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Stamp News  September  2011 

                              Woodchip-free Zone 


"A Special Delivery"

My many cover collections/accumulations have derived from thousands of sources, but overwhelmingly per medium of auctions; public, postal, on-line, eBay, etc. The Trade has contributed, although not a high percentage embrace commercial covers; abstinence a self disservice. Probably less than 1% of what I have has derived directly from collectors. That may surprise some readers, given a fairly high profile in this Industry, during several decades. I would like to say I've bought a lot from collectors, but the fact is in the past I've not encountered many who have desirable cover holdings, if any covers at all. That is changing, I hasten to add, and I now know of many promising cover collections under construction.

The topic this month owes its creation to an absence of cover collectors, at a recent point in time, as it so happens. The story opens on 18 July last, when I had the pleasure and honor of exhibiting before the ACCC. Not that one, fortunately, I refer of course to the venerable The Australian Commonwealth Collectors Club, in Sydney. For those interested, I exhibited my eight-frame Australia KGVI Usage. At the conclusion of a pleasant meeting, those present were invited to inspect some unsold lots from the last Club auction. There were many cartons of commercial covers, but noticing my wife's Death Stare at the prospect of me even contemplating a look, I resisted temptation. Besides, we were travelling light, and some of the bulky lots had been written up in the catalogue "ROOM BIDDERS ONLY". I couldn't impose upon the auction volunteers to ship heavy, inexpensive lots. I weakened, however; the moth to the flame is inescapable and, besides, I was only having a look, wasn't I? Much of the material was "woodchips", or otherwise very pedestrian but, beckoning me beacon-like was a carton with Express/Special /Messenger Delivery covers of the 1960s/1970s. There were more items in this carton than I had accumulated in over 20 years of keenly soaking up (unintended pun) such desirable material. I advised the auction organizer I would take the carton at predetermined reserve, only to be told it is but one of seven cartons! Another was crammed full of Priority Paids, an equal favourite. I was in trouble.

From this hoard (wisely, I selected only two of the seven cartons), I'm featuring 15 items. Upon sighting this sample, learned readers will beg the question: "Where were the collectors when this lot was offered at auction, and suffered the fate of being passed in?" I'm informed approximately 150 attended the auction, so the answer doesn't lie in a shortage of potential buyers. Cover enthusiasts take heart, the "thrill of the chase" beckons! For convenience, the selection is presented in date order.

                                                  Figure 1. 6c Bird pair for specific service uprate

The terms Express, Special, and Messenger Delivery refer at varying periods in time to the same service. Even the Post Office at times was uncertain which terminology was current. The P.O. Guide of 1 October 1968, for example, refers to both "Special Delivery" and "Express Delivery"! Figure 1 has the Special Delivery etiquette, used Fortitude Valley to Sydney 26 Jan 1968. At the introduction of Decimal Currency the Special Delivery service fee was 12c, in addition to the letter rate. The premium increased to 20c on 1 October 1967, but judging from the number of covers in this hoard franked at 12c after that date, the rate increase apparently was not universally adhered to. The Decimal Birds are sought-after as a Usage subject, and nice 6c uses such as this pair, for a specific service uprate, are desirable. The handstamped "NO ATTENDANCE/DELIVER ORDINARY MAIL" has a common and unwelcome presence in this selection, especially given considerable additional costs paid in good faith. I make that comment from a practical viewpoint only; we Postal History buffs of course love such ancillary markings. Value : $80 (I won't provide used off cover prices this month; suffice to say "why would one want them off cover?")

