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The Glen Stephens
By Glen Stephens.
In recent months there has been an exciting new
field gaining many new fans. It is not strictly a new field at all
... being 90 years old, but the approach and enthusiasm is new
That field is collecting Australian Commonwealth
stamps on First Day Covers. (FDC)
The 1913 Kangaroos of course yielded the initial
“FDC” for stamps inscribed ‘Australia.’ All are very valuable, although my
hunch is the prices of them all will keep increasing in the next few years. A
1d Roo FDC sold for about $15,000 at Sydney auction in 2002, versus an
ACSC catalogue value of $5,000.
Even for the “common” 1d Kangaroo FDC only eight
are known, (3 of which are in Royal/AP collections) and a few other low
values are in the Royal Collection. Only a few other 1913 values appear to
exist on conclusive “First” day of issue covers.
Post War FDCs “hot”
The REAL collecting area that is hotting up are
the post war FDC’s …. right up to the start of the Decimal currency era in
1966. The first “cacheted” or inscribed FDC’s appeared in 1927 with the
1½d Parliament House Canberra issue
Decimal era FDC are quite competently
catalogued, and most dealers are very aware of accurate prices. As the Post
Office commenced producing its own covers in 1970 in large numbers, they
effectively killed off all the other cover makers.
Most collectors of Decimal era FDC want
official Post Office covers. The Seven Seas Stamps “ASC” colour
catalogue lists and prices only Post Office covers from 1970 and that has set
the trend, and largely killed off ‘non-official’ brands like Wesley.
Other than the rare 1970 small sized Captain
Cook Post Office cover, which even today is worth several $100, an entire
run of decimal era FDC will not cost a great deal.
I just priced up for my website an Estate buy of
a large carton full - 1970 to end 1998 in 10 large Cumberland albums for $950
- that cost $1,400 to buy from the PO. A complete run. So scarcity is not
high as you can see! Full retail is only about $3,000 for this era.
The PRE-DECIMAL field is an entirely different
matter. The 1950s in particular saw a myriad of cover makers, as the Post
Office was effectively not selling serviced FDC. You could buy boring blank
PO produced “generic” envelopes and create your own, but these were not
promoted - or popular with collectors
The best known and most plentiful private FDC’s
were of course the “Wesley” brand. So they clearly are the most collected.
They are still produced to this day but in a tiny handful for each issue.
Not many people knew this …. indeed I did not
until this month but the first “Wesley” cover was issued in 1951 for
the set of 4 “Jubilee Year” stamps. These FDC were advertised as a charitable
venture in support of the Wesley Nursing Home in Semaphore Park - an
Adelaide seaside suburb.
It was not until the November 1955 2/-
Olympic that the now familiar circled “WCS” logo appeared. To that point
there was no “branding” or logo on any Wesley Cover Service (WCS) cover created
or sold by John Gower.
This cover illustrated nearby then is the
“First” item any collector of Wesley requires. Right now it will sell from an
informed dealer for about $40. Leading FDC dealer A-One Stamps in
Sydney told me today demand for this cover has firmed in recent months.
Buying from a dealer who has no clue it is the
first Wesley (99% of dealers I imagine as there is no indication on the
envelope that it is!) – will cost maybe a dollar or two. In two years I
suspect it will be a $100 cover in top condition simply as it is “Number
One”. Good hunting!
The founder of WCS was John Gower, who had an
interesting history. Gower contracted polio in 1930 and was crippled from the
waist down. This led him into a very active philatelic life. He began the
“Kangaroo Correspondence and Exchange Club” in Adelaide in 1931.
Only a few weeks ago, Australia’s leading FDC
collector Frank Pauer from Melbourne (and Treasurer of the Society mentioned
below) obtained from eBay a hitherto unrecorded Gower design cover from this
era, dated December 1931
Frank told me today he would have paid “whatever
it took” to secure this cover. It certainly “took” him MANY $100s in the
end. Most dealers – or collectors would not have recognised its
significance. I certainly would not have. It is the second earliest known
Gower USEAGE of any cover. (Frank owns the other!)
John Gower opened the Post Office at Largs
North, another Adelaide beach suburb on June 17, 1947. Therefore a vast
number of earlier WCS FDC are cancelled at Largs North, starting with the
September 1947 “Newcastle” trio.
