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Glen Stephens
Monthly "Stamp News" Market Tipster Column

June 2010





"Knowledge Is Power"


A decades long mantra of mine, that I've typed 100s of times here and on stampboards - if not 1000's of times.

Most often, stamp knowledge comes via having the relevant reference books and catalogues on hand, that sadly so many collectors decide they "do not need".

In some other cases, knowledge simply comes with the experience of handling the same material a lot.

We all have areas we know well, and with that comes the experience.

I have the largest stocks of used Kangaroos and KGV heads in Australia, and have had for decades.

Handling 10,000s if not 100,000s of them over 30 years you get a very good "feel" for them.

The same way a wine taster knows his field, or a poodle judge at Crofts does, or a Volvo mechanic knows why your gearbox is making a funny noise etc.

It just comes with a lot of exposure to your field of expertise.

 Kangaroos are simple to sort.



With Kangaroos, if you handle them enough, you learn there are subtle differences in facial appearance to them all.  Perforations, colour and paper all differ between watermarks.

I can confidently sort 99% of them by watermark, from an average visual image.  Mint or used.

Things like 6d blues that come in 3 different and very similar watermarks, you can do accurately at a glance at the fronts, if you know the material well.

Which this brings us to this story.


The unique 1913 parcel label.



A member once posted up a fuzzy scan of the parcel label shown nearby, and stated the 2/- browns on it were Third watermark.

I contacted him and said I felt sure he was mistaken, and that they were indeed 1913 First watermark in my view.


Expert disagrees with me.


He said he had obtained them from one of Australia's leading dealers, who had carefully checked them, and checked them again after my comment, and had pronounced them as Third watermark.

I suggested he mailed them to me to inspect in person, out of curiosity, as I was certain he had a FAR better piece than he had paid for!

He was un-convinced, and after a half dozen prods over 6 months, he finally did just that this month.

To clarify things for those who are not heavily into Kangaroo stamps, the ACSC of course lists all of them on cover or parcel label, or parcel fragment.

Often at massive multiples of what they are worth soaked off piece.

The 1913 First watermark 2/- Brown is listed at $2,000 a stamp on such a piece.  The 2/- Brown Third watermark is listed at "only" $750 a stamp .. so clearly a vast difference in price when a pair of stamps is involved. 

The 2/- Brown Second watermark is un-priced at all on piece or label, and I believe it was unknown until I found a parcel label a few years back in a junk box - shown below.

I sold it to the same collector, along with a label with 2 x 2/- Brown Third watermarks and a 2d grey, much later on.


The Third watermark label


I knew just by looking at his scan he had First watermark, but really needed to eyeball it to be 100% certain.

The Chocolate brown of that watermark is most distinctive, and is consistent on all stamps, as are the perfs.

I may not be able to tune Volvos, or judge Poodles, but I do know a little about Roos.


Lack of clues


As the label has a good deal of thick cardboard backing from the parcel, holding it to strong back-light does not assist at all in this case.

Often a cancel year date will isolate them readily, but in this case there is nothing readable, as you can see.

So all we have to go on here is experience – and instinct.

The perfs are notoriously bad, as that First watermark was printed on a strange paper used for no other Roos.  It is very fibrous and strong, and tearing any 2 stamps apart without ripping out a few perfs is near impossible.

All 3 values on this label exhibit that characteristic, as you can see.

And the 2/- are often badly centred.  The 1915 2nd watermarks are always a much paler brown, and always have good clean cut perfs, and always are quite well centred - for instance.

It is on the standard "PPS" red parcel label being inscribed -




So to take the detective work a little further, we see it has a pair of 1d Red Roos on it.  That is an incredibly valuable and conclusive clue.

These were replaced in mid 1914 by 1d red KGV heads.  Being the base postage rate, PO's used those values most heavily, so it is safe to assume no PO in the country would have had 1d Roos in stock even in latter 1914.

The 2/- Third watermark that "Leading Dealer A" absolutely guaranteed these were, was not issued until mid 1916.


1d Reds solve the puzzle


So even IF the 1st and 3rd 2/- Browns looked facially identical (and they are always miles apart visually as it happens) I'd still opt on the balance of probability this label was all First watermark, simply based on the 1d Roos being on it.

I was most pleased to be able to confirm that today, and this collector is now the only person on earth to own the 2/- Brown Kangaroos in all 3 watermarks, on parcel labels or fragments.


Another unique piece.



Each is quite rare, so that is quite a coup. The trio is worth well north of $5,000 I'd guess.  Probably into 5 figures actually, as they'd be unique if offered as a group. .

Twenty years ago the trio might sell for $200, and not the $10,000 region these are likely worth today. 

Again I repeat - any dealer or collector who does not own a current ACSC “Kangaroos” volume is costing themselves serious money.