                                             Figure 2. 25c Olympics solo - cracker item - seen two

The hoard contained two examples of the 1968 25c Olympics solo for the 5c Letter rate + 20c Special Delivery premium. These are the only such uses for this postal purpose I've recorded for this stamp. Figure 2 is a 22 Aug 1969 use Parramatta to Katoomba, utilizing an older "PM 127" etiquette; Parramatta was apparently using up old stock before ordering the new label (as in Figure 1). Value : $250

                                                       Figure 3. Attractive convergence of features

Not a particularly valuable item, but an attractive package nevertheless, is Figure 3. A 25 Nov 1969 Brisbane University to Sydney missive utilizing both Special Delivery and Certified mail services. The franking of 35c = 5c Letter + 20c Special Delivery + 10c Certified fee. The combination of labels, postmark, and "No attendance" marking I find pleasing. Removing the stamps from this package would yet again have achieved, well, woodchips. Value : $35

                                               Figure 4. 25c '69 Christmas, another solo bottler

Figure 4 is the only solo use I've recorded of a 1969 Christmas 25c for combined letter + Special Delivery. Sent 22 Dec 1969 Burwood to Sydney, it too bears that "No attendance" marking. Value : $300

           Figure 5. 25c Bird "G/NSW" - optimal way to collect Official perfins/punctures

The only punctured Official stamps ("OS" included) in my collections are affixed to Official covers. Figure 5 is a rare use of "G/NSW" 25c Bird for combined letter + Special Delivery, Kogarah to Sydney on 20 Aug 1970. This is a late use of the Bird, which had been replaced by the 25c Flower in July 1968. Value : $100

                                                              Figure 6. One for coil enthusiasts

The earliest use of Messenger Delivery etiquettes in this hoard is July 1970; the term first emerges in the P.O. Guide of 1 October 1970. Figure 6 was sent 26 Dec 1970 Canberra to Sydney, the franking of 36c an overpayment for 6c letter + 25c Messenger Delivery premium. It appears the sender decided upon the additional service as an afterthought, and resorted to the coil vending machine at Canberra for the additional franking. 25 not being divisible by six, the sender erred on the side of generosity, and employed five 6c coils, for a 25c service. Unusual use of coils for a service uprate. Value : $50

                                                    Figure 7. Unusual use of 30c QANTAS

The 30c QANTAS is uncommon on commercial cover. I've noted solos for Zone 5 airmail, and specific uprates for 30c registered mail fee. Figure 7 is the first example seen of a 30c QANTAS as a component in a Messenger Delivery franking. This 31 Dec 1970 use Springvale to Sydney was for 6c letter + 25c service premium. Value : $80

                                               Figure 8. 50c Navigator solo "Letter"

One doesn't encounter the 50c Navigator as a solo franking often; double Zone 5 25c airmail is one such possibility. Figure 8 is a rare solo use, the first of this type I've seen, where 50c paid 40c Messenger Delivery (increased from 25c 1 October 1971) + 10c for airmail transmission of "Articles not eligible for free air carriage". In this instance of a larger article, beyond the dimensions "eligible", sent Geraldton to Sydney on 13 Mar 1972, the Post Office "LETTER" etiquette informs that the article is fully paid for its postal purpose, and "CITY/DELIVERY" handstamp is another P.O. informative marking, relating to delivery boundaries. Value : $100

                                                                       Figure 9. Delicious!

The 1972 Primary Industries quartet is a terrific subject for a one-frame exhibit. I have one, just! The designs are colourful, and together with inclusion of scarce/rare usage items can make for an attractive, impressive display achievement. I heartily encourage ambitious collectors to attempt one-frame Usage exhibits of some of the earlier Decimal "mini series", such as this, the 1969 Primary Industries, 1970 and 1973 (see Figure 11) National Development, 1972 Pioneers (Figure 14), 1973 Architecture (Figure 13), etc. You'll have a lot of fun, and may emerge as the pre-eminent collector in your field, without going broke in the process. The Great Boom prices for mint of these stamps have to be seen to be believed. A '72 Primary Industries set in sheets would then realize more than my entire one-frame exhibit is likely to realize. They were always common stamps mint, of course, and nowadays are more likely to end up as postage fodder. Commercial mail incorporating the stamps, on the other hand, was always finite, thanks in no short measure to the stamps being promptly removed from their conveying cover to service the ravenous gap-filler market. One that did survive, Figure 9, has a sweet use of the Primary Industries 20c Fruit x2, paying 40c Messenger Delivery premium for a 7 Sep 1972 letter Merrylands to Sydney. The use of this stamp, for a specific service uprate, is rare, and a delightful addition to a usage study of the series. Pure, common sense Philately will always in the long haul prevail over mindless speculation. Value : $200