Any FDC cancelled Largs North from 1946 are
back-dated forgeries from the late 1940s and include the “Peace” and
“Mitchell” sets. Both however are rare, and command very good prices as
A new journal is born
A new philatelic journal has just been born. The
Australian Cover Society went into print in March 2003 with their first
journal. Members are being asked to suggest a journal name. I personally
like “Cover Stories” and I am sure there will be many other catchy
The debut journal is 36 x A4 pages, and is
the best stamp club journal I have EVER seen produced in this country –
A real credit to all those involved.
Michael Moore. Professionally laid out, like a real magazine, with a range
of fascinating, accurate articles and superb illustrations.
I urge ANYONE with any interest in Australian
FDC to sign up as a member. The next journal comes out this month,
and all subscribers get issue #1 as part of their membership. A complete run
of these will one day be a valuable item on their own – trust me.
This is a new Society, incorporated in
September 2002, and has about 100 members already. They have a savvy and
modern thinking Management Committee who even accept credit cards for
Cost to join is a one time $10 and $25 a year
dues thereafter for collectors residing ANYWHERE on earth – to encourage
overseas members. Address is PO Box 400768 Dandenong Victoria 3175 - or email
the President …. email@example.com
Fake Wesley FDC’s.
This journal is ESSENTIAL for every
dealer to have as well. I mentioned the nearby fake £2 Arms FDC to both
Richard Juzwin and Simon Dunkerely at the recent ANDA show, and both signed
up promptly, as dealers NEED precise journals like this to be warned of
IIssue “One” of the Journal has an excellent and
invaluable article on “back dated” Wesley FDC’s. These are not strictly
forgeries, as they use genuine WCS blank envelopes, genuine stamps, and
genuine Largs North postmarkers.
The one of most concern money-wise is the 1950
£2 Arms. A “FDC” identical to the one illustrated was offered recently by an
auction with a reserve of $1,500 as unaddressed covers from 1950 are
rare. Senior FDC collectors succeeded in having it withdrawn.
So what is the problem you might ask? A nice
colourful WCS cacheted and unaddressed envelope, with an apparently genuine
Largs North postmark of 1950.
This is where fine philatelic literature pays
off. The $25 annual fee is well saved if a dealer or collector can avoid
paying figures like $1,500 for this turkey.
Why is it a fake?
Well there are two compelling reasons. (a) that “Generic” WCS Aboriginal
envelope was not printed until 1961, for use on the 5/- Cattle FDC. (b) The
canceller with “S.Aust” and not “South Aust” was not manufactured until
about 15 years later!
How was it done? Some collectors “helped” the
wheelchair bound Gower, and clearly had access at the time to the genuine
Post Office handstamps – and the blank covers. Thus a “backdate” like this was
A leading dealer agreed with me recently if such
a cover was shown to him at a stamp show he’d have paid a VERY high sum for a
nice clean and apparently genuine WCS cover – had he not read the article.
Series of Monographs
Secretary of the Australian Cover Society is
Mike Moore, who has been author of 8 superb monographs on the early Australia
FDC producers etc. Famous names like Wesley, Smyth, Royal, Guthrie, Wide
World and Challis are covered, as are more obscure makers, and even the
popular Royal Geographic Society (Queensland) series.
Terrific historical background, price guides,
and heavy use of good illustrations, these monographs really are most useful
Volume 8 was released recently which features
Society patron – Arthur Bergen of Adelaide. Arthur is a lovely guy –
also VERY well known in the aerophilatelic field of course, and is still going
strong at nearly 90!
“Bergen” FDC’s have an avid following, and
often fetch heady prices. A 1956 Olympic Games FDC cancelled Adelaide Airport
sold for $500 at a Rod Perry auction in 1998. A “Wyatt Earp” ANARE
cover fetched $US400 ($A650) at an internet auction etc.
Michael has conjured up a tremendous offer for
readers of this column, and this has never been offered before - anywhere.
The first 7 volumes sold to original subscribers for over $100, as the
illustrations were all in colour - which is as we know is very expensive to
He has combined the first 7 volumes into one
large A4 spirobound handbook. This runs to 160 pages and weighs about
500 grams. All the illustrations are monocolour and there are 50 pages of
them with over 300 FDC’s pictured!
The ‘Wesley’ volume has been updated and edited
to include some very early covers plus some other necessary amendments to that
and some other volumes.
$22 post free for
Michael has printed a HUNDRED copies of these,
and has autographed and numbered the cover of each copy for readers here –
i.e. 007/100 etc. The cost is truly amazing - $22 post free anywhere
in Australia or $30 AIR post free worldwide!
Now $22 is the price of a decent pizza, and I
urge ANYONE – dealer or collector - with a passing interest in covers to
secure one of these excellent references. Like all Limited Edition popular
philatelic literature, the price is BOUND to rise in the secondary market.
