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Stamp News    October  2010 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 


GB QEII Usage. Now there's 'a great challenge'

I've always been fond of GB QEII stamps. I had a Pen pal in the U.K. in my early pubescent years, and we exchanged FDC's; the term "usage" had not then come to my attention, so philatelic covers ruled. The first GB FDC I received was the 1962 National Productivity Year set, on a plain cover, with then mandatory daggy, handwritten address, as I recall. (My spell check didn't like "daggy", and suggested doggy, doggie, baggy, saggy, any of which on reflection would satisfactorily have described the covers received, and doubtless those I sent in return).

GB specialists have been slower to embrace Usage than, say, the Germans, Italians and, of course, we Aussies. A few years ago, at a Melbourne Exhibition attended by some U.K. Traders, including present PTS Chairman, John Auld, I posed the question "Is Usage showing any signs of life back home?" John replied that he knew of one or two who were giving the subject some attention, adding "Collecting every GB QEII stamp on a commercial cover, now wouldn't that be a great challenge". Hear, hear, John!

I'd love to see some Stamp News readers take up the GB Challenge. Perhaps a collection of "Mother country" usage might have greater appeal for some than, say, Australian stamp usage. By way of an introduction to the subject of GB QEII usage, I'm featuring a selection of commercial usage items of Commemorative stamps from the first decade of Her Majesty's reign. Many readers will be familiar with these stamps, mint/used, which are readily obtainable. How many will agree that on cover they exhibit a certain character, a vibrancy absent from mint stamps, and used removed from their original cover?

                              Figure 1. Deceptively rare use of common stamp

It would be reasonable to expect a higher denomination of the 1953 Coronation set to be featured here. The 1/3d was the airmail rate for Zone B countries (eg Canada, U.S.), and the 1/6d airmail for Zone C (eg Australasia), neither of which is particularly scarce. Figure 1, an example of a particular usage of the humble 2d is, however, comparatively rare. On this occasion a 2d pays the Australian Services Abroad concessional airmail rate from London to Victoria on 10 Jun 1953. The circular handstamp lower left indicates the item was sent by an Australian Army Staff member at Australia House. The 2d rate compares with the aforementioned 1/6d regular airmail rate. A reciprocal concessional rate was offered to U.K. Services in Australia, who then paid 3d for airmail back to U.K., compared to the regular airmail rate of 2/-. Value : $50 (off over, well, worthless).

                        Figure 2. 1/3d Scout hard to source on covers to Australia

The 1957 1/3d "Scout" had by far the lowest printing figure for the 1/3d Commems and, coupled with it being the "Zone B" countries airmail rate, ensured it would not see much service to our part of the world. Figure 2 is the only usage of a 1/3d to Australia I can come up with, sent 10 Sep 1957 from Peterborough to Victoria, requiring additional franking of 3d Wilding for 1/6d airmail rate. Value : $45 (used off cover SG 4.50)

                                          Figure 3. Neat uprate of Stationery item

Figure 3 is a 1/3d Inland Registered Letter envelope, "INLAND" scored-over and replaced by handwritten "OVERSEAS". The item has been uprated with 1958 "Games" 1/3d x2 and 3d Wilding, the aggregate franking of 4/- paying double 1/6d airmail rate + 1/- registration, from Bournemouth to Melbourne on 26 Aug 1958. Value : $40 (used off cover SG 4.80)

                                            Figure 4. Attractive, first of the bicolours

The 1960 EUROPA pair boomed at one point in time, along with general speculation in EUROPA issues. As with all speculative booms, when supply grossly exceeds genuine collector demand, the inevitable bust is mandatory. Conversely, the supply of commercial covers bearing the EUROPA 6d and 1/6d is very limited, and even a small increase in demand would see supply under threat. The 1/6d was for airmail to this part of the world, yet I have found very few examples during the 20+ years I've been interested in such pursuit. Figure 4 is a particularly welcome usage item, for it bears a pair of the 1/6d, and a couple of 6d's. An 18 Oct 1960 registered use Liverpool to Melbourne, 4/- paid the same rate as in the preceding item, double 1/6d airmail + 1/- registration. Value : $60 (used off cover SG 11.00)

                              Figure 5. Striking stamp, impressive multiple usage

The 1961 Post Office Savings Bank trio was the second series of Commems featuring bicoloured designs, a welcome improvement on the more austere monocolour stamps of the 'fifties. Figure 5 has the 1/6d x5 used 30 Aug 1961 for 2-2ozs. airmail rate to Canberra. Attractive item for an exhibit. Value : $60 (used off cover SG 12.50)

                                    Figure 6. Most attractive three-stamp franking

The 1961 C.E.P.T. set of three was heavily bought-up by speculators, and today, nearly a half century after issue, is readily available mint at not much above original face value. The 10d used, however, is more difficult to find used, and on commercial cover is quite scarce. Perusing my British Civilian Postage Rates of the 20th Century, by Michael Furfie, the excellent source of rates provided in this article, I note that the 10d at time of issue appears to have been useful only for second weight step foreign letters. Figure 6 is the only usage of the 10d I've found to Australia where, together with the 2d of the set, and contemporary 6d Parliamentary Conference, the 1/6d airmail rate is achieved on 12 Oct 1961, Sheffield to Sydney. A very attractive combination franking. Value : $40 (used off cover SG 85p)

                    Figure 7. Wilding portrait of Her Majesty shown to great advantage

Dorothy Wilding's charming portrait of Her Majesty, QEII, is seen to great advantage in Figure 7. Here, three superb series' of stamps for usage collecting converge; the 1/- from the first definitive set, the 2/6d from the stunning High value "Castles", and the 1/3d "Parliamentary", from our subject Commems. The aggregate 6/- paid triple 1/6d airmail rate (note manuscript "1oz" upper left = 1/6d oz airmail rate x3) + 1/6d registration fee (increased from 1/- 1 Feb 1961), sent 11 Dec 1961 Epsom to Sydney. Value : $50 (used off cover SG 6.55)