                      Figure 10. 20c National Development x2 on this occasion for service uprate

A similar item to that in Figure 9, but with the National Development 20c x2 applied for Messenger Delivery service uprate, Figure 10 was used 30 Jul 1973 Dee Why to Sydney. Similar rarity for these two items, and that which follows. Value : $200

                                               Figure 11. 7c Envelope - sporting an afterthought

The increasingly expensive Messenger Delivery service became more so on 1 October 1973, rising from 40c to 50c. Adding to confusion over service terminology, the P.O. Guide of that date refers to "Express Delivery". The sender of Figure 11 must have deliberated before uprating this missive. Sent Taree to Sydney on 12 Dec 1973, it will be noted that the 7c Envelope was cancelled before addition of the National Development 25c x2. This item, and Figure 10, has assisted me in getting over the line also in forming a one-frame exhibit of this series. Can you sense why this hoard is getting me fired up? If not, your Philately's sparkle may be missing in action. Value : $200

                                               Figure 12. Heroic 7c agate solo - novel item

We have seen a number of items above which have been paid in anticipation of faster delivery service, but in effect have ultimately been delivered as "ordinary mail". Figure 12 has a novel twist on that theme, in that it has been paid at letter rate only ("ordinary mail"), but the deficiency has been undetected and sent by Messenger Delivery service, Beaconsfield to Sydney on 20 Dec 1973. Ironically, it has that familiar "No attendance" handstamp, so the end story for this heroic little 7c agate is poetic justice for the P.O. Value : $75

                                                       Figure 13. Obviously in need of speed

I mentioned above the 1973 Architecture as a candidate for a one-frame exhibit, and in such an undertaking Figure 13 would be welcome. A 5 Feb 1974 departure Melbourne to Sydney, the sender wanted the article there in a hurry, for both Messenger Delivery and Priority Paid services have been sought and paid for. The Aboriginal Art 20c took care of all-inclusive letter rate + Priority fee, and the Architecture 50c the Messenger Delivery premium. Value : $80

                                                      Figure 14. 60c Pioneer solo

Another great subject for an exhibit, of potentially greater than one-frame extent, is the 1972 Pioneers. Figure 14 is a rare solo franking of the 60c, for Non-standard article by air (10c up to 20gms) + Messenger Delivery 50c premium, sent Rockhampton to Sydney on 15 Aug 1974. The only such usage of this stamp I've seen. Value : $150

                                   Figure 15. 75c Cook solo frankings, an evergreen favourite

The Decimal Navigator series is becoming popular as a one-frame Usage pursuit, and rightly so; it's doable. I doubt that the same could be said for their £SD antecedents; I for instance would struggle to muster more than a half-frame exhibit. Figure 15 is an unusual solo franking of the 75c, for combined Messenger Delivery + Priority Paid, sent 3 Jan 1975 Perth to Sydney. It appears to be underpaid; all-inclusive letter rate + Priority fee was 30c, Messenger Delivery 65c (from 1 October 1974). Note application abnormally in black of the ubiquitous "No attendance" handstamp. Value : $250

"Special Delivery" mail, aside from its often colourful appearance, additionally looks, well, more important. Given the significant additional cost of such a service, patrons probably found that rather reassuring, even though it didn't always deliver, as we've witnessed above. What did I have to pay for this bountiful lot you ask? Let's just say about what you'd expect to pay for a reasonably priced bottle of wine at a typical Australian restaurant. More importantly, this hoard could enable me to create, literally out of thin air, an attractive, multiframe exhibit, which could be titled "Fastpost Services in the first Decade of Decimal Currency" (I'd hope to come up with something a little catchier if I proceeded). Very fulfilling that would be, not to mention a lot of fun in the making. Rightly, may I conclude, "A Special Delivery".

