The Kangaroo and Map series is an ever-popular category of Australian philately with the stamps representing to many people a symbolic break-away from the Crown. It was after all the first Australian Commonwealth stamp series. With the federation of 1901 control of postal services was vested in the Commonwealth of Australia. Much controversy surrounded the issue and it took a further 12 years for the series to come into circulation. The wheels of Bureaucracy turned no swifter back then.
Whilst there are no recorded official dates of issue for the various denominations, the dispatch dates from the Stamp Printing Branch in Melbourne are known, therefore giving a theoretical dateline for First Day of Issue of the different values and watermarks. These are confirmed by actual First Day Covers. The earliest known First Day Cover for a Kangaroo issue is that of a Penny Red, 2 January 1913. There are approximately 11 known Covers with this dateline. As you would expect these Covers are highly desirable and keenly sought. They command serious dollars as seen by the example shown here.
Sold for A$12,300 at the recent Shreve’s sale in New York from the Arthur Gray collection. Note the date of cancellation (Jan 2, 1913)
Kangaroos can be collected in a myriad of formats that can cater to wide ranging budgets, interests and objectives i.e. frenzied accumulation through to targeted investment pieces. Often one format of collecting transforms, or progresses, if you like, to another. It is a useful exercise to determine where you are at with your collection, be that Roos or any other material for that matter. Are you getting enjoyment and satisfaction from it? If not, why not? Ask yourself where you would you like to go with your kangaroos. Some of the ideas and concepts here may help you get there.
Let’s look at some of the ways collectors get their Roos together:
The Accumulator: No real strategy, just buy in quantity when and wherever, the criteria generally being price, quality is not an issue other than you can get more if they’re rough looking. With every good intention to eventually sort, they are generally put into a shoebox for later on! The more sophisticated accumulator may even put them into a stock-book and loosely sort by colour or denomination, but never watermark! This can be fun and you get to handle many Kangaroos, but unless you progress to a more orderly and refined format you’ll never really know what you’ve got. If you enjoy the thrill of knowing there may be some hidden treasures for you to find later on when you get time, fine, stick with it. Nothing wrong with that!
My experience has been that a cross road is often encountered at some point and the Accumulator will progress and decided to put some order to it all OR lose interest altogether and quit. Another scenario goes like this: too many damm Roos to sort, overwhelmed at the sight of the shoebox the decision is made… I’ll start again with some Georges, I won’t get as many though and this time I’ll be more orderly. I’ll get back to the Roos later – yeah right… hello!
The Collector: Often ends up with the bored Accumulators’ shoe box who has decided not to progress. They have bought it at auction or a Sunday market. Sometimes they become part of an estate sale. A collector will carry out basic soaking and sorting and put order and therefore add value to the Lot.
A worthwhile initial objective should be to put together a basic collection of used Kangaroos by Watermark. If the thought of getting the High Values together, these are the 5/-, 10/-, £1 and £2 seems out of reach, don’t worry, there are some viable budget options. I’ll come to that later.
The Philatelist: A philatelist is a collector who studies his stamps. For example, identifying your kangaroos by their watermarks is the act of a philatelist. The Well is very deep when it comes to the study of stamps and specialist publications are available that will enable you to study Kangaroos in great detail. This knowledge then becomes very powerful when sifting through bulk material. Some plate and watermark varieties can be worth thousands of dollars and to the trained eye are readily identifiable.
The Philatelist/Investor: The philatelist/investor will target kangaroos that have a long and well documented history of appreciation. They collect and study auction catalogues and realised prices. Their purchases, unless of great rarity will be above average in centring, perforations, gum and general appearance, however, they are realistic in their appraisal and don’t chase perfection that is rarely obtainable. Because of their philatelic interest, they may not necessarily purchase the copybook investment kangaroos or pieces, but lean towards their particular bent, knowing the investment should do well anyway. Some examples the Philatelist/Investor may consider are: Essays & Proofs, High Value Kangaroo Stamps & Imprint Blocks, Monogram Stamps & Pieces, the more scarce Plate Varieties and major flaws.
