Stamp News September 2010
PNG Decimals. Stamp usage before Self-Government
I've featured Papua New Guinea usage in this column previously, and made no secret of the fact that I regard this as an excellent country for such pursuit. This month we'll visit the early Decimal currency issues, up to the end of the Australian Trust Territory era, in 1973. I've selected a baker's dozen items, for good measure. See if you agree that these PNG stamps have individuality, and a vibrancy all their own, particularly when properly used on cover.
Figure 1. Rarity and valuation seemingly out of sync
The first definitive set was a bottler; ever-popular Butterflies, no less. Figure 1 is about as good a representation of the set as it gets. Some readers may even recall that I've featured this very cover before; in the December 2008 column. This is the only example of the 1966 $2 Butterfly I've seen on cover, and being solo it's a gem. Used 10 July 1969 from Boroko to Canada, $2 was for 4-4½ozs. airmail (20c per ½oz. x9 = $1.80) + registration fee (20c). The Canadian "Cleared Customs" datestamp adds a nice finish. This stamp replaced the glamorous 1963 £1 QEII, a stamp which I've yet to see on a commercial postal article. The $2 would be expected to be about as little in demand postally as was its predecessor by a few years. Unsurprisingly, I think very highly of the subject item. It might well fetch more at auction than my valuation : $750 (the set used off cover retails at $14). Many common philatelic items sell for much more.
Figure 2. Tribal Art a feature of PNG's exotic stamp designs
The 1966 Elema Art quartet were supplementary denominations to the Butterfly set. None are easy to find on cover; the 60c is a rarity. Figure 2 has the 7c and 2c, together with Butterfly 1c to make up the 10c Aerogramme rate, utilizing a John Dickinson formular permit "Air Letter", from Madang 19 Nov 1967 to U.S. Valuation : $60 (used set off cover $1.50).
Figure 3. In the "seldom seen solo" category
Perusing a widely accepted retail list, from which my "used off cover" prices are taken, I could not help but be unpleasantly surprised at how poorly the mint and used stamps of this period have fared. For example, the face value of the 1967 Pacific War set is 77c, yet the retail price today is but $2 mint or used, 43 years after issue! The wholesale price? I won't go there. One would hope that collectors of mint/used have derived pleasure from ownership of such material, for it has been a lousy financial investment. The Trade also must question the viability of handling such material; I know some regard it only as a necessary service. Enough depressing comment, however, back now to commercial covers. The 2c, 20c and 50c denominations are very scarce on cover; I've seen but two covers bearing the 50c. Figure 3 is one, the only solo franking, for 50c combined airmail/registration fee to Germany, from Goroka 1 May 1968. Valuation : $100 (used set off cover $2).
Figure 4. Gorgeous stamp for Stationery uprate
Postal stationery uprated for a specific purpose is a desirable field in its own right, and so much more a delight when a gorgeous stamp performs the uprate, as in Figure 4. Here the 20c from the 1967 Territory Parrots, actually a designated Christmas series, pays for registration fee uprate for 5c Envelope used from Lae to Samarai 30 Nov 1967. Valuation : $60 (used set off cover $3).
Figure 5. Regular stamp adaptation for Postage due purpose
The 1968-69 Sea Shells were a worthy replacement definitive series for the Butterflies; another striking set of designs. The 12c of the series was amongst the last denominations to appear, and is the scarcest on cover of the sub-dollar stamps. Figure 5 is a particularly rare usage of a 12c, as a Postage due on an underpaid cover from Australia. Arriving at Madang 11 Mar 1974, the article caught up with the addressee three days later, when the 12c was affixed and tied by another Madang datestamp, paying deficiency of 6c plus a fine of a further 6c. The 1960s Postal Charges stamps on commercial covers realize considerable sums; this item is as rare. Valuation : $150 (entire used set off cover $15).
Figure 6. Only intact se-tenant pairs seen
The quirky 1969 Folklore rouletted between 5c and 10c pairs are difficult to find on cover. In fact I've yet to see the 10c! Until recently I had not seen an unsevered pair of the 5c. eBay to the rescue, and Figure 6 happened along, an 18 Apr 1969 use from Madang to U.S., where a 5c single and pair of unsevered pairs paid the 25c airmail rate. It may be a very long time before I see a comparable item. Valuation : $80 (used set off cover $2).
Figure 7. Rightly, a popular thematic
Orchids on stamps is a popular thematic, and PNG as a country certainly has more than its fair share of these delights. Figure 7 features a solo franking of the 30c from the 1969 set of four, paying combined letter rate/registration fee Mendi to Port Moresby. Note "RELIEF Nº 9" datestamp, then in use at Mendi; an example of how the convergence of Usage and Postal history can be complementary. This is a rare commercial use of the datestamp, not to be confused with the contrived covers prepared by the Papuan Philatelic Society for subscriber members. The PPS service is highly commendable, but the value of those covers is considerably less than commercial equivalents. The 1958 1/7d Cattle, for example, sells for around $20/30 on PS-generated covers, whereas commercial usages of that stamp have sold for upwards of $500, and more. Valuation : $75 (used set off cover $3). [Footnote: In the 1980s I owned a block of land in the Daintree Rainforest, Far North Qld, which I sold to the Qld Govt., for classification within the World Heritage Rainforest region. Later I was told it was acquired specifically as local Botanists had established that reposing within "my" block was the only recorded example of a particular orchid genus. That's one to the World, zero to Rod.]
