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Glen Stephens
Monthly "Stamp News" Market Tipster Column

June 2014







We all know “Cricket on stamps” is a red hot topical, and scarce pieces always do well.

Very often the collectors are retired age folks, with the time and money to chase up ANYTHING they want within reason - and can pay accordingly!

This was proven manifestly this month when a cover franked with the Australian 1977 Cricket stamps sold at public auction for $A2,563!


 A $2563 Score!



The cover is shown nearby. It was in the Prestige Philately auction of May 2, and the invoice for it was $A2,563.

How do I know the invoice showed $A2,563 - as the buyer Noel Almeida emailed it to me!  And that is without any postage and packing added, as it was hand collected.


Buyer lives in HOLLAND!


Melbourne cricket enthusiast Almeida bought it not for himself (he has one already purchased for $5 decades back!) but for a cricket fan in the NETHERLANDS of all places!

Another cover sold for 4 figures years back to a cricket collector in a small town in Texas. So “Cricket on stamps” collecting is not just a British Commonwealth thing!

This envelope shown nearby I, and most other dealers, would sell for about $A10 with this same franking. It is not even first day issue.

The reason for the huge price on this item was not the franking, nor the envelope design, nor the postmarks which are common, but the special Registration Label used!

A March 9 FDC with this label sold at auction by Leski in December 2011 for $A2,700 plus buyer fees. .i.e. about $A3,150 invoice. This Prestige cover is NOT a FDC, but is the final day of the special PO.

It is the highest price I can recall ever paid for an Australia "Cricket" related philatelic item other than the FDC above, and is clearly near a world record price for any Registration label.


World Record Price?



Well other than the W.W.I. "GRI" overprinted Registration labels from New Guinea. Those of course were designated official postage stamps, with a specific face value overprinted as well.

Cricket specialists tell me even a single Registered label off cover could fetch around $500-$1000 at auction, given the international interest in this item. Check your old labels!


Bradman Cinderella very popular.


Even scarcer “Cinderellas” of cricket, like the supposed Don Bradman one illustrated nearby from 1936, now sell for $100s in good condition off cover, and much more ON cover. They are often licked on backs of covers.

The stance and features on this label are unmistakably modelled on Sir Donald Bradman, then match winning Australian Captain, and national hero No #1, in those gloomy depression era years.

Bradman moved to Adelaide in 1935 and worked as a stockbroker , and captained the South Australian team for the first time in November 1935 against the MCC.


1936 SA Stamp Label Depicts Don Bradman?



Cast your mind back to this Centenary Test Cricket match. The "old rivals" battling it out exactly 100 years from the first Test in 1877. The biggest sporting event of the year in Australia.

The Post Office had issued the attractive se-tenant strip of 5 x 18¢, and single 45¢ stamp, and hoped to reap substantial extra revenue by marketing this set of 6, and associated souvenirs, at the cricket ground.

A fancy temporary Post Office was erected at the MCG, built to replicate a 19th Century bush Post Office. All Australia Post staffers manning it dressed in period costume, to add to the "1877" visual effect.

This PO was open from March 9-17th, outside the Member's Stand. A special large size color poster of the stamps was produced by AP, to sell at $2.

Those were a huge flop, and nearly all posters were destroyed. Noel Almeida now BUYS these posters for 3 figures if anyone still has a copy!

The Post Office also produced a special registration label, worded "Centenary Test Melbourne" to affix to all registered items posted over the 9 days.


Only 56 Registered done.


The special pictorial cancel illustrated was a hit with collectors, and over 100,000 items bearing this cancel were serviced.  But only 56 of these items were Registered, hence the extreme scarcity of this special label.

I understand the lowest number seen of this Registered label is 0005, and the highest is 0040.

Only 23 different label numbers are recorded, all on cover, and all have the applicable backstamp, and all except one are cancelled First Day Of Issue for the stamps.

Therefore for 8 of the 9 days of PO opening only one Registered item is recorded.  A date other than March 9 or March 17 may bring more than $2,563, as it may prove to be unique.