The Investor: May just like stamps and not necessarily be a philatelist. However, they know that quality investment kangaroos have a very good track record of appreciation in value. They will engage a reputable dealer to put together a suitable group with a strict investment bent. The investor may have a wide ranging portfolio: shares, property etc. and has decided to allocate say 5% of his total portfolio into investment Kangaroos. Makes good sense to me! It has become common practice for people with private superannuation funds to diversify into wide ranging investment since the revision in legislation that now allows such types of investments. Stamp dealers are seeing more and more of this type of investor enters the market place in recent years.
Investment grade pieces
So let’s get started in putting together a sound, attractive and resaleable/trade-up-able set. We’ll use Fine Used Grade up to the 2/- values and incorporate some budget options for the higher values (5/- to £2). For the sake of the exercise we’ll assume you’ve got a mass or mess of Roos to sort through, you know a dealer or two you are comfortable with and you are prepared to allocate some funding to the project. No need to rush it, set yourself say a 3 month time frame to complete the collection.
First up you will need a catalogue that lists the stamps by watermark as opposed to a simplified listing, which just lists the cheapest denomination from any of the watermarked sets. Talk to your dealer, they will steer you into what is most appropriate for you. The importance catalogues and philatelic literature play in philatelic pursuits is grossly underestimated.
Identifying the Watermarks
It is vital to identify your Kangaroos by their watermark. This is the starting point and most common format of displaying Kangaroos. The watermark is the faint design in the paper usually visible when held up to light, it is manufactured into the paper and designed in part to discourage fraudulent printing. From a valuation perspective alone you must know your watermarks e.g. the 1st watermark 2/- Brown is valued at $125 as Fine Used (FU) and about $30 as FU in the 3rd watermark!
Hold your stamp up to natural light with the back facing towards you. If you are unable to read the watermark, turn it around with the front facing you. Failing that, try some of these techniques. Just keep moving down the list until it shows itself up:
1. Lay it face down on a black background. This has the effect of concentrating your focus on the watermarked area.
2. Hold with your tweezers close up against a bright globe; don’t let the stamp touch the globe though. Turn it around to the other side and try again if you still can’t see the watermark.
3. Place the stamp in a clear bottomed tray of lukewarm water, let it soak for a while, then gently rub it between your fingers and thumb to remove any gunk. Place a black stock card under the container and hold the stamp down in the water with your tweezers, with backside of the stamp facing you. The water acts as a magnifier and provides an intense focus. It rarely fails to reveal the watermark. Remember we are dealing with used stamps here. Don’t do this to a Mint stamp.
4. Ask someone else to take a look! A different perspective sometimes does the trick. I’ve embarrassed myself many times using this technique!
5. There are aids you can purchase to assist with watermark detection; some are useful some are not. Talk to your dealer about them. Get a demonstration.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you become proficient in the ID process. Having a large Lot to work through is really useful as it allows for comparisons to be made and greatly speeds up the learning process.
Once you’ve sorted your Roos by their watermarks remove any stamps with tears, creases or thins. Realistically these stamps are worth only 1% - 25% to that of a good stamp and should be stored in your Spares Album. You don’t really want to display them in your collection. These Spares can then be traded with your dealer on some better material. He no doubt will know an Accumulator who’ll want them.
From the remaining stamps choose the best ones. These stamps are: reasonably to well centred, have full perforations, nice colouring and circular date stamp (cds) cancellations; they are far more attractive and collectable than machine cancels. At the end of the day it is quite simple really – does it look nice!
-The 2½d (left) is Fine Used and highly collectable, the 10/- is filler grade
Some budget options to consider for the High Values:
The 10/-, £1 & £2 were either hand stamped or overprinted with the word SPECIMEN and made available to collectors at a fraction the price of an original. Specimens range from around 15% to 30% of the cost when comparing Mint Lightly Mounted Specimens against Fine Used regular examples.
