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July 2020


Not So Humble 1d Kangaroo Stamp!



The humble 1913 1d red kangaroo stamp is not always a packet material value stamp.  Australia's first stamp issue was the 1913 1d red Kangaroo.  Issued in Sydney on Thursday January 2, 1913 (other states days later) one would assume a lot of First Day Covers would have been prepared for this historic occasion?

Not so.  Only 8 exist in collector hands, and are catalogued at $15,000 each in the ACSC.  Near all were addressed to a wealthy Melbourne collector, Mr. Arthur Whiting - and all have the same staggered line, violet typewritten address from leading Sydney dealer Orlo Smith.  All are tied by a 5.30pm machine cancel from Sydney GPO of:
"JAN / 2 - 5.30 PM  /1913".


The only TRUE Melbourne 1d Roo FDC?


Arthur Whiting also had a few FDC addressed to himself from MELBOURNE with January 4 (12.15am) machine cancels - that being the first day of issue there supposedly - see Arthur Gray lot 84.  The fuzzy scan nearby is from that sale.  However, the just after midnight cancel indicates to me at least, that the stamps were clearly on sale during business hours at Melbourne GPO on Friday January 3, despite the ACSC note.

I sold an unusual version of the Sydney, January 2, Whiting FDC 12 years, illustrated nearby, that had the usual Sydney GPO machine cancel, and which was also cancelled on face January 3 upon arrival in Melbourne. 
Australia's leading First Day Cover expert Frank Pauer advises me this is the only example of this FDC recorded, that has any arrival cds cancel.  


“First Day” for Victoria appears wrong.


It seems crystal clear to me that 1d Kangaroo stamps WERE on sale in Melbourne late on Thursday January 3, and the cover shown nearby was dropped into a GPO mail slot on that evening, and finally got cancelled just after midnight.  The cancel certainly reads January 4, but clearly the purchase and mailing would have been January 3, as postal sale counters at GPO closed early evening.

If so, the other cover is unique in being cancelled FDI in Sydney, AND also being the only true FDC existing for Melbourne, January 3 - more by total accident than design!  Not sure if that client kept it, but it cost him $5,000 less than the Gray sale 1d Roo Sydney FDC, in far inferior condition, sold for.

I had not reflected on the odd 12.15 AM Machine cancel of Jan 4 until today, which clearly means the stamps affixed were purchased at some time on Friday January 3 in Melbourne.  Fist Day Covers were not commonly done here in 1913, indeed done anywhere globally.  Strange.


Melbourne FDC - cancelled a day late?


Mr Whiting seem to have been about the only collector here who was plugged into them - all the 3 known January 4 Melbourne covers are addressed to him according to Gray sale Catalogue, as are most of the Sydney ones too.  He was a man well ahead of his fellow collectors for sure.

Gray also had a 1913 First Watermark Whiting “FDC” set up to 5/-, none of which were FDC oddly.  They were BADLY foxed - far worse in the flesh than photos showed!  Simon Dunkerley paid $A78,750 at the Gray sale, buying them on behalf of Gray, as Arthur advised me Shreve insisted Gray was unable to buy any of his own material direct, under NY law.

There were certain items in the Gray Kangaroo collection that Arthur was not ready to sell, but Charles Shreve told him the ENTIRE Large Gold exhibit was what he was going to offer, and if Arthur wanted selected pieces back, he needed to engage an agent to bid against the market for them.  Seems fair to all.


Cleaned up.  Where are they now?


Arthur later had them professionally cleaned up by an art conservator, and had them on display in the Court Of Honour at Melbourne 2017.  They looked very nice I must say.  Not sure what has happened to them since, but for all values except the 1d they are the earliest on cover examples on the collector market.  All also were addressed to Arthur Whiting. 

There were 662 million printed of the 1d Kangaroo, and for a country that had a population of less than 5 million in 1913, that is a LOT of stamps.  That is 132 of these stamps used for every man woman and child, if you use that very simplistic statistic!  But of course big business was a huge user of letter rate stamps.


Part contents of the £1 Roo Stamp Booklet.


Business houses were the reason the Post Office produced the massive £1 Stamp Booklets - each about the size of a Hagner sheet!  The inner covers had lined columns for mail clerks to note who used what stamps - and when.  Arthur Gray bought over his booklets for me to scan, and one Exhibit page is shown nearby - containing 240 x 1 Roos.  SG SB#2, cat £18,000.

Anyway a LOT of 1d Kangaroos were used during its very short life, before the monarchist protests about this radical design, saw them being quickly replaced by the 1914 1d Red KGV head for letter mail, of which near 2 BILLION KGV 1d Reds were then sold, before the colour change to 1d Green and 1d Violet KGV heads of course, and so on to the 3d. 


In most packets of 500 Different!


