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Glen Stephens
Monthly "Stamp News" Market Tipster Column

October 2010




The Story of "One Pound Jimmy"

In September a member of stampboards based in Mt. Gambier SA discovered something unusual.

It was a MUH example of the 1952, 2/6d sepia Aboriginal stamp, with watermark inverted.

It was among 7 mint copies of the same stamp in a small dealer type stock glassine purchased from the USA. 

It is a fairly common stamp mint, and the finder only looked at the backs to check if the stamps had toning and hinge marks - or not. 

This error had not been recorded in mint condition before.

Only 2 used copies have ever been reported, and both of course are of major rarity standing, and have SG and ACSC catalogue status.

The normal watermark is sideways multiple crown and “CofA” and is easy to see with the naked eye.

The paper is thin, so the inverted crown’s top curve can be very clearly seen behind Jimmy’s shoulder – as you can see.  


A unique Mint post war error?



The used inverted watermark is SG 253aw - £5,000 used, and in the well out of date ACSC 256a - $A5,000. 

As far as I can determine it is the only UNIQUE mint stamp item known from post-war Australia.

Rather amazing for an example to surface some SIXTY years from issue date.

The lucky finder sold it to me, as he does not collect Australia, and I found a very good home for it for a 5 figure sum soon afterwards.  


The "Jimmy" Story


I do not believe an overview of the subject person of this stamp has ever been outlined in one place, and after a day of research, I will now attempt to do that below.  

For starters it debunks the widely held myth of where the "One Pound Jimmy" nickname came from!

The same design stamp was originally issued as an 8½d stamp in 1950, which when issued, paid the Registered airmail letter rate within Australia and British Empire.  And 2nd weight step, domestic air.  


Even these are $120 today.


Rodney Perry got $A120 for this rather grubby and boring looking cover in his September 10th inaugural postal auction – that appears to have paid no valid rate whatever! 

The 2/6d version of the same stamp was issued in 1952 and continued on and off, right up until Decimal currency in 1966 – via a last moment “emergency” printing.

Near 100 million stamps of this design were sold in total over some 16 years. 

I feel if the country name were removed from the stamps, it would be immediately identified as being from Australia.

This famous stamp depicted "One Pound Jimmy" an Aboriginal man from the Northern Territory.

His exact date and place of birth is not known, but it was in a dry creek-bed, and assumed to be mid 1890s.

"One Pound Jimmy's" anglicised name is rendered variously in learned sources as Gwoya Jungarai or Djungarrayi, and very often Tjungurrayi.


Iconic 1930s “One Pound Jimmy”


The most commonly accepted spelling, including by Australia Post, appears to be Gwoya Jungarai and I will use that throughout this piece, or "Jimmy".

His given name of “Gwoja” was an Arrernte aboriginal tribal word for “water”.


Massacre by posse.


In 1928 a posse of sorts, led by a mounted Constable Murray and pastoralists, resulted in the massacre of about 25 Aboriginal men, women and children near Coniston, north of Alice Springs.

The posse was retaliating the murder of a white dingo trapper, Frederick Brooks at Brooks’ Soak.  For alleged “non payment for services to Aboriginal women”.

This was one of several skirmishes where Warlpiri-Anmatyerre aboriginals were shot while resisting arrest, and this era is referred to by them as "the killing times".

Jungarai, then mid 30s, was embroiled in these issues, and his son Clifford is later quoted as saying "Jimmy" was arrested at this time, and chained to a tree.

Other aboriginals were shot by the posse, and "Jimmy" managed to escape his chains before they returned.

He quietly re-settled in another tribal area nearby, after being so violently displaced from his ancestral country.  

Some 25 aboriginals were killed at this time.  A later Government enquiry established the full facts, but no-one was ever charged with these deaths.


Enter Roy Dunstan


A chance encounter later took place in the 1930s in the remote, rocky desert east of Alice Springs between Jungarai, and an ambitious young tourism executive from Melbourne.

He was touring Australia by car, searching for spectacular pictures and adventure stories for a new tourism magazine "Walkabout" - a precursor to today's "Australian Geographic".

Charles Holmes, could not believe his good fortune when the young, fit, handsome man appeared unexpectedly before him, totally naked - carrying a woomera, a spear and a boomerang.

Holmes felt compelled to capture Jimmy’s image on film, and instructed his cameraman Roy Dunstan to snap a series of photographs.  One is nearby.

For the ensuing 80 years these Dunstan images played a significant role in the international media visual definition of Australian Aboriginality.

The images were often used in the widely circulated “Walkabout” Magazine from the mid 1930s onward – and many other publications.


On coinage to this day.


To this day our $2 coin bears a rendering of an Aboriginal man that is widely understood to have been engraved based on "Jimmy". 