These are stamps that have been used in payment for telegraph services. The regulation at the time required that a circular 3mm hole be punched through the stamp with the Post Office’s cancellation and date stamp to be clearly shown on the front. They were meant to be retained for a year then burnt under supervision. Clearly that did not always happen and many made their way onto the philatelic market. There are collectors who specialise in Tele Punctures. They sell for around 20% of a Fine Used grade comparative stamp. The specialists in this area know the scarce Post Office date stamps, the less common watermarks etc. It’s an area that is growing in popularity and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some examples jump notably in coming years.
There are some very good and some very ugly repairs! We want only the very good ones. When a repair is carried out on a suitable stamp by an expert, it is very difficult to pick it from the same stamp in original condition. Of course when you turn it over you should then see the repair, but you may have to look closely. Expertly repaired corners, small closed tear repairs and the like have a similar value to Telegraph Punctures. It is a sound budget orientated tactic to include them in your collection. If you decided to upgrade your collection to include original Fine Used high values at a latter date, you will readily be able to dispose of expertly repaired stamps. I find there is a strong market for them. Having some experience with owning repairs can be beneficial to you; you certainly won’t ever be fooled if you do purchase material outside of reputable circles, as you will be able to identify repaired stamps immediately.
If at this stage you’ve still got a few gaps, don’t worry, you’ll know through your orderly work exactly what you are looking for. You could take your spares to your stamp Dealer to trade them in on your missing material.
Displaying Your Collection
So by now your collection should be looking pretty good. You will now want to present it. It can be for just you to enjoy and appreciate, or you may wish to show other philatelists and collectors, your family and friends, who knows you might even get them hooked! How you decide to display your collection is really only limited by your imagination. Albums and stock sheets are popular. You could get some other ideas from your dealer. If you haven’t done so already, you could join your local stamp club and get some ideas from looking at other displays. You could even work towards displaying your collection at club shows. One important consideration when putting your display together is that the stamps be well protected; this becomes even more important if you progress to Mint stamps as you have the gum to protect also.
Now we explore Kangaroo philately at a more advanced level and look at a couple of popular areas specialists like to work with.
To set the scene we’ll assume you’ve got your basic kangaroo collection together by watermark, or you have it well underway. You’ve put them into a nice display format, you enjoy looking at them and showing them about the place, but there is a yearning for more, you feel restless, unfulfilled, what is that feeling? That my friends is the philatelic bug at work and it is whispering in your ear… it is saying, let’s do more…
So to fulfil that yearning I’d like to help you move into advanced kangaroos by explaining how to get a collection underway with Constant Plate and Watermark Varieties. These are fun and can be relatively inexpensive for specialty items.
The tools: Brusden-White (BW) Kangaroos specialist catalogue, Stanley Gibbons Australia or Empire catalogue. Loupe style or other strong magnifier (6x), internet access, a good eye, lots of patience and an ounce of luck! Talk to your dealer about the former, the last one he’s probably looking for himself!
Constant Plate Varieties: Price Range Indicator - $15 to $1,000s
Definition: A fault in the printing plate that results in the reproduction of that fault to the stamp in that plate position each time the sheet is printed, hence - constant plate variety.
Identification: Look closely at every kangaroo that comes across your desk for anything that looks abnormal and check that abnormality against the listed variety scans shown in the Brusden White Kangaroo Specialist Catalogue (BW).
Sources of material: The beauty of varieties is they are to be found everywhere. Sunday markets to high end auction houses, there are many undiscovered gems to be unearthed.
Pros & Cons: Varieties have plenty to offer. They can be relatively low in cost for a specialist item and of course you can discover them yourself without having to pay the premium attributed to the stamp once it has been correctly identified and labelled. The premium attributed to variety stamps comes about through its scarcity relative to that of a normal example. Cons – distinguishing between listed Constants, unlisted Constants and minor flaws can be challenging, but like most things it gets easier with proper practice and of course the right reference material.