On another subject, the local Trade was shocked to learn that a number of altered Kangaroos and KGV Heads have recently come onto the market. These stamps have been altered/enhanced via reperforating, puncturing "OS", etc. There may be relevant further comment in a later edition of this magazine, so I won't go in to detail here, aside from expressing disappointment that this has again occurred.

The nature of this sordid affair is, of course, no new development, sadly. Ever since large premiums became attached to "MUH", by the mid-1970s, and "OS" had spaces provided for them in Seven Seas illustrated albums (mid-1980s), the unscrupulous have never been busier fabricating product to service demand from compulsive, obsessive gap fillers. Further, the comparatively recent listing of "OS" in SG has served to make demand even greater, and more international. Confidence in collecting "MUH" and off-cover "OS" will not be inspired by this latest disclosure. In comparison, the integrity of commercial mail never seemed more reassuring, and appealing. I

n the case of so-called "MUH" and punctured "OS" Kangaroos most, if not all, of the many collections I've handled or seen have contained one or more items which have been artificially "enhanced", or altered by the unscrupulous to appear to conform with what they purport to represent.

The Arthur Gray Kangaroos, the greatest collection of the subject ever formed, and ever likely to be formed, contained a corner pair of the First wmk. £1, unmounted mint and punctured Large "OS" (Lot 318). I would confidently provide a certificate of authenticity for this punctured item; the remnant "dags" from puncturing adequately satisfy my understanding of the nature of the subject, and my instincts are reassured by the fact that the item remains intact, when to separate it in to singles would almost certainly have achieved a greater aggregate for the perpetrator, were the punctures faked.

The other Gray First wmk. Bicolour punctures, both Large and Small types, I'm less comfortable with. That is not to say I'm suggesting all are not as offered; I just don't believe one can afford to risk one's reputation in certifying such items. The First wmk. 5/- Small "OS" (Lot 331) was offered, rightly, as "questionable", and quote "offered on its own merits". I believe there was scope to be more liberal with that approach for a number of other punctured items, in particular amongst the First wmk. Bicolours. I find it interesting that the Gray collection did not contain a First wmk. Small "OS" £2, mint or used. A number of stamps purporting to be that variety were certainly offered during the many years the collection was under construction. Perhaps Arthur just never saw one with which he was comfortable. The ACSC states of the £2: "Used examples of the Small OS puncture cannot be confirmed". Can genuine mint?

The only Kangaroo collection I've formed is one of State/Kangaroo combination covers, and other entire's, some of which were featured last month. At various times in my career, I've thought about doing a collection of Kangaroo Essays/Proofs (if I decide in the affirmative, I know where to find the "mother load"), or Usage, to comprise solely used multiples and commercial covers and other entire's, yes, including punctured "OS". Mint for my taste is too sterile; items which exist by design rather than by chance I just don't find "special". A collection of so-called "MUH" and off-cover "OS", without ironclad provenance? Never a possibility for me, I value a good night's sleep too highly.

On 20 July last, I posted on the aforementioned Stampboards thread:

"A truly wonderful resource for Kangaroo specialists would be an accessible scanned inventory of every bicoloured stamp ever offered in auction catalogues (those photographed only, of course). Then we could positively identify many stamps in before and after states. It's a doable exercise, if a willing instigator is out there."

I'm delighted to advise that, in response, Allanswood has taken up my challenge. We have since communicated, and I've imparted my thoughts towards how such a resource may be accomplished, and offered my ongoing encouragement to that end. A potential silver lining to an otherwise discouraging cloud?

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.