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December 2016




Snail Mail Lives On!



We all use the term “snail mail” to refer to the postal services in general, in this age of email, and SMS and text messages, and internet etc.  Less and less letters are being mailed in every country, and the cost of domestic mail keeps going up and up as a result. “Slippery Slope”.


Letter was “cancelled by gastropods.”


Anyway the photo nearby caught my eye this week, in the stamp dealer monthly journal “The Philatelic Exporter” published in the UK.  It is now (oddly!) owned by Stanley Gibbons, and has been published monthly for 72 years - longer than most collector stamp magazines globally. It is full colour, and a very interesting read each month.

I have written a monthly multi-page “Australasia” column in there for the past 30 years or more, so must be coming up to 400 different columns by now, and they have not sacked me yet!  Editor for all that time has been Graham Philips, and he has seen some pretty amazing changes in this industry over his many decades. 

UK dealers Dauwalders of Salisbury sent them a photo of a cover they received last month from a client.  As you can see it is badly snail chewed, or as Dauwalders cleverly phrased it - “cancelled by gastropods.”  And the owner Paul Dauwalder called it “exceptionally well eaten” in his “Exporter” letter!  



“Exporter” Published for 72 years.


Dauwalder said in his letter to the “Exporter” that the cover had arrived at his office in an outer cello bag, with a note inside from Royal Mail, inviting them to make a claim via official channels for compensation. Knowing Bureaucracies, my guess is this would involve $25 of time and messing about, to get a $1 refund for the chewed up letter!

I’d bet if Dauwalders listed this cover on their website, and offered it complete with the Royal Mail compensation letter, they’d easily get 10 or 15 quid for it, off someone as a curio.  Many folks collect Post Office delayed mail or “interrupted mail” etc, and with the PO letter, that adds to the appeal.


“Blown Up By Hooligans”


I have seen more official Post Office annotations on the actual mail items here -  The photo nearby shows a 1983 GB cover shown on where the Post Office affixed an official note saying the letter had been “Eaten By Snails”.  Another PO note I saw there was indicating mail was “blown up by hooligans with fireworks”.



Official GB PO “Eaten By Snails” note.


The UK street mailboxes have quite large openings in them, as can be seen in the photo nearby, and they are often sited with lots of snail habitat vegetation nearby.  Snails apparently find the gum on envelopes and stamps a really delicious treat, and if they can fit in the hole - and they easily can, make a mess of the contents of the Royal Mail red boxes. 

In Australia the roadside mail posting boxes have, like the USA, a hinged metal flap that allows very large parcels to be inserted. But have only a very small opening for snails!  I use that feature regularly - huge things like a Gibbons “Part 1” catalogues packed up securely, or a couple of stockbooks in a box fit in easily.  Even 3 kilo items like that.

My post office closes at 5pm but the roadside box at my street corner is collected at 7pm nightly, so something urgent can be mailed at 6.30pm Fri/Sat/Sunday in the red box, as long as correct franking and paperwork are on it. 

Often it is delivered on Monday then, and otherwise it would be the Monday when I got to mail it.  No neat cds cancels that way of course, but buyers tell me most times the pretty stamps are not cancelled at all such is the mess at PO Mail Centres here!


A tale of Two PO Mailbox types.


I can’t say I have ever seen a mail item here snail chewed whilst in an Australia Post streetside mail box - maybe they secretly toss baits etc down into the base - who would know in this day and age!   The mail slits in them are quite thin and a decent size snail just cannot enter. When the mail gets to households - well that is another story altogether, as some boxes are open to bugs.

Clearly it is a widespread issue that many experience - the “Herald Sun” newspaper in Melbourne had a bunch of readers contact them with “sure fire” tricks and tips, all guaranteed it seems, to stop snails eating mail in your letterbox at home, if you do not clear the box often.

The article is shown nearby, and the range of homeowner solutions is pretty bizarre. Ranging from a handful of thick rubber bands, rat bait, plastic shopping bags, sandpaper, swimming pool salt, mothballs, or broken up eggshel



 “Take some crushed eggshells …… “


I am not so sure I’d like picking up and handling any mail that was residing in the same mailbox as the rat bait pellets, crushed eggshells or mothballs, but they may work - if any readers here have a tried and proven solution that works for you, please let me know.  Just do not mail it in to me!


