Stamp News October 2005
Woodchip-free Zone Should yo be more aquisitive in your collecting? Only if you want to be a successful collector.
Philately has proven over many years to be one of the best investments amongst the many forms of collectables, producing pleasure and profit for countless astute collectors who have applied an intelligent approach to their collecting. Pleasure and Profit (let’s call it P2). Can any reader tell me which conventional investment provides that irresistible combination?
Now let me qualify ‘Should you be more acquisitive in your collecting’. By that I wouldn’t suggest, for example, doubling one’s New Issue order. Not unless contributing to the pool of discount postage for this and the next generation is your idea of pleasure, for profit would be a highly unlikely outcome based upon the record of Australian Decimal stamps of the past almost 40 years, at least for material mint or used off cover. Decimal issues commercially used on cover? Now that’s a very different proposition which I will shortly touch upon.
Figure 1. An Aussie Decimal cover on philatelic steroids
On the subject of Australian Decimal issues, let’s at this point take a novel approach to comparing the performance of a key basic stamp, the 1966 $4 Navigator, in mint and used on and off cover. In 1966 the Letter rate was 4c, and today it is 50c. $4 is 100 times 4c, and therefore today we would need $50 in order to equal 100 times the present 50c Letter rate. Arguably, therefore, the $4 Navigator would need to be worth $50 today on the basis of the Letter rate comparison, which in my opinion is a valid and certainly relevant yardstick. In actual fact, the $4 stamp mint is worth only $2.40 to $3.00 to those who buy for the postage market, wherein lies the real demand for the vast quantity available of this and most other mint Decimal issues. Used the stamp retails at around $3 and there is no shortage of supply if you want them. But used on commercial cover? The only such cover I have seen (Figure 1), and what a cover it is (a ‘Schwarzenegger’ in rap-speak), is owned by a friend to whom I recently made an offer of $1000 (‘Tempting, but I’ll pass’ was the reply). I therefore am valuing this cover at around 300 times the worth of a single mint or used (off cover) $4 stamp.
Returning to our topic of the month, what then should one target for a collection in order to maximise P2 opportunity? Well, if you haven’t already joined the many collectors who have recognised the importance of including in their collections examples of commercial use on cover of the stamps they collect, I highly recommend that you consider doing so forthwith. It’s my recommendation for I firmly believe that stamps used on commercial cover will be an outperformer within the realms of Philately during the next decade. The momentum is already under way internationally and is set to grow steadily, and on occasions exponentially. Why? Well, a stamp used commercially on cover is the optimum collectable in the category of ‘used’. A stamp removed from its original cover can tell us little or nothing of the history of its journey from point ‘A’ to ‘B’, and that journey may well have been adventurous, or even a misadventure. The intact cover is an effective time capsule, often recording interesting and/or value-adding philatelic or historic occurrences during its journey, which would probably not be determinable in the dislodged used stamp. The stamp on cover may represent an unusual rate, or be addressed to an unlikely or exotic destination, again considerations which can add value, often considerably, and interest way beyond the limitations of the used stamp off cover. Searching for noteworthy usage on cover of the stamps you collect adds individuality and ‘spice’ to your collection, and can be both stimulating and fun!
In the thirty years that I operated a public stamp auction I saw thousands of collections, the vast majority forgettable clones of one another. I recall on one particular Round the Nation trip to visit potential sellers I met two collectors who happened to live in the one suburb. The collections sounded rather unexciting but the economy of scale made it potentially viable to visit both. One had mint Norfolk Island and PNG in big, heavy albums (also a turn-off given travel constraints) and I politely declined on the basis of too little value and interest. Had the collector included commercial use of some of the stamps on cover I would gladly have taken them. I can still hear his pleas of ‘But Mr. Perry, they’re complete’ as I quickly departed. The other collector had used N.Z. which he had catalogued up by Campbell Patterson and proudly proclaimed the value at ‘over NZ$45,000’. I have always felt that collectors who know the catalogue value of their stamp collection generally have nothing other than standard, everyday ‘garden variety’ collections, and perhaps achieve solace in knowing the ‘value’, rather in the nature of a junior collector knowing how many stamps he or she has at any given time (sadly, I confess I knew). The condition was typically mixed, devoid of the stamps that really mattered and heavily duplicated with those that don’t, and not a cover in sight! A really boring collection. To the astonishment of this collector I again politely declined, citing his certain disappointment at the really low percentage of catalogue value that his material would achieve at auction as my reason for abstaining.
Figure 2. ‘Show me your used $20 Paintings and I’ll show you mine’
The moral to these stories? If all you have is mint and/or used (off cover) of the basic stamps of a country or countries which are readily available in those grades, you’re probably kidding yourself if you believe that you have something ‘special’. If you collect modern Australia, for example, wouldn’t the inclusion of an item such as Figure 2 contribute a little ‘spice’ to your collection? This 14 Aug 1995 commercial use of the $20 stamp to pay the TaxpackExpress rate, a service which provided a speedy processing of your Tax Return (if required!). Many collectors of used off cover don’t like non-circular cancels (and light ones only even then). On cover I find unusual cancels such as this (and the also generally unloved coloured circular cancel) attractive and a contributing factor to character, and scarcity as it so happens in this instance for the ‘POSTAL MANAGER/WEST END 4101 ’ datestamp is seldom seen used for regular postal services. Value : $30 (off cover $6).
On a different, but potentially relevant note to the future of Philately as a wonderful source of P2, I recently watched an Australian documentary in which the subject was the increasingly high rate of separation/divorce amongst retirees. The crux was usually due to the male suddenly having nothing to do and being around the house all day doing it (to chants of ‘when do we eat’, etc). Surely, this presents to all we Philatelists an opportunity to become Ambassadors to promote whenever the situation arises our great pastime of Philately as a worthwhile pursuit (and remember, one which offers P2), while at the same time possibly saving the relationship of friends or family! Whatever we do, we must not let the Post Office run exclusively with this opportunity, and one may be certain their marketing people watched the same documentary as I. New Issues and other Philatelic Nine-day wonders do not a lifelong and rewarding interest make.
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.