Table & illustrations listing varieties from Die II, Plate E of the Penny Red. Courtesy Brusden-White (BW) know also as The Australian Commonwealth Specialist Catalogue (ACSC). BW is considered by many a philatelist to produce the best specialist catalogues in the world.
How fortunate we are here in Australia to have nine volumes of this level of detail and pricing guidance dedicated to Australian Philately. Most serious philatelist keep the BW reference material at their fingertips. A few moderate “finds” will easily justify your outlay. The additional philatelic educational content in addition to the Plate Variety documentation is quite significant. BW catalogue(s) are available directly from Brusden-White and most Dealers. We certainly stock and strongly recommend it to our customers on the Blue Owl’s Stamps website.
3(E)d. – “Extra Islands” (two Tasmanias) L25. There is no missing this well named variety. You’ll see from the table above that it is a Die II stamp, from Plate E and it is located on the Left Pane in position 25 (L25)
When you consider this stamp is catalogued at $15 as a regular 1d Red Kangaroo and $200 as a correctly identified variety, I think you will agree that the variety seek & search process is a worthwhile use of your time. Personally it’s always been my favourite aspect of philately as both a collector and in more recent years as a full time dealer.
Searching for Brusden-White (BW) listed varieties
This process of seeking out varieties begins by sifting and checking through material, (the coal face) wherever and whenever you can. Begin with your own kangaroos, then look through other sellers’, collectors, auction lots and anywhere else you find stamps.
Do any of them look different when placed next to a normal reference stamp? It’s a bit like that puzzle game you see in the Newspaper with two seemingly identical pictures and you have to try and spot the differences! A stamp variety hunt is like that too. At first they all look the same, but under closer examination you begin to see difference. These are the stamps you put aside to check against the scans shown in your BW catalogue. You’ll be surprised how quickly your brain systemised the search pattern. Some mental gymnastics, good for the grey matter eh!
Minor constant varieties
At this point I’d like to introduce you to minor constant plate varieties. These are generally considered Constants that are not dramatic enough to have made their way into BW or SG, or yet to be conclusively proven as Constants. Pretty much all Kangaroo & Map series stamps are “plateable” as they say. Meaning that through the study of the subtle nicks and scratches the stamp can be placed at a particular location on the printing plate. It is possible to reconstruct an entire plate. Below is an example of a minor variety that would be used as part of that process.
The description assigned by ABP to the stamp below reads: Shading below Albany: (a) 0.5mm breaks in lines 2 and 3, 2.5mm to 3.25mm from left frame, with a smaller break in line 1, forming a roughly triangular flaw. (b) Shading above Albany: break in line 2, 1.75mm from left frame. I did mention in last months article that the well runs deep!
Nowhere nearly as dramatic as Two Tasmanias but nonetheless a constant plate variety, albeit considered a minor. GR51 (4) - Plate G, right hand pane, position 51 on the plate. the (4) is a scarcity factor allocated by ABP. I have used 1d Red, Kangaroo and Map Series – Adams, Bell and Pope (ABP) as reference. An outstanding, highly detailed comprehensive study of the 1d Red Kangaroo and recommended reading. Many collectors accumulate these minor varieties with the aim of proving they are constants by accumulating multiple examples, for plate reconstruction purposes, or just for the fun of it.
Of course many irregular looking stamps won’t be listed Constants either major or minor. Many will be inconsistent flaws that are produced as the printing plates deteriorate and the myriad of variables that affect the print outcome have their influence. It is important to bear in mind that the printing technology was not what it is today and this caused all sorts of minor imperfections to show up. How wonderful!
If you find something with an interesting flaw that is not a listed plate variety, it often has a value over and above that of a normal stamp. Something more dramatic, can in some cases, be quite valuable. At the very least keep these “finds” on a separate page in a stock book to show other stamp people. It can be very interesting what comes out of it and what you can learn in these “show-and-tell” sessions. Join your local stamp club, you’ll be made most welcome, here is a good place to share information.
