Stamp News October 2004
Kangaroos on Cover Yet to Leap
Monograms, imprints, watermark inverted and other errors of the Kangaroo series have gone ballistic in price during the past half decade or so. Covers, which similarly are an essential component in a serious collection, particularly if one is an exhibitor, comparatively have yet to do likewise. Kangaroos are, with the exception of garden variety ½d, 1d, 2½d, 3d and 2/- (CofA wmk. only) - which are relatively readily available - generally rather scarce to often quite rare on cover or other ‘entire’ such as Parcel Post labels and parcel tags.
I have just researched my accumulation of Kangaroo covers in preparation for contributing my recommendations for pricing of commercial covers in the imminent reprint of Brusden-White’s ‘Kangaroos’. From a 21 litre plastic tub reasonably full of covers of most sizes, parcel labels/tags and parcel-fragments, I extracted 379 1d covers and found I was left with precious little else! There was enough material however to provide a truncated overview of ‘Kangaroos on cover’ for this month’s column.
Before embarking upon that subject, I can’t help but make a comparison between rare Kangaroo covers and their rich relative, the ‘rare’ mint £2 Kangaroo. In my formulative years as a budding philatelic trader, I recall the late J.R.W. (‘Bill’) Purves, considered by many to be Australia’s greatest philatelist, commenting upon the relative ease with which a mint £2 Kangaroo could be obtained, assuming that one had the necessary money. Bill commented ‘Mint £2 Kangaroos appear to be on a permanent circuit’. That went a little over my head at the time; I like many in those days thought a mint ‘Two-pounder’ was just about it in Australian philately. 35 years later, and having handled hundreds of our subject ‘joey’s’, I am slightly more jaded and in agreement with the Purves’ comment. I wonder just how many mint £2’s could be accumulated in, say, one year or two if a well-healed buyer just stood in the market and bought every example which appeared worldwide at auction and in traders’ stocks. Renato Mondolfo, the Italian Industrialist and philatelist, once did something similar to that in the 1970s and ended up with hundreds of examples. Compare that ready availability with the £2 stamp used on cover, or as more probable, parcel tag. It wouldn’t matter how deep your pockets, in the space of a couple of years you more than likely will be unable to buy a quantity of the stamp in that format greater than the number of fingers on one hand.
Some slightly more unusual examples of usage of denominations other than the rare £2 are shown below, with comments on more typical usage configurations for the given denominations. The humble ½d is usually found with a single 1d or 1d’s x two for Foreign postcard and letter rates, respectively. Solo franking for Printed matter rate is uncommon; the Figure 1 punctured Large ‘O S’ for 15 Oct 1913 Official purposes particularly so. Value : $500 (off cover $15).
Figure 2. 2d First watermark solo franking of 23 Jan 1915 Brisbane to Canada (double 1d British Empire letter rate). The 2d (usually Third wmk.) is more often encountered with a KGV ½d green to make up the 2½d Foreign letter rate (to 28 Oct 1918 at least). Some readers might well be thinking ‘It’s difficult enough to ascertain a watermark type off cover. How do I detect one on cover?’ Here are some tips. Most watermarks are detectable by holding a cover at an angle (tending to the horizontal) to a light source. I try to have three varying lighting facilities at hand; (a) desk lamp, (b) overhead light (fluorescent in my case) and (c) natural light which may include direct sunlight. It is surprising how one particular light source may clearly reveal the watermark impression when another will not. Firstly, however, take advantage of process of elimination to make life that little easier (eg a 2½d used before July 1915 has to be First wmk. as Second wmk. was not issued until that date). Value : $200 (off cover $10).
The 2½d is another of the comparatively readily available Kangaroo issues on cover; it serviced the Foreign letter rate. Most covers seen are rather pedestrian in appearance, so a cover such as Figure 3 is refreshing. Here we have a 1918 usage (another article has come between machine canceller and this cover to receive most of the intended cancellation – rather an unusual occurrence) from Melbourne to U.S. no doubt endeavouring to engender a little pre-FTA activity. Value : $250 (off cover $12).
The 4d is difficult to find on cover other than for punctured Large ‘O S’, of which a quantity originally emanating from the W.A. Land Titles Office came on to the market in the 1980s. The 4d was primarily intended to meet the combined letter rate (1d) and registration fee (3d) in Australia and the British Empire, and Figure 4 shows a 31 July 1914 such use locally at Perth. Typical of the Land Titles Office material this article was unclaimed, and replete with philatelically desirable markings was subsequently forwarded to the D.L.O. (Dead Letter Office). Value : $250 (off cover $35).
The 1/- is another difficult denomination to find on an eligible ‘entire’, be it a parcel label or tag, adequately detailed parcel-fragment or cover (and expect these to more likely be oversized). This denomination (and other contemporary Kangaroo issues) is also seen and often unjustifiably derided used on 1931 covers carried on Imperial Airways experimental flights to U.K. Such covers may be specially printed or otherwise endorsed for these flights and bear a relevant handstamp. Whilst many articles carried on these flights were obviously conceived for philatelic gain, and may have obvious telltale signs of that intended purpose (such as well out-of-period stamp uses – often seen are State stamps and 1d Engraved for example), many others were simply a case of family/friends or businesses taking advantage of a relatively fast service by which to communicate with those in a faraway destination. In the absence of obvious philatelic ‘indiscretions’ to the contrary, I am inclined to allow these 1931 covers to be given the benefit of the doubt as being commercial.
Figure 5 is a Melbourne to U.S. 14 March 1930 late solo use of a 1/- Third watermark (the Small Multiple wmk. had first appeared nine months earlier) on a standard-sized cover, which is particularly unusual in itself, and the article would have needed to have weighed 6-7ozs in order to have required 1/- (3d first oz and 1½d per oz thereafter), which is unlikely. The cover may have been utilised as an address label on a larger article, but whatever its reason for existing it does not obviously appear to be philatelic. For added measure the stamp is the ‘Broken value circle’ variety (BW 33i)! Value : $750 (off cover $40 – for variety).
In the recent census of our Kangaroo cover stock the 2/- maroon (CofA watermark largely) was the next most prevalent denomination after the 1d. The 2/- is most often found as a component of the airmail rates in place from December 1934. Most of ours have 2 x 2/- to meet the Flying boat (‘Clipper’) services 4/- ½oz rate to U.S. Figure 6 is unusual in that it is a solo franking of the 2/-, and it is Third watermark, which was generally replaced by the Small Multiple wmk. from March 1929 onwards (with it in turn replaced by the CofA wmk. 6 August 1935). This 26 January 1937 use from Melbourne to Austria is correctly paid for the 2/- ½oz airmail rate via Greece, and is one of the very few of this wmk. 2/- I have seen on cover. Value : $500 (off cover $35).
Rod Perry has been a philatelic trader since 1962 and a regular Stamp News advertiser since the 1960s. 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.