There was NO publicity whatever given by the Post Office or the stamp magazines, or PO “Bulletin” to this label at the time.


Cricket issues stronger than ever.


It was then PO practice NOT to produce such printed special Registration labels for temporary post offices. Collectors had no idea or inkling that it existed.

It was assumed a "Jolimont" Registered label would be used, that being the closest PO to the MCG. (Jolimont Post Office no longer exists.)

Melbourne cricket enthusiast and dealer Noel Almeida has sought these labels for the past 37 years. He even published a monograph titled "The 1977 Centenary Test" in 1991.


Freedom Of Information Act


Almeida used the Freedom Of Information Act in 1983 to obtain from Australia Post all internal files pertaining to this stamp issue in 1977, to research his book.

He saw in the FOI documentation reference to the fact that labels 0001 and 0002 were planned to be presented to Queen Elizabeth II, presumably on covers. Her Majesty and Prince Philip personally attended the Centenary Test Match.

Noel wrote to Sir John Marriott, RDP, FRPSL, the "Keeper Of The Royal Collection", to try and verify this fact and check if they were stored in the Royal Collection.

Sir John's handwritten reply to him, on "Buckingham Palace" Royal crested letterhead from 1986 indicated no record of these Test Cricket labels can be found.


Still strong sellers


Cricket related stamps are still big sellers, as the market for them is not just in Australia, but strongly British and Caribbean and so on, indeed as we see above - Holland and the USA.

The January 2014 Ashes Series 5-0 total whitewash saw Australia Post rush release a 60¢ letter rate stamp, and a $2.35 one for overseas mail.

Both were quickly available in the normal gummed perforated versions, in PO sheets, and on PO FDC, and in a PO pack.

The $2.35 value was also released in peel and stick - but four WEEKS later. There was no FDC, no pack, and it caught most collectors totally by surprise. Months later, the scarcity of it on FDC is now becoming apparent.

I had a few done on the official PO First Day Cover envelope, and with the official “The Urn Returns” Pictorial postmark.  My last few are $A40 apiece, and I believe only a few dozen were ever serviced thus.   

These stamps were MASSIVE …. the largest size I can ever recall seeing from Australia. Near THREE times larger than the usual “International” $1 stamps on sale at PO’s.


Only 7,500 issued globally



The other Ashes products have done well in the past. The 2014 Philatelic Numismatic Cover (PNC) was also a rush release, and in a surprise move only 7500 were produced, all individually numbered.

They sold out nearly instantly, little wonder - as the earlier 2007 “Ashes” PNC of even greater number sold - 8000 units, is a $235 item already on a $19.95 issue price! 

I ordered mine quickly and hence got VERY early numbers. I have low numbers 122 to 130 left, and at $A50 each they will never be cheaper!


Register your mail!


We all know that using Registered or insured post is smart. These days it more and more is essential for items of any value.

More and more domestic mail NOT addressed to PO boxes is getting stolen – sad but true. Contractors are not PO staffers, and will leave boxes and parcels in unsafe places or in the rain very often.

I regularly get sellers nervous about mailing me stamps to buy. They often only run to $100s, or a few $1000s, but they really are not at all happy doing it.

I will in future remind them of this true story about the safety of Registered Mail, and they might be a lot more comfortable about it all!


 Insured for a MILLION dollars!



Harry Winston, the leading American jeweller and gem dealer, mailed the legendary “Hope Diamond” in a package via Registered Post using a single red “REGISTERED” handstamp.

In November 1958, Winston donated the diamond to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, intending it to be the foundation for a National Jewel Collection.

It is a large, 45.52 carat deep-blue diamond, now housed in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, DC.  Value is estimated today at $US200-$US250 million.

With his years of experience in shipping jewellery all over the world, Harry Winston chose to have the near priceless diamond delivered by Registered Mail.

He told a reporter for the Washington Post that: “Registered Mail is the safest way to ship gems …. I’ve sent gems all over the world that way.”

