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Australasian STAMPS, July 1999

Lord Howe Island Legal Fiasco

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By Glen Stephens

The unfortunate thing about many large bureaucracies is that an army of people often run around justifying their jobs.

Australia Post seems to have problem with that old adage in the last couple of months.

The quiet, sleepy little Pacific island of Lord Howe Island (L.H.I.) decided last year to issue a stamplike label to pre-pay the local courier deliveries on the island. L.H.I. is postally part of New South Wales. Australia Post delivers to your P.O. box at the one Post Office agency. No postman, no mail van. If you are sick or infirm, or if it is pouring down with rain too bad! You need to get to the P.O. box to pick up your mail.

A local service was devised where for $A1.80 any article would be collected or delivered to you. A courier service. They exist all over Australia without incident. To cut pollution an electric car has been ordered for this purpose. Someone decided to create a fancy label or stamp to use on this mail. A Cinderella is probably the correct term. A reproduction of an old 1936 Memorial appeal label was utilised for the first $A1.80 stamp issued in 1998.

That stamp was simply inscribed Lord Howe Island Courier Post $A1.80. There was no use of the word Australia anywhere upon it. The stamp was popular, as only 200 sheets of 32 were printed, and 200 stamp booklets. Both sold out fast, which was self evident, as L.H.I. is a very popular place with stamp collectors, worldwide. The 1930 pen applied provisional written on the to 1½d Charles Sturt stamps, were also not authorised by the Australia P.O., but sell for up to $A1,000 each.

I certainly bought a quantity of the debut stamps at face, as it was obvious they would soar in value. The $A7.20 booklets I advertised a few months ago at $A40 each, and sold out. I turned down about 50 orders. I could easily get $A100 each today. A good number of stamps and booklets were bought by islanders as souvenirs and will never enter the stamp market. Many were of course also used for the courier service.

The L.H.I. Courier Service decided to print far more glamorous stamps for future use. One of the companies asked to tender for printing them was the Australia Post owned Sprintpak. From that time on, the troubles began for this tiny island.

Federal Court Threat

The heavies at Australia Post legal department came down like a ton of bricks on the L.H.I Courier Post, demanding all sorts of undertakings, and claiming the issuance of these labels was breaking an Act of Parliament - the Australian Postal Corporation Act (1989) and may also have been in breach of the Trade Practices Act of 1974. Legal action in the Federal Court of Australia was threatened as was confiscation of all profits, etc.

Now we are talking here of a little island with a total population of about 300 people. But make that 300 feisty people! The courier service has strong community support on the island, and they fought back. They pleaded their case to the super powerful corporate watchdog the Australian Consumer & Competition Commission, or the A.C.C.C, headed by Professor Fells. The A.C.C.C. thought L.H.I. had a strong case I understand, and determined the $A1.80 Cinderella was clearly not an Australian Postage stamp as covered and protected under the Act.

I recall that all manner of stamps have been peddled within Australia that had EVERY appearance of being Australian postage stamps, but were not. The Thirlmere Railway annual issues spring to mind. So do the full colour $A5 and $A8 Kakadu National Park Wetland Conservation Duck stamps, which were not issued until 1989 so these surely breached the Act?

These were even printed by Leigh Mardon in Melbourne, so gimme a break and tell me Australia Post were ignorant of these! I also recall the Royal Flying Doctor Service issues. And if memory serves me correctly these Duck and RFDS stamps all of which appear to have breached the Act, were actually offered and sold by Australia Post via the Philatelic Bulletin! Ah, where were the army of lawyers back THEN!

The new L.H.I. issue (June 10th) is thus an Emergency label, created when the legal position with the AP heavies was not resolved. I understand a very pretty, 4 colour, 4 stamp set of local marine life is now in production. Correction, HAD been in production for 6 months until the jackboots came down. So, the Emergency stamp may be rather short-lived. I am told the FDC production numbered only a few 100. I sure bought some when I head that!

For anyone who collects this sort of thing, go for it. The stamps are not expensive, and will I suspect be forerunners in a regular and long running issue plan. And we all know what usually happens to the First of anything that gets widely overlooked!

Three Years Late

Talking of that, I smiled in despair recently when a "Market Tipster" for another magazine belatedly discovered 3 years after the event that Christmas Island had actually issued stamp booklets. This great market mover decided this was all wrong and they should not be listed in Gibbons.

