Stamp News October 2009
QEII £SD solo franking usages
I like Australia's QEII issues to 1966. It's probably a Baby Boomer generation thing; we grew up with these stamps. Amongst them are some fine designs, and examples of the engraver's art, and they never look better, in my opinion, than when affixed to a genuinely used postal article. I reckon in comparison their mint cousins appear sterile, and used, well, they've lost their soul once removed from the article which conveyed them on their journey of a lifetime. Reduced to woodchips, nothing more.
This month we'll feature some of the stamps of that era, used as solo frankings on articles for a variety of postal purposes.
Figure 1. British Royalty visits Hollywood "Royalty"
Well, I suppose Doris Day was once regarded as the equivalent of "Royalty". My mum thought the world of her; so wholesome. Mum particularly liked those movies with co star, Rock Hudson. We thought of him as wholesome, also. Figure 1 is a nice use of 7½d Royal Visit to "Miss Doris Day", sent from Melbourne on 5 Jul 1954, not from my mum. 7½d was then the Foreign Letter rate, and this stamp is rarely found so used. In fact, I've noted only two examples of such use. Value : $150 (off cover 50c).
Figure 2. Good example of how stamps can lose their "soul" once removed from cover
Stamp Duty issues are occasionally found used, illegally, for postage purposes. Regulations insisted that such items be taxed, double the resultant postal deficiency. That edict was not always adhered to, and untaxed Stamp Duty franked items are sometimes encountered. Interesting novelties, they are, too. Figure 2 was, however, one that got caught by the system, the Victoria 3d Stamp Duty making no inroad in to the required 5d Letter rate; hence 10d tax. Postage due stamps had ceased to be available in 1963, and this 17 Aug 1964 cover to Sydney, probably originating in Victoria, received a regular 10d postage stamp for taxing purposes. The 10d stamp is not particularly scarce utilized for postage due purposes, but this is the "turquoise-blue" shade, which I've found scarce on cover, particularly as a solo franking for this use. Value : $75 (off cover $1). A good example of how stamps can become "soulless" once divorced from original cover.
Figure 3. Australia basked in '56 Games glory long after event
Another use of a 7½d for Foreign Letter rate, Figure 3 has 7½d Olympic Games used from Hobart 1 Mar 1957 to Sweden. Although issued in Oct 1956, so large were the quantities printed of the Olympic higher denominations, it's not unusual to see them still in use commercially up to 12 months later. The intention doubtless was to extract maximum international publicity from that grand event. Not quite as scarce as 7½d Visit, but very hard-to-get. Value : $100 (off cover 50c).
Figure 4. Nearly 5 million printed; try finding even one solo franking
The 8d Trans-Tasman Flight Anniversary stamp was primarily intended for the airmail rate to New Zealand, which issued a similar reciprocal (6d) stamp. The stamp is common mint, and on souvenir covers to/from N.Z., of which over 50,000 were prepared. Most Philatelic Traders would join with me in contending that there are occasions when it seems that most of those souvenir covers have gravitated to their place of business. The stamp used commercially on cover is something quite different, however. Even combination frankings are hard-to-get, and solo frankings, such as Figure 4, are rare. This is a 31 Aug 1958 airmail use from Brisbane to N.Z. Value : $100 (off cover 75c).
Figure 5. Intact Booklet pane, with selvedge!
It shouldn't be a surprise that intact Booklet panes used commercially on cover will be rare. Very few exist of any Australian issue, less so with the selvedge still attached. Stitching was through the selvedge, so for selvedge to remain intact it was necessary to dismantle a Booklet prior to use, a very uncommon practice. Figure 5 is one such instance, a 4 Apr 1959 use of QEII 4d Booklet pane from Caulfield to Canada, representing the 2/- Airmail rate. Value : $500 (pane off cover $50).
Figure 6. Nice Platypus usage, nice Paquebot
The QEII Zoological series is a popular usage group amongst specialists, and rightfully so. Interesting and scarce/rare usage possibilities abound. The Figure 6 usage is one of the more sought-after for the 1/- Platypus, not an easy denomination on any type of postal article. This is a 6 Sep 1963 use for Airmail postcard rate to U.S., from Thursday Island, no less, replete with the uncommon "PAQUEBOT" (Packet Boat) handstamp of T.I. While not as well known as the 1/2d Tasmanian Tiger airmail postcard (to U.K./Europe), the 1/- rate is actually much scarcer. Value : $125 (off cover 30c).
Figure 7. A particularly unusual solo usage for 1/2d Thylacine
The airmail postcard rate solo usage for the 1/2d, mentioned under Figure 6, is but one of the scarce solo possibilities for this denomination. Another is the fourth weight step letter rate within Australia and British Empire, scarcer still, and then we have Figure 7, scarcest of them all. This 16 Sep 1965 certified use, from City Road Melbourne to Cootamundra, was for second weight step letter rate (8d) plus Certified fee (6d). I've noted only two such usages, neither the Helecon paper printing, which is really hard on cover/card. Value : $150 (off cover 30c).