Figure 8. Coil pair a little gem
The 1969-71 Bird of Paradise coil 2c and 5c are rather difficult to find on commercial cover; relatively few Post Offices had coil dispensing machines. Figure 8 has a rare pair (I've seen but two) of the 5c, used Boroko to NSW 7 Aug 1974, paying the 10c airmail rate. Value : $100 (around 50c off cover).
Figure 9. Another nice postage due adaptation
Figure 9, as in Figure 5, has a regular stamp utilized as a Postage due. In this instance, an unstamped local Rabaul cover has been taxed 14c (double the 7c postage deficiency), and a solo 1971 South Pacific Games 14c has been affixed in taxing. An attractive item for an exhibit. Valuation : $100 (used set off cover $1.50).
Figure 10. Native Dancers; groovy set
The 1971 Native Dancers set, to my eye, embody the exoticism of PNG stamp design of the subject era. Figure 10 has the 28c, rare on cover, together with 9c from the Primary Industries series, on 17 Nov 1972 registered cover Kavieng to Rabaul, at 37c combined letter/registration rate. Valuation : $60 (Dancers used set off cover $2).
Figure 11. "Friendly" python*
Figure 11 bears the striking combination of 9c from the riotous 1971 Native Dancers, and the sensuous 21c Green Python from the 1972 Reptiles series. The aggregate 30c paid airmail 28 Apr 1972 from Wewak to West Germany. The joy of ownership of items such as this belies their present market worth. Valuation : $30 (Reptiles used set off cover $3). [*Well, "friendly" to the extent that they seldom grow to greater than 1.5 metres in length.]
Figure 12. Convergence of two attractive issues
The 1973 Birds of Paradise and 75th Stamp Anniversary issues, aside from the base rate 7c denominations, are scarce to rare on commercial cover. Figure 12 bears two of the difficult issues, the 14c from the "Birds" and the 30c "Stamps", the aggregate 44c paying combined 2nd weight step letter (14c) + registration fee (30c), Tari to Madang on 9 Jul 1974. For those who prefer their Usage exhibit to have specific stamps paying specific rates, this is a gem of an item, peppered by having emanated from a small P.O. Valuation : $50 (off cover used sets $6 (Birds) and $3 (Stamps)).
Figure 13. The gentle, noble art of shark snaring
The 1973-74 "Panorama" series is another bottler for a usage study. Aside from the unusual denominations (try finding the 21c and 28c), some of the designs are wonderful. It was a difficult choice deciding between wig-makers, the pig exchange, fire dancers and crocodile hunters. Figure 13 came up trumps for it features two alluring designs, the elusive 28c Menyamya Bowmen, and the enigmatic Shark Snaring (probably don't try it at home). Used from Angoram 28 Sep 1973, the aggregate 58c paid 4th weight step letter (28c) + registration fee (30c), another example of specific stamps for specific rates (see under Figure 12). Valuation : $50 (used set off cover $7).
The scarcity of many of the PNG stamps of this era, and of most earlier and later issues, belies the modest sums covers tend to fetch in today's marketplace. I can't help but believe that, just as the scarcity of many Australian contemporary usage items has come to be reflected in buoyant auction results, similar recognition is overdue for PNG usage.
To finish up this month, on an entirely different subject, I've just received word that the "Kevin Nelson" Kangaroos on Cover exhibition collection is to be auctioned by Prestige, late this year. Kevin was an early cover devotee, and has formed a best-of-kind, indeed best ever, collection. Figures 14 and 15 below provide a small insight in to the delights in store for specialists. My thanks to Kim and Gary at Prestige for advance scans.
Figures 14 and 15. Superb Kangaroo usage items from the Nelson Collection
I've on more than one occasion in this column extended the Kangaroos on Cover Challenge to readers, and it will be most interesting to witness the buyers of the Nelson Collection material unfold. Whilst I can't get excited about rows and rows of repetitious mint and used Kangaroos, offered as they are in most auctions, I'll find it difficult to remain composed at the Nelson sale. Kangaroo covers have, in comparison with mint and used, been undervalued for too long, and that anomaly cannot last.
Which reminds me? I'm looking for a well-heeled collector, who seeks to build a great collection, be it Kangaroos on Cover, or any other subject featuring covers (of course). Simple basis, he or she will come to me as I have the knowledge, and him or her the money. In no time, I can guarantee that he or she will have the knowledge, and I'll have the money. On that tongue-in-cheek note, I'll bid readers happy cover-hunting.