Friday, 29 June 2012

Collecting Postal History - A Brief Introduction

Part One of an Occasional Series

I've been collecting stamps for over 40 years, and covers for almost as long. While a postmark on a stamp can give an insight into what the stamp "did", only a cover can provide the full story. A postmark might tell you the where and when of postage, but can very rarely tell you the how and why.

This is the allure of postal history. The term was coined by Robson Lowe, and can be described as the study of postal systems and how they operate. The beauty of postal history is that it is a somewhat specialised field, so bargains really are everywhere.

The covers in the blog were all picked up for a song, because the people selling them didn't know what they were.

This grubby cover was sold as "Nigeria King on envelope". It's actually a First Flight cover, for the first direct flight from Lagos, Nigeria to Croydon, England. Addressed to Government House, Antigua, the airmail sticker has two pen marks through it. This is known as a jusqu'a cover (a French word which can be translated as "as far as"). The pen marks were  added on receipt at Croydon to indicate that the cover would not be conveyed by airmail from that point onwards, as there was no airmail service from Croydon to Antigua.

Franked with a pair of 1935 Silver Jubilees SG33 and 6d SG40.

Australia opened a number of Antarctic bases in the 1950's and the first Australian Antarctic Territory stamp was issued in 1957. Before that date, Australian stamps were used.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Collecting Stamp Literature

Books, Monographs and Pamphlets

Every collector has one or more catalogues on the shelf to use as their major resource. We can't avoid this, as reference to value is a human condition. However, the catalogues only tell a small part of the story behind the stamps we collect.

If a catalogue was meant to be an educational tool, the SG Commonwealth & Empire catalogue may run to 20 volumes, and none of us could afford either the cost or the shelf space. If we want to find more depth, detail and interest, accumulating specialised literature is a very rewarding and worthwhile sideline to constantly hunting down our next piece of coloured paper. 

Much of this literature is out of print, but can often be found at very low prices. I'm going to show a small selection of my favourite items, and none of them cost me more than $5!

Didn't we all have a basic stamp book when we were young? The one that was given to us by our parents or our favourite uncle, when they realised that we were doomed to a life of hunching over a desk with a glass to our eye......

This is one of the best primers I've ever seen. Published by the Philosophical Library, this is the 6th edition (1966) of a book first published in 1951, and it contains over 3,000 A-Z entries. If you're looking for illustrations of cork cancels, details of where Wolmaransstad is, or what P.K.W.N is an ebbrevaition for, this is the book to have

Friday, 22 June 2012

The 1935 Silver Jubilee - A New Discovery?

An Unrecorded De La Rue Variety?

The 1935 Silver Jubilee of the reign of King George V (whose Coronation was held on this day in 1911), was commemorated by a series of stamps with common design. My earlier blog regarding the series can be found here.

The stamps were printed in a two-part process (except for Newfoundland), with a frame plate and a vignette. Unique varieties exist for all three printers. There are superb reference sites here and here that show all of the major, and many of the minor varieties.

I recently found three stamps printed by De La Rue that seem to show a common variety, in three different stages, for which I've found no other reference.

The stamp that shows the flaw most prominently is the Northern Rhodesia 6d (SG21). The flaw takes the form of a large bird, or a reversed tick-mark, on the left edge of the Round Tower

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Birds of Papua New Guinea

The Weird and the Wonderful

Starting a thematic, or topical, collection is, for me at least, an impulsive thing. A few years ago, I only collected KGV-era British Empire. I was adamant that I wasn't going to allow any thematic collections to take up space on my shelf.

I now have at least half a dozen thematic collections that I go back to when my main collection gets too heavy or, as happens frequently, too expensive! The thematic collections all started as a result of my non-philatelic pursuits. As I'm also a very unskilled birdwatcher, logic dictated that I start a thematic collection of birds.

My album is now bulging. Who knew there were so many issues?

However, it's possible to start a thematic collection from one country, as these issues from Papua New Guinea illustrate

This is the Muruk, or double-wattled or Southern Cassowary (SG271 issued 1974). This huge bird can stand 2 metres tall. This may be the only way to see one soon. Although they range from PNG to northern Australia, it's estimated that there are less than 2,500 remaining

The best-known birds of PNG are, perhaps, the birds of paradise. The postal authorities of PNG have spoiled us with choice for glorious images of wonderful birds.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Are You on Facebook?

Global Philately is!

My new Facebook page is where special offers will be made, where occasional give-aways will be thrown around and general chit-chat will take place.

I'd like it, if you'd like us! Visit here

Friday, 15 June 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion!

Falkland Islands Gems on Ebay

I'm breaking down a life-long collection of Falklands Islands and have a lot of Postal Stationery listed at the moment, like this

This is Higgins & Gage (H&G) 4, Queen Victoria reply card, overprinted Specimen, one of only 750 produced. Starting at 99p here

Over the next few days, I'll be listing a range of early Falklands stamps and more covers. Please drop in and add me to your favourite sellers if these items appeal to you!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Stamps Are Holding Their Own

Auction Realisations Still Strong

I can only comment on this at a personal level, but philatelic auctions appear to be going strong, despite the financial issues faced by the globe.

I recently consigned 43 items to Grosvenor Auctions in London. The auction was held yesterday, and only four lots were unsold, making a clearance rate of 90%. The total hammer price was a very pleasing 20% above estimate. 

It would seem that good quality philatelic material is proving to be resilient.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Internet and Philately - Part 2

My Ten Favourite Online Resources

One of the joys of the internet is finding out that someone else has done the research and put it online for all to see. I especially enjoy websites that go beyond the standard references and broaden a subject.

My list of bookmarks runs into the hundreds, but these are my Top 10. Needless to say, but I will anyway, my collecting habits are reflected in the sites I've selected

1. King George V Silver Jubilee - without doubt the best online reference for the 1935 Jubilee issues. It includes the omnibus series issued by 44 colonies and territories, and the separate issues of 10 that didn't hop aboard. The listings, and illustrations, of the multitude of varieties is superb. To aid the postal historian, there are also details of the postal rates for each territory.

2. The Philatelic Database - definitely the place to go when you don't know where to start, the Philatelic Database contains a host of articles on all things philatelic, and they're archived

3. Philatelics.Org - a brilliant site for collectors of Great Britain. It has numerous downloadable PDF's on a range of subjects, and an excellent postmark database

4. The TPO and Seapost Society - another fantastic site for postal historians, covering Travelling Post Offices and maritime mail

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Trans-Atlantic Mail in the Age of Steam

The SS Bremen

The SS Bremen,  a German ocean liner launched in August 1928, undertook her maiden voyage from Bremerhaven to New York on July 16 1929. She was of 51,656 tons and 286.1 metres in length, and carried over 2,100 passengers and 966 crew. 

She arrived in New York in 4 days, 17 hours, 42 minutes, taking the west-bound Blue Riband speed record from the “Mauretania”. On her return voyage, she took the east-bound Blue Riband in 4 days, 14 hours, 13 minutes. She was the only ocean liner to achieve two speed records on her first two voyages. She completed 190 transatlantic voyages, and was the first ocean liner of her size to traverse the Panama Canal. 

A variety of postmarks are known, but manuscript and stamped cachets were applied for mail posted outside Germany. A Catapult Mail service, using a Heinkel He 12 seaplane mounted between the funnels (the catapult is just visible in the photo above), was in use from 1929 to 1936, when the speed of the Zeppelin “Hindenburg” made the service redundant. Catapult covers don't form part of my collection, as they are quite gaudy and usually covered in an abundance of cachets (reminiscent of the Tonga "Tin Can" covers).  An excellent site on the catapult process and catapult mail can be found here 

My preference lies with non-philatelic trans-atlantic mail.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Once Upon a Time in the Good Old Days - Part 1

The Way Philately USED To Be

I'm a sad traditionalist and far too sentimental. I embrace change (see me blogging?), but I yearn for the past and what I perceive to be the better and less hectic life it offered. Of course, anyone who lived through the "better" times knows that they actually weren't better, but it's how sentimental people like me like to think.

So much has changed in our hobby, especially in the internet era, that it might be fun to time travel back to a more genteel time for our hobby. 

It was a time when there used to be strange places called Stamp Shops, where collectors could see the wares in albums, windows and wall displays, and were served by men in suits. 

Shops like this one. The premises of W.S. Lincoln of Oxford Street, London. The picture was found in an old Lincoln album. Note the caption - "The Largest Stamp Shop in the World". That's the kind of advertising that wouldn't be allowed today without proof!

The inside of the shop was a veritable Aladdin's cave. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Are You Interested in Cape Triangles?

If So, You Must Have This Handy Reference!

The Cape of Good Hope triangulars are one of the truly iconic issues of classic British Empire stamps. 

Issued from 1853 to 1864, they were revolutionary in design and were produced in four stages, by three printers on four papers with numerous shades

Stanley Gibbons famously purchased a sack-full of Cape Triangulars from two merchant seamen in 1863. He reputedly paid them £5! 

They are a little more valuable now, with catalogue values ranging from £190 - £100,000 for mint stamps, and £80 to £30,000 for used stamps. The major colour varieties can range from £40,000 used to £160,000 mint.

These catalogue values provide enough incentive for fraudsters to ply their trade, and with today's internet auctions, they have found a ready outlet for their fakes.

What can you do to minimise the possibility of losing your money by paying for fakes? 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Christmas Island Local Stamps 1916-1938

Where on Earth is Kiritimati?

There are two Christmas Islands, or at least there used to be. One, an Australian Territory in the Indian Ocean, still issues stamps. The other, in the Pacific Ocean, issued local stamps from 1916 to 1938, when the stamps of the Gilbert & Ellice Islands came into use.

The Pacific Christmas Island is a member of the Line Islands and, according to Wikipedia, is to be found 6,700 kms from Sydney, and 5,360 kms from San Francisco.

In 1913, the island was leased by Great Britain to the Central Pacific Cocoanut Plantations Ltd. In 1919, the island became part of the Gilbert & Ellice Islands, but no post office was opened. To defray the cost of transporting mail, the Central Pacific Cocoanut Plantations Ltd issued a 5c stamp in 1916, featuring one of their boats, Ysabel May.

There are four printings of the stamps, two for each value, all on unwatermarked paper according to Bill Hornadge's "Cinderella Stamps of Australasia":

First Printing  (probably 1916) - 5c value perf 12½
Second Printing (1924) - 5c value perf 11½
Third Printing (1926) - 10c value perf 11½, corner figures and value in red
Fourth Printing (1934) - 10c value perf 11½, corner figures and value in greenish blue

The stamp covered local delivery, but additional stamps were required for any delivery beyond the local area.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Marcophily - The Study of Postmarks - Part 2

When The Postmark Makes ALL The Difference - GB Used Abroad

The postmark on a stamp usually indicates where the mail originated from, and is typically found on a stamp of the relevant country.

When the stamp and the postmark don't originate from the same country, the stamp is known as a "used abroad".

British colonialisation presented a multitude of reasons why stamps were used abroad, including the establishment of British postal agencies in foreign countries by means of a commercial treaty, satisfying the postal needs of colonies with no local stamps yet produced, and carrying military mail during foreign military campaigns.

These stamps are in my collection, and, again, all were found in bulk lots and not purchased for what they are.

This stamp is Great Britain SG94 4d vermilion Plate 12, issued in 1870. It bears a part duplex A25 of Malta. Although Malta issued stamps in 1860, Great Britain was responsible for the external posts until 1884, hence the use of British stamps until that time