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Scarcest Ever Decimal Set Just Issued
By Glen Stephens
Australias scarcest decimal stamps have just been issued. They cost only $1.35 and were freely available to anyone worldwide who ordered them in person or by mail order. Their present market value is already about 50 times issue price in some places, and set to go far higher in my view.
See the front cover of this magazine for illustrations of these 3 stamps. The three Navigator stamps involved were issued at Australia 99. They are the 45¢ William Dampier, 45¢ George Bass and 45¢ Philip Parker King.
These Navigator stamp designs are of course familiar to all stamp collectors. They were originally issued in 1963/5 in the pre-decimal series having face values at that time of 5/-, £1 and £2. To this day those are a scarce trio, with a retail in mint unhinged of $150. The £2 King is of course the most expensive face different stamp issued in Australia for the past 36 years. Fine used copies are also scarce, selling for nearly the same price as MUH.
These 3 stamps were then re-issued on February 14th 1966 when Australia converted to Decimal currency. The colours remained the same, and the denomination converted to their exact Decimal equivalents, i.e 50c, $2 and $4.
On March 15 1999, these 3 stamps were issued once again, and once again in the identical colours to the first two times. Along with the other 3 values of both other sets, Abel Tasman, Captain Cook, and Matthew Flinders, the set of 6 was re-issued all bearing the 45¢ denomination.
They were issued and sold all over Australia in two attractive miniature sheets. Australia Post also announced that these miniature sheets would be available at Australia 99 with a very well publicized twist.
These special items would be hand perforated at the Exhibition it was stated. The announcement was duly made that 15,000 sets of 6 stamps, i.e. 15,000 pairs of the imperforate miniature sheets would be able to be hand perforated at the show. The imperforate miniature sheets were printed at the Exhibition on a huge Heidelberg Speedmaster printing press.
For facilitate the perfin experiment, Australia Post issued a small quantity of these miniature sheets totally imperforate. This was a world first for Australia Post, i.e making available for legal sale a fully imperforate version of a miniature sheet which would otherwise be sold regularly perforated.
I do not know how many of these special imperforate miniature sheets that were sold, but it was certainly a small fraction of that produced for the perforated version.
Collectors and dealers were only able to purchase the fully imperforate versions at Australia 99, and also for a limited time by mail order. I know that certainly as of late April when I placed an order for a quantity for stock I received a reply by fax from the Australia Post manager of wholesale sales saying the items were sold out as of that date.
These imperforate sheets will always have a good secondary market as album pages will make provision for them in the future as well as the regular perforated mini sheets. I advised lots of clients to buy a dozen or so extra IMPERF sheets and cut up into single stamps and use them for postage purposes. They are after all fully valid 45¢ stamps and being used on cover would be most unusual and desirable.
To assemble of set of 6 fully imperforate, postally used Navigators would be absolutely impossible from commercial mail, and near impossible from philatelic mail of course. How many sets of 6 imperf 1970 Captain Cook stamps have you even seen postal used from 1970? In my 20 years of stamp dealing, the answer is about 5 sets sighted.
RAREST DECIMAL FDCs?
On an even more interesting note, these fully imperforate miniature sheets were fully valid for affixing to first day covers. Sure the FDCs sold in every post office around the country for this issue had the perforated version, but how many people would have ordered the fully IMPERFORATE set on FDC?
In my view it will be a key set to any modern first day cover collection, and doubtless the Comprehensive and Seven Seas colour catalogues will list them as imperf FDCs. There was a catch however if planning to buy the imperfs on FDC. Australia Post provided only for ordering via the Bulletin the PERFORATED set on FDC, as item 021001.
I have spoken to dozens of clients who thought by ordering that number they were getting IMPERFORATE mini sheets on FDC, as this notation followed the stock number and listing of the mint imperforate sheets. Wrong, sorry!
To obtain the imperforate Navigator mini sheet on FDC, you needed to (a) attend Australia 99 on the short first day, line up, buy the imperf mini sheets, buy the blank covers, go away and then manually affix them, and line up again and have them cancelled. Or, I imagine with some time and patience expended, you could (b) have paid special affixing fees and ordered by mail, within the 30 days of issue grace period for FDC.