You can order these direct off the
Author/Publisher - Michael Moore at 47 Curletts Road, Lara, Victoria 3212 or
email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact leading cover dealers like ‘Stamp
News’ advertiser A-One Stamps in NSW.
Both sources can accept credit cards for
payment, or of course cash or cheques or money orders. I repeat again -
$22 post free is THE bargain buy of your philatelic year.
The President of the Australian Cover Society is
Melbourne collector Noel Almeida. Noel is well known for publishing the
excellent priced catalogues on Australian Souvenir covers.
Noel is also a passionate collector of cricket
covers, and has self-published a monograph called “Australian Cricket Stamps”
devoted entirely to the myriad of Australian 1977 Cricket issue covers! For
more info on all these visit –
$942.98 for a 3½d
What brings Noel into this month’s column is the
amazing price he paid at Auction late April for one rather ordinary looking
1955 FDC. The photograph nearby shows the 3½d blue “USA Memorial” stamp on FDC.
This cover was one of a handful of otherwise
very common looking Australian FDCs offered on eBay by a British seller.
Opening bid for the handful was £7 and Almeida ended up paying £375 or
$A966.68 at that time. The seller was flabbergasted of course.
Almeida worked out the other few covers were
worth $A23.70 (and looking at them on screen that was rather generous!) so he
calculates he paid $A942.98 for the 3½d on cover. Why? Because he had
not seen that cover maker before and he collects that stamp issue.
To be quite honest until this week if I saw that
cover in a collection I’d leave it there, and value it at 50¢. And most other
dealers I think if they were honest would do the same. Another local cover
collector was underbidder at £365.
This is where reading these journals and doing
some homework pays off. There are LOTS of very scarce FDC from the 1950s.
Until now, only a few keen collectors knew WHICH ones were scarce. The
Australian Cover Society is letting collectors get in on the ground floor with
Huge catalogue on way
This is one field of Australia related
collecting that will explode in the next year or so. Frank Pauer and Paul
Walker are well underway toward publishing a quite massive work on the subject
up to the early 1950s.
On CD Rom there will be several THOUSAND full
colour sharp scans and EVERY cover will be priced. There will be about
8,000 different priced covers!
Most stamp dealers have boxes of pre-Decimal
covers. Many are priced at pennies each. That will all change when the CD
Rom is issued latter 2003. In the meantime, savvy collectors buying and
reading the Moore monographs and the Society Journal can snap up scarce maker
FDC for peanuts that really are worth three figures etc.
The current Journal has a superb article on
Max Easther FDCs - 1952-65. These have no maker name on them,
and apart from being cancelled Launceston most would not pick them. There
are 37 illustrations to assist you. Value even now is $100+ for the
scarcer ones, and this will surely rise.
There are VERY few fields where material is
plentiful but cataloguing is effectively nil. That very situation exists with
FDC’s from the mid 1940s to 1966. It is exciting and many will embrace it as
fun area and a great challenge.
The collectors behind this new Society are
passionate and enthusiastic about their field …. and that excitement even wore
off on me! If you are looking for a new challenge – join the Society,
buy Moore’s special 160 page book offer for $22, and away you go.
New rules for exhibits
Lastly but not leastly, two Executives of the
Australian Cover Society have worked hard
consultation with the Australian Philatelic Federation (APF)
to have the rules changed for exhibiting FDC. “Newcastle 2003” (October 3-5)
will be the first national to adopt the experimental new rules.
Rules associated with the FDC class in the USA
were looked at for guidelines. John Sadler and Frank Pauer (both medal
winning FDC exhibitors) did a lot of work with the APF on this exciting new
proposal, and it is hoped it wil attract a lot more exhibitors.
First Day use of postal stationary – even
PSE’s are now permitted exhibits. Even applicable souvenir covers and
postmarks are admissible under the new experimental rules. There are many
pages of typed rules and notes and a lot of work has been done by all
Under the “Traditional” rules the “Importance”
criteria plays a large part in eventual awards. That has been abandoned for
this class and the 10 marking points for that are now divided among
“Treatment” and “Knowledge”.
I hope a lot of collectors enter for this, even
if only for the experience and the Australian Cover Society is keen to see a
good number of entries from members. For more details of the new guidelines
and an entry form contact:
get very passionate about their hobby. Cover Society President Noel Almeida has
this as his vehicle number plate!
Stephens is a philatelic journalist and stamp dealer based in Sydney, Australia.
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