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February 2016




Tracked mail now ESSENTIAL.



I am a large dealer in mail order stamps and accessories, as most readers know.  I mail a LOT of packets and parcels, and have done so for decades. I know the “ins and outs” better than most.  The following relates to Australia, but will apply overseas in many cases.

Sadly receiving these items in 2016 is not as secure as they were in 1996, or even 2006.  Many pieces these days simply are never received by those ordering them, and many other dealers report the same problem in discussion.

We are talking here GENUINE non-receipt from honest collectors, as distinct from the thriving global business of “Goods Not Received” claims from armies of Ebay ‘buyers’. As they know paypal will instantly refund them, leaving seller paying 100% for the stamps AND the postage cost.  Free stamps forever.



“All vehicles to be white.”


In Australia the main reason for this, is that parcels are no longer delivered by Post Office staff to homes in most cases.  80% of our parcels these days are delivered by outside contractors, who do not work for the Post Office.  They often may be illegal migrants or foreign students, being paid a pittance.

The Post Office calls for Public Tenders to deliver larger than letter mail, and they choose the lowest one of course.  If you look at the Public Notices ads, or AP website, you will see Australia Post calling for parcel delivery quotes for Gladesville, Burnie, Ararat, Kalgoorlie or Bundaberg etc.


Deliver parcels for $9 an hour.


Someone large often secures the tenders, and they often then subcontract the delivery work. The drivers are paid typically $1 or so a parcel for most suburban areas, as is reported in Media.  Drivers were last year quoted by the ABC News as saying they earn as little as $A9 an hour for their long days -

For that measly dollar, the driver needs to go to a mail centre, collect the parcels, sort the mail, drive them to the street addresses in all kinds of weather, get no over-time or loadings, and pay their own tax and superannuation, and often allegedly need to obtain a signature. Coff.

In practice the guys doing this job try and get it done in the fastest time possible, as around $1 a parcel means unless you deliver near one per MINUTE average, you do not generate a normal hourly wage, before all your taxes and expenses etc.

One such driver Tiffany Hovey in QLD told the ABC: “I would start every day at 4:00am and often not finish until 6:00pm, to sort and deliver between 200 and 250 parcels. The lowest I worked for was $9 an hour. That was for a big day,"

Another, Mr. Manvir Singh said: "I do 200 parcels, and I make $220. Out of that $220 I have to pay my own tax and I have to pay my superannuation, and probably end up with $140 or $150, so it's like, $13, $14 an hour. That's without any break", he told the ABC in the linked article above.


$3.80 WELL spent today.

  The ABC report late 2015 spoke to subcontracted Australia Post and parcel deliverers in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria, who all claim they are paid below-award wages.  

“Overseas Student Labour used”

  "The failure to pay awards wages and superannuation and workers' compensation is very widespread, and it's becoming increasingly so, as overseas student labour is used more"  CEPU Union Victorian branch secretary Joan Doyle told the ABC “7.30 Report” re Australia Post. highlighted a news story recently, where someone had bid for a large number of these parcel delivery tenders in Victoria, and then engaged illegal student immigrants to deliver the mail, paying them very low wages. 

One student working illegally admitted leaving 30 bags of parcel mail in his home for a month as he could not meet the mail flow.  AP publicly made the expected ”we are truly shocked” noises, but clearly that scenario is widespread nationally. 

Victorian Trade Union branch secretary Joan Doyle told the ABC's “7.30” Television program that Australia Post was deliberately turning a blind eye to mail contractors cutting corners, and underpaying those making deliveries.

"I think Australia Post are getting very cheap labour out of this system of work, and so it suits them not to ask any questions, and for them to say ‘oh well our hands are clean because we've contracted out the work’ ” Mr. Doyle said.


“They don’t get paid to care.”

  President of the Licensed Post Office Association, Angela Cramp said: “They're just putting it on a doorstep, and going onto the next one, because they don't get paid to care.  We need to pay people to care.”

The era decades back of friendly Postmen walking parcels to your door, and pressing your buzzer, and having a short chat, are all ancient history now.  Very often the packet is simply left on your fence, if you have those silly little letter boxes that suburbia is littered with, that take nothing bigger than normal letter mail.