                                 Figure 8. 1962 N.P.Y., GB's first multicoloured issue

Finally, we arrive at the set for which my U.K. Pen pal sent me an FDC all those years ago. The 1962 N.P.Y. set had two firsts for GB; the first multicoloured issue, and first Commem set to incorporate phosphor bands, for automated sorting by the Post Office. Figure 8 has the 1/3d and 3d used 4 Feb 1963 for 1/6d airmail, Essex to Perth. Value : $30 (used off cover SG 2.00)

                               Figure 9. Block of four, and phosphor bands, no less              

You'll have to take my word that Figure 9 is the phosphor bands printing of the 1963 Postal Conference 6d. A block of four, together with 1/- Wilding, paid 1/6d airmail rate + 1/6d registration fee, 9 May 1963 Glasgow to Victoria. The early phosphor band issues are scarce, particularly on cover. Value : $120 (used off cover SG 28.30)

                           Figure 10. Charming Nature Week duo, uncommon usage

The 9d airmail postcard rate to Australia is seen more often than is the reciprocal 1/2d postcard rate Australia/U.K.; probably more tourist traffic to the "old country". Figure 10 has a nice franking combination for the 9d rate, made up by phosphor band printings of 1963 Nature Week 3d and 4d and 1d Wilding. The London machine cancel of 20 May 1963 did not extend to left extremity of the card, so the 3d misses being cancelled, which is not a particular concern; I'm satisfied it belongs where it rests. Value : $40 (used off cover SG 3.75)

                      Figure 11. Near miss for a scarce phosphor band "Lifeboat" 1/6d

Do readers ever wonder who "thinks up" prices in some catalogues? Can anyone explain the logic for the SG relative pricing for used of the 1963 "Lifeboat" non phosphor and phosphor band printings of the 4d and 1/6d denominations? The 4d is 50p/60p and the 1/6d 3.25/28.00, respectively. Yet, there were slightly less sold of the phosphor band 4d (840,000) than there were of the 1/6d (886,000). Adding to the confusion, there were 7,475,040 sold of the non phosphor 4d. Why, therefore, is there so little differentiation in price for the 4d printings, yet so great a variation in price between the phosphor band 4d and 1/6d? Figure 11 provides a clue to my consternation in this matter. This 8 Nov 1963 cover Chingford to Aden bears "Lifeboat" 1/6d (non phosphor) and 4d (phosphor) x3, paying 9d airmail rate + 1/9d registration fee (increased from 1/6d 27 Apr 1963). It would have been nice to have the 1/6d phosphor band, although from my preamble it will be noted that the 4d phosphor is even scarcer (just not recognized as such in the catalogue value!). Value : $50 (used off cover SG 5.05)

                   Figure 12. Fine solo use of 1/6d Red Cross, from Funeral Directors

Figure 12 is a neat solo use of 1963 Red Cross 1/6d, sent 15 Oct 1963 Cambridge to Melbourne, paying airmail rate. Value : $35 (used off cover SG 3.00)

                                   Figure 13. Sister for Australia/NZ "Cable" issues

Another solo franking for airmail rate, Figure 13 features the 1/6d "Cable", used 7 May 1964 London to Sydney. Value : $30 (used off cover SG 2.50)

                                Figure 14. 1964 2/6d Shakespeare, difficult on cover

The 1964 2/6d Shakespeare is uncommon on cover; a probable use was for double "Zone B" 1/3d airmail. Figure 14 is the only usage example to Australia I can lay my hands upon, an uprate together with the 3d of Registered Letter. The aggregate franking of 4/9d was for double 1/6d airmail + 1/9d registration, sent 11 May 1964 London to Melbourne. Value : $50 (used off cover SG 2.90)

                      Figure 15. Airmail postcard to Australia from "sunny" Torquay

The 1964 "Botanical" concludes my selection, another attractive series, Figure 15 featuring the 9d solo. Used 14 Oct 1964 to Newcastle, this was for the airmail postcard rate, scarce utilizing this stamp. I like the "TORQUAY / FOR SUN" slogan cancel, replete with reclining sunlover. Value : $50 (used off cover SG 2.25)

I hope some readers will agree with me that a usage collection of GB Commems is a worthy pursuit. Upon taking up the challenge, you may well become pioneer collectors in that field. Forming a best-of-kind collection comes down to knowing what the market does not know, not what it knows.

Thanks, Hugh

I recently bought an item on eBay, and it transpired that the vendor was old friend, Hugh Freeman. "Huge" and I go back a long ways; in the 'seventies we were proprietors of rival Auction Houses (Hugh was Status Auctions). The eBay item was from a 1982 competition hoard (stated 363,000 entries), from which Hugh was afforded the opportunity to select interesting items. These were subsequently entered as a modest exhibit in Adelaide in 1986, a requirement for the apprentice Juror's course, which Hugh was then undertaking. On the title page for the exhibit Hugh wrote "How little current non-philatelic inspired material will be alive and available in the 21st Century?". A Philatelic visionary, in his eBay preamble, Hugh continued in similar vein, and I quote, "The one worthwhile collectible area, as I have said for 25 years, is current Australian stamps used 'as they were meant to be used' for postage. Postal rates and varied usage bring the current plethora of stamp issues to life when seen on the delivered envelope". The same philosophy could be applied to modern issues of virtually all stamp issuing nations.


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.