The Dunstan photo of Jimmy was used so widely, that someone at the Post Office clearly noticed it, and decided to adopt it in reverse direction to the photo image.

As pure chance has it, today I was sold a superb fresh MUH Cinderella for: “Geelong Centenary 1938”. 

Have never seen this item before, however it very clearly used Dunstan’s nearby iconic photo for the design.  Perhaps the PO saw this?

If you have even been to Geelong in Winter, the idea of a naked Aboriginal is pretty far-fetched, but someone thought it was clever!


Perhaps the idea came from here?


The 1950 PO issue became Australia’s first stamp EVER to depict a named living person, other than British Royalty.

Jungarai worked a hard life as a stockman and station hand for twenty years.

He worked at mustering, branding and driving cattle, sinking bores and helping pastoralists develop their Northern Territory cattle leases into vast empires. He married in the late 1930s.

"Jimmy” also had a stint working in a Mica mine, and after the release of the mass selling stamps in 1950, was sought as a guide by the emerging numbers of intrepid outback tourists.


“One Pound Jimmy” name origin


Many writers (and Australia Post!) claim that the "One Pound Jimmy" name was bestowed because he invariably asked “£1” for odd jobs, or single handicrafts he made.

Quaintly romantic as that tale may certainly sound, it is totally unfounded it appears!

Research shows this was equivalent to a week’s accommodation at Hermannsburg, two months work as a stockman in the area, or four weeks ‘regulation wages’ for companion/camel-man/guiding work for anthropologists

It is very unlikely "Jimmy" would have asked for or been given £1 for a single job he performed, or a single carving he sold etc. 

The Sun Travel Book states that 2/- (10% of £1) was the “standard price for boomerangs, womeras [sic], and pitchies” at Jay Creek - where Jimmy sold his handicrafts.

Some writers offer another solution.  They suggest this name was given to "Jimmy" following the success of the stamp issue.

This is also wrong, because evidence records that this "One Pound Jimmy" nick-name was used very much earlier than the stamp release of 1950.


 A “signed” cover.


His son, famous artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri states he addressed his father as "One Pound Jim" from his early childhood.

And the informative T.Strehlow’s local diaries identifies him therein by this same anglicised name in September 1935 – 15 years before the stamp issue.

Shown nearby is a rare "Thumbprint" Cover from “One Pound Jimmy”, to the son of John Ash, ex Commonwealth Stamp Printer.  (Courtesy Martin Walker Collection.)

“Jimmy” was illiterate. The sideways text reads -  "Witnessed by Len Penhall, Patrol Officer, Native Affairs Branch, Alice Springs, N.T." - and date of cancel is "21 MR:53".

Gwoya Jungarai died in April 1965 whilst on “walkabout” in remote desert country outside Alice Springs. He was believed to be about 70 years of age.

Fittingly, the 2/6d stamp was withdrawn from sale soon afterwards, ending the 16 year issue period of the “One Pound Jimmy” stamps.


Enduringly popular with collectors


The “One Pound Jimmy” stamp design is still a firm favourite with collectors.

2009 marked 200 years of postal services here.  Australia Post invited the public to vote for their favourite Australian stamps of all time.


Your Favourite stamps of all time


The public was invited to choose from 150 stamps representing Australian culture and heritage, major events and significant achievements, since the first stamps were issued by New South Wales in 1850.

The results, in order of popularity, were rather interesting:

£2 Kangaroo and Map, 5/- Sydney Harbour Bridge, 2½d Peace & Victory, 8½d Gwoya Jungarai, “One Pound Jimmy” , and the 6d Engraved Kookaburra.

All 5 were then released in a myriad of formats as 55c values, and were very heavily used on regular commercial mail for months. 

A sidebar feature is that this set 5 had a replica 2009 “watermark” you might be able to see in the scan – the FIRST Australian stamps to do so – from the days of the 2/6d “Jimmy”!


Son was Clifford Possum


Until researching this piece I had no idea Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri was the son of "One Pound Jimmy" and have never seen that recorded in the philatelic media.

Possum was also born in same remote NT area, and also worked his early life as a stockman etc, and is now regarded as our best known indigenous artist.

One of Possum’s most famous paintings is the huge 168x170cm canvas, "Warlugulong" -  which now hangs in the National Gallery of Australia.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri broke the existing price record for an Aboriginal artwork at auction with it in Melbourne on July 24, 2007.

Possum’s "Warlugulong" painting shown nearby sold for $A2.4 million, including the buyer's premium.

He was paid $1,200 for the work in 1977, and died in 2002, and thus did not live to see this world record price.


Sold for $A2.4 Million


The history of the artwork shows that banks are not always good at handling valuable things!