 “My package went missing. Durrhh.”


Why so many people have those mystifies me, as these days with so many of us ordering goods online, a little 6” x 1” wide slot in a concrete fence pillar, that worked perfectly in the WW2 era, is useless for today’s deluge of parcels and small packets ordered off ebay etc.

I had a client recently advise a small catalogue I mailed to his street address had not arrived. It was sent in an A4 type envelope, and was a “Large Letter”.  I used the wonderfully useful “google maps” and discovered this photo nearby of his suburban Melbourne home shown nearby.

As you can see, not only is his front door a long way from driveway, and not only does he have one of those antiquated silly little letter slits, and not only is he on a very busy road, and not only is he at work all day, but he has a BUS STOP at his letterbox!

A visit to a major hardware store like Bunnings will reveal 20 different large and secure and lockable mailbox types you can take home, and install in a short time - for the cost of ONE missing or stolen mail article. Total no brainer.


Silly little tiny letter slots.


He did not pay the $3.80 extra for Registered, and of course any item covered in nice pretty stamps is likely to be “pilfered” if the PO driver simply leaves it on top of his silly little concrete pillar or fence, in full view of every passer-by, and all those getting on and off the buses etc.

Yes we sorted the issue out, but only after 10 emails, which chewed up a ton more in time my end, than I ever made from the original modest transaction.  Leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and in this case, is not really something that can be blamed on AP.

I have started to add this boilerplate wording below to all material I list for sale on stampboards, and my own website. All other dealers would do well to consider adding something of this nature, as the problem has exploded in recent years, in my observation.

Mailing ANYTHING unregistered, larger than normal letters, to street addresses these days is super risky, as PO contractor often leaves them sitting on fence if they do not fit into those silly little slots, and go on their way, and passers-by often “souvenir” them while wandering past.  Or they get soaked in rains - never good for mint stamps etc!

I spell this out all the time, and only the client knows if packages to THEIR house are safe, and not me.  Signed for mail, or mail to Boxes is the only safe way for packets really.  Some folks have large secure mail boxes in quiet streets, and other have those silly little tiny slots that fit nothing bigger than letter mail.  None of this is known to ME of course.  


Post Office box the only safe bet.


The simplest solution of course is to rent a Post Office box, and then all mail is held at your Post Office until you come to collect it.  Sadly under Ahmed Fahour’s destructive and short sighted “Wrecking Ball Management” of Australia Post, the cost of those has skyrocketed too, so unless you get a lot of packets,  that may not be cost effective.  

These days, more and more, I urge domestic clients to pay the $3.80 extra for Registered Mail. The appalling compensation level of $100 has not altered one cent for over FIFTY years literally, despite the cost of it being hiked over 22 fold.  It SHOULD clearly be $2,000+ MAXIMUM.  You always need to prove the value of contents, so in practice PO payouts will not vary much over today. 

And sadly stamps these days cannot be used to pay that $3.80 Registered fee - until recent years one COULD pay the entire cost of the service with stamps domestically, and the orange labels were free.  You can still use stamps for overseas parcels, but not letters.  Americans (and many others) can pay for all Registered and insured fees with postage stamps. 

Registered Mail within Australia not only gets scanned in at the sending PO, but you are supposed to personally sign for it upon receipt.  So it is a very secure system.  The main failing is a 50 year old outdated compensation limit, but at least it is SAFE

Registration cover an insult in 2016.


 $100 maximum is an insult in 2016.  If I mail even a Post Office Year Book from the past 10 years, they EACH all retail for way over $100!  Indeed the current books costs $110 to buy from Australia Post - get that lost in the post ordered direct from them, and you are out of pocket even if you DO Register it.  Crazy.  

The history of commerce shows when you get fat and bloated, and take your dominance as an automatic right, you will get knocked off your perch VERY fast.  The sloppy and often painfully slow delivery service that Australia Post is offering more and more often these days, at a VASTLY increased price each year, was never going to last.  “The Carnival Is Over”. Competitors are appearing.


Was 24¢, and now is $5.30.


In 1966 when we changed to decimal currency, a First Class letter rate stamp cost not $1.50 as it does today, but just 4¢ (I kid you not !) and the Registration Fee was 20¢, so a registered letter cost just 24¢ to mail nationally, and mostly arrived next day.