Stanley Gibbons (SG)
The other catalogue that should be mentioned at this point is Stanley Gibbons (SG). Their reference numbers are well known and widely used right around the world. Their regular catalogue for Australian stamps would be considered semi-specialised and lists only a relatively small number of constant plate varieties when compared to the approximate 280 constant plate varieties listed in BW Kangaroos. It is very strong however in the watermark varieties which we shall look at shortly.
Any varieties that are listed in SG should have particular notice taken of them as many collectors build their collections based on their listings alone. Often when a stamp variety makes it way into SG numbering, the demand for that stamp increases.
If varieties develop into one of your specialty areas you’ll thrive on the challenges and rewards they offer. If you are just so-so about them, I believe it is still worth your while developing a reasonable level of proficiency, as this can assist you in funding your stronger philatelic passions.
Watermark Varieties: Price Range Indicator - $25 to $1000’s
Definition: Where the top of crown points anywhere but to the top of the stamp.
Identification: As discussed in the June issue, the watermark can sometimes be difficult to see. Holding the stamp up to the light, looking from both sides with a strong lighting source behind the stamp and lying against a contrasting background, a black stock card for example, will usually do the trick.
Source of material: Like the constant plate varieties they are to be found everywhere. 1d Reds are a good starting point, they can be purchased in bulk and there is some outstanding specialist literature available. The 1d Reds are popular and provide an interesting range of varieties. Most of them are listed on the Blue Owl website. Have a look sometime. I provide close up scans of the actual variety, so if you are new to varieties, it will give you a good idea what it is all about.
Pros & Cons: The same Pros as with Constants, plus usually easier to check for. Strong SG listing presence. Cons – not as varied or challenging to find, but some may see that as a plus. But what it does mean is that in relative terms there may not be as many undiscovered treasures.
Quite an ordinary looking 6d Ultramarine 2nd watermark roo one may think. The stamp is sound, but has a rather unattractive parcel cancel - How much? $15 to $20 would be about the mark. The other side reveals an inverted watermark and it commanded $48,500 price tag
Watermark varieties consist of: Watermark Inverted (most common), Watermark Sideways with crown pointing to left and crown pointing to right. No Watermark? Spoken of, but a myth. Just look harder, you’ll find it!
If you are not familiar with the different Dies of the Kangaroo & Map series, it’s worth familiarising yourself with them. The Blue Owl Table of Watermark Varieties for the Kangaroo & Map Series: Value Ratio vs Normal Stamp will highlight this point. The Dies are illustrated and explained in great detail in BW. SG clearly shows them too.
The Blue Owl Table of Watermark Varieties for the Kangaroo & Map Series: Value Ratio vs Normal Stamp
How the Table works
Using the example of the 2d Die II, 3rd Wmk. The Price Ratio to Normal is 3. This is derived from a catalogue value that lists a Fine Used example at $15 and a Fine Used example with an inverted watermark valued at $50. Therefore $50÷$15=3.33. The spreadsheet rounds down to 3. Pretty simple really, but a nice guide to relative value of an inverted or sideways compared to a stamp with a normal watermark configuration. It also shows at a glance what issues are known to have inverted and sideways watermarks. It may help you decide whether or not you should purchase a particular bulk lot based on its composition. Does it have the potential for high ratio finds?
What do these numbers mean?
Continuing on with the 2d Die II 3rd Wmk, its ratio of 3 indicates the stamp in question is quite common with an inversion. If you look at it in Mint grade you will also see a ratio of 3. It therefore has the same relative value, with inversion, whether it is Mint or Used. As you explore the table more closely you will find this is not always the case as often postally used examples are more difficult to find than Mint. The 1/- Die IIB watermark sideways being a good case in point. In actual $ terms this stamp usually fetches $100 as Mint vs $60 for a normal, but a genuine postally Fine Used $400 vs $15 for a normal (400÷15 = 27, hence ratio vs normal 27). Another interesting apparent anomaly is 5/- 2nd wmk, you would think that this would be a rare stamp, but in reality it only commands a small premium over a normal. In fact with the round factor it only rates a 1. Now obviously this is a far more valuable stamp than a 1d Die with a Mint ratio of 6, but the table’s role is to highlight relative value compared to a normal comparative stamp.