The massive diamond was placed in a box, wrapped in brown paper, and sent by Registered Mail, travelling down from New York in a Railway Post Office train car.

The addressee, Dr. Leonard Carmichael signed the receipt for the Registered package from the Post Office delivery person.


Value today $US200-$US250 Million



The price paid for shipping the gem, valued at $US1 million at the time, was $145.29, most of that being for the contents insurance!

As you can see on the scan of the packaging, the postage was $2.44. It looks like $9 was the largest value USPS postage meter at the time in 1958, 56 years back, and 16 of those were used, with a $1.29 label to make up the balance.  


Paint a stamp on yourself!


When trawling the web this week looking for a bird stamp image I found an unusual website.


 New stamp collecting variation!



A guy in the USA called Matt Deifer runs a business where he body-paints images directly onto people’s skin, and does high resolution photo sessions of the finished artwork.

One session with a pretty young lady named Thalia came up with this cleverly painted on copy of the 1969 Haiti 10¢ “Calecon Rouge” bird stamp.

I understand this is the national bird of Haiti, and is known as the “Hispaniolan Trogon” and I am sure I’ll get 10 emails from serious bird collectors if that is wrong!  

Matt offers these art sessions for folks who are wanting to celebrate something special, and wish to have a pictorial record made of it. “Living Art” I suppose! 

Lots of young folks get tattoos done to mark special occasions that they later regret as those are “forever”, so body painting and photos of it seem far less intrusive!

Heaps more examples of record album covers, movie themes, and other things people have painted on their bodies are at - – all very tasteful I might add.  Matt asked me for ideas of other stamps he can paint on clients.


The original Haiti stamp.



I assume the paint used for the body painting is water soluble, so it all washes off in the shower after the photos are taken?

Matt emailed me to say the Haiti stamp session took him about 5 hours to do, so a lot of work is involved in each creation.

It is much like those finely detailed sand sculptures people do on beaches all over the world - take all day to create, and when the next tide comes in ……


$20 million stamp?


About 2 weeks after this magazine is printed, the world will know what the world’s rarest stamp is actually worth. 

Sotheby’s New York will auction the British Guiana 1856 1¢ Magenta stamp on June 17.  Their estimate is a pretty bullish $US10-20 million.


Auctioned June 17.



The stamp looks really terrible on the front, and seems to have suffered under John du Pont’s ownership - he is rumoured to have sometimes slept with it under his pillow!

This image you see I manipulated from the appalling pink blob that Sothebys Press Office came up with, as their best effort to show it, after I emailed both their New York and London press offices.

For their millions in Commission you’d think they could have taken a decent scan of it.  Sadly not. A stampboard member viewed it in HK, and said in the flesh it looked far better and clearer than the dreary Sothebys official pic.

Du Pont was later jailed for 40 years for shooting dead an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler in 1996, and he died in prison in 2010.

An Australian owned this stamp for 30 years - Frederick T. Small, who sold it at auction via Robert Siegel of New York in 1970. contains much more detailed info, and discussion on John du Pont, and the rare stamp, and the auction. All the info is in one place there.

The Will beneficiary – apparently a weightlifter from Bulgaria, has decided to sell this stamp at Sothebys, and the balance of the British Guiana collection at Feldman in Switzerland.  Weird.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the British Guiana 1856 1¢ Magenta stamp is the reverse, which shows the personal owner marks of several of its famous owners including:

1. Two impressions of Count Ferrary's famous ‘trefoil’ owner's mark.
2. A large faint "H" of American Billionaire Arthur Hind - said to have burnt a second copy sold to him. "It is now STILL unique".
3. A small "FK" of Finbar Kenny, the stamp manager at Macy's who brokered its sale by Hind's widow.
4. A small shooting star added by the Australian, Frederick Small who owned it from 1940 to 1970.
5. A pencilled "IW" by Irwin Weinberg, head of a group of investors who bought the stamp in 1970 and sold it to du Pont.
6. A large pencilled "J E d P", initials of the late John E. DuPont who bought it for $US935,000 in 1980, and died in prison.
7. The large and ornate 17-pointed star has all the experts completely stumped.


