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Stamp News    October 2006

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

Usage of the 'Beef' set

The 1972 Primary Industries set of four was once more parochially known as the 'Beef' set. In their heyday, at least, in the Great Decimal Boom of the late 'seventies, early 'eighties. What a Wild 'n Wonderful ride that was for those of us who lived through it. The 'Beef' set was amongst the greater hi-flyers of that era.

Near the peak of the boom my auction business established the rather grandly titled The Australian Decimals Exchange ®. This was a blatant attempt to cash in on the madness, offering a Buyer/Seller exchange based upon the broad principles of a Stock Exchange. We had a dedicated staff member who would service 'The Exchange'. Richard Juzwin commented to me at the time that every caller would want to buy; there would be few if any sellers. How right he was. On one particularly hectic day our 'dedicated' staff member received 77 orders to buy, not one to sell. Hard to make a successful transaction with those odds. I note from a surviving document of the era that the 'Beef' set was at that particular date listed as $23.00 seller, $24.50 buyer. The retail price of the set elsewhere reached $45.00. How times have changed. I note that the current retail is $6.00. For post-boom collectors an instance of where patience has been a virtue.

I can't imagine during boomtime that anyone so much as gave a thought to trying to find the four stamps in the set used on commercial covers, the very purpose for which they were intended, to simply pay postage. Back then we were all too busy soaking 'em off cover, FDC and commercial, to satisfy the rapacious collector-demand. Nowadays, finding commercial covers bearing any of the stamps in the set is quite a challenge. Such a challenge in fact that I've had great difficulty finding enough subjects to compile this month's topic - Usage of the 'Beef' set.

20c Fruit


Figure 1. Will a cover such as this one day be worth as much as 100  mint  'Beef' sets? Don't bet against it

The 20c, together with the 25c, is the most difficult as a solo franking of the four denominations. It was primarily for the Zone 2 airmail rate, the only form in which I've seen it used solo, and then I have seen only three. Figure 1 shows such a use, from the ANZUK Support Group stationed at Singapore, to Army Headquarters in Canberra, the 20c tied to cover by 'ANZUK F.P.O. 5' datestamp of 29 Sep 1972. Effectively an instance of legal use of Australian stamps Abroad. Value : $100 (off cover $1).

                     Figure 2. 20c as postage component in Certified article

The 20c is more often encountered as a make-up denomination in higher airmail rates, or for registered articles. Figure 2 is a more unusual use on a 13 Sep 1972 Certified cover Colac (Vic) to Sydney. The 22c franking was for 7c Letter rate and 15c Certified fee. My recent census of covers bearing the 20c was a rather modest eleven. Value : $40 (stamps off cover $1+).

25c Rice

Figure 3. The comment made for Figure 1 above applies even more optimistically for this!

25c bought one enough postage to send a ½oz letter by airmail to Zone 3, which I have found the most difficult of the five airmail zones for which to obtain material. The White Australia Policy of the times had ensured that the population of Australia contained few peoples from the geographic regions encompassed within Zone 3. Figure 3 is the only solo franking of the 25c I have seen, an 8 Aug 1972 use Sydney to Japan, which appears to have been in the nature of commerce. The 25c to date has proven to be the most elusive on commercial cover of the four denominations. I have found a total of but four covers. Value : $125 (off cover $1). 

Figure 4. 25c pair + 10c = double airmail rate to U.S.

Another of the four covers bearing the 25c found to date is Figure 4, a pair of this denomination together with 10c National Development to equal the 60c airmail rate for an article ½-1oz, sent 29 Jun 1972 South Melbourne to U.S. (Zone 4). Value : $45 (stamps off cover $2.25).

30c Fish

Figure 5. American Society of Civil Engineers we have to thank for relative abundance of 30c solos

Of 38 covers located bearing the 30c, fully 31 are addressed to American Society of Civil Engineers; most of these solo frankings. Two solos seen were not from that source and one is shown as Figure 5, a 4 Sep 1972 use Ryde (N.S.W.) to U.S., the Zone 4 airmail rate. The relatively large number of items to the one destination can skew perceptions of scarcity, and I always check sampling's before coming to a conclusion in that regard. Value : $20 (off cover $1).

       Figure 6. Couldn't miss a catch here

Figure 6 is a rather nice multiple franking of five 'Fish' together with a lack-lustre 5c for a total $1.55 franking for this 31 Oct 1972 registered airmail Clarence St Sydney to London. This represents $1.05 for 1-1½oz Zone 5 airmail (ie 35c x 3) plus 50c registration fee. This is the greatest multiple franking (in terms of the number of stamps used) I've come across for any denomination in the set. Value : $50 (stamps off cover $5).

35c Beef

                 Figure 7. Extravagant use of 7c Stationery Envelope to no avail

The denomination which gave its name to the set, and second scarcest of the four on commercial cover, according to my census. Of eight covers sighted, six are solo frankings for Zone 5 airmail, the most logical and primary use for this stamp. I've featured a 35c solo franking in the column previously (July/August 2002) and have opted to use something different. Figure 7 is a Zone 5 airmail item, with a 35c unnecessarily uprating a 7c Stationery Envelope, effectively paying 42c when 35c was sufficient for the airmail service, together with 50c Dampier for registration of this 16 Oct 1972 use Fortitude Valley (Qld) to Suffolk. The only make-up use of the 35c seen thus far. Value : $45 (stamps off cover $3.25).

                        Figure 8. 35c Beef use with attitude

Impressive franking indeed in Figure 8, triple rate use of the 35c for Zone 5 airmail (ie for an article 1-1½oz), Melbourne to Germany 23 Aug 1972. My thanks to Ron Casey for use of this item from his collection. Ron has co-written the November column, which is a review of the past four years of the column's existence. Value : $100 (stamps off cover $9). This stamp series is one of many, many suitable Australian subjects for a one-frame (ie 16 pages) or larger usage exhibit. It's fun to rise to such a challenge, and such activity will reward the collector both in pleasure, and ultimately in profit. Unlikely to be rewarded in any such manner, however, was an elderly gentleman who visited the office recently. Up the single flight of stairs came he puffing, greeting us with "I've missed the [such and such] P.S.E. It's been withdrawn at the Post Office before I could buy one. Can you help me out, it'll be the only P.S.E. I'm missing". "We don't stock such items", replied I, "but fear not, we've a million covers here to console you. What can I show you?". "Nothing, thanks, that's all I need", came the reply as he departed as quickly as he had appeared. Dear, oh dear. I would be interested to receive scans of nice frankings from the 'Beef' stamp issue which readers may have in their possession.  

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.