Figure 8. 1/6d Flower, destined to become better known as a solo rarity
One of many wonderful eccentricities in Philately is the use of that curious term, "sleeper", to describe a scarce/rare item which has yet to become widely appreciated as such. During my nearly 40 years as an auctioneer, I've never ceased to be amazed, nay, frustrated, by comparisons of "sleepers" vs "heroes" (my term), often in the same auction. At one moment I may be offering an incredible item, the likes of which I've seen never before nor since, only to have it fall on deaf ears, and ignominiously be passed in, unsold, unloved. Later, up comes a perennial "hero", a virtual clone of a given item, offered in literally every auction, literally everywhere, and up go the hands. Even in Philately, herd mentality is of great comfort to many. The problem with the "sleeper"? Its rarity was its own worst enemy. Only the very informed are equipped to handle "sleepers". Figure 8 is a "sleeper", the 1/6d Christmas Bells is a rarity as a solo franking, but has received little, if any, public acknowledgement as such. This 20 Jan 1964 use from Redfern to Taiwan was for 1/6d Airmail rate, in what was later to become known as Airmail Zone 3. I've noted just two such solo usages, and that's in 20 years of enthusiastic ferreting. Value : $200 (off cover 40c).
Figure 9. Sweet little item for usage exhibit
Items such as Figure 9 are, in my opinion, little gems. Minimal in value, maximal in impact. I can't help but chuckle when I notice attention being focused on items such as this in an exhibit, while nearby material, perhaps costing thousands of dollars per item, might barely raise a yawn. The 1/- Colombo is scarce as a solo franking, and particularly so to this destination, British Solomon Islands; for which it paid 1/- Airmail rate, emanating from Wallsend in 1963. Attractive advertising envelopes such as this are great drawcards in exhibits. Value : $100 (off cover 20c).
Figure 10. A Holy Grail for QEII £SD usage collection
The 5/- Cattleman is a difficult stamp to find on cover; most seen are large articles. I suppose I've seen about 25 items in total (or 1.25 for each year I've been searching!), of which five are the scarcer White paper printing of 1964. Figure 10 is far and away the best I know of, a solo registered use of the White paper from Sydney to British Solomon Islands, sent 9 Nov 1964. This is from the famous "Lawson" hoard, which was auctioned by Christie's in Melbourne in early 'nineties. I bought it all, about 300kgs in total. I have fond memories of loading the many lots in to my clunky old Range Rover, and heading off in to the sunset, front wheels almost lifting off the ground. The well known U.K. Postal History dealer, Chris Rainey, was present at the auction, and lamented that it was impracticable for him to bid for this material, given freight costs. Chris perhaps also quietly appreciated that I was not going to give up winning this material without blood being spilled on the auction floor. Good naturedly, after the auction, Chris commented "You've stolen that material", to which I unashamedly agreed. The 5/- franking for our subject item paid 3/- Airmail rate (1/- per ½oz. x3) plus registration fee (2/-). I value this item highly, and have little doubt that if offered at public auction my valuation might well be considerably exceeded. Value : $1000 (off cover $10).
Figure 11. Full marks to those who recognized that this is not a solo franking item!
Figure 11 is a departure from the general topic this month. I've included it to illustrate a popular pursuit for usage specialists. That is to show the subject stamp used for a specific purpose, to uprate an article for additional postal service. In this instance, the 11d Bandicoot was affixed to pay combined Letter rate (5d) plus Certified fee (6d). Subsequently, the 9d Magpie has been added as an apparent afterthought to obtain the "A.R." (Advice of Receipt) service, for which 9d was the appropriate fee. It was sent from Wollongong to Shellharbour on 2 Dec 1964. This item could be placed under either stamp in a usage collection, but as the 9d Magpie is almost unobtainable as a solo franking, I'd be including it under the heading of that stamp issue. Value : $75 (stamps off cover $1.80).
Figure 12. One of three rare solo usages possible for 8d ANZAC
The 8d ANZAC was intended for (a) letter rate to Foreign countries, (b) airmail rate to N.Z., and (c) 2nd weight step letter rate within Australia and British Empire. All are rare; I've seen at most two of any of the three possible solo usages. Figure 12 is the (c) usage, locally addressed at Sydney 14 Apr 1965, day of issue for the stamp, although apparently a commercial use. Value : $125 (off cover 75c).
Do you agree that these stamps take on a refreshing new slant when seen used for the intention for which they were originally issued? That is, to pay for postal service. Traditional collecting of mint and used (off cover) stamps has taken a huge hiding in recent years, with many, many collectors exiting the Hobby. Who could blame them; such collecting is too easy and, frankly, plain boring. If only the departees had discovered USAGE, the study of the myriad styles in which a stamp may be utilized for postal purposes, they may well still have been countered amongst us.