When 662 million stamps are sold, a lot survive!  For the next 100 years most new collector packets of "500 different Australia - all Genuine - All Different"  type offerings had this stamp inside, as it was exceedingly plentiful in the wholesale packet trade, at a penny of so apiece in bundles, 


These were pennies apiece, not long back.


Packet makers liked to add this stamp, despite it not being as common or cheap to buy, as the 1d green or 2d red KGV heads, 3½ KGVI and QE2, and 5d Blue and 4c red QE, and many of the Xmas stamps etc, as they could state the compositions contained stamps dating from our very first stamp issued.

Time moves inexorably on, and what was once common in Roo bundles over 40 years back when I started dealing, is no longer the case of course.  Bundles of 100 x 2d, 3d, 6d (Brown), 9d, 1/- and 2/- Maroon were also common, and only a few dollars a bundle wholesale.  Most these days are several $$s PER stamp used! 


A variety hunter paradise issue.


A dealer named Erwin Glattauer of Masterfund lived in the next street to me in the late 1970s in Bondi, and his business in packet and compositions was enormous.  He lived alone, and his multi-level home had bundles from cellar to attic in rickety cabinets.  Incredible to see.  An Eastern European type old bearded hippy, he was a real character, and I bought some amazing bulk material off him in my early days.


Shoebox of 1d Roos in bundles.


I once purchased a SHOEBOX of 1d Red 1913 Kangaroos tied up roughly in old black cotton bundles of 100.  The assembler had worked in the "Sydney Morning Herald" mail room in that era, and had access to much of the incoming frankings it seemed.  It had sat in the family home since the WWI era, and the family bought it over with other stamp material.

Luckily for me, he had quite a number of bundles and part bundles of higher values to 2/-, and glassines of a smattering of higher value Roos off parcels, very many 5/- Third Watermarks I do recall.  They were worth soaking and messing about with!

However the vast bulk of this shoebox was letter rate value values, and these 1d Roos must have been in use during the main period that he worked there, and there were literally many hundreds of mouldy cotton tied bundles 100 of this 1d Red Kangaroo.

Now to a dealer time is money, and one simply never has that time to sift through this stuff when 100,000 pieces are involved, even IF clean and soaked apart.  There are many different Dies and shades, and near endless constant plate varieties.  And both types of OS, and private perfins.

With 1d Kangaroos, one has a very good chance of finding inverted watermarks - SG cat £20-30 each used, depending on Dies.  Or less likely, sideways watermarks, which come in various Dies and orientations - and average about £300 each used.  But I find one of those each year or so.  DO check mixed lots!


EVERY stamp den should own one.


As the 1d shoebox had been carelessly stored in an attic or garage etc, they were very musty and dusty, and as they'd only been roughly soaked off, had more than usual gum residue, so after 80 years of summer humidity and resultant damp storage tied into tight bundles, they were often solid little cubes of manky looking 1d Roos. 

A good HOT water soapy wash would have separated each cube I am sure, and after a few days in an A4 size Lighthouse Drying Book, would have let someone examine them for the first time in near a century.  I sell 100s of so of these a year, or the American made "Desert Magic" drying books - they perform miracles in drying such soakings flat and clean.

Anyway, my shoebox must have contained 1000+ bundles of 100 of these Roos - probably 100,000 or more stamps.  I recall I advertised them for a few $100 the lot “for a salvage merchant.”   Never did hear if the lucky buyer ever found anything of substance among them all - would have taken him a year or more to soak and separate them all out.  He might still be doing it!


A $10,000 pair - would you know?


The constant plate varieties are legion - a large A4 Adams/Bell/Pope handbook on just this value is popular, and the ACSC lists many, many pages of them.  And what might appear to be pretty minor can get VERY serious money, that is for sure.  The used Die 1 + Die 2 pair shown nearby was invoiced for about $A10,000 by Prestige Auctions.  I’d have never noticed that one!


Quality standards dipped in this era.


There are the many monogram and non-monogram singles and strips and double and treble perforations, and gum offsets even. Some printings of this went on until the onset of WWI, and it seems quality standards were not as rigorous at this time.  We also saw the no waste manta of this era come into play with many issued stamps.

The 1d lower 3 rows of the right pane nearby with Monogram I bought from the Arthur Gray sale in 2007, and have handled it a few times since then.  This was patched up by the printers with heaps of little bits of selvedge, pasting in undamaged stamps, after some double perforated stamps were torn out - all lower margin is double perf.  It looks like a 12 year kid got hold of it!  (See 6d inverted “OS” nearby for a similar official repair.)


This mangled mess was created by printer!


Some of the plate flaws on the 1d Red Roo are spectacular.  There is one known as “The Big Crack” - which is a heavy electro crack from top margin right down to the base of the stamp.  It got progressively worse and no idea how the printer ever missed it. You can see it readily with the naked eye - well worth seeking out, but many $100s apiece these days, even used.

Another visually stunning looking flaw that was constant for a short time was a heavy ink flaw around Tasmania.  ACSC tells us this flaw was discovered by the printer and all sheets with it were put aside to be later punctured ‘OS’ for the free Government use.  This was official policy - lots of double perf  or terribly centred stamps etc, were consigned to the same fate.  It ONLY occurs in OS.


O’Rourke Kangaroos do well.


The used block of 4 of this ‘Tasmania’ flaw is shown nearby.  It was in the O’Rourke Kangaroos auction at Phoenix Melbourne on June 12.  That sale did very well overall I noticed, especially as government rules prohibited room bidders other than a tiny nominal number, despite 10,000s being allowed to parade for political causes that same time, in defiance of the law.  Oh well.


This 1d Roo plate flaw fetches $7,000!


Anyway, this 1d block was invoiced for about $A7,000, or over 3 times estimate - indeed near 3 times full ACSC catalogue value.  ACSC says these OS sheets were issued mid-1914, just as WWI was declared, and that about 20 used and few mint examples are recorded so far.  A very high price for something of which that chunky number exist, but a most attractive block as you can see.


Have your say - very controversial issue.


The double perforated large “OS” shown nearby was invoiced at this O’Rouke auction for $A1,865 on a $,1000 estimate.  Look 105% kosher to me (beware ANYTHING like this offered on ebay of course - forgers galore there!) is the long and VERY heated stampboards discussion on these double perfins!

The Perfin Society came out and declared in writing all these were fake as I recall, despite there being 5 of them recorded now from various legitimate sources, and some have clear Opinions they are genuine.  And it seems they were doing all this magic expertising from computer scans!  Never owned one, but all 5 are genuine in my view, and in Rod Perry’s opinion etc, as can be seen.


 Much discussed, but looks OK to me.


J. B. Cooke’s thinking was that as the Goverment Departments paid nothing for the OS stamps, they could have all kinds of ugly rubbish and rejects dumped on them, that if otherwise sold to the public, might be rejected etc.  The printer was not mindful of stamp collectors.  Anything placed in the mail MAY likely get into the hands of collectors of course!

One most unusual stamp offered at the same O'Rourke auction at Phoenix on June 12, was the 1932 CofA watermark 6d Brown Kangaroo stamp with “OS” overprint inverted, illustrated nearby.  I remember being at a Sydney stamp dealer meeting in 1985 where local member, the late Jim Jude of Northway Stamps trading near me, showed it to fellow dealers, to get their thoughts.

Jim had just bought it sitting in a PO Specimen pack that he had purchased from a member of the public.  No inverted overprints had ever been recorded - then and now!  As can be seen, the stamp has little pieces of gummed stamp selvedge in each corner.  Why?  As the stamp printer used them to replace a stamp into a sheet that had been damaged in some way - a cut, tear, or ink spill etc.


Official Printer patching repair.


Now and again, patching in a substitute stamp or stamps would be done quickly by printer in this “Waste Not” Great Depression era, and it was hence inserted - but upside down.  No big deal on a sheet of normal 6d brown, as that can be replicated or faked, but if that sheet was selected for overprinting, clearly the solid OS overprint got INVERTED on that one stamp.

And so it was, with this 6d Brown Roo.  Amazing that whomever was ripping up that sheet to insert into the PO Specimen packs for collectors did not notice.  The 4 little bits of selvedge would have been annoying to tear and separate into a single stamp, and you’d look carefully at the stamp when doing that.  But clearly no-one noticed, and it went into the pack, and Jim found it over a half century later.



UNIQUE - invoiced for $35,000.


This was one of the very few unique Kangaroo stamps that Arthur Gray did not own. The values under 10/- were all neat corner cancelled in these Specimen packs, and this one stamp is the only one ever recorded.  Some KGV heads “OS” inverted occurred via the same PO "patching in" upside down error.  Estimate $A30,000, it was invoiced for $A35,000.  Good buying in my view.

This fantastic Large Gold Medal mouth-watering exhibit of the Australia Kangaroo and Map stamps, was formed by Gold Mining identity, Peter O’Rourke of Queensland, who exhibited it widely, and of course is still with us, so will have watched the sale of his lifetime collection with keen interest!


Monogram Roos sold very strongly.


This wonderful collection was full of top end Kangaroo rarities, many of which have not been on the market for decades.  There were a staggering number of now very popular Monogram and Non-Monogram items and strips.  Also a wide range of watermark and perforation errors, and other major varieties. 

This is one of the most significant collections formed of this era.  Unlike the Arthur Gray collection, there are no proofs or essays in here, as the owner did not like them, but plenty of very nice stamps there!  O’Rourke started stamp collecting in 1944, and some of these pieces have not been seen for a generation.

David Wood, the owner of Phoenix Auctions told me pre-sale estimates totalled around $A2.5 Million.  I am typing this just as the sale concluded and the usual few days of post-sale negotiations will farewell a number of extra lots to new owners, so unsure of the final sale result, but it certainly looked good to me.

And the front cover hinged strip of £1 Brown and Blue Third Watermark Roos invoiced for over $A100,000.  With NO monogram, as 3 off centred hinged singles, the value is then maybe 10% of that.  Not even near $10,000 the trio actually.  So the partial CA Monogram selvedge piece is worth well over $90,000!  Interesting thought.


Strip 3 invoiced for over $100,000.


The O’Rourke sale got some pretty impressive results I must say, as I looked at it carefully.  A few days out it looked like a disaster in the making, as surprisingly few lots had any bids.  Even on sale day it looked pretty darn ordinary to me, but the phone and internet and rooms bidders fought it out intensely during the auction.

There is a renewed interest in Monogram and Imprint pieces in the Roo area, with several new very deep pocketed collectors emerging into this field, so the timing of the sale was ideal for the vendor, and for those collectors, as some of this material will doubltess not be seen for yet another generation. 

Interest generally in the entire Kangaroo stamp era has been going gangbusters all year really.  Stockmarkets, real estate, and bank interest rates have all been a disaster so far for most.  For many, spending on top end Roos is seen as a prudent alternate option, as many of these things will hold their own going forward, and indeed some of them will soar I am sure.


Estimate $500 – invoiced for $3000.


The interest in attractive pieces remains strong.  The turned over sheet corner 9d corner piece shown nearby, part printed on gum, was invoiced for $A3,000 on a $500 estimate.  It has not ever been in the ACSC.  If it goes into next edition for $5,000 or so, it will possibly sell for more next time offered, being unique, and MUH, and quite spectacular looking, as you will agree.  $6,000 is not out of the question etc.  So well bought by whomever!

O’Rourke was like a lot of collectors of his generation, indeed like Arthur Gray and Stuart Hardy, and all these legends were not at all keen on covers.  Arthur never liked them at all, and told me he only bought a few, as the Judges threatened to mark his exhibit down, unless he added some!


Rodney Perry will be smiling!


The recent passing of Rodney Perry had me thinking of his career long crusade to encourage the collection of covers, and real USEAGE of these interesting stamps.  His long campaign was starting to gain a lot of converts, that he must have been pleased to see. The tribute page saw dozens of collectors thank Rod for igniting their cover passion.

Rod would have chuckled to see a mixed Roo and States stamps Late Fee cover to the USA was invoiced at $A1,100 - over double the estimate, and also about DOUBLE what it sold for at the Arthur Gray sale - where it also sold above estimate!  See, covers are getting hot.  Over 100% gain in not many years is not too shabby.


Got $18,640. Soaked off - a few $100.


And another one the late Rod Perry would be pleased to have seen - this cover nearby fetched near double estimate at $18,640.  Toned, heavily creased, stained and banged about.  "Woodchipped" OFF cover - a few $100 for the used stamp, the CofA - the very commonest of all the £2 Roos.

This was a WW2 use of the £2 Black & Rose Kangaroo plus 5d Ram pair (£2/10/- = 7 times the trans-pacific rate of 6/10d) on 1941 (Dec 6) California Clipper cover from Sydney to England via New Zealand and USA.  Thirty years ago, this would barely fetch $1,000.


COVID 19 Numbered overprints - be quick


As readers will realise, the huge NZ 2020 International Exhibition in Auckland got cancelled last moment as all foreign air travel to the country had the rug pulled from under it near overnight.  The Committee then decided to make it a National, and Government pulled the rug on that too after a day or so with no notice.


Only 100 numbered copies ever sold.


All terribly sad for the hard-working Committee, who spent years doing all the enormous amount of groundwork.  The Australian Philatelic Federation (APF) were also ready to fly over, and had produced 100 numbered Mini sheets to sell at $A20 each to defray travel costs.  More details on all COVID stamp issues here - 

New APF president Peter Allen from Tasmania announced on stampboards this week that these Tree Dwellers Of The Tropics sheets had now been overprinted as can be seen nearby - “CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC”.

Cost is $A20 a sheet, and Peter mentioned that they are available from the APF website, and that they were running an ad in Stamp News to also publicise it there.  All monies go to a great cause, and I feel sure they will be a fast sellout as only 100 will ever exist.  As I type about half are sold already.






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The Arthur Gray "KGV Reign" Collection, Superb hard bound leather Catalogue just $A65 (Stock 368WF)
500 page ACSC New “Australia KGV Reign” catalogue in Full Colour - just  $A170 (Stock 382KX)





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