For the keen collector they could of course be obtained on either the Australia Post Navigator design FDC envelope, or the special Koala Australia 99 special envelope as well. Choices, choices! I certainly bothered to order a bunch of the Imperf mini sheets on covers for clients, as many were not able to attend the exhibition. I made sure they were cancelled with the special Exhibition Koala canceller. Regular advertiser Stampfinder tells me they are advertising them in some unusual combinations on their inner cover ad this month.
These sort of left field items are what drives major stamp exhibitions .. there is a myriad of material available. Much of it is produced in large quantities, and is purchased in substantial quantities, and therefore prices seldom settle at much above issue price. It is the items that people forgot to order such as the imperforate sheets on FDC that do well in the future. The earlier you buy such items from dealers, the cheaper they will be.
All the above is interesting news for many I am sure, and I suggest if you missed these items, that you contact your favourite dealer to ensure you secure copies for your collection. However the real Scoop in this article is yet to come.
SCOOP OF THE DECADE!
Look at the front cover of this magazine. The three stamp there look like every stamp that came in every one of the millions of Navigator mini sheets I am sure were sold. There is however, a MAJOR difference. These 3 stamps are a strikingly DIFFERENT PERFORATION!
They measure perf 15.2 x 14.7 and will thus be called by dealers 15¼ x 14¾. The normal design stamps are perforated exactly 14½ x 14. So there is a huge perforation difference, one of the greatest of any Australian stamp other than KGV heads. The usual variance in a perforation different issue is a .5 difference. This one is a full ¾ perf variance on both sides, visible with the naked eye. (NOTE: the blue mini sheet perfinned A99 with the 3 horizontal stamps has precisely the same gauge as the regular mini sheet, being 14x14½.)
The most expensive Australian perforation variety previously was the 1972 $1 Navigator. This is Stanley Gibbons 401c with a catalogue value mint of £110 =$A275. To this day this stamp is Australias most expensive single decimal issue. The perforation given for that in Gibbons is 14.8 x 14.1. No-one knows how many of the $1 Navigator were issued with the different perforation. That happened late in 1973 and had a life of about 6 months until the $1 Painting was issued April 24, 1974.
The ACSC says that 33½ million of the $1 Flinders stamp were issued in total, or about 4 million a year over its 8 year lifetime. Using very rough figures, a 6 months supply would then be 2 million $1 stamps possible to have the scarce perf. Even taking a very conservative 10% of that figure leaves a hefty 200,000 issued. I suppose of mint and used combined I would have handled 1000 copies over 20 years, so that 200,000 figure does not seem silly. Yet it sells for $85.
How many then exist of the three stamps on the cover of this magazine? We know this, and know it precisely. The answer is 15,000 copies maximum. That makes it by far our scarcest perforation variety, indeed by far the scarcest decimal stamp EVER issued.
Each should be worth several times what a perf 14¾ $1 Flinders sells for, which right now retails about $85 for well centered copies. Given their Australia 99 connection, the most successful stamp group issued in 20 years by Australia Post, makes them even more desirable. A figure of $100 per stamp would be conservative.
Many collectors are assembling only A99 products. Manfred Junge, our regular advertiser is selling officially endorsed complete albums of all stamps from the 76 different issuing countries. Price is $990 a set, and only 100 sets were possible to assemble. Each set includes an exclusive set of silver and gold overprinted Imperf Navigator sheets, numbered 1 to 100.
Manfred has sold about half these Deluxe A99 albums already he tells me. Manfred reminds collectors that all his albums WILL contain the three rare Navigator perfs! He set his retail price before learning of this error from me in mid May, and will not alter price as a result, so there is a bonus for you if youve not ordered yet!
PERFORATE YOUR OWN STAMPS
How did these perf errors slip past everyones nose? Simply because Australia Post never advised anyone, at any time, that there was in fact a perforation variation existing on them. It is quite possible they are not even aware of it themselves until they read this. What happened was that for Australia 99 as one of the excellent crowd puller gimmicks (along with the Personalised Stamps photo stamps) you were allowed to perforate your OWN stamps.
You went and purchased an imperforate Navigator mini sheet set, and stood in a long line. There was one hand perforating press at the end of that line. You gave your mini sheets (max. 2 per person) to the Australia Post Sprintpak staffers, and they inserted them into a small machine which perforated them one at a time.
It often broke down, hence the rubber mallet seen here for assistance! The blue mini sheet with the 3 horizontal stamps went into 1 machine, and the brown mini sheet with the 3 square stamps went into a different machine, obviously, as the perf dies were entirely different dimensions.
On the first day in particular some shenanigans went on with sheets being perforated upside down and even in the wrong machines! I certainly bought any of these I have been offered. Australia Post are not happy about these existing, but the fact remains these WERE created by their own Sprintpak staffers until they were warned with severe penalties, and these errors are some of the most striking and valuable of modern times. A rare perforation set UPSIDE DOWN what a variety collectors dream! And produced and sold by Australia Post - no question about that.
I asked leading errors dealer Simon Dunkerley in Melbourne what his thoughts on the inverted and misperfed items was. He agrees with me, that if they were produced by Australia Post/Sprintpak staff, and handed to collectors, they are legitimate and collectible items. It is his view the inverted perfin is the best pure error of all the possibilities, although he did admit the perf die for the horizontal stamps being done on the square stamps and vice versa was a most spectacular error.
FREELY AVAILABLE TO ALL
The 15¼ x 14¾ perforation errors were thus freely available to ANYONE who wanted to buy them over the six day Australia 99 show. They were available also by mail order for at least 6 weeks after the show finished. All at face value. Unlike many other expensive items connected to Exhibitions, from many countries.
There was absolutely no artificial sellout or restrictions, other than 2 per person, which was fair. All this was widely advertised, and so was the 15,000 figure, well in advance of the show. A perfectly legitimate issue, just that no-one mentioned the wrong perf gauge!
Both these hand perforated sheets should have looked like normal Post Office counter stock, other than a tiny A99 logo which was also perfinned into a blank area of each mini sheet. This was another first. And yes they were popular. Our #1 subscriber Bill Harley from Dubbo is a leading light in the Perfin Society, and was busy rounding up copies for his absent colleagues over the 6 days.
So you lined up, got your 2 sets, and put them aside. If you had the intelligence on the first day to get these A99 mini sheets affixed and cancelled on a PO FDC, they are one of the post war cover rarities. Write that down. RARITIES. I have none, have seen none, and heard of none existing, but you can bet someone out there bothered to do it, and they are a $200-$300 item in my view, for an outlay of about $3.
I got lucky as Bill Harley needed to post to Sydney some parcels Id left behind at the Australasian STAMPS stand. He had the sense to cover the considerable $27 cost with ten sets of the A99 perfins that he had obtained during several visits that day! There were not cancelled first day, but they did get a A99 Koala cancel, and did see genuine postal service, and as such must be very unusual. What offers?!
So the mini sheets perfinned A99 all had the perforation error on the brown mini sheets. And ONLY those sheets. There were 15,000 issued. Australia Post stated this is all advance publicity, and stuck to their guns. There were about 11,000 sets perfinned at the show, and the balance of 4,000 were hand perfinned, and went back for mail order sale. For 6 weeks after the Exhibition these mini sheets were available, 2 per customer to EVERYONE who ordered them.
Bear in mind that virtually everyone did order their maximum 2 sets, so assuming most are collectors, they are in safe hands now, and will not enter the secondary market for a LONG time. Given that basically no commercially used ones will exist, all collectors of used OR mint worldwide will need to break up the mini sheet. And collectors will generally want them in mini sheet form AND in singles, so only half as many collectors can be satisfied.
