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Stamp News    September  2008

                              Woodchip-free Zone 

166 Decimals complete including Coils

There was a time when Australia's major Auction Houses were delighted to offer, as a single auction lot, "1966 Decimals complete including coils". And why not, for in the late 1970s/early 1980s boom we had to have, such a lot would readily realise around $200 mint. That's about $1400 today, if one utilises the Australian eastern state Capital City residential housing index in the interim as a comparison.

Fair to say, those were great times to have been a Philatelic Auctioneer. Sadly, however, today the 1966 set mint is not worth $1400. Rather, it's more likely to be offered in a "postage" lot in an auction, effectively selling for less than it's face value of $8.65. What happened? Well, it's more a case of what didn't happen. Those days were indeed heady, no, frothy. Speculation, rather than Philatelic commonsense, ruled. By way of a non-philatelic analogy, may I suggest the 1990s "dot com" stock market boom.

The fact is, the 1966 set mint (and used off cover) never was, and never will be difficult to obtain. In standard form they are also, well, a bit boring. Simply put, it was an ideal series for speculative manipulation. Every album with a printed space for given stamp issues required a set. There were many other suitable subjects for manipulation then, as there are now. Even in Philately, history repeats, although the space-filling, herd mentality, which peaked in the 1970s, thankfully appears largely to have evaporated.

The 1966 series raises it's head this month, or rather Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, raises her head, to complete the 1966-71 Definitive series usage overview, commenced in November 2007 ("Navigators"), and continued April 2008 ("Birds" and "Fish"). Examples are provided of less usual usages of the basic ten issues featuring the QEII portrait. Who would have dreamt back in The Boom that one day, in the new Millennium, a Stamp News columnist would feature the humble 1c to 7c used, on cover, spread over several pages!

1c Red-brown

                           Figure 1. No money for postage after paying Doctors' bill

Issued as a make-up stamp, unsurprisingly, it is most commonly seen as a franking component in servicing Letter rate increases between 1967-71, sequentially from 4c to 5c, 5c to 6c, and 6c to 7c. Figure 1 is an unusual solo franking of 10 Aug 1971, Hagley to Launceston, underpaying the 6c Letter rate. Solo usage of the sub-base rate stamps is rare, and should attract a penalty, of 10c (ie double the 5c deficiency) in this instance. Underpaid articles in this period, however, had about a 50/50 chance of being delivered untaxed. Value : $40 (off cover zero). 

2c Yellow-green

                                      Figure 2. Rare solo use - to Govt Department

Another make-up use denomination, the 2c is the least common on cover of the 1c to 7c recess-printed issues. Figure 2 is the only solo use I've seen, 7 May 1973 from Melbourne to Commonwealth Electoral Office, in suburban Hartwell. The Letter rate was then 7c; given the addressee, perhaps the sender was dispassionate about correct postage. Again untaxed. Value : $100 (off cover zero). This valuation may surprise some. However, in an exhibit of the series, this is a key item to have present. I'd be surprised if it didn't fetch more than my suggested figure, if offered at public auction.

3c Grey-green

                                 Figure 3.
Not "bad" Stationery uprate to Germany

The only solo usage of the 3c I've noted was on a 1974 Aerogramme, used by Defence Force personnel stationed in Singapore. This was featured last February, so I won't repeat it. I've selected Figure 3 as it shows an unusual use of the 3c to uprate a 24c Registered Letter for surface mail to Bad Godesberg, Germany. This Stationery item was intended for use within Australia when the Letter rate was 4c, and registration fee 20c, and the additional 3c was required to accommodate the 7c Foreign letter rate. Used from Kiama (NSW) on 22 Apr 1968, this is a useful item for both usage and Stationery aficionados. Value : $30 (off cover zero).

4c Red

                              Figure 4. For those who prefer their Plate nos. on cover

The 4c was issued for the Letter rate which, unusually, was a slight reduction from the 5d prevailing immediately prior to introduction of Decimal Currency (4c equalling 4.8d). Naturally, it is common in the extreme used for its prime purpose. Figure 4 is something else. A 15 December 1969 airmailed cover from Cootamundra to Defence Forces in Singapore, it features a pair of 4c, with Plate N -21 no less! Endorsed "FORCES MAIL", it went as "Other Articles" (dimensions were non-standard to qualify it for a letter), for which a concessional rate of 8c per 2ozs. applied. The regular airmail rate to Singapore was 15c per oz. Value : $150 (a rare rate, plus novelty value of the Plate no. franking).

                       Figure 5.
Decimal Booklet pane + SD stamp = Bucks-a-plenty

The 4c Booklet pane, unsurprisingly, is rare on commercial cover. I've seen only three examples; one has the pane paying registration fee (20c). I've also seen the same number of incomplete panes of five, where the slogan had been removed, apparently deemed surplus by non-philatelists! Figure 5 is a cracker item. A 14 Aug 1967 use of a pane from Griffith (NSW) to Germany on an airmail cover. The airmail rate to that destination was 25c, so an additional 5c franking was required, and fortunately Griffith P.O. still had residual stock of the 6d (= 5c) stamp to use-up. It's not unusual that the 6d would last this amount of time in to the Decimal-era. There had been little demand for it previously, and it would not be until 1 Oct 1967, when the letter rate increased to 5c, that any real demand would develop. SD/Decimal combination frankings are very scarce; non-philatelic items only, of course. One of the other three panes on commercial cover seen was priced by a Trader colleague at $600. The featured item is a better usage, but I'll be conservative. Value : $500 (pane used off cover $40).