Even the $7.15 million Arthur Gray Kangaroo collection only had the 2/- Third watermark on label, (damaged) and that sold for over $A1,500.

So that stampboards member is today probably $2,000 wealthier on paper, than he was the day he mailed the label to me.

A “Good News” story that he was delighted to hear  – and to quote the heading -  “Knowledge Is Power”.  


Roses are Red  - HOT!


I meant to mention this last month, as many readers would not realise a modern error can fetch well over $A140,000! 

The 1976 British stamp issue for the Centenary of the Royal National Rose Society featured four individual stamps.

It is the 13p 'Sweet Briar' from that set that attracted the attention of variety collectors this year.                                            


The £85,000 missing value


Whilst millions of these stamps were printed, only three exist with the value omitted - the 13p face value doesn't appear on the stamp.

During the printing process, during repairs to the cylinder, the face value was temporarily covered with copper.

This covering was inadvertently left in place during printing.

The error was discovered before issue date, and all copies of the stamp should have been destroyed.

However three examples are recorded as existing to this day.

Two of these three are held in The Royal Philatelic Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The third copy was sold in a top margin pair along with normal earlier this year by London dealers Stanley Gibbons, for £85,000  - which is around $A142,000.


Sweden Tre Skilling Yellow



 One the world's most controversial stamps will have been offered at an "auction" (of sorts!) as you read this.

David Feldman on May 22nd in Geneva Switzerland offered the unique 1857 "Tre Skilling Yellow" Swedish stamp.

The estimate was 1.5 million to 2 million Euros.  It was allegedly being offered "without reserve" which of course was nonsense. Try placing a $50 bid!

The stamp has a slit at left side, and is re-perforated along the top.


Being offered again.


So how much did it sell for?  We may never really know, because one of the rules of this special private auction was essentially that publication of the alleged sale price was at the discretion of the buyer, and all others were sworn to secrecy!

Also the auction was essentially by invitation only, to pre-qualified bidders.

I believe I have written more on this stamp than anyone else has - in the English language at least.

In the past I spent days researching this stamp and its sales history from the original discovery to the web of alleged “buyers” in recent decades who never paid for it etc.

It you type Sweden "TreSkilling yellow" into google, my article comes up as match number one.


 Last auctioned in 1996


I have spoken to David Feldman about it face to face in Washington DC, and by email.  And wrote very long detailed columns on it here in December 2004 and May 2005 - both on my website.

Both are well worth reading carefully, to try and form a view on this stamp, and the totally bizarre "Auction" and ownership history over recent decades.


No Certificate?



The stamp was not offered with an independent Philatelic Expert Certificate of any kind in the 1990 or 1996 Feldman Auctions.

Indeed I do not believe any Expertising Committee at any time has ever given this "Tre Skilling Yellow" a Certificate as being a genuine error of colour. 


Sworn To  Secrecy



In 1974 the "Tre Skilling Yellow" was exhibited at the stand of Frimarkshuset A.B. the well known Swedish dealers in "Stockholmia 74".

The stamp was then offered to the Swedish Postal Museum for $US1,000,000.  The curator Gilbert Svensson had always suspected it to be a forgery, and arranged for it to be handed over to a group of nine Swedish stamp experts to examine.

They decried it a fake.  The dealer got detailed scientific opinions in 1975 that it was not, and stated so in writing. 

I have never examined it, but my deep research into the stamp's history makes me feel it is a genuine colour error, if I had to venture an opinion.


“Did not have the funds”


David Feldman said in the superb book on the stamp, produced by the current owners: 'It's simple - I came up against three buyers in a row, all of them Swedes, who did not have the funds to redeem the stamps they'd purchased at our Auctions”'

This current offering cannot truly be an "auction" if it is not fully transparent, and a price not revealed to a public gallery.  All involved are essentially sworn to secrecy.


 Claim your own sale price?!


And to suggest the "buyer" can later pretend the stamp is holder of a world record price is quite bizarre.

As it allegedly is being offered at “no reserve” a top bid of $100 could theoretically see the buyer still claim it is the “world’s most valuable item” by weight.  What total NONSENSE!

Who knows, this time around, it may well get a legitimate buyer from left field, who pays a high price, and who wants a valuable plaything, and a media attractant.


Good for the hobby.



I hope so, as it would be great for stamps if it gets wide publicity.  A shame about the GFC, as a large corporation buying this and using it for promotional purposes would be good for them, and good for stamps.

However, some of the same old names seem involved recently, that were connected with the past several alleged "sales" of the stamp.

If one, or part of them, or a group of them, is the "new buyer" at a price no-one else can independently verify, there seems nothing to stop them (or others) stating it is now “worth” 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 10 or 20 million Euro I imagine, based on this recent “sale”?

Anyway, as this column is published, the "official" result will doubtless already be known.  I’ll be interested to hear what the official result is.






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