NO ARTIFICIAL RESTRICTIONS
A great thing to see is that there was no artificial restrictions placed upon them or the usual mysterious instant sellout. This of course qualifies them for full catalogue listing, as Gibbons are deadly on not listing artificial restriction items. Dealers could not get big quantities. We were told 2 per order, and the top brass enforced that instruction to the letter. Max Stern got told 2 per order. So did Richard Juzwin. I ordered 50 sets on the phone but got 2 sets, along with the credit card bill for $5.40 post free!
A client in late March asked me to obtain him 200 sets of mini sheets, and to advertise for them, which he would pay for. He offered to pay me what I felt was a huge price per set, and I was happy to buy and pay for whatever collector and dealers asked. Most were happy to sell for $10-$15 a set, and some asked more. One guy said: I bet you wont pay $30 a set. I did!
One chap paid for his trip to Melbourne from Adelaide with what I paid him over his actual cost. I paid all bills, and eventually assembled the 200 sets the client wanted. Client arrived yesterday to take delivery, and pay for them. It was then, and only then, he told me he had spotted the striking perf variety very early in the piece!
No other dealer I have spoken to this week was aware of this error, and it does show that we all must be vigilant when buying new issue stamps. That is one little parcel of 200 units that will be worth a fortune one day. He thinks they will reach $150 a stamp, or $450 per mini sheet. Time will tell.
Where does this leave the catalogues on this issue? Well, Stanley Gibbons usual policy as well as Michel, is that the 6 single stamps will be catalogued, mint and used along with a set of mini sheets. They both I imagine will also a number the three perf varieties. I spoke to Seven Seas stamps today, and Manager John Higgs was annoyed this variety had come to light after he had planned all his artwork for the 1999 pages!
John agrees that as Seven Seas always provide spaces in album pages for all the face different booklet stamps that need be broken from full booklets that this becomes a similar case. This one is a first for Australia. I reminded John that Seven Seas incurred much wrath by including in their standard album pages, spaces for the 1996 AFL footballers issue in both regular AND booklet peelnstick! This necessitated a collector buying 16 booklets at $4.50 and a sheetlet of 16, i.e. $79.20 FACE value just to be able to fill up 2 pages on AFL footballers!
I spoke to Michael Eastick, regular columnist and Editor of the new Comprehensive Catalogue. A superb catalogue, and we have it featured on this months front cover. The best thing about this is the A4 size, and the new idea of spiro bindery on the book, so it lays flat on your desk or den.
I defy any living human to use a Seven Seas Stamp ASC catalogue on a desk, as due to its curious hybrid size and perfect binding it just does not lay flat whilst you use it. Another edition is scheduled shortly I understand, and I hope that practical user problem has been addressed for that edition.
Michael Eastick confirmed the next Comprehensive catalogue WILL list and price the 6 single 45¢ Navigator stamps, and the 3 perforation varieties, and the perforated and imperforate miniature sheets, both mint, used and on FDC. Michael agrees with me that the 3 perforation varieties are of major importance and scarcity, and had not been aware of them until I spoke to him mid May, some 2 months after issue date. The new catalogue just out lists and prices every Australian stamp right up to the March 22 $1.20 Olympic torch issue.
An issue like this creates excitement in the stamp market. Nearly everyone missed out, dealer and collector alike, yet nearly al of them will need this item. Not since the surprise of the 1988 PO Year Book has there been such dealer to dealer phone calls about a recent issue. Great for the business, which is positively BOOMING with the strong economy and the afterglow of Australia 99.
So, we have just witnessed the release of three very rare stamps. There will never be near enough to fill collector albums worldwide, as many times 15,000 people collect Australia on a serious level. Wait until the album supplements come out next year! It is my guess far less than 1,000 sets are in dealer hands in total, worldwide, as this issue was geared for collectors to obtain. If you dont believe me: phone around and try and buy even 5 sets, at any price. I of course have kept buying them from my ads, and when I sell they will be $25 a stamp of so for the rare perf, making about $75 a sheetlet. Maybe Ill ask $100, not certain yet. I am sure if you are quick you can obtain them for much less from advertisers in this magazine. Best of luck!
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