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Australasian STAMPS, July 1999

Max Stern & Kevin Duffy Receive Australia Honour Medals

By Glen Stephens

Two of the best known and most successful stamp dealers ever to trade in Australia were honoured with Australian Government awards in mid-June. They are Max Stern of Melbourne and Kevin Duffy of Sydney.

The awards were reported first in the July edition of Australasian STAMPS monthly magazine. Max Stern is one of the major shareholders, and was one of the founding dealers behind launching this successful market leading magazine.

The annual awards for outstanding services to the country are announced on the Queens Birthday public holiday, which this year fell on Monday, June 14th.

Kevin Duffy received the second highest award conferred in the country, this being an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO). His citation read: "Mr. Kevin William DUFFY, Castlecrag, NSW - service to the International communities through the child focused aid and development agency, Plan International."

Max Stern also received one of the higher level honours, being an AM, or Member of the Order of Australia.

The wording of the award, which along with Kevin’s, was published in every major newspaper across the country on June 14th, reads as follows: "Member (AM) in the General Division - Mr. Maximillian STERN, Caulfield North Victoria. Service to Philately, particularly in the promotion of Australian stamp series overseas."

First Stamp Dealer Honoured

This is the only instance in history where an Australian stamp dealer has been officially recognised by our government for a contribution to philately in any form. It is my understanding that David Maiden of Australia Post Philatelic and a very well known dealer (three guesses!) were instrumental in putting forward Max Stern’s name to the official committee involved in assessing suitable recipients.

Kevin Duffy was Federal President of ASDA on 3 separate occasions, spaced 10 years apart, being 1964,1974 and 1984, a feat that will surely never be equalled. He owned and ran Seven Seas Stamps during the greatest period of its history. Kevin wrote an entertaining 2 page account of his ownership of that company in the April 1999 edition of Australasian STAMPS magazine.

In 1971 Seven Seas Stamps was sold to Kevin Duffy, who continued and expanded the approvals and premium side of the company, merging it with his own large existing "penny approvals" style business. Names like Rocket Stamps and Peter Harris were some of Kevin's creations then, as was a much more recent one sold a few years ago to John Macdonald mentioned below simply named "William Booth."

Kevin is still well known and liked in the trade, and has many connections overseas. Kevin gave wonderful speech in reply a few weeks ago at a dealer dinner I hosted in Sydney for the visit of David Maiden, the head of Australia Post Philatelic. Kevin’s extraordinary powers of public speaking drew great admiration from all dealers present.

With exquisite timing, Duffy sold Seven Seas Stamps in late 1980 to Reader's Digest. This publishing giant was keen to expand worldwide into other "leisure activities" at this time. Philately fitted their clean cut, conservative, American corporate image perfectly. Stamps had of course experienced phenomenal annual price growth for several years up to the purchase in 1980, but the "real" market had peaked worldwide and was in fact falling fast.

Seven Seas Stamp Sold For $A4 Million

The huge "Sydpex 80" Exhibition in NSW was the beginning of the end of the stamp "boom" in Australian Decimal and Territories stamp prices. That show closed October 5. Kevin walked away from Seven Seas Stamps in October 1980 with $A4 million in his pocket. What absolutely superb timing!

Savvy stamp dealers knew the "boom" was crashing in October 1980, but the Reader's Digest accountants only looked at past year's audited trading figures, not the present market. These were not stamp collectors, but merely corporate "bean counters." What they saw quite simply was an upward graph going off the wall. Head office in Pleasantville New York loved the numbers and they signed the cheque. Reader's Digest purchased the company from Kevin Duffy for a reported $A4+ million. It sold early this year for around one tenth that figure.

Australia dispensed with the British based Birthday Honours system some years ago. It is therefore not possible to today receive a Knighthood from the Australian Federal Government. I am thus indebted to John Macdonald, Federal President of APTA (and a keen collector of WWII airmen insignia), for indicating exactly where these awards rank when compared to the old British system we once had.

Arise Sir Kevin!

John advised me today that in the UK published Medal Yearbook edited by James Mackay, that Kevin Duffy’s AO award is broadly equivalent of a Knighthood in the old system. Max Sterns’ AM award ranks higher than an OBE (Order Of The British Empire) from the previous awards (An OBE of course ranked higher than the more plentifully awarded MBE under that system).

Should Kevin or Max fall on hard times the same Medal Yearbook helpfully provides a price guide for these awards should they come on the market. Kevin’s AO has a market value of £800 - £2000 and Max can count on £450 - £1000 should he even need to dispose of his AM! I suspect that the monies Max and Kevin have made over their long successful careers will have them smiling over this prospect.

Max Stern runs the largest stamp dealership in the Southern Hemisphere, and is the exclusive Australian Agent for EVERY country that matters, including G.B., USA and Hong Kong. He has been on the International Executive of IFSDA, and is still the most influential dealer in the Southern Hemisphere.

I reported only last month that he celebrated his 78th birthday playing a soccer match, competing for the Max Stern Cup. His son-in-law (and business right hand man), Sam Seigal said Max was planned to play half the match for each side just to ENSURE he won! Max is the oldest registered soccer player in Victoria. He has more energy than most people half his age.

Max recently received his 50 year pin for membership of the ASDA in New York, and both Kevin and Max have been appointed honorary Life Members of the Australian dealer Association. It is wonderful to see the government recognising the achievements and contributions made by two of the true gentlemen in the stamp industry.

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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