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Glen Stephens
Monthly "Stamp News" Market Tipster Column

May 2010





Beta Blockers



Used BLOCKS of Australia will be listed in the ACSC one day, alongside mint, used and on cover – as they are in European catalogues. 

When that occurs, prices will go quite insane, as quite simply - no stock of these things exist. They often have enormous facial eye-appeal.

One of my long term campaigns has been to convince readers – dealers and collectors, to put aside EVERY postally used block of Australia you ever see.

Right NOW most do not have much, if any - premium over 4 singles.  Grab them from ANY era - from 1913 to 2010.


Write down this GUARANTEE!


I can guarantee you in a decade you will look back on this column, and chuckle to imagine NO-ONE placed a premium on most used blocks.

It was only 15 years back that monogram and imprint blocks of Kangaroos sold for typically 5 times the single stamps price. i.e. a 25% premium for the margin monogram or imprint.

Arthur Gray’s collection of largely such pieces sold for $A7.15 million at auction in New York during 2007, and he was buying them when they were surprisingly cheap, and largely ignored by all.


 $9,000 to $176,000 in 19 years



A world record price was obtained in that sale for a single Australian stamp.  Lot 287 was a facially attractive 1913 £2 black and red Kangaroo with lower sheet selvedge.

This selvedge bore the "JBC" margin monogram of the stamp printer, J. B. Cooke. 

Every post office sheet at that time contained two such monograms.  It is the only example recorded outside the Royal Collection and the Australia Post archives.


 The $170,000 selvedge


This stamp was hinged, had a crease and a toned perforation, but sold to vigorous bidding for $US138,000 = then $A176,930 to Australian dealer Simon Dunkerley - buying for a client here.  The estimate was ‘only’ $US50,000-$75,000.

This stamp is SG 16, and was then catalogued at only £3,000 as mint hinged.  This record price means the buyer effectively paid over $A170,000 for the tiny piece of selvedge paper.  

The full ACSC catalogue price for this very stamp in 1988 was just $9,000 (and $4000 for NON monogram.)  So within 19 years it sold for TWENTY times that.

Without the marginal marking, the stamp would not have even realised anything like £3,000 then, due to the condition.

No other country places NOW such gigantic premiums on monogram or imprint or plate number markings.  But as I said, 10 or 20 years back no-one was especially interested.

The auctioneer Charles Shreves was VERY nervous when I was having this photo taken, that it did not fall into my coffee!


Follow Europe’s Lead


Many major European basic catalogues as a matter of course, list stamps mint, used, FDC, on cover and in USED blocks of 4.

Look at a Swiss/Liechtenstein Zumstein, or Italian or Scandinavian catalogues etc, and you will see what I mean.

Stamps worth peanuts as singles, are often worth a FORTUNE in a postally used block, in many European markets.

Swiss stamps issued in the Kangaroo era can catalogue 500 times as much in a used block, as for a used single.

The 1914 3f Jungfrau is in the basic Zumstein catalogue at 3,250 SF a used block, but only 8 SF for a used single. 

Many Kangaroos should rate high multiples like that.  But right now sell for 5 or 10 times a single stamp!

The same rarity level applies in some Australian stamps of course.  But NOT the prices – YET.


Find one of these USED!


The market leading Facit catalogue does the same for Sweden and Scandinavia. 


500 times more for block


In the 2009 Facit, the common old cheapie Sweden 1858 12öre blue Arms (Facit # 9) is priced at “x 500” for a block of four.  

That stamps is18 SEK for the cheapest shade for a used single, but 9,000 SEK for a used block of four of the cheapest shade. 

The block shown nearby from Feldman's April 2nd 2008 Sweden auction demonstrates the market nicely, that stampboard member Scott Starling showed me.

It is a rather ugly block of the 3öre brown Lion issue of 1863, Facit Catalogue # 14Bc1 (Scott # 13).  As a single this has a 2010 Facit catalogue value of SEK130 - about $A20.

It is a common shade, and a single with this same centering and cancel would sell for about $A10, Scott tells me. Facit doesn't list a price for a used block of four, it just says that there are three known.

The starting price was 2,000 Euro (not Swiss Francs) and sold for 5,000 Euros, when the nasty 'Buyer Fee' was added. 

