Australian Philately, J.R.W. ("Bill") Purves, which would bring about a rapid deceleration of my KGV collecting aspirations. Victoria was my greater passion, and I wanted to buy all I needed of the Purves' Victoria, then estimated to be worth over $1 million (it went on to realize about £650,000, for which the Purves Estate ought to have bought me a case of Dom Pérignon).

Fortunately, 1979-80 was a good time to be selling Australian Commonwealth Traditional material, and in a short timeframe my KGV collection was to be no more.

Whilst constructing the Victoria and KGV collections was demanding, I still found it refreshing at that time to work on a number of modest sideline collections, some of which I still have. The number would grow to hundreds in subsequent years, from which I've derived great pleasure, not least of which because they have grown, often spectacularly, in value. So, what is the nature of my sideline collections? I thought you'd never ask!

I've selected ten of them; most of my collections lend themselves to exhibiting, competitively or just at Club social level. All of them have covers/stationery as the central theme.

       
Figure 1. Regional Postal history collecting yet to match enthusiasm of our overseas cousins

I touched upon the topic of regional P.H. in Nov 2010, when I featured material from my new found home, Port Douglas. I still lament that Australians have been slow to embrace forming sideline collections of this nature: such activity is HUGE in the U.S. and U.K., and some other European nations. There, virtually every serious philatelist has a collection of the P.H. of a home town, region, or other place of personal interest or significance. Figure 1 is from my extended regional collection, now embracing Cairns and places north therefrom to Port Douglas. Local Doctor, Oscar Bancke, Medical Hall, Cairns, clearly sought to impress his correspondents with the debonair photo of his good self, neatly affixed cameo-style towards upper left corner of this inscribed cover, sent 9 Jul 1901 from Cairns to Copenhagen, an unusual destination from FNQ at this early time. The Queensland stamps are tied by the Numeral "499", then in use at Cairns P.O.

        
                                                Figure 2. Clarrie King plagiarized

I dedicated a column to Clarrie King, the cartoonist/illustrator in July 2008, when his series of nine whimsical wartime cover designs were featured. This is a fun sideline for a one-frame exhibit, which could be assembled in time (or overnight if there is a buyer for my duplicates stock!). One occasionally finds plagiarized versions of King covers; Figure 2 has an original and an adaptation, sent in 1943 from Melbourne to Sydney, and Mingenew W.A. (A.I.F. Field P.O./51 tells us this) to Sydney. The sender of the former item added "Am I In The Doghouse." above King's inscription (note "ALRIGT" misspelling). In the latter the sender substitutes a koala for King's caricature and adds "I'M STILL AROUND"! Quintessentially 'forties stuff.

         
             Figure 3. Rare solo use of 5d Merino Ram from 1930s Zoological series

I'm a keen enthusiast for KGVI usage of the British Empire, and have a fair number of collections of commercially used items from various countries. Australia of course is a particular favourite, and I've featured a member of the original Zoological series of six, Figure 3, a first perf. 5d Merino Ram. This series can provide for usage studies from one to eight frames, and beyond; there are many unusual and scarce/rare usage possibilities to be found by the diligent, often for sums which belie rarity. The subject is a good example of this situation, one of only three such usages I've noted, for the 5d concessional airmail service rate introduced in March 1944 for P.O.W. and civilian internee mail to East Asia. Here, from Brisbane on 25 Sep 1944, the wife of internee Lieut Col Charles Kappe took advantage of the concessional rate, to Malayan Internment Camp.

         
                 Figure 4. Cinderella used in the manner for which most were intended

I like Cinderellas, used contemporaneously on cover. This was primarily why they were issued: to promote, publicize, for propaganda purposes, etc. Where possible I prefer them tied, but that is not a common occurrence; many times one finds them on the reverse side of a cover, or in the wrong position for cancelling, as in Figure 4. In the propaganda class, promoting "Queensland Made Goods", issued by Queensland Preference League, this is a scarce and attractive Cinderella; I like the Art Deco influence and rakish automobile parked out front. Also, this item would not be out of place in a usage or Sydney Harbour Bridge collection. Covers so often are multifaceted.

           
                            Figure 5. Early Philatelic Traders, a perennial favourite

For most of my 50 year philatelic career I've been interested in the Traders who came before me. Perhaps I felt a certain affinity with the oldies, even if it is only recently that I realize that I've become one of 'em. Infrequently, I discover (usually via eBay) a Trader whom I've not previously noted. Figure 5 is one such, and I've as yet no idea who was the proprietor of "Mascot" Stamp Company, of 101 Queen St, Melbourne. That in 1904 he (presumably) was corresponding with James Bros Stamp Dealers of Ontario, Canada, we do know. Bicoloured advertising covers for the philatelic trade in this early era are unusual. I collect only Australian and Colonial Traders, but it would be tempting to select an overseas country for such pursuit.

         
                            Figure 6. Not a numeral or cds; a rarer cancellation

Numeral and c.d.s. (circular date stamp) cancellations of Australia and Colonies can sell for fancy sums. The c.d.s. cancels on Tasmanian Pictorials are in a league of their own, fetching at auction upwards of $2000 each, and beyond in private sales. No problem with that: healthy Supply and Demand equation in practice. Often as rare, but presently lacking the demand ingredient, are slogan cancellations, at least those of Australian origin. Yet, they are a very worthwhile field, more interesting than the other cancellation types, in my opinion; many have additional thematic appeal.


I do both the regular slogans, and the "Paid" versions (usually the ones in red), which were applied to prepaid mail handed in over P.O. counter. Figure 6 is an example of the latter, in use for a brief time only in 1980, to promote the Australian Canoe Titles in Cairns, in May of that year. This is the only example I've seen, it may be the only example; a chance find amongst the 8-10 million covers I've sifted through in my career. Probably a Holy Grail for a serious canoe/rowing thematic exhibitor. It also would rest comfortably in my Regional Postal history collection (see under Figure 1 above)! I recommend collectors consider slogans on a favoured State only basis, unless one is very brave. It's a huge field, albeit an inexpensive one . . . at present.

          
                                       Figure 7. Bribie Island in the halcyon days

Tourism promotion in Australia via printed stationery, such as in Figure 7, appears to have developed from the early 1900s. Few in the pre war era are as attractive as the subject item. The prolific multicoloured series which appeared c.1980 is popular, but the forerunners although harder to find are a particularly worthwhile pursuit.

      
                       Figure 8. Commercially used souvenir cover, and to overseas

Souvenir/commemorative covers, often associated with special cancels, rightly are a popular collecting field amongst those who prefer philatelic covers. Not wishing to miss out on being a member of that fraternity, I resolved to collect such material commercially used. Figure 8 is an example, a commem cover produced for Port Germein Centenary Day, November 26th, 1936. This example, actually the only one I've seen, used at Port Germein 5 Oct 1936, is unusual in that it's to an overseas destination. The sender has paid the 3d Foreign letter rate, although Canada was eligible for the 2d British Empire rate. Local initiative covers such as this are usually for distribution to places where it might be expected the recipient would be inclined to attend. Given such initiative is generally non philatelically inspired, most covers end up with, well, non philatelists, hence a comparatively low survival rate.

   
                                Figure 9. Edwardian petrol head meets Mr Hyde

Looking remarkably like the Hyde character of Dr Jekyll notoriety, the hapless pedestrian in the 1908 copyrighted foldout card (Figure 9) has an Edwardian speedster bearing down upon him at an apparent rate of knots (for 1908). The card contains an advertisement for Goanna Salve, franked with KGV 1d carmine used at Brisbane 17 Jan 1922 to Tasmania. Classic cars are a non philatelic obsession, so it's not illogical I should have a sideline collection of material relating to the automotive industry.

          
                                            Figure 10. Seemingly unlikely rarity

To finish off, I'll do so with something probably unexpected. Whilst you can leave me out of mint and used (off cover) Framas, I really like Frama commercial usage items! They form an important chapter in the history of postal services. Further, the various Australian series abound with rarities going for a song; the same probably is so for Framas of other countries. I arrange my collection in Post Office order, rather than by Frama type. For me they make more sense having the common denominator being the Post Office at which they were issued, which generally was the P.O. at which they were posted. In later years, when the large Mail Centres came in to use, the picture becomes less clear, I should add.

A Darwin Frama machine was commissioned 29 July 1985, but the Barred Edge (B.E.) was replaced by Kangaroo design 22 Oct 1985, less than three months later. Figure 10 is the only commercial use of the Darwin B.E. I've seen; a contender for the rarest usage item of Australia. Worth? My auction estimate (if I was a seller, and I'm not), oh, perhaps ACSC cat of $100. The zero (00.00) value variety, ACSC 1023Fbc, which I regard as comparatively common, catalogues $200. Of course, if there are two collectors who regard Frama commercial use on cover as highly as I do, and/or if a Northern Territory specialist was to be added to the mix, this cover might fetch several times catalogue, for which I would applaud. Rarities deserve to be appreciated, and too many usage rarities remain unsung heroes.

It wouldn't necessarily be expensive to form a best-of-kind collection of subjects such as those featured, and similar. For non Australia centric collectors, some topics lend themselves to adaptation globally. What sideline collection/s do you have? If the answer is none, why not consider a subject or two? If my selection above doesn't inspire a brainwave, I have thousands more to suggest.

Contact me at rod@rap.com.au if you think I can assist with a choice, and let's get you started on a refreshing new philatelic adventure.

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.