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   March 22, 1999. (Front page feature story)


Australia to personalize new stamps with photographs of show visitors

By Glen Stephens


In a world first, Australia Post this month will offer to print a collector's photograph in color on a postally valid stamp unit.

The leading-edge technology was to debut March 19 at the Australia 99 world stamp expo in Melbourne Australia.


David Maiden, head of Australia Post philatelic division, featured on his own personalized stamp. Visitors to the Australia 99 stamp show will be able to have their similar photographs appear on labels that are se-tenant to the 45˘ stamp showing the ship Polly Woodside.

Show visitors will be able to buy blocks of 10 Australian domestic-letter-rate 45˘ Polly Woodside stamps with their photograph printed beside, or se-tenant with, the stamps.

The Polly Woodside is a full-size, historic square-rigged ship moored permanently on the Yarra River outside the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, where Australia 99 takes place March 19-24.

The regular-issue 45˘ Polly Woodside stamps have a perforated, gummed, vertical tab, or small label picturing the Australia 99 koala logo, to the side of the design.

Special sheets of 10 of these stamps have been printed with this perforated tab totally blank, instead of picturing the logo.

A secret trial campaign spanning several months allowed color photo images of a person or persons to be rapidly printed upon this blank stamplike tab.

For this issue, Australia Post waived the usual rule that only official standard design postage stamps are postally valid in Australia.

For example, Australia Post normally will not handcancel a nonpostal label, charity seal or stamplike cinderella because it is against regulations.

These personalized tabs are confirmed as 100 percent postally valid while still attached to the 45˘ Polly Woodside stamps and may be postmarked with the special exhibition postmark or even passed through the regular mails.

This may put a whole new meaning to the term "socked-on-the-nose" cancels.

The unit, with the stamp and personalized tab, can be used on registered, insured or overseas mail. However, the photo labels must at all times remain affixed to the 45˘ stamp to be postally valid.

The photograph attached to the Polly Woodside stamp shown here in color is of David Maiden, national manager of Australia Post philatelic division.

I asked Maiden whether he can envisage these items being offered by mail-order after the show, perhaps with collectors sending in color photographs for scanning.

He replied: "We have no firm position on that right now. We will see what kind of response we get at Australia 99 and take that as a pointer to whether we proceed any further with this novel concept."

Visitors to Australia 99 will be able to buy their personalized stamps for $A10 ($6) for a sheet of 10 45˘ stamps.

There will be a maximum five sheets supplied per person, that is 50 photo images in total.

The photos allow two persons posing together within each tab.

Australia Post claims that the photographic image will be transferred and printed "in less than one minute."

A humorous notation is made in the instructions that are handed to each potential subject.

The notation reads: "Anyone deliberately making inappropriate gestures during photography will automatically forfeit their order and a refund will not be provided."

For the technically minded, here is how state-of-the-art modern technology has made these unusual stamp items possible.

A person stands in front of one of six digital cameras on site at Australia 99 to have his photograph taken.

This digital image is then processed through customized software using a new range of iMac computers supplied by Design Wyse.

After manipulation, the image is printed digitally in sharp full color by a Fuji Xerox Docucolor model 40/40.

The image is printed beside the conventionally preprinted and perforated gummed stamps, giving the recipients valid postage stamps bearing their own likenesses.

Extensive trials of this exciting process were conducted in recent months by Australia Post-owned Sprintpak and by Excel Digital, a design reproduction company located in Melbourne.

Glen Stephens, a stamp dealer and stamp journalist based in Sydney, Australia, is a regular Linn's contributor.

This is an edited version of a Linn's article that appeared in the March 22, 1999, issue of Linn's Stamp News. For the complete story, subscribe to Linn's Stamp News.

                                   All content Copyright 2000 Linn's Stamp News, of Sidney, Ohio, USA and by the author Glen Stephens.


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