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 Stamp News September/October 2002

Woodchip-free Zone    

King George VI issues - anything but bland

There are many collectors who regard King George V Sideface issues as their speciality.  Penny Reds for example have been an evergreen (no pun intended) favourite since the 1920s, and most other denominations of the series have their devotees past and present.  That the series is a very worthy field for enthusiasts few would deny.

       Of less obvious interest are the issues made during the reign of King George VI (1936-52).  I know of but a handful of specialists who are presently collecting and studying this period.  Yet many issues are rich in those elements which can cause philatelic corpuscles to multiply.  Such as plate varieties (often accompanied by retouches), re-entries, weak entries, ink-stripping, perforation anomalies (double, misplaced, mis-guillotined), marginal markings (imprints, plate numbers - the largest and most exciting range by far in Commonwealth, perforation pips, guide marks, etc), even Die proofs which are still reasonably affordable.

         The Brusden-White King George VI  (1995), although largely out-of-date with values, is an excellent introduction to the stamps of this period, which more collectors are encouraged to take up as a speciality.

         This column of course has as its main focus the usage on cover of the stamps of Australia, and the study of stamp usage during the subject period has been even more neglected by present day philatelists than have the stamps themselves.  Yet there is plenty of challenge to a study of usage on cover of the stamps of this reign.  For starters, there are a number of issues which are so common both mint and used that they verge on the useless, but some of these same issues may be quite difficult to find commercially used on cover during correct period of use.  The above base rate commemoratives of 1945-47 are examples.

         During the mid-1990s, at a time when I was researching the relative scarcity of Australian stamps used on cover for the purpose of pricing the column dedicated to used on cover in Brusden-White's ACSC series, I was surprised at how many otherwise common stamps were rather scarce on cover.  A philatelic journalist at the time asked me for one example and I gave the 1952 KGVI 4d red, of which I had recorded less than 10 examples on commercial cover up until that time.  I went on to elaborate that not one of these usages was for the prime purpose the stamp was issued, that is the postcard rate to foreign countries.

         The journalist asked me what I thought such a specific use would be worth and I suggested that I would be unwise enough to pay up to $100 just to have one for my reference collection.  A few postcard usages came to light following publication of the relevant article and one was subsequently offered at auction with an estimate of $1000 (perhaps the auctioneer felt it must be worth at least 10 times my offer), and although that example was unsold another did sell at auction later for $725.

         The price has fallen to $300/400 as a few more have surfaced, but many readers will find this a surprising value for a stamp which is barely worth 20 cents used off cover.  Finally, one little 'unsung hero', an otherwise virtually worthless stamp mint or used but scarce used for the very purpose for which it was originally intended (ie for foreign postcards), had come of age.

       The following are other examples of difficult to find KGVI stamps commercially used on cover:


                                                                  Figure 1

1941 KGVI 1d red-brown perforation change (to 14.75 x 4 from 13.5 x 14) + Queen Mother 1d to make new 2d base rate (2d plus d War Tax) introduced on 10th Dec 1941, coincidentally the day this envelope was posted.  This 1d is scarce on cover even for the printed matter rate, a more logical use, of which I have seen only six examples.  Value for illustrated: $75.

                                                                     Figure 2

 Another stamp issue necessitated by the d War Tax introduction, the 5d surcharge on 5d Merino Ram, primarily intended for combined registration/letter rate within Australia and British Empire and combined airmail/letter rate within Australia.  An attractive use for the latter purpose on Official cover of 23rd Apr 1942 from Tennant Creek (N.T.) to Canberra.  Value: $50.


                                                                     Figure 3

1937 N.S.W. Sesquicentenary 9d airmail use 1st Dec 1937 Perth to Singapore (9d per oz was also the airmail rate to other parts of Malaysia and region).  A more philatelically desirable use of this stamp perhaps than its other primary use for the Parcel (Scale 2) rate.  Value: $85.

                                                                                                Figure 4

If the term 'bland' could be ascribed to any KGVI stamp then surely the 1951 2d chocolate would be a candidate, largely devoid as it is of most of those aspects coveted by specialists.  It is however a surprisingly scarce stamp on cover (which I am indebted to Martin Walker of Adelaide for reminding me of).  This 11th Feb 1953 use for Greetings card rate is the only example I have seen! Value: $40.


                                                                      Figure 5

1946 Mitchell 3d + 1/- (the latter particularly scarce on cover) used 3rd Feb 1947 to N.Z. (1/3d for 1-1oz article - 5d for 1st oz and 5d for additional oz x 2).  The 1/- was primarily intended for basic Telegram and Parcel (Scale 3) rates, for which it is also seldom encountered. Value: $45.

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.