That was $A8,600 paid then for a VERY rough looking block, of a stamp otherwise worth $10 a single.

Buy such things issued by Australia now.

It is certainly true that virtually EVERY Australia stamp from 1913 to the present date EXISTS in postally used blocks – even for the high values.


Used blocks exist


Australia’s leading collector Arthur Gray and I discussed this subject at length, and he agrees with me there are very few instances where no used blocks are recorded from 1913 to 2010 – and even then, we are only guessing they are not out there. 

The £1 Kangaroo block shown nearby was used in 1923 and first surfaced on the market in late 2008 – 85 years after being used.

Until then it had been “assumed” no used blocks of this existed.

For years I have been urging the editor and publisher of the ACSC to list these, and I feel sure one day they will.


 Attractive Brisbane cancel.


It will give added reason for folk to buy each new edition of each catalogue, and will not take any more space or pages than they do now, as they will simply add the universal cross hair “block” symbol to all current listings.  


Dealers agree


I have discussed this with leading dealers, and all agree the demand for used blocks is increasing all the time.

Richard Juzwin told me he fully agrees the market vastly under-values such material at present, and that he is actively buying it whenever he sees it on offer, and hopes the ACSC lists them in future.

Juzwin told me he was the underbidder on the used block of £1 Bi-Colour Kangaroos shown nearby at Leski’s October 2007 sale in Melbourne. 

Those stamps are 3rd watermark, and were invoiced to the buyer at just on $A20,000.  As 4 singles they  would sell for about a QUARTER of that.

Charles Leski told me the vendor bought the block in to show him, housed in a cheap $5 type Chinese stockbook of junk.  They had no idea it was valuable


 Sold  for ~$20,000



This block had been in the family for decades, and was never sold for 3 generations. It had presumably been soaked off a parcel at the time of receipt in 1923.

An equally nice looking 1913 £1 FIRST Watermark Roo, postally used block 4 came up at a stamp auction in Wales UK a couple of years back.

Myself, Simon Dunkerley and Tony Shields and several others all bid strongly on it, only to see Stanley Gibbons outbid us all.

Most of the Kangaroos are known in used blocks, and the archive sales offered the First Watermark bi-colour high values up to £2 in used blocks with Brisbane cancels, several of which I have sold since – the 10/- is shown nearby

There is also a used imprint block of 8 of the £2 third watermark “OS” in private hands, and other £2 blocks etc. 


11 x £1 Roos on piece


 I recall Martyn Greive from A-One stamps showing me a parcel piece with no less than ELEVEN  x £1 grey 3rd watermark Kangaroos on it,  including a block of 6, and also THREE x £2 Small Multiple Roos.

It was a new discovery he’d found in the past decade, among an estate of a man who threw nothing out – even parcel wrappers.


 Domestic franking - £17/1/4d.


This piece was used in 1933 from Sydney to Newcastle Waters, Northern Territory, on a 32 lbs car parts air shipment. 

These tally to over £17 on a domestic parcel, so MUCH higher value used Roo frankings must certainly exist – especially to USA/Europe.


11 Rod Perry loses house in bet?


Fellow dealer Rodney Perry told me I needed psychiatric help when I mentioned this parcel piece to him at the Canberra National this March. 

Rod stated nothing of that huge face value existed, domestically used, with Kangaroo franking.

Luckily even at 2am I had my laptop with me, and was able to show him the scan nearby - to the vast amusement of the many senior philatelic figures drinking with us at the bar. 

I vaguely seem to recall that Rod bet his house, and first born child that I was mistaken, and I need all corroborating witnesses to step forward please.  All your legal fees are covered.  Beston, Beston & Sons are handling the case!

OK, it is tatty and creased, and could well have (and should have) borne a block of 8 x £2 Small Multiple if the clerk had that many in his stamp drawer.  Indeed delightfully, a block of 9 x £2, if it were overpaid just a tad!

The block of 6 of the £1 is undoubtedly unique used. The relative pittance this item sold for will have us ALL wincing in 10 years.


All KGV Heads too.



It is likely all the KGV heads, in all the watermarks and perfs and dies exist in blocks too – but many would be very rare thus. 