"It was bought by the Commonwealth Bank in 1977 for $6,000, and over the next 20 or so years it got lost," said Sotheby's director, Tim Klingender.

"It ended up on the wall in their staff training room cafeteria" concluded Klingender, who is shown nearby with the painting.

In 1996 it appeared in an unillustrated catalogue as lot No. 109, with an estimated value of $A3,000 to $A5,000.

An eagle eyed art dealer Hank Ebes snapped it up, and hung it on his lounge wall for a decade.  Ebes was the vendor at $A2.4 million.


From another well known son.

  “One Pound Jimmy” had two successful artist sons – the other, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri (1929-1984) had his work on a stamp with the $1 "Ancestor Dreaming" from the striking 1988 ‘Art of the Desert’ issue.  

11 x £1 Roos on piece


I showed a "cut down" illustration of this Parcel fragment in a column several months back.

Dealer “A-One Stamps” in Sydney found it lining the bottom of a box of junk from an estate.

At the time I recounted that dealer Rod Perry bet me that such a high domestic franking did not exist from this era.

The owner of it later contacted me with a high resolution scan, showing the outer parts of it, not shown originally.

Most interesting - we can see at left side - "Acceptd weight 32 lbs.  J. Hart, Enquiry Office, GPO Sydney."

Handwritten in pencil underneath, is the cost of the parcel - "£17/1/4d."   The same amount can be seen inverted at lower right. -"17:1:4  32” (lbs).

A very close look at the none-too-clear cancel makes it out to be "25 MR : 33".


30% unemployment in this era


This makes it a Depression era parcel.  Australia had massive unemployment at this time - fully 30% of the nation's adults were unemployed in 1932.

This was the most severe unemployment rate in the industrialised world, exceeded only by Germany.

Australia did not have the USA "New Deal" massive Federal work creation stimulus, as in the 1930s all taxation here was still state controlled, not Federal.

The Australian Pound was devalued, the "Gold Standard" was abandoned, and our exports had slumped dramatically.


A MONTH’S wages here!


The average wage in Sydney at this time (for those with work) was £4 a week, so this parcel cost more than a MONTH'S gross wages to mail.

The ABS tells us the average gross weekly wage in Australia in May 2010 is $A1,250 a week - or $A5,000 a month. Just imagine spending $A5,000 to mail a parcel!

The parcel piece has 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.

The owner tells me the endorsement "Acceptd Weight 32lbs" suggests the item did not fit on a PO scale.  It may have been on odd shape car part being shipped etc.

32lbs (14.55 Kg) exceeded the limit for the Parcel Post, so it was charged at letter rate.  32 lbs = 512 ounces x 2d per ounce = 1024d = £4/5/4d

The airmail fee was an additional 3d per ½oz.  i.e. an extra 512 ounces at 3d per ½oz = 3,072d = £12/16/0d.  Total postage paid £17/1/4d.

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

OK, it is tatty and creased, and could well have (and should have) borne a block of 8 x £2 Small Multiple Roos if the clerk had that many in his stamp drawer. 

Indeed it might have delightfully borne a block of 9 x £2, if it were overpaid just a tad!

The block of 6 of the £1 x 3rd Wmk is undoubtedly unique used. The relative pittance this item sold for, will have us ALL wincing in 10 years.


Good eyes are an ASSET


Another perfect example of where “Knowledge Is Power” – my lifelong mantra proves itself again!.


Would you pay 5 Euros for this?


A member - “Pod” from Singapore spotted this stockcard of WA on offer on the European Delcampe website – buy it now price 5 Euros.

The seller was in France, and was so unprofessional the payment had to be made in cash via the mail.

“Pod” wondered if he might have fluked a cheap copy of the rare 2d Mauve “Error Of Colour” – SG 55b. £12,000.  The normal 2d stamps in this design were yellow.  shows you the detailed discussion he started, and the lively debate.

A number of members are WA specialists, and showed thereon, other expertised examples of this stamp.  

Many felt the colour was way too dark to be the error stamp.  Most known were a rather pale mauve.

Debate raged on for weeks as you can see, and “Pod” was advised to mail the stamp to the RPSV in Melbourne to be expertised.

As you can see on the discussion thread, the RPSV certified it as genuine in August, and they confirmed that the shade range of these errors is far wider than was once thought.


 Invoiced at $24,465 in 2005


A VFU example of this stamp is shown nearby which got a massive $24,465 at Prestige in 2005 - when the SG value of the error was well under HALF today’s figure.

So sharp eyes have paid off here – the entire stockcard cost only 5 Euros!

Add that to the 5 figure 2/6d Aborigine reported there, that also cost literally nothing,  AND the Roo parcel piece ditto - and it just proves there ARE major discoveries still to be made!







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