5c Blue

                         Figure 6. Don't dismiss contemporary use of pane by Trader

Again very common as a Letter rate item. Other solo uses include those by Defence Forces serving in Vietnam/Malaya, who were entitled to an airmail rate to back home at a concessional 5c per oz. These are not particularly scarce. I've selected another Booklet pane usage for this denomination, even rarer in my experience than the 4c pane. I've seen only two; both used by Traders. Figure 6 is from the late M.C. Cohen, well known to more senior collectors, not only in Sydney. This 27 Dec 1968 use from St. James to Melbourne has the 5c pane paying the 25c registration fee. This is a contemporaneous use of the pane; the 5c Famous Australian Booklet had issued 6 Nov 1968. I wouldn't have a problem including this rare item in a commercial usage collection, although I've valued it more conservatively than otherwise. Value : $200 (pane used off cover $10).

6c Orange and 7c Reddish purple

                                  Figure 7. The humble 6c: seldom looking so grand

The 6c and 7c again were Letter rate stamps, and unusual usages are a bit of a challenge. Let's see how I fare. For the 6c I've selected Figure 7, a 15 Dec 1975 use from Canungra (Qld) to U.K., by U.K. Forces in Australia personnel. The U.K. and Australia had a reciprocal arrangement, whereby Forces personnel in the respective countries received a concessional airmail rate when writing home. For Australians in the U.K., that rate was 4p, for Brits in Australia the rate was our subject 6c. Forces numbers in both countries were small, and consequently material is rare. I've seen only two of this 6c used in this manner. The handstamped "BRITISH DEFENCE FORCES MAIL" adds a nice finishing touch. The valuation will surprise some, but demand is high for this usage, both in U.K. and Australia. Value : $200 (off cover zero).

                         Figure 8. Fortunately, Watchtower Society kept covers intact

Figure 8 is a good example of why most covers should be kept intact (fair to say, that applies to the other items featured this month!). Off cover, a used pair of 7c "Queens" is next to useless, unless one or both are a fabulous retouch, for which this stamp is renowned. Here we have a cover which left Muswellbrook (NSW) on 24 Jan 1972, inadvertently unfranked. Upon arrival at destination of Strathfield, two days later, a diligent P.O. staff member responded to the postage omission by applying oval "T" (tax) marking, and affixing two 7c stamps (ie double the deficiency). Postage due stamps, which normally serviced such a situation, had been discontinued in 1963, following which regular stamps serviced the role. Such usage is uncommon. Value : $35 (stamps off cover zero).

Coil 3c Multicolour

                         Figure 9. Very unusual use as Stationery uprate to Austria

The 3c coil is really hard to find used, in period of issue, on non-philatelic articles. It was withdrawn from vending machines on 1 Oct 1967, and, given that it was primarily intended for second weight step letters (ie 4c 1st oz., 3c 2nd oz.), it's not rocket science to appreciate this was always going to be a little-used stamp. I've seen only one instance of the stamp used for second weight step purpose. Figure 9 is another rare 3c usage, as an uprate to 4c Lettercard, sent 1 Jun 1966 from Springvale (Vic) to Austria. The uprate was required to meet the 7c Foreign letter rate. Chance survivors, such as this, provide a greater "buzz" for me than, say, certain readily available Australian mint stamps, which may sell for 10 to 50 times my valuation for this little unsung hero! Value : $100 (off cover, not much).

Coil 4c Multicolour

                       Figure 10. Unattractive used off cover, a little gem on cover

As we have said, 4c was the Letter rate when the 3c and 4c coils were issued. Relatively few people in the 1960s bought their stamps from vending machines; much the same as would be the case for Frama stamps decades later. Consequently, the 4c coil is not common on cover, even solo for Letter rate. Figure 10, although a solo usage, is interesting. Sent from Camperdown (Vic) to Melbourne, 27 Sep 1967, this article should additionally have borne a 3c coil (see comment under 3c coil above). We know this owing to handstamped "OVER/1 OZ/T 6c". Being over 1oz. the rate should have been 7c, the 3c deficiency being doubled for taxing purposes. Value : $50 (off cover zero).

Coil 5c Multicolour

                                Figure 11.
Unusual and correct usage of 5c x10

The 5c coil was available for Letter rate use for over 2 years, and is therefore not particularly hard to find as a solo franking for that purpose. Figure 11 is unusual in being a large multiple franking, which one seldom sees for the coil stamps. Used 2 Jul 1969 from Whyalla (SA) to U.S., no less than ten stamps were employed. The rate of 50c represents the -1oz. airmail rate, and the sender did well in getting it right. An attractive usage. Value : $40 (off cover: pairs catalogue $1.60 used, and there are four, so worth something off cover).

So concludes the overview of usage of Australia's first Decimal stamp series. This is a terrific series for study. Highly recommended for those who aspire to rise to a challenge, which of course a mint set, or used off cover, cannot possibly provide. I did plan to include usage tables with this concluding part, but they are rather lengthy, and probably not appropriate for print dissemination. I'll include them on my website in due course.

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.