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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 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
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!
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
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
"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
580 times jump in 14
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
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
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
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
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
$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
ACSC 25a $4,000.
The scarcer Roo and KGV inverted
watermarks have gone
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
- 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
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
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