Icebergs Ahoy.


When at “World Stamp Expo” in New York, Melbourne Auctioneer Gary Watson from mossgreen (in photo) showed me a nice piece that had just been consigned to him. It is a UK parcel label with a 6d KEVII stamp, addressed to the “Marconi Telegraph Officer, RMS Titanic, White Star Line, Southampton UK”, and is dated April 11, 1912.  Clearly the parcel just missed the sailing, and the Liner sunk April 14/15.


“Titanic” parcel label for Auction.


Sender of the parcel was the “Marconi Telegraph Company Ltd” UK head office in Chelmsford, with 2 different parcel cancels.  Watson has confirmed the auction estimate is $A20,000 at mossgreen’s next sale.  ALL things “Titanic” have a global collector base, and I am sure it will do well.  There is essentially no POSTAL connection material to the tragic journey.  A few very tenuously connected pieces still fetch 5 figures.

It will be auctioned in Melbourne on the afternoon of November 29. This extraordinary item survived only because it arrived after the departure of the ill-fated "Titanic", apparently containing blank Telegraph forms.  This is the first time that it has appeared in the philatelic market, having recently been "discovered" in a provincial general auction in England. .

Considering the source, addressee and low postage rate, it seems certain that the packet contained telegram forms. The packet was actually handed to the first officer of "Titanic's" sister-ship, the "Olympic", with the intention of it being delivered to the "Titanic" in New York.  However, as is well known, on the night of April 14/15, 1912, the "Titanic" - on her maiden voyage - collided with an iceberg and sank, with the loss of some 1500 lives.


Estimated to sell for $A20,000.


I do hope mossgreen show some initiative, and email the shiny new massive Titanic Museum in Belfast with bidding details.  I visited there last year soon after it opened, and it is already THE #1 tourist attraction in the city.  Near a million visitors in the first year, WAY above projections, and at £35 a couple entry, they can afford the cover! 


Maybe it will end up here?


“Titanic Belfast” is a huge 12,000 square metre metal statement of stunning modern architecture, built exactly where “Titanic” was constructed 100 years earlier  Once a dirty and abandoned looking dockside area until recent years, it is now the tourist magnet for Northern Ireland, and brilliantly done, and this piece would be perfect in there.


American Centering Madness.


Who needs the American kooky "numerical grading" fading fad system, when large USA auction houses bypass it totally when it suits, and cheerfully make up their own wacky and nonsensical system to sell rare stamps, and give them absurd and Total Fantasy centering descriptors! 

Take a look at this rather ordinary stamp nearby.  It was recently invoiced for $US41,300 - about $A55,000 at the time.  It is the 1923, 1¢ green Washington-Franklin rotary-press issue, perf 11 - Scott 544.  A scarce stamp, no doubt at all on that, but it surely does not mean Auctions can blithely INVENT condition and centering terms for it that are nonsense???


Roughie sells for $A55,000.


The 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Black on Magenta is UNIQUE, and worth ~$10 million, but the auctions never call that stamp "superb" or "immaculate" as it quite simply is not - makes no difference whatever to the price.  Scarce is scarce . "It is what it is".  The British Guiana stamp is in truly terrible condition – but is unique.  Everyone accepts that.

This USA 1¢ green shown nearby was offered September 29 by Kelleher Auctions, based in Danbury Connecticut - literally "The Oldest Philatelic Auction House in the United States, established in 1885."  Kellehers do not need the PSE or anyone to tell them it is an ugly looking stamp - instead they just invent their own grading terms - this dog suddenly has "FANTASTIC CENTERING" according to them -

"An impressive well margined example with fantastic centering"

What?  No mention whatever in their description of the 2 or 3 "nibbled" or pulled/torn perfs at base - it is "well margined and fantastic centred" after all.  Kellehers did however say this stamp is "in immaculate mint condition".  Nibbled/torn perfs and "immaculate" do not gel, and should not be used on such a stamp - they are a contradiction in terms. It is clearly NOT in "immaculate condition".