The 24¢ “Azure Kingfisher” bird stamp shown nearby was issued in 1966, solely to cover the combined Registered and letter rate fee 20¢ plus 4¢ - few realise that, and it was widely used for that purpose.  A pretty “Bird” stamp.

TODAY a First Class letter costs $1.50 and a Registered label costs $3.80 = $A5.30 - but giving the exact same $100 maximum compensation level as a half Century back, when it cost 24¢, but now more than 22 times the cost.

A half century ago, most Registered sendings would not contain goods worth even $100.  Today, near everything I send Registered costs way more than $100, and if lost or damaged the BUYER wears any loss over $100, unless you pay extra for insurance, up front.


YOU can get this changed.


It needs mail recipients like YOU to write to the Communications Minister and the PO, to demand the cap on Registered Mail compensation be upped from $100 to say $1,000, which even so, is under half what it should be, inflation adjusted.

Until this change is made, you the consumer need to take out seperate insurance cover for the real value of your goods, simply as the Post Office is not doing its job in offering a realistic cover on your Registered sending for the 2016 cost.


Unchanged Compo for 50+ years.


The photo nearby is of a 24¢ Registered pre-paid envelope from stock, that shows the very top £50 or $100 compensation payable, for loss or damage by the PO, all in the small type on face.  Indeed even in the pre-Decimal era, the exact same £50 ($100) figure was payable - OVER HALF A CENTURY back.  

I offer “all risk” Marine Transit insurance for more valuable goods now, as in the event of any claim, is far quicker than dealing with Australia Post.  For the cost of a Pizza, a $1,000 sending is fully covered for loss or damage, and is VERY cheap peace of mind.


Mint stamps & water don’t mix!


Oddly many folks decline to do that, and WHEN the goods arrive soaked in transit (never wise for mint stamps!) damaged, bent in two, or lost entirely etc, it suddenly becomes MY problem to sort and replace it free - trust me, that is the response near every time.

WRONG.  It is like booking a flight with an airline or a rental car and declining up front, the small cost insurance cover they all offer. Decline that, and later tell Qantas you missing the plane is their fault, or telling Avis you hitting the power pole or a BMW is their fault, and let me know how you fare!

Registered mail DOES arrive domestically, no argument there, but packets getting wet or damp in transit is of zero concern to Australia Post.  A MUH 5/- CofA Roo is $1,000 retail, and a no gum one is $50 as “VFU” - and that is exactly what you have if it gets wet, and sticks to the stockcard. 

Transit Insurance for your pricier stamp purchases is just that. It gives peace of mind for a really tiny cost.  It really should NOT be necessary, and decades back it really was not needed locally, but in 2016 it IS wise, until enough folks lobby AP to raise the $100 Reg’d compo to $1,000 or $2,000. 


Value $1000 mint and $50 if wet.


Many dealers do not offer it at all, and a $1,000 Kangaroo from them sent Registered will get you $100 back from the Post Office - after much paperwork. You cannot expect that dealer to wear the other $900 loss if the PO loses or damages the stamp, or it gets wet.  And for a collector trying to secure a one-off insurance cover for a mailed sending - FORGET it!

Most auctions charge you the buyer 15% or 20% on top of your $1,000 stamp, and charge the seller 10% or 15% too.  So they certainly may well have plenty of “padding” to absorb such losses or damage in the mail if it occurs.  I have no idea, but I doubt it.

On a $1,000 stamp I am often only making $150 or so nett, as better pieces sell fast, but are expensive to source, and am not about to bear a real $850 loss, just because someone opted up front to say “no thanks”  to a few $$s extra, to insure it for full $1,000 value.

For overseas Registered mailings the situation is farcical.  The very cheapest Red/White/Blue envelope costs $A14.90 each, even if you send just 10 grams overseas.  Even to NZ where an airmail letter costs only $1.85, so you pay $13.05 extra for a Maximum $100 cover.  Despite the huge cost, there is still ZERO tracking for senders on these things.


No lodgement tracking even.