One the scarcest face different “basic” KGV heads is the 4½d Die 2, and many CTO blocks of that are out there.

I once asked experienced dealer Rod Perry if he had even seen or handled a KGV head 4d Lemon Yellow in a USED block of 4.

Rod thought about it for while, and agreed he could not recall seeing one, but also agreed one or more very likely existed, if a search were made. 

An inexperienced dealer would likely offer it for $50 to $100 on today’s market, but I’d want $500.  See if you can find even ONE!


Give yourself a challenge!


Someone looking for a rewarding challenge, could do a LOT worse than give themselves a goal to collect all the Australian stamp issues in used blocks of 4.

If you decided Roos above 5/- were removed off your list due to high cost, the remainder of the Commonwealth would be VERY doable over time.

A fun project, that few others (if any) are doing, and when you ever tired of it, the material will be worth ten times what you paid more than likely.


Try finding one of these!


Near all issues in all watermarks are POSSIBLE in used blocks, but locating them will be the challenge.  Most dealers can sell you a MINT block of 1/- Roos, but how many can offer a nice USED block?!

The fresh block of 6 shown nearby I’ve sold 3 times in 30 years. I mailed it this week to a client at $225.  I think the first time I sold it was for $75.  That tells you a story.

Used blocks of 6d, 9d, and 1/- and 2/- 1930’s roos ARE certainly fairly plentiful, but near all have truly ugly parcel roller cancels, or those massive rubber ‘Parcel Branch’ ones.

Neat circular cancels on Australian pre-war high values are the great exception, not the rule.


1964 7/6d Cook “Sleeper”



As a large dealer I guess I have owned and sold 1,000++  mint copies of this stamp in my time.  Many full sheets of 80 included.

Guess show many USED copies I have handled?

About 5% of that.  Why?

As the August 26, 1964 issued 7/6d was mostly bought up by the trade and speculators, and it had very limited real use by the time of its quick replacement in February 1966.


Numbers sold are now updated


The WRONG "small number sold" figures quoted by all investors for 40 years are quite incorrect, as the ACSC and Geoff Kellow research now confirms for us.

The number sold was DOUBLE what most think.  Such FACTS do not of course deter those who buy a $6 pocket catalogue, and base $1,000s of purchasing decisions on ancient information!

In the 1980s “stamp boom” this stamp mint, got up to $60 apiece.

Try finding postally USED.  The current bizarre present situation where MINT is catalogued higher than used is quite absurd.

The ACSC rates this stamp at $A500 on cover or parcel piece. THAT certainly tells you something, if you are savvy.

Genuine dated postally used with contemporary cancels SHOULD be priced DOUBLE the mint value.


 A classic of the future - $95!


And try finding any postally used BLOCKS!

I offered this superb block shown nearby for $95 on stampboards, and I have no doubt the buyer in future has a GEM piece.

Blocks are gaining in interest all the time. And as outlined above, USED blocks are my long term hobby horse.  In general they are wildly under-valued.

This stamp is plentiful MINT as speculators bought them heavily, but even a genuine date, single used copy is scarce.

A postal used BLOCK is a minor rarity, and a block such as the one shown nearby with such brilliant crisp small town dated cancels is a lovely piece. 


Costs less than an annual album!



I sold it for less than what the current Australia Post Office “annual album” costs!  Absurd. Whomever bought it has a lovely piece for the future.

Clean and fresh and nice. SG 357 catalogue is only £96 for 6 used singles. What a JOKE!


Now THESE are scarce


The savvy way to own this stamp mint is of course overprinted "SPECIMEN".

There were only 3,520 overprinted in September 1964 and September 1965, and it is thought nowhere near all of them were sold by Decimal currency time, soon afterwards in February 1966.

Compare this to the HALF MILLION PLUS normal 7/6d stamps sold .. near all of which are in the hands of dealers and investors.

Of the thousand or two "SPECIMEN" sets sold, near all were given to kids as cheap gifts, as the set was so inexpensive, and were thus hinged or LICKED into kid's album. And often are now lost forever.

I loaded up the set above this week on -  and THAT is a tough group to find, most especially in well centred condition.






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