“Someone from China will buy it”


Gary Watson, owner of Prestige Philately in Melbourne told me this week: “I predict the buyer will be a wealthy Chinese person. Who, I do not know, but China is becoming VERY important for the stamp market.”



 More interesting on BACK!


Gary’s guess is as good as anyone’s of course.  A global institution or bank may also like it for bragging rights - the same way as they often buy famous paintings and art etc.

Or USA multi-billionaire Bill Gross might buy it to donate to the National Postal Museum in the super expensive Stamp Galley he just had built there in Washington. 

That is my guess, for what it is worth, but this sale could go any way. There are many 1000s of entities globally, for whom $10 million is the running cost of their yacht! 

Bill Gross has sold off stamp collections in the past for over $US10 million each, and donated the entire proceeds to charity, which is most generous.

And remember the way US Tax Laws are, in brief if you pay $10m for a piece of art and get it appraised for $20m, and donate it to an institution, you essentially get a full tax write off for the $20m, meaning very little real nett cost, and a lot of goodwill and publicity.

The Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan is a good example. A piece of white board with a red brush stripe down the centre of it will have a note saying: “Generously donated by Dr. Moshe Finkelstein”. 

Moshe paid a million, had it appraised in writing at $2.5 million from an obliging art dealer, and gets his name in lights forever at the Guggenheim, at little real cost!  If you have visited there, you’ll know what I mean.

Sotheby’s took the Guiana stamp on a roadshow during May that included London and Hong Kong. Their “Buyer Fee” alone, if it sells for the middle of their estimate range is around $US2 million, so that pays for QUITE a roadshow!

Anyway I hope it gets a huge price, as that will be superb and positive global publicity for stamps and most welcome. “The world’s most valuable object by weight” etc.  Mainstream media for stamps is very scarce these days.

Weight has been estimated to be about the same as the Sweden 3sk “Tre Skilling Yellow” which we know weighs exactly 0.02675 grams (0.0009 ounces).


1856 1¢ British Guiana stamp


If the Guiana is invoiced for around a mid-point $US16 million when all the nasty auction fees are added, it gives the stamp the staggering cost of some $US600 Billion per kilogram. 

I have a client who is a Math Professor in Illinois check my figure, and he agrees it is correct!  This makes the stamp the most valuable thing in the world by weight or volume - no contest.

The Royal Philatelic Society London issued a new Certificate on March 17, replacing their 1935 “clean” one, and used some curious new wording on this one.

“Surface rubbing has been reduced by over-painting at some time in the past - possibly while the stamp resided in the Ferrari collection”.

The handwritten cert looks like it was penned by a 12 year old - and one who arguably cannot spell!  Ferrari is the CAR brand, Count FerrarY was the famous stamp collector, and that is the spelling traditionally used in English.

Baron Philipp la Rénotière von Ferrary was a citizen of FOUR countries it transpired after his death in 1917, so spelling does vary.

The RPSL noted they were too scared to dip the stamp in Benzene or testing fluid of any kind in case the “over-painting” or anything else was affected by doing that!  Rather curious.


Detailed Inspection in Washington.



On April 17 The National Postal Museum in Washington was visited by David Redden, a vice president of Sotheby’s, who took along the 1¢ British Guiana for detailed analysis.

Redden was joined by highly respected stamp expert Captain Robert Odenweller, of the museum's Council of Philatelists, a security officer, and a reporter and photographer from the New York Times.


$US600 BILLION a kilo!


The equipment used for testing included the VSC6000, Leica Microscope, X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF) and the Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscope (FT-IR).

”VSC6600” is the Video Spectral Comparator 6000, which is a high resolution analyser, allowing for the removal of color to better see the stamp and its markings under high magnification. 

The wonderfully clear VSC6000 MONO image shown nearby is from that recent visit. The stamp design, detail and postmark all show wonderfully when in mono, as you can see!

If you look at the colour shot nearby of the face you cannot even see the central ship design, Latin wording, nor read the postmark not the wording on outer edges of stamp. 