What the Table can do for you
Returning to our 2d Die II, 3rd Wmk highlights a classic case of “the more you learn – the more you earn”. Take a look at the same stamp as a Die IIA. It has a whopping ratio of 800. Many collectors would not be aware of the difference between Die II and Die IIA. It is a subtle difference but once you are aware of what to look for, you will identify IIA quite easily. The stamp is listed in Stanley Gibbon 2007 Commonwealth and British Empire Stamps Catalogue – SG 35daw. at Ł8000.
Their pricing for this high end material is derived by a pricing committee that uses auction house realisations as part of their determination, so more often than not these prices have actually been realised.
This is an extreme example I agree, but then again “finds” are regularly listed in Auction catalogues as such. If you enjoy sifting through material you have a head start, but without the knowledge base you can acquire from the specialist literature it can’t really come to much.
One final point on this matter is that major finds for most collectors amount to one or two (or even none) in a life-time, but the bread ‘n’ butter (minor finds) will be regular if you go about your search in a systematic manner. It has the potential to aid you with funding your hobby and provide a good educational basis of how the material was produced, and its historical context. For many collectors this is the joy of the hobby and a good philatelic library facilitates this enjoyment.
By the way all the same principles apply to sifting KGV heads for varieties as with Kangaroos. Of course with Georges it becomes far more complex, but why not start to accumulate them when a good opportunity arises. We’ll cover them sometime in the future. Like with kangaroos it is important that you acquire the right literature. Have a chat to a knowledgeable dealer who can put you on the right path. My advice is to definitely start with kangaroos, they are far more manageable.
So far in our explorations of the Kangaroo & Map series we’ve looked at understanding watermarks and getting basic sets together whilst using some of the budget options available for the high value Roos. Then last month delved into plate and watermark varieties i.e. how to identify and source, then capitalise on this knowledge. We also stressed the importance of owning or having access to suitable reference literature, in particular Brusden-White (BW) and Stanley Gibbons (SG).
In this final article in this series we shall look at Vignette varieties, Imprints pieces, and Monograms. I’d like first though to provide a brief coverage to Roos on Cover in the context of this series.
Roos on Cover & Piece
Whilst this may more belong to an article on Postal History, there is a growing interest amongst the more conventional Roo collectors to understand and add some diversity to their collection by adding items that show how the stamp was used – which was, after all to pay for postage!
Roo Postal History – In broad terms this includes items such as: postally used letters, Post Cards, Letter Cards, Newspaper Wrappers, Postal Stationary, Package Post Pieces, Parcel Tags and the like.
Consider this, there was just over 1 billion 1d Red Roos printed!
Question: How many used stamps are floating around in the philatelic world? Answer: You would measure it in tonnage. Next question: How many postally used survivors, with a tidy cds cancellation would you think remain on a nicely persevered Cover? Answer: A lot less that the 15x multiple generally attributed to such an item would suggest. Market price for a Fine Used 1d Roo $1, on Cover $15. For more complex and exotic pieces… many $1,000’s
1914 Parcel Tag with 3/8d franking made up with 4 x 9d large OS & 2 x 4d small os Roos.
Such high frankings, particularly in OS are rarely seen
A letter to France with the franking consisting of 2 x 1d Roos and a bisected 1d to make up the 2½d foreign letter rate of 1914. Whilst the bisection was surely illegal, it was tolerated. Maybe the PO had run out of ½d or 2½d’s, a most interesting Cover – Courtesy of private collector Tim Rodger, Mildura Vic
A superb and scarce parcel tag with the exceptional franking of 17/11d. Items such as these are genuine rarities. You could put a strong case that the market has yet to fully appreciate the scