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Glen Stephens
Monthly "Stamp News" Market Tipster Column

September  2012






The Golden month


Well as you read this, the Olympics are long over and the Athletes are all back home. And all of us has likely seen 100 hours of coverage!

We were travelling in Italy, Switzerland, Malta, Thailand, Germany and even Heligoland while they occurred, and that gives an interesting aspect to it all.

In hotels the only English channels were often BBC World and/or CNN, and flicking between the two was hysterical.

You’d be forgiven for thinking any other countries on earth existed, apart from USA and UK!


A Gold Medal at LAST!


On August 7 we were flying from Malta to Germany and the 4 newspapers I read on the plane made sobering reading.

“The NY Times”, “USA Today”, “Financial Times” and “International Herald Tribune” all had large features stories on how poorly Australia was doing after a week or so of competition.


Australia started poorly.


Australia only had 2 Gold Medals to that point, and MUCH was made of being behind even New Zealand at that point!  What a tragedy that was.

Luckily things brightened up later in the piece, and Australia did pretty well overall, considering the swim and cycling teams performed miles under wide expectations. 

Coming in top 10 in the Gold Medal count, and also in the overall medal count was a pretty good result, given the absolutely terrible start.  Anna Meares shown nearby “broke the drought”.


A Gold Medal “Forever” Stamp


The Brits started poorly as well, and caught up strongly.  For a nation that barely rated a mention in Medal tables until only a few games back, they made the most of the host nation crowd support. 

Like Australia, the UK issued Gold Medal stamps in mini sheets of 6 for each medal – 4 up, in an A4 size sheetlet – each sheet of 4 with differing margin markings at left per “pane” – see photo nearby. 

Britain issues 29 panes of 24.


The printer location is printed at lower left of each A4 pane, and shows the town/city rather than a region, as dealers thought it would.  So each pane of 24 exists from 6 printers.

Each A4 sheet (face £14.40) consists of 4 miniature sheets (£3.60) of 6 stamps (60p now, but valid forever as “1st Class”). Total cost of 6 x A4 sheets is £86.40 for each Gold Medal. 

So as there were 29 English Gold medals the long suffering collectors were up for a staggering £2,505.60 to be “complete”.

Thankfully for local collectors, buying a set of the ozzie sheets will cost a LOT less!


Cost £2,505.60 a set of sheets.


Australia pioneered the “instant” stamps for Gold Medals in 2000, and continued with it in 2012 (one shown nearby) – with sadly far less than the 16 Golds won in 2000.

In Britain, Royal Mail also painted selected cast iron red streetside mail-boxes in Gold paint, to celebrate each new Gold medal.

Sadly the one painted to honour poster girl Jessica Ennis's win, in home city of Sheffield was vandalised with graffiti, and Royal Mail needed to paint it gold again the next day.


Britain goes for GOLD!


Stampboards member “colinscovers” had a photo taken of his Hosforth box (see nearby) after local brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee won Gold and Bronze in the Triathlon. outlines the unfolding procession of the GB Gold Medal stamps, with masses of photos for those interested in following it.


Postmarks that puzzle!


We have all seen stamps I am sure, that have postmarks that add an amusing dimension to their underlying stamps.

They have a design element in a place, where the artist never anticipated one etc!

The old 1 Peso, green and black Chile stamp shown nearby depicts the subject with a lovely pair of devil or Viking horns for instance.


A devil of a postmark!


We see eyeglasses, beards, moustaches and odd postmark wording, given the subject design etc.

I am sure we have all seen them, and have a chuckle when we do see them, but as they are of little monetary value, are generally not retained.

Having said that, knowing collectors and dealers, some reader is bound to have Hagner sheets full of them as a sideline collection.


Add your weird postmark scans!


So please scan a few of your funniest ones and share them with others.

On I saw a few this month that made me smile, and they are shared with readers here.

Stampboards members added their current favourites on the link above, and if you have any others you have put aside, please add them in.


Señor The Queen!


The 1953 4d Canada shown nearby has a rather neatly placed Goatee beard, on Her Majesty The Queen.

Seems to be a cancel referring to Red Cross and the ‘O’ has made a lovely goatee as you can see.


Male or female?


If you place a piece of paper over the forehead and under the neck it could well be the image of a man – try it and see.

This an exceedingly common stamp used of course – value a few cents a bundle of 100 from packet-makers.

However this one is fun, and I am sure would sell for a few dollars to someone, somewhere, as a curio.


Be-spectacled Prince Charles


Royalty collectors would I am sure also pay a few dollars for the striking machine cancel shown nearby, of Prince Charles wearing glasses– from a “POSTCODE IT” roller cancel. 


The rapidly shrinking Lady Diana.


I always smile when I see that silly stamp – as most realise, Prince Charles and Diana were exactly the same height - 5’10” in the old measure. 


The Moustachioed Queen


Queen Victoria also sports a neat Latino moustache on this 20c Canada stamp shown nearby –  and appears to also have a bullet hole in her forehead. has many more examples added by members globally.


Catchy names sell errors.


We all know that with stamps depicting printing flaws, there are the ones which are constant plate varieties - and these often bring big dollars.

Transient flews such as ink blobs can also be striking, but are usually “one offs”.


 “Shotgun hole in Queen”


The mint New Zealand 1882 3d Yellow Queen Victoria nearby, I added to stock recently at $A60, as it has a large “shotgun hole in head” ink blob variety.

However as it is NOT a constant plate flaw, these things seldom sell for more than the cost of a normal example of the same stamp, as in this case.

 Exceptions exist of course – the ink blob “CNE” on 1d Red KGVs, and “Missing Fraction” 2½d Kangaroos etc get huge prices for some strange reason.

Usually a plate flaw needs to have been constant to get listed in major catalogues. It really helps their popularity if a short catchy name can be given.

“Broken Leg Kangaroo” is a good example. The name is short, and the flaw is mentally very easily visualised.


6d “Broken Leg Kangaroo”


On the 6d Brown it is not uncommon at all, but gets 3 figure type prices, mint or used. On the 6d Blue it is rare.

An equally populous constant plate flaw might well get only 20% of this price, as the name is not nearly as short or catchy.

Something like “small breaks in shading lines between Tasmania and Victoria” is nowhere near as catchy a name – however may well be numerically scarcer!

Printing techniques, especially on stamps before World War 1 were often far less rigorous than those of today.

The “workhorse” stamp issues of most countries were printed in vast numbers in that era.


Millions of postcards a week


We often forget that faxes, emails, text messages and phone calls were totally unknown in the circa 1900 era. 

 The simplest of tasks required several postcards zipping around.


Over 1 BILLION 1d Kangaroos printed.


If you needed to make an appointment with a doctor or lawyer etc you needed to send a postcard asking if Tuesday the 14th was suitable.

Their office would reply saying that was booked out, and how about Thursday the 16th, and you reply that you are not free then but was the 17th possible etc?

Just to make the simplest of appointments might require 6 or 8 postcards or letters being generated. Think about it.

To set up a time and suitable place for a dinner party among 6 couples might mean 20 or 30 postcards zipping around. 

Even in Australia with a then tiny population the usage of  letter and postcard stamps was around 11 million a week in the 1d Kangaroo era of 100 years back.


Australian Census Report from 1913


With a population of under 5 million, that is more than 2 mail items a week average for EVERY man woman and child.

This 1d Roo was a very short lived issue, being replaced by the 1d red KGV head within a year or so, but the ACSC tells us over a BILLION were printed.  

And even the humble ½d green Kangaroo had 153 million printed.

Remember at this time all the different STATE issues were nationally valid and widely held by the public and business houses, and still stocked by many post offices.

So in this 1913 era only about half the mail would be bearing Kangaroo stamps.


“State” stamps also heavily used.


The humble ½d green Kangaroo was hence used on 100 million postcards, and near all were tossed away once read.

Value today of this stamp used – under a dollar or so from most dealers globally, despite being 100 years old.

Well not all of them are a buck apiece – the one shown nearby sold for $A56,250.  It does not have an unusual shade, or cancel or an ink printing flaw etc. 

So WHY did it sell for $A56,250 – well you possibly need to visit here to find out -

Huge auction figure.


The very ordinary looking ½d green Kangaroo shown nearby was invoiced for $A56,250 at the Gray sale in 2007.

This 1913 stamp has a SIDEWAYS watermark, and only a few are recorded thus.  SO far!


A dollar stamp, that sold for $56,250


Ordinarily centred, it has a Toorak Victoria cds, of November 11, 1913 date, and has terrible “fluffy” perfs..

There are both versions of this invert known - crown pointing left, and crown pointing right.  So it clear at least 2 sheets were sold. 

Many more may be out there – being such a cheap stamp normally, most folks have simply never bothered searching.

Retail is only $1 or so, and even INVERTED watermark is pretty common, so few have ever looked at the watermark.

I have NO doubt whatever more copies of this error will surface after this publicity.  Let me know if you find one!


Heligoland here I come!


I typed this column on the island of Heligoland, in the North Sea.

Been lucky enough to have travelled to about 130 different countries, so finding somewhere ‘new’ to visit is not easy – and this fitted the bill!

A fascinating island to visit, via detours in Malta, Switzerland, Italy and Thailand on the way over. 

There are no cars on Heligoland (which is only 1.2km x .5km in size!) and the Post Office van is an all-electric vehicle, that picked up the postcards I mailed.                      


Not many of these around today!


For the info of Heligoland collectors, the boat across has a special 'Sea-Post' cancel for stamped mail lodged in the box on board, and a few of those also went to clients who had asked me for them.

All the boats across were cancelled the day I had scheduled, as they discovered large unexploded WW2 bombs, and banned all shipping. A shame as we had another day in boring old Cuxhaven.

The Allies bombed the living daylights out of Heligoland in WW2 - 969 allied bombers in one huge Squadron - 617 Lancasters, 332 Halifaxes and 20 Mosquitos - on April 18, 1945.

There are large bomb craters all over it, to this day.  The Brits used it for bombing practice into the 1950s. For anyone travelling to Germany, DO add it to your itinerary.

Hardly a word of English spoken on the island, or boats across or in any signage anywhere, and TV 100% in German, but that aside, a great little vacation destination.




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