Here is that same stamp item, shown at real stamp size - does any reader here concur it has "FANTASTIC CENTERING"?  What utter nonsense.  However Kelleher Auctions fooled someone it seems - it was invoiced for $US41,300 - about $A55,000.




So who needs numerical grading to sell American high price stamps?  Not a PSE "Numerical Grading Certificate" in sight for this average looker stamp.  Just make it up as you please, and things can STILL sell for WAY more than Scott value - which is 'only' $US35,000 for this stamp, Scott #544!  “Only In America.”

It does illustrate that common looking stamps facially can be worth serious money IF you source catalogues - and can read them.  This exact design stamp is NORMALLY a few cents retail, mint or used.  Gazillions were printed of them, and every kid’s collection ever formed has one in there. So they all google it, see this one got $A55,000, and start bugging dealers!


Why $55,000, and not 10¢?


WHY is this one worth $A55,000, and the one in every kid’s album globally, worth only 10¢?  “Linn’s Stamp News” offered this explanation.  In the 1910s, in order to print stamps more efficiently, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing switched from flat plate to rotary presses, allowing stamps to be printed in continuous rolls.

The printing plates for the rotary press were curved around a large cylinder, resulting in a printed image that was slightly stretched either horizontally or vertically, depending on which way the plates were oriented. This means that rotary-press stamps are about half a millimetre taller or wider than similar flat-plate stamps.  A truly TINY size difference, but measurable.

As part of an effort to economise, in the early 1920s the BEP salvaged otherwise wasted parts of rotary-printed stamp sheets, and converted them into usable sheets for issuing and sale to the public. These printings are known to collectors as either “sheet waste” or “coil waste”, depending on their original intended purpose.

What distinguishes the salvaged waste from other rotary press stamps printed at the time, is their perforations. Instead of coil-type perfs in one direction only, the waste stamps were perforated all around, either gauge 11 (like earlier flat-plate printings) or 11 by 10, or 10 by 11.  Many of these salvaged waste stamps are very scarce.  In the case of this 1¢ green Washington-Franklin rotary-press perf 11 (Scott 544), fewer than 20 are recorded to have survived unused.


Rare Mauritius Auctioned Dec 1.


For anyone with quite a few spare million laying about idle, the famous Mauritius “Bombay” cover is being auctioned by David Feldman in Switzerland on December 1.  The estimate is 3-5 Million Euro, plus all the onerous “add-ons”.  That converts to about $A4.3-$A7.2 Million - plus fees.


Expected to invoice about $US5 million.


The Auction description says in part:  Bearing the two finest examples of the “Post Office” One Penny issue, this cover realised the highest price ever for a philatelic item in 1968 (Dale Lichtenstein auction) and can be considered to be on a par with the British Guiana One Cent, which was recently sold by Sotheby’s for $US9.5 million.

1d Deep Orange, two singles, datelined Port Louis, January 1, 1850, on entire letter addressed to “Thos. Jerrom Esq., Secretary to the Bombay Auxiliary Bible Society, The Esplanade, Bombay”, cancelled by twelve-bar handstamp, in circular format and the right stamp additionally by handstruck “2” in circle; showing “MAURITIUS/G.P.O” crowned circle d.s. (Jan. 4, 1850) adjacent.

The stamps are of contrasting shades and impressions - the right stamp very sharp and the left a little heavier - indicative of the primitive printing methods of single impression from a copper plate on a hand press. Both stamps are of a brilliant colour and fresh, with unusually large margins all round.

The cover has a small cut at right below “Society” in the address panel, and has also been reinforced at the joins. The entire letter comprises a double letter sheet written by the Reverend Langrishe Banks on 1 January 1850.

Surprisingly, the contents of the letter, which concern the acknowledgement of receipt of a box of Scriptures (Bibles), were not known, until the Weill Brothers dealers in the USA allowed the letter to be opened up in 1976.


For Sale: Estimate 2-3 Million Euro.


It will be interesting in a few days, to see what figure the cover obtains. The same auction house is also offering the original copper printing plates for the “Post Office” Mauritius pair of stamps on the same day, also for a several million estimate, which seems high to me.  I saw them on display at “World Stamp Expo” New York in June, and whether non stamps can ever get to 7 figures, we shall all soon know.


Original copper printing plate found.


This printing plate has done a bit of a “roadshow” in the past two years, being on display by Feldman at “Europhilex” in London in May 2015,  Singapore World Stamp Exhibition in August 2015, and “Monacophil” in December 2015.  And then most recently at the big show in New York in mid-2016.

The 1847 Mauritius “POST OFFICE” stamps were the first colonial stamp issues of the British Empire, and rank among the world’s greatest and most sought-after rarities. 1,000 stamps were printed (500 each of 1d and 2d) but only 27 examples are known to have survived of the 2 values combined. Near all of those are used, or on cover.

The printing plate disappeared from view for many years, and was rediscovered in 1912, when it was described by Alexander J. Sefi in 1912 as: “the Greatest Philatelic Treasure existing”.  Sefi was the legendary dealer, prolific philatelic writer, and specialised collector of this era.  He was invited to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1933.

The Mauritius printing plate was then acquired by the also legendary European collector  Maurice Burrus around 1930, and was last displayed at the 1935 Silver Jubilee exhibition, of the Royal Philatelic Society in London.  It then disappeared from view, and for many decades it was feared that it had been lost.

However, following the death of Odile Burrus, the niece of Maurice, the plate was re-discovered by the Burrus family, and has since been with David Feldman of Geneva Switzerland, so that it could once again be displayed in public, as it has been for the past 2 years.  Now it is set for auction, soon after you read this article.


The only MINT pair are inside.


I was fortunate to visit the impressive “Blue Penny” Museum in Port Louis, Mauritius a year or so back, on our way to mysterious Madagascar. That Museum has a slightly faulty mint example of each stamp, both bought in 1993 by a consortium of Mauritius business interests, for well over $US2 million the pair. Huge money then.  Only 2 mint of the 1d exist globally, one of which is in private hands, and has not been seen for decades.

Even The Royal Collection does not have them -  so the only place on earth to see the pair mint is in Mauritius.  As it is not a country remotely on the global tourist trial, so clearly well worth a visit!  They had all kinds of cool souvenirs of that pair I bought back, fridge magnets, locally embroidered handtowels and “Post Paid” handmade perfumed soap etc, if anyone collects that stuff!  -


RENNIKS “Australia” Catalogue


Renniks Australia publishes each year or so, a very useful and feature packed stamp catalogue that suits the needs of large numbers of collectors.  Now in its 15th Edition over 24 years, the RENNIKS “Stamps Of Australia” is super value at just $A27.50 r.r.p, and has over 3,000 colour photographs, and about 270 colour pages.

This perfect sized book (150 x 215mm size) lists and illustrates in FULL COLOUR, the Colonial “State” Stamps of Australia, from 1850 to 1912, also all Australian Commonwealth and AAT stamps from 1913 to June 2016. The photo nearby shows the front cover of the latest catalogue.

Not just basic issues either.  All perfs and watermarks are listed in the Kangaroo and KGV heads series, Large and Small “OS” punctures are listed for both, and “OS” for all later commems etc.  Also listed and illustrated are the popular Philatelic Numismatic Covers (PNCs) which are popular with both stamp and coin collectors.


273 colour pages just $A27.50


First Day Covers are priced right back to the 1920s, and modern stamp booklets and Prestige Booklets are all listed and priced.  As are all Miniature Sheets and sheetlets etc. The sheetlets 10 are sometimes priced mint and used, and some only mint. Suggestion to Editor - add the used price to all, in line with mint - I use 1,000s a year myself on mail.

Editor is Alan B. Pitt, who is Managing Director of Renniks/Lighthouse, who are Australian agents for Lighthouse, Stanley Gibbons and UK Hagner Sheets etc.  I’ve known Alan for 35 years and how on earth he gets time to cobble all this stuff together, I have no idea, but RENNIKS “Stamps Of Australia” is a superbly priced 1 stop book for this region for most collectors.

Renniks publish the sister volume - the regular “Australian Coin and Banknote Values” catalogues, and have done for well over half a Century. It is the absolute “Bible” in the numismatic industry for coins, and most especially, Banknote prices.  Next edition is out very early December at $39.95 r.r.p.   

Few know it, but RENNIKS spelt backwards is SKINNER, and these catalogues were founded in 1964 by the numismatic industry uber legend Dion H. Skinner, who came up with the easy to remember brand name, and it lives on, over a half century later.

Renniks/Lighthouse are a huge national operation, wholesaling stamps and coin accessories, and masses of motoring and other collector and niche books and stationery.  They get large numbers of these catalogues placed into bookshops and newsagents and libraries nationally via their networking, which means lots of new collectors get into stamps, as $27.50 is a perfect price point. 



Cat price $4,500 mint, $3,000 used.


One listing I noticed in the new Edition was the “30¢ Adelaide 2016” CPS Emergency issue of 6 stamps.  A mint set is shown nearby.  Renniks catalogues these at $A4,500 mint and $A3,000 used, as Renniks #4242-4248.  Stanley Gibbons also gave them full catalogue listing recently, as SG #4492/4497, and demand from overseas has been massive since then.

This listing will alert many Australia collectors to the set for the first time. Also the new Seven Seas “ASC” Catalogue is nearing finalisation as we speak, and I understand this set of 6 will be listed and priced in there too.  When the printed album pages for this set of 6 appear globally next year, the fun will really start then I imagine! 

These will be one of the rarest stamp sets sold widely over Post Offices counters in the entire British Commonwealth since the War.  The dodgy insider deals re Anguilla “emergency” 1967 set is well known, but that is in SG for £25,000 a set mint and no-one actually really collects Anguilla, so these Adelaide sets are hot stuff for the future.  

There is an identical set of 6 x “$1.00 ADELAIDE 2016” of these designs, and for many collectors will nicely fill the album pages. I bought 100 sets of those $1 before they were withdrawn on June 30.  They already sell for $A75 a set (Stock 571GX) or investor lots of 10 are $500, and for most, is far more palatable than $1,000s for the 30¢ set!  Australia Post Philatelic or overseas agents NEVER sold either, at any time, so supply is tiny of both.


Four Years Of Trump.


Finally in closing, as I type this mid-month, many around the world are still reeling in shock and disbelief that near half the Americans who actually bothered to vote in November, did so for Donald Trump.  Who was it that said: “The public always get the Politicians they deserve” !

The rest of the world prays they hide the nuclear codes from him for 4 years, as hopefully he will not get a second term. Trump is not even close to being sworn in yet, and he is back-flipping already on his 100% guaranteed “promises” - jail Hillary, ban Muslims, loosen gun laws, sue all those lyin wimmen, deport all illegals, dismantle Obamacare, charge the Mexicans to build “The WARRL” etc.  All hot air, that will simply never occur. 


The ultimate in Garish Wallpaper.


A raft of tin-pot stamp issuing “nations” of course all jumped onto the Presidential Election bandwagon, with a host of expensive sets and mini sheets that hopefully sold poorly!  Laughable stamp non-entities like TCHAD have already issued Trump stamps, which seems somehow most appropriate to me.  As well as the Central African Republic etc. members added a montage of these garish wallpaper “stamps” for those who like this stuff -  I am sure some of these hillbilly entities will create stamps from the recently released naked photos of his Slovenian wife Melania, from her alleged high end callgirl past era - and even stamps like that do sell.  WHY - who knows?

Strange days indeed, and whilst technically who they elect is only relevant to Americans, it does affect all others globally, when a maniac like this lies his way into office. The Germans elected a megalomaniac into power in the 1930s, and that worked out rather badly for everyone globally.  The fact Vladimir Putin was the ONLY world leader to applaud the Trump result, should concern EVERY American!

Anyway, Politics do not usually enter my stamp columns, but this recent result I think it is fair to say, totally gobsmacked and worried most of the world.  Indeed like Brexit, both would probably have got a VERY different result if the vote was re-taken, a week later in both cases, once the Penny Dropped, and cold hard reality set in on what they’d done.  Everyone has 4 years of this nutter now.  Enjoy the TCHAD stamps!







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