Had he read THIS column in December 1996 I broke that story to the world and illustrated the booklet. Retail then was $A50-$A75 and they were freely available and were tipped by me. They are in Gibbons now at £140 ($A360) for SB #1 and SB #1a is unpriced, but is many times rarer, more like a $A1000 item. If you want NEWS, read Australasian STAMPS magazine, but if you want Ancient History...!

New Finds

We all love to make new discoveries.

Well known Melbourne dealer Alf Clark does lots of national shows, and is an advertiser in this magazine. He recently came across a wonderful airmail cover, never seen on the market before.

Refer to his half page ad elsewhere in the magazine for a photograph. The new find is a 1949 Air France cover to Australia. It is listed as Eustis #1230a, although I understand no one has sighted one for the half century since it was issued. The Registration label on the cover is 002, so I guess if nothing else it indicates that there must be an 001 out there somewhere! Check around - I am sure Alf would love to talk to you if you have it!

The price asked is $A2,000 and seeing I am asking well over double that in my ad this month for a 1919 Ross Smith vignette on cover of which many dozens exist, this is a good buy at $A2,000. I suspect at an Aero Auction like Chares Leski runs, it may have bought $A3,000 - $A4,000. Most importantly it has a FRENCH connection, and if an collector of Australian Aerophilately does not step up to buy it, I have little doubt that a French based one will do so. It must clearly be one of the rarest French originating airmail covers on the books. Alf tells me he has shown the cover to Nelson Eustis who verifies it is genuine, so if you collect this material, pick up the phone NOW and secure it!

Papua Sperati Forgery

The other find this month was the Holy Grail to all serious Papua collectors. This is the Sperati forgery of the British New Guinea 1901 2/6d Lakatoi. Known to exist, I doubt a copy has ever been on the market in Australia. Well known dealers like Rod Perry have told me they have never seen this item. The lucky owner in this case is ME! It originated in England in June.

Perversely, the stamp has an old RPS London Certificate saying it is a genuine SG #14b (today this is re-numbered as SG #16 - Cat. £2,500). That is wrong, and again shows slavish obedience to Certificates can be costly, as the fake is worth MORE than a genuine SG #16! It is a Sperati forgery, and possibly the only one existing.

Jean Sperati was very clever in that he faded or bleached part or all of the design of genuine but low value stamp, and then printed his new design over the top. This way he ended up with the correct paper, perforations, watermark, and cancel (Although on this copy, the barred numerical cancel is understood to be a superb fake as well).

Sperati is best known for his 1913 £2 Kangaroo fakes of which many exist. They still sell for $A1000s each. Less common are the Western Australia and Tasmanian £1 QV values of which only 1 or 2 each are recorded by Sperati, and these sell for $A3,000 - $A4,000 each. Perversely, that is about ten times the value of the GENUINE used stamps! The same sort of price multiple is expected for the 2/6d BNG Sperati forgery when I offer it for sale.

New Catalogues

In recent months I have received all kinds of catalogues for mention in this column. Firstly there is the update to the excellent Clarrie Peck Pictormarks catalogue. An absolute must have if you collect postmarks of any kind of Australia, from late 19th Century onwards, A terrific reference, each item is priced, and well illustrated, and numbers issued are given. Clarrie can be contacted at 3/11Gregory Street Ballarat, Vic. 3350 - Phone (03) 5332-6159.

Another fine new reference is the Priced Catalogue of New South Wales Revenue & Railway Stamps. Edited by Richard Peck and David (Dingle) Ingle Smith, it is published by the Cinderella Club of Australasia., P.O. Box 889, Chatswood NSW. 2057. Based on the previous works of Craig, Ingles and Orchard it brings together 142 big A4 pages of information never before available in a single volume. Profusely illustrated, with quite a bit of colour, it is a must purchase item, and it would not surprise me to see it soon sold out.

Another fantastic reference is the opus work of Harry Bazelmans with his Registration Labels catalogue. This comprised a complete CARTON full when posted up to me! There are TEN large A4 sized bound volumes, with all pages being in plastic sheet protectors. The work to do this must be immense. There is one Volume covering the registration labels of every single State, plus one for the Commonwealth as well.

There is a separate volume for New Guinea, Papua, PNG and the Islands - Norfolk, New Hebrides and Nauru - even AAT. The final volume covers the Registration labels used by the RAAF, Army and Navy, including Military Hospitals, etc. That one is a very thick volume. Harry shows the dates each label type was introduced, and available details such as colour, size, sheet size, whether rouletted or perforated, etc.

This Magnum Opus is a pioneering work from a collector who has a massive holding of these labels. All volumes are wonderfully illustrated, and these are fine works for a new collector in this field to start collecting by. Regular advertisers like Michael Eastick stock ALL these volumes, and you can buy as a complete set, and as single volumes, depending on what you collect.

Australia 99 Frenzy

Well, we only have one major international every 15 years or so, thus the interest in this wonderful show is unbridled. There are masses of collectors starting up a strictly A99 collection. Regular advertiser Manfred Junge has been rushed off his feet selling complete collections of these issues for $A990. He produced a Limited Edition, fully official numbered set of 100 albums. In mid June he had only FIVE left! The true poweer of ASM advertising. Manfred bought along his deluxe 2 volume set of all these stamps to a dealer meeting I hosted recently.

In TWO very thick Deluxe Lighthouse albums there is a wealth of material in there...the mind boggles. Special guest at that dinner was David Maiden, head of Australia Post Philatelic, who flew up from Melbourne. Even David was visibly impressed, commenting half the material in there even he had not previously sighted! He purchased a set of albums for the P.O. Archival reference collection.

The A99 perfin sheets were raised at this meeting. Manfred asked David whether 15,000 were sold at the show and 15,000 by mail order. In front of a witness gallery of all the leading dealers, David was emphatic. There were 15,000 sets in TOTAL sold of the A99 perfins. About 11,000 were sold at the Exhibition, to anyone who wanted them, and 4,000 sets sold mail order for a month or so after the exhibition, again to all who ordered them. There was limit of 2 per person, and this applied to dealers as well - no exceptions.

As per the front cover story on last magazine, the rare perforation found on all the 15,000 brown sheets was an accident, and David said he had not been aware of it until well into the Exhibition. He did concede to me that some of the funny perfins (inverted, reversed, etc.) on these had been done by the staffers present, but stressed they were quickly shown the error of their ways when it was bought to the attention of his senior staff at the show.

The fact remains that if you handed an imperforate mini sheet to an Australia Post/Sprintpak staffer and they perforated it by accident or design upside down or reversed, and handed it back to you, it can be nothing other than an official Post Office error. You have paid only the face value, and have not created the variety yourself.

I heard this week that one of our advertisers, Craig Chappell from Brisbane got $A440 for a set of reversed perfins at his public auction in early June after a heated bidding duel. This had an estimate of only $A60! Great result Craig, and it does prove that advertising in the ASM Does pay off! He got nearly $A700 for a set of similar items on cover, cancelled at the show.

The demand for ALL A99 stuff has gone ballistic. Page 2 advertiser Judy Dixon of Stampfinder told me today their offers of the various A99 covers and products has melted down her phone lines in the past 2 months! I amuse myself by perusing and dropping in on many of the USA based Internet chat boards very early mornings. These A99 items have received huge coverage over there.

One New York store called Champion Stamp Company has the normal A99 perfin set in his window for $US295 or $A450 according to the Internet chat postings. Without giving myself too much of a plug, my price of $A75 in my page 20 ad was set WAY before I read of that, but the Americans do go for this Hot stuff. The magic number of only 15,000 done, backed up in writing, and all 15,000 being in a rare perf variety to boot is what is driving demand for these items.

I estimate of the 15,000 sets sold, probably 13,500 are in the hands of collectors who have no intention of selling. As this major perf variety will be undoubtedly listed in ASC, Scott, Gibbons, Comprehensive Catalogue, Michel, etc., the 50,000 to 100,000 collectors looking for them will have 1,500 dealer copies to fight over. Most will want it as a mini sheet AND as rare perf singles for their album pages. Think about it! Wait until album supplements come out next year as well!

These articles are all Copyright © 1999 Glen Stephens. They may NOT be reprinted or used without written permission. However, permission will be granted for virtually any reasonable useage purpose, providing full and correct attribution to the writer and magazine is given. Applicable scans from articles in black and white or color can also be arranged to be E-mailed to you.

Above is one of my Market Man "Tipster" columns published in the Australasian STAMPS Magazine.


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