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Glen Stephens
Monthly "Stamp News" Market Tipster Column


       April 2006





Would you pay five times retail?


If you phoned a dealer to ask for a nice copy of a fairly common stamp and he quoted 5 times usual retail - would you pay it?
In my 25 years of full time stamp dealing no-one ever has been quoted that much by me.
I wouldn't dare, and the customer would never pay it anyway, so it is a "dead issue" !
However, as Bob Dylan once wrote - '"The times ... they are a changin'."
I started to think on this comment emailed to me mid February by very long time dealer and regular "Stamp News" advertiser Tom Osborne:
"In the 60's the price of a pre-war mint hinged stamp and a mint unhinged stamp was the same - there was no premium ..  of course we all know what the MUH premium is now -  it can be well over double hinged mint prices.
"The same thing is happening in WELL CENTERED -  I have imposed a 60% premium for well centered early Australian issues and I can see that very soon the premium will be going up to 100%. 
"When you work it out,  it has to be worth it,  as there are probably only 5 well centered stamps in a sheet of 120 for Roos and KGV.  Even at 100% premium it is still too cheap for PERFECT CENTERED copies" Tom concluded.
Tom is spot on.  The market in Australia for perfect centering on early issues is slowly but surely falling into line with what has been a reality in the USA for decades.  Where a perfect centred stamps can and does often sell for many dozens - even many HUNDREDS of times full catalogue price.


338 times Catalogue 



Illustrated nearby is a very common USA 1935 10c black National Park stamp, Scott 749.  Full Scott cat for MUH is just $US4.25.  I predict most dealers in Australia if they had this exact stamp in stock would sell it for about $A5 - possibly a lot less. 
I certainly would - I'd not even glance twice at this if in a hingeless USA album or stockbook, as it is a very common stamp and dealers here simply do not bother looking at such ordinary material when quickly pricing up collections.
On February 17 Shreves Auctions in Dallas Texas sold this for $US1,437.30 (nearly $A2,000!) ... or over 338 times full Scott Catalogue value.  It was graded as 100 out of a possible 100,  and the Americans love those things.  (I'd still sell it for $5!)
Until recent times that same centered 1930's era stamp from Australia would NOT even get double catalogue.  Heck finding well centered 3d blue commems from that era is not always easy.  They were single line perforated and centering is all over the place.  A joined pair can be well and poor centred respectively
Issues like 1932 3d Bridges or 1931 3d Kingsford Smiths are also $5 stamps retail, and I just can't see me asking $2,000 for a nice one!  Ask even $10 and most clients here will scream "rip-off".



100% for well centred


  That reticence to pay for excellent centering is slowly changing as Tom Osborne correctly says.  The premium for really nice copies of KGV and Kangaroos and many pre-war issues will soon be 100%.  Indeed it is already several 100% in some places  





You Choose


Firstly - please look at the photo above.  Before reading one word further decide WHICH of these 2 stamps you would prefer owning if placed in front of you, and the asking price was the same, and the gum and condition on the back was identical.
In one auction in February a collector paid nearly FIVE times retail for a nice looking stamp.  At the Status Stamps Sydney auction an attractive 2½d blue 1913 kangaroo without margin - illustrated above, cost the bidder over $600. 
Most large dealers would have sold such a stamp (SG 4) that same day, if they had it in stock, for around $125.
Fellow columnist Simon Dunkerely sat 4 seats away from the successful bidder and was also astounded at the price paid for this, and several other early Australian stamps that were well centred - to the same buyer.
Simon assured me he inspected this stamp before the sale, and it had no variety or plate flaw - it was exactly what is was offered as - well centred MUH.
Simon laughed, and told me he had exactly as nice a copy for far less than one third that price in his October "Stamp News" ad.
The stamp illustrated nearby with the solid "Jubilee Line" selvedge is from my stock.  It is perfectly fresh MUH original gum, and was priced at $150 before I typed this article.  It is now priced at $250!  I am taking my own advice.
So be honest, when you did NOT know one stamp just auctioned at over $600 and one has been hiked in price to  $250, which of these 2 would you have selected if price were identical, and they were both on the same stockcard in front of you?
Apologies for the low resolution "muddy" scan from Status on the non margin copy, but that is all they offer.
Many collectors strongly prefer margin or selvedge, for the visual affect - and many hate it.  I've seen corner copies of some basic stamps sell for far more than non selvedge copies. 
Any experienced dealer will tell you a regummer can almost NEVER achieve a good job on a margin or corner copy, as the glue sprays into the round perf holes.  An excellent reason for buying margin or corner copies of "MUH" earlies if you have a choice.




Paid far too much



The buyer at this Auction clearly paid FAR too much.  However it takes 2 to make an auction, and there was a strong book bid that took the price up to $612.  So clearly there are at least 2 collectors who were prepared to pay about treble what they needed to.
My guess is neither reads "Stamp News".  They are the type of mistaken souls who say:  "I am not going to waste $6 on a stamp magazine" and then spend on just one stamp $350 more than they really need to!  (Editor's note - for $350 I'll sell anyone in Australia a SIX year subscription.)
As it happens if the buyer(s) were more street savvy they'd realise this stamp is OFTEN found superb.  Large MUH blocks still are and always have been around, and  many equally nice copies are often in such large blocks.
On the other hand, experienced dealers (and collectors) know that perfect centering is near impossible on many key stamps of the era.  In KGV heads getting a perfect centred 4d Lemon Yellow, and many of the small multiple perf 14 issues is near impossible. 
Yes a 2d brown KGV perf 14 or a 4d olive or the 1/4d should certainly all rate a 100-150% premium if PERFECTLY centred.  As Tom Osborne correctly says - only about 5 of them occur in each sheet of stamps from many watermarks.
Whether mint or fine used, perfect centred represents only about 5% of those sheets.  That is the reality, so a retail of only 100% mark-up is quite modest if one looks at things analytically.



N.Z. set sells $380,542


The amazing collection of Sir Gawaine Baillie is being slowly dispersed by Sotheby's and continues to set price records.
On February 17 the New Zealand section was auctioned in London.
Some very impressive prices were obtained including the lovely example of the 1855 Perkins Bacon printed 1d red Queen Victoria Chalon head illustrated nearby - SG 1.





 World record price



The stamp sold for £72,000 including all commissions.  On the exchange rate as I type this article, that is $A170,444.

The 2d chalon SG 2 realised £38,400, and the 1/- SG 3 sold for £50,400.  That makes £160,800 for the 1855 set of 3 or $A380,582.48 as I type this.

I doubt there is a first issue set anywhere in the world that has sold for anything even remotely like this high price.

All 3 prices were world record realisations, and all were purchased by an American collector. 

The 1d Chalon record price smashed the previous record for an individual New Zealand stamp -  the 1904 4d bicolour Lake Taupo.  I reported that great story worldwide in June 1998 here, and it also made the front page of "Linn's Stamp News" in the USA. 

The stamp was discovered in 1930 by Jack Dennett, a farmer in England, while looking through his childhood album.  He was searching for stamps he could sell for cash during the Great Depression.  Dennett was surprised to discover one stamp had an inverted centre, and he sent the stamp to a leading dealer for an opinion.

The stamp was sold in 1998 to New Zealand Post for their archives for $NZ125,000 by NZ dealer (and "Stamp News" advertiser) John Mowbray.
Mowbray was a keen follower of the Sotheby's sale.
"Though we missed out on this 1855 set, the auction today was hugely positively news for the market and showed great support for New Zealand stamps at auction," Mowbray said.

He says this clearly demonstrated the market is extremely strong for quality NZ stamps. The 1885 1d full-face Queen – New Zealand's first stamp – sold for double the estimate.

Mowbray said there was real interest in NZ stamps and the live auction.  "I tried to secure some of these superb NZ stamps but the prices went beyond what I had even optimistically expected" Mowbray said.






$48,500 for ugly Roo



An otherwise common, and rather unattractive looking Australian Kangaroo stamp has just been sold for $A48,500.
The stamp is a 1915 6d blue Kangaroo and Map issue, "second watermark", Stanley Gibbons 26w, Cat £7,000.   In normal used condition looking like this, the stamp would sell locally for about $10. 
This stamp has an inverted watermark.  This record price is the highest ever obtained for an Australian watermark error, on any stamp issue, from any era. 
My story reporting this sale made page 1 in colour of "Linn's Stamp News" in late February - even the Americans can't believe this price!

 Sold for $48,500


All readers should carefully check their early Australian issues as prices for these watermark errors are booming locally.  The record price stamp has an unattractive vertical parcel post machine cancellation.
The "Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalogue" (ACSC) states that 3 copies are reported to have existed of this error.  One of those three stamps is in the Royal Collection in London.  It is therefore not available to collectors.
The other two examples were noted in philatelic literature in the 1930s and 1940s but they have not been recorded or sighted since.  It is understood this example may be one of those two stamps.  After this time span, the survival of the third copy is doubted by many specialists.
No example of this watermark error is recorded as being offered for sale in Australia or elsewhere for at least 60 years.  
The stamp was sold February 9 by Melbourne dealer Michael Eastick via his website.  Eastick is the new President of the Australasian Philatelic Trader's Association. (APTA)
Eastick told me today: "I was given the stamp to sell by a long term customer.  He was very concerned by the high level of fees currently charged by Australian auction houses. 
"I found him an overseas buyer who specialises in this era.  It is a shame this rare stamp needs to be exported, but the demand for top end Australian stamps is truly global"  he concluded.
The just released and updated ACSC "Kangaroos" volume lists this stamp as BW 18a at $A25,000. 




580 times jump in 14 years 



As recently as 1992 it was fully catalogued at just $A85!  The recent sale price is 580 times the full ACSC catalogue value in 1992.  Many Australian Kangaroos and King George V head watermark errors such as this are selling for multiples of even the current high catalogue prices.
In my "Stamp News" column in January 2006 I reported offering a client $A12,000 for an inverted watermark average used copy of the King George V 2d orange (Scott 27) despite a current ACSC value of only $A3,500.
The collector changed his mind at the last moment, consigned it to auction and eventually received some $3,000 less than my firm cash offer. 


That article illustration reminded a Western Australian reader of this column he had one or two copies with the same small town goldfields cancel "Burracoppin", and when he checked, one of them also had an inverted watermark - never before noticed until reading the magazine.
That example is easily the finest of the few reported copies, and I sold it on his behalf recently for a 5 figure sum.
Several other Australian Kangaroo and King George V head inverted watermark stamps are also recorded with just one or two copies known, and have high Stanley Gibbons catalogue valuations in the £7,000 and higher region.
Most are stamps otherwise worth only a few cents in normal upright watermark.  The 2d orange mentioned above is valued at just cents each in normal watermark. 
Some stamps such as the 1923 6d brown Kangaroo (SG 73w, cat £10,000) are unique with inverted watermark, and logically should be worth more than the 6d blue.  That 6d Brown stamp was sold recently for a price much less than $A48,500.  
A leading Australian dealer told me that same stamp could well bring 6 figures if offered in the present market.  It has a clear Broken Hill NSW cancel of Jan 23:1928.  It is a very common stamp used, and like the 2d Orange "Burracoppin" one of my readers might have one sitting unrecognised among duplicates!?
As I often type here - "the last word in Philately is NEVER written."  Clearly other examples of the 6d Brown inverted watermark should exist, but are just not identified yet.
An even more desirable watermark error is the 1918 3rd watermark 5/- Kangaroo (SG 42ba, £16,000) with sideways watermark.  Only one used copy is recorded. 
I discussed this stamp with Simon Dunkerley last week, and he speculated this stamp could possibly sell for over $100,000 if offered on today's red-hot market.  In 1992 the ACSC catalogue price was just $A1,500. 
This stamp was on display at "Pacific Explorer" as part of Arthur Grey's wonderful Kangaroo collection. That display was for me the highlight of the Exhibition.  







1915 9d Second Watermark Kangaroo Watermark Inverted:   One of the great rarities of the pre-war inverts, and most importantly, always has been recognised as such.  Way back in pre-decimal 1965 when inverts were not of interest to anyone really, this stamp in ACSC was still cat THREE times a normal used £1 Brown and Blue Kangaroo. (Today those are $2,000 each!)  With the incredible boom in INVERT prices, relative to everything else pre-war, this should now be a $20,000 stamp.
In fact for decades this 9d second watermark  was always regarded much more highly and priced far more highly, than the inverted 6d blue of the same watermark - that has just sold for $48.500!  The same 1965 ACSC I looked at (issued 50 years after these stamps were off sale) has the 9d second watermark prices used at 50% MORE than it's 6d cousin.  Even my dog eared of 1979 ACSC has the 6d at $175 and the 9d at $550 - priced over 3 times higher.  Logically, using historical relativity this stamp should be worth $48,500 plus 300% + 50% = $150,000!   My asking price is 2% of that.
This stamp can only move in price in one direction - UP.
Only a few used are known and ACSC says half of those are non postal cancelled.   The known postal used copies have Queensland postmarks of April or May 1917.  (The solid black round dot to right of '9d' is a circle stop used on the cancels, either side of town name, and is not an ink blob!)  Nearly every copy I have seen offered of this invert has a fault of some kind.  Many are plain UGLY!   One of the nicest looking copies existing.  This one has a lovely crisp Clermont Qld postal cds of May 1917.  Clean and fresh and attractive looking, with a professionally added perf tip top right. 
ACSC 25a $4,000.  The scarcer Roo and KGV inverted watermarks have gone insane in recent months.  Many already get MULTIPLES of the recent catalogue price.  A fairly ugly 6d blue 2nd watermark of this same set just sold for $48,500 - double the NEW catalogue price!  See my recent front page "Linn's Stamp News" and "Stamp News" articles on that sale here:
Well under ACSC Catalogue, which in turn is WAY under the prevailing retail.  You'll never see this stamp again at this low a price.  In fact it is a very long time since I saw a copy of this error on the market at ANY price!   $A3,000






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Full Time Stamp Dealer in Australia for over 25 years.

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