Using the Australia Post tracking website, there is not even tracking acknowledging the item has been lodged!  I am constantly getting asked by overseas clients where their mailing is.  Mostly from Americans who of course expect all mail to arrive “yesterday - if not sooner, please”.

I need to go back and say: “it was sent a month back. You need to trust me on that, as in this Third World country, we have no tracking or lodgement proof. You were charged $15, but I can’t even show you when it was sent, or where it is now. Sorry about that”.  Zimbabwe has a better system!


ZERO lodgement or tracking data.


Again Australia Post will only amend and expand this hopeless system if the USERS complain that it in 2016 is hopelessly inadequate, and not anywhere near World’s Best Practice.  Every other main country offers full on-line tracking for senders - why not us? 

The Fat Cats sitting on the top floors like Fahour drawing an obscene $A4½m salary have no idea how bad and antiquated some things are down at the user coalface.  For $15 they MUST offer on-line tracking - and lodgement data at a bare minimum, for overseas Registered.  DEMAND they do, and it will occur.


$1.50 “Priority” 1st Class mail SLOW.


I predicted that this Fahour wacko experiment, to try and foist $1.50 letter rate on the Community would be met with a vast national yawn.  And have been proven correct.  PO’s tell me almost no-one seems interested. 

A member of stampboards on January 16 posted:A quick note to advise that in the few weeks of the new service, of the near 1,000 items of mail we have received at the office, there has only been one letter with a priority label used!”

The Master MBA thinking was that if he cranked up the cheapest letters up over 40% from 70¢ to $1 they would all still be “Second Class” mail, and take days and we all would rush off to his Plan “B” snare.

Somehow that $1 stamp was “sold” to the ACCC and Politicians, and was approved in January 2016.  His real agenda was that “many” users would want mail to go at the same speed as it always had, and introduced a new label saying “PRIORITY” that you can buy from POs for 50¢ each.

Fahour’s claim was, that using these 50¢ labels alongside a new $1 stamp would offer you for $1.50, the same next day or 2 day delivery you got for 60¢ only 2 years back. What does trebling the cost mean to a man earning millions a year, after all?  “Let Them Eat Cake”. 

So the grand plan is now in place.  Pay AP $1.50, and your letter goes at the usual speed you are used to.  In theory. The problem is, they do NOT.  Stampboards had many members mail a bunch of letters with $1 stamps, and just as many with $1.50 to same address, and in the main the delivery time was the same - or often the “Priority” system was actually slower!



Six day “Priority” Mail joke.


“Stamp News” Editor Kevin Morgan, advised on stampboards of his first letter received under this Wunderkind new system. It took 6 days from mailing - Sydney to Melbourne. My letters often get to London or the USA much faster.   

The order was from a client in the Newcastle NSW region - for Australia Post purposes, that is “Sydney”.  In the quite recent days of 60¢ First Class mail, that would near always arrive in Melbourne by Monday. Let’s check what change we see, when you near treble the price.

It went through an un-named mail centre somewhere in Sydney region NSW on Friday January 8, as can be seen from the rectangular Friday “6pm - 8 Jan - 2016” cancel on the $1 Rose Cone Flower new issue definitive. 

We do not know WHEN it was posted, as of course much mail is not cancelled these days, but let’s be generous to Australia Post, and assume it was sometime on that same day, Friday January 8.  Postcode very clearly written, so it should not have been misdirected.


“Priority” letter service a con.


The fact it was already in a Sydney regional mail centre at 6pm Friday should have seen it packed onto a plane, and flown to Melbourne anytime that weekend, as per the “Premium Service” guarantee, or even by truck it would easily arrive over the weekend.

Kevin advised on stampboards that he received this first ever “Priority Mail” piece on Wednesday January 13.  So that is 6 days from mailing this $1.50 “New Expedited Service Letter”.  FAIL.

Here is a hot tip for Mr Fahour and his Corporate cost cutters.  Don’t fuss with jets and trucks and all that nasty un-green pollution, as when it takes you 6 days, there a CHEAPER method.

Many of us remember when wiry old 61 year potato farmer Cliff Young shuffled and walked his way from Sydney to Melbourne in 5 days.

AP can perhaps pay “Cliffy” or some other keen jogger to toss a few letters into his backpack, and they’ll get them delivered faster than the You Beaut new $1.50 “Priority” service does!  