Million Dollar Jenny?


We seem to be in big ticket auction season! An example of the USA 24¢ “Inverted Jenny” was offered for sale on May 21 by Spink in NYC.

This column was written before that sale, so I cannot report the final figure, but the estimate was a nice round $US1 million.  I doubt it will reach that, but we shall all know together!


 The best centred 24¢ Jenny.


The “Inverted Jenny” is not rare at all, as 100 were found and I understand all survive. It is famous, not rare, and it is stated only 5 are unhinged mint - and this is one.

Several blocks of 4 exist, all owned by Bill Gross as I recall, and I am curious that near all stamps in those are apparently hinged, but I digress. 

This example is apparently the best centred of the entire sheet, and hence it will get a solid price, as nicer Jennies usually do.

I have stamps in stock that one copy is known of, but are priced at a few $1000, not a Million, but this is American Razzmatazz at work for you!


“Locket Copy” Auctioned May 15


Also auctioned on May 15 .. also just after this column was submitted, was the “Locket Copy” of the 24¢ “Inverted Jenny”, offered by Harmers in California.

In 1918, Colonel Green paid $20,000 for the only sheet of 100 24¢ Inverted Jenny airmails ever to reach the public.

Green sold some of the sheet's singles and blocks to other collectors, but kept a total of 41 stamps, including the plate number block, for himself.

One single in particular he set aside for special treatment. He had it placed in a pendant made of two convex pieces of glass with a gold rim, and ring for a chain, back to back with a normal 24¢ Jenny airmail stamp. 

He then presented the bauble to Mabel Harlow Green, a woman he had wed in 1917, a few months after the passing of his multi-millionaire mother, Hetty Green (“The Witch Of Wall Street”) who had deeply disapproved of Mabel.


Inverted Jenny “Locket Copy”

  What Mabel thought of the curious gift is unrecorded, but there's no evidence she ever wore it.  It was unknown to the stamp world until 1956 when a dealer casually mentioned it in a magazine. 30 years would then pass until anyone else saw it. 

This auction will be the locket's third auction appearance. It failed to sell both times before in 2002 and 2009. The Harmer sale catalog estimates its value at $200,000 to $250,000. 

This is one of the 5 MUH examples, but condition is not great, having a straight edge at top, poor centring, and very clearly bunged corners from being squeezed into the locket a tad too small for the job!  Being rich does not make you smart.


Decimal Dazzler

  The 1966 cover shown nearby sold in May at Torsten Weller’s postal history auction on April 14, for an amazing $A660.

Most readers would barely have given this cover a second glance is my bet if spotted in a dealer’s cover box or a junk box etc.

As older readers will recall, we changed to decimal currency on Feb 14 1966. I can still hum the very catchy advertising jingle used on


THIS is worth $660?!

  At changeover the current 5d domestic rate converted exactly to 4c. It is now 17½ times higher of course at 70c, but I digress.  The new stamps were available a week before that date, the ACSC tells us:

"Decimal stamps were placed on sale on 7 February 1966 ... to enable businesses to obtain advance supplies and ... could be purchased only in full sheets, and could not be used for postage before 14 February."

This commercial cover across Brisbane was stated as being bit aged/toned, and appears to be a standard bank cover used February 8, probably by a bank clerk not realising the stamps they had bought at the PO, were not valid for a week.

Why TWO 4c stamps were used on what was clearly a standard weight letter from the Brisbane office, who knows now, but it was taxed as if it was a normal weight.

Some officious PO worker circled the “illegal” postage and levied the normal Postage Due “fine” of double the postage that should have been paid - i.e. twice the current 5d = 10d, and applied the “T10d” Tax handstamp. 

The tax at that time was collected pretty rigorously from the RECIPIENT, and the two x current red stamps were affixed when the 10d was handed over and they were cancelled by Inala PO, as proof it was paid.

All very interesting and I had no idea such things were worth anything like $660, but it seems I was wrong, as it sold for that. As I type often - “Knowledge Is Power”.





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