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Glen Stephens The Biggest Stamp Dealer in the Southern Hemisphere




 March 8, 1999. (Front page feature story)


New Australian rarity found on cover piece from 1932

By Glen Stephens

In the most sensational stamp discovery story in Australia in decades, a collector has found a new Australian Official stamp 67 years after it was used on mail.

The stamp is a 5-penny brown-buff King George V overprinted "OS" (for On Service, or Official Service), but it has a "Small Crown and A" (for Australia) multiple watermark. Until this discovery, the 5d stamp has been known only with a "Small Crown and C of A" (for Commonwealth of Australia) multiple watermark, the stamp cataloged as Scott O10.

The only known copy of this Australian Official stamp with an "OS" overprint was recently discovered by a collector in Tasmania. The stamp looks like the 5-penny brown but is on paper with a different watermark.

The new Official stamp eventually could rival the famed United States 1˘ Benjamin Franklin Z grill stamp as a Down Under version of that rarity.

The recent sale of the 1868 United States 1˘ blue Z grill (Scott 85a) to Mystic Stamp Co. for $935,000 made the news around the world.

The Z grill stamp was a relatively recent discovery. It was found only in 1957 and first sold in 1975, realizing $42,500. (For more details see the story by Rob Haeseler in the Oct. 26, 1998, Linn's.)

The story of the new Australian discovery started in late 1998 when Australasian Stamps monthly magazine published an article about "OS" overprints on Australian stamps.

After reading the article, Jim Manson, a collector in Tasmania, checked one of his copies of the 5d King George stamp with the "OS" overprint.

He had soaked the stamp off a piece of an official "OHMS" envelope (On His Majesty's Service) that he had owned for many years.

The stamp was not Scott O10, though, because it had a different watermark. It was on paper with the Scott type 203 watermark used for Scott O3-5, stamps issued in 1932, with a multiple Small Crown and A.

The 5d stamp with the multiple Small Crown and A had never been reported before.

Manson, a member of the Tasmanian Philatelic Society, took his stamp to one of the society's meetings, where the dealers and collectors present agreed with him that the stamp, if genuine, was a new discovery.

Next, he sent it to Geoffrey Kellow in Melbourne for a more detailed examination. Kellow is regarded as the leading authority on Australian stamps.

Kellow owns the world's largest reference library on Australasian stamps. He also is editor of the huge six-volume reference The Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalogue.

Kellow conducted extensive research on the used 5d King George V stamp and determined three things: the stamp, the overprint and the 1932 cancel were all genuine.

Furthermore, by the plating of the overprint, it was obvious that the stamp was from a position that had been officially inserted or repositioned into a plate of the regular 5d stamp, Scott 120, to repair a fault with an existing stamp in that plate position.

As was Australian stamp printer policy, such officially repaired sheets were not sold to the public, but were perforated "OS" or overprinted "OS" for government mail use. Thus, at least one sheet printed from the repaired plate was later overprinted to create Scott O10.

Kellow conducted detailed research into the post office archive. He discovered that the substitution of the wrong watermark in early 1932 was entirely possible and consistent with stocks on hand at that time.

He wrote about the discovery in the February issue of Australasian Stamps magazine, detailing his research, and stating that he felt the item was genuine.

On Feb. 11, after careful scrutiny, the Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria issued a certificate of genuineness for the stamp.

Stamp owner Manson has agreed to allow the stamp to be publicly exhibited for the first time at the Australia 99 world stamp exhibition to be held in Melbourne March 19-24. The stamp will be on display at the Australasian Stamps magazine's booth.

Insurance coverage for the stamp for $50,000 has been taken with Lloyds of London.

News of the stamp's discovery caused a buzz of excitement throughout the stamp trade in Australia, but it also made the news outside collector circles.

The state newspaper in Tasmania, the Hobart Mercury, ran a large feature article about lucky owner Manson, in its Feb. 3 issue.

Manson also has done television interviews.

Manson, a serving alderman on the Glenorchy city council, is an ex-soccer player of note and the father of James Manson, the Collingwood Magpies major league star familiar to all followers of Aussie-rules soccer.

I understand that Manson was offered $7,500 by Melbourne dealer Rodney A. Perry for the stamp when it first was discovered, prior to it being expertized.

Manson told me he felt this to be a fair and generous offer, but he declined, as he wished to retain it for his collection.

Had this stamp been offered in one of the two massive Australia 99 show auctions March 18, in my opinion, it would have easily realized $15,000-$20,000.

In a few years, a value of $50,000 or considerably higher is likely. If a U.S. Z grill is worth $935,000, what is Australia's rarest stamp worth?

Australia is a popular country with collectors all over the globe. Remember that the Z grill sold for only $42,500 in 1975.

It is appropriate for Kellow to have the last word, as his detailed original research paved the way for the acceptance of the discovery as a genuine but hitherto unreported post office stamp issue.

Kellow said: "At the moment this 5d 'OS' stamp is unique. It stands, to my mind, as easily the most important Australian Commonwealth stamp known, in terms of rarity."

"There are a number of other unique Australian stamps, of course, but these are all production errors. This is a stamp that deserves a full catalog number. In Scott, I suggest that the number would be O15, and the date of issue would of course be shown as 1932, matching the postmark on this example."

Glen Stephens is a stamp dealer and philatelic journalist, based in Sydney, Australia.

This is an edited version of a Linn's article that appeared in the March 8, 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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