Give the mail to CLIFFY!


The new system clearly does not work as advertised.  Is AP obliged to offer a refund on your $1.50 when the system totally fails as it has here?  If not, why not?  They boasted a fast system,  that is slower than the far cheaper old one was. Express Mail has a service delivery guarantee, and if that is not met, you get a full refund. 

The issue seems to be this system was a brain fart in the Executive Towers, and no-one gave any thought to grass roots implementation. The Brass imagined LPOs would have seperate bags for “Priority” Mail, and none that I have visited actually do.

The letters ether get tossed in with normal mail and delivered at that speed, or are thrown into the gold colour “Express” bags which actually SLOWS the system, as in mail centres they are then extracted, and taken over manually to the normal letter mail stream area.

Bottom line, a dopey and expensive system that does not work, barely thought through by anyone, and I predict it will fade quietly off the scene the moment Mr Fahour gets his matching orders down the track.  Which hopefully for the good of AP, will be sooner - not later.


Canada Eye Candy!


Few countries print stamps in this modern era using the old fashioned recess/intaglio steel plate engraved system, due to cost.  Sad, as the quality is quite superb, and unlike flat print photogravure, the fine detail that one can get on steel engraving is quite amazing.



Moose Microprint. has a current discussion on the hidden security features on recent Canadian stamps.  Some of the secret features are on photogravure stamps, but the real gems of course are on the huge Definitive stamps.

Member there “Canada Stamper” has taken time to scan the current stamps, to show some of the super tiny detail up large.  With the naked eye much of it you simply would not see, and many thanks to Jean for sending me these great scans. has much more on them, than can be shown here, with superb high detail pix, but I offer just a little taste of it for hopefully your enjoyment. Engraving on steel allows the tiniest size lettering to be created on the metal plate. The tiny “ALCES” wording is miniscule in real size.

Such micro-printing is of course used on currency banknotes of many nations, which again are intaglio recess printed in most cases, and allow super fine micro detail like this.  All designed of course to thwart forgers.  And Canada current stamps have of course been heavily forged in recent years.



Hidden “8” on $8 Grizzly Bear


The wonderful $8 Grizzly Bear design has a beautifully hidden “8” in the leg area as can be seen.  Very skilfully worked in, and the design line underneath the bear foot is made up of a conga line of solid green Grizzly Bears as can be seen.

The most stunning stamp in the brilliant Canada Definitive high value series, in my opinion, is the $10 Blue Whale, shown nearby on a large A4 size cover to me.  They are so large, a “complete PO sheet” is TWO stamps - each with margins on 3 sides - with 6 Scuba divers as colour controls!

Not only is it a quite massive stamp - see it dwarfing the tiny looking little 10¢ and 25¢ make up values alongside, but it has endless security features interwoven into the design. But only if you know WHERE they are hiding!  Read on.  


105% correct rate to Australia.


It does show once again, that my lifelong crusade for all collectors to use INTELLIGENT and thoughtful franking to others in the hobby is always possible. Someone paid more for that cover than the face value of the stamps, due to the wonderful franking and cancel. 105% correct rate too, for ‘AR’ Registered Air to Australia at the time.

The stampboards thread has far more detail, but the fine engraving on this beauty is worth showing here a bit more carefully. The denomination (and 1 Scuba diver!) are in a wonderful metallic copper colour type ink, that shines and reflects differently, when you turn it to different angles.



 Impossible to read at same size.


There are 9 x wavy shading lines in the water, each side of the whale, that you would pay no attention to at stamp size.  I’ve added a super blow up here on part of those “waves”, and you can see (hopefully) that they are in fact made up of the micro words “BALAENOPTERA MUSCULUS” - the Latin name.

That is only part of the Micro-printing tricks. Along the top margin the Scientific name is inscribed in tiny print, but the engraver made a deliberate TYPO to fool any forger - "EA" instead of "AE" in the 6th repeat of "BALAENOPTERA".  Talk about clever!


Try spotting this at normal size!


Not all the clever stuff is restricted to the engraved metal plates. Superb use has also been made of design features that ONLY show under ultra violet light. The image shown nearby gives you an idea of what you will see. The engraved Latin wording “waves” all light up wonderfully.

And to the right hand side you can see a large colony of plankton under UV,  that is invisible to the naked eye. The coolest thing is the Scuba diver as depicted in the side margin colour registration, also shows right in the centre of the stamp, when you use the UV light!  He is totally invisible in normal light.


The hidden Scuba Diver image.


The other large size stamps in this same set, the various $1 and $2 values of Birds and Horses and Walrus and Polar Bears also have similar cunning engraver tricks buried in their designs.  Take a moment to visit the entire range of them here that Jean has scanned in high magnification -


New ACSC QE2 1953-1966


The last edition was in 2006 - TEN long years back.  At $A105 the value is there - finding just ONE half decent stamp - a scarcer type Specimen overprint, watermark variations, printing errors, or re-cut or re-entry etc will readily repay that outlay many times. 

All leading dealers should have stock of this new catalogue as you read this. I had a lot of pre-orders. Go and peruse one - you’ll be glad you did. Having these new editions as fast as you can source one is wise, as often stamp bargains are a begging in dealer stocks!



First Edition for 10 years.


This volume is completely revised, with new details of numbers printed, new shades and varieties, and many dramatic upward price adjustments, based on actual market realisations. On the first few stamps in the book, many prices were up about FIVE times the old edition. That general trend continues through the volume.

Even the very pricey material often increases a lot here. The front cover block of 4 of 7½d violet, “Double Print at base”, goes from $15,000 to $25,000 for instance.

I received this new book on return from vacation, so will review it in more detail next month, but do grab one fast if you collect or deal in this area.



R.I.P. Stamp Dealer Ken Baker.  1912-2016


Ken’s daughter Margaret phoned me January 18, with the sad news her father passed away peacefully in his sleep the evening before, just days short of his 104th Birthday.  As Margaret said - "103 years, 11 months and 9 days".  Very sad to hear, and he still must have set a record for longevity for any stamp dealer anywhere in the world?

One of the TRUE old-school Gentlemen of this business,  I was honoured to have known Ken for 37 years, and many of the readers of this magazine will have dealt with him for many decades longer than that!  I took the photo nearby of 2 of those at his 100th Birthday Party - Max Stern AM (left) and Kevin Duffy AO.  

UK born Ken was founding member in 1948, of the Stamp Dealer Association here in Australia - ASDA/APTA, and he was very proud of his "Member Number One" framed Certificate.  His father sold stamps, so he was born into the business. He served overseas in WW2, retired a Staff Sergeant, and in 1945 married the lady who ran his shop during the War.

He at some time, handled essentially every stamp rarity that existed in this country - in this entire region really - some of them several times. He ran various large auctions, retail stores, and wholesale operations here, and dealt with the leading collectors, and had a stint in the UK.

His elderly mother famously bid on his behalf for the complete MUH pane of 60 x £2 Kangaroos at Robson Lowe Auctions for him in 1961, for £20 each.  She told Ken afterwards Robbie Lowe was "very courteous, and arranged a nice cup of tea, and a front row seat in the sale room."

Ken kindly gave me some years back all his files and invoices and telegrams etc, from his major stamp coups of the 1940s, 50s and 60s etc, so they stayed in safe hands for the future.  I was looking over his actual Harmer invoices from the 1961 Jack Kilfoyle auction. Two lots that cost Ken £345 together at that sale, are today in the ACSC at $A600,000.

Shown nearby is just one page of Ken's invoice from that 1961 sale, for Lot 470 - the 1930 Tête-Bêche KGV pair for £240, (Cat $A250,000) and Lot 518 - the 1928 Kookaburra Imperforate mini sheet for just £105  - that one is cat $A350,000 today.  Who says there is “no money in stamps” ?!

Ken related to me a very detailed background summary of his rich life of stamps, and endless colourful stories, all in his own words, and that is all transcribed here, also with many photos of his 100th Birthday “Queen’s Telegram” etc - a fascinating life story -

Condolences to Margaret and Jim, and the entire family, from all of us in the stamp world, I am sure.

 Glen Stephens


Ken with lifetime dealer friends, Max Stern (left) and Kevin Duffy

Buy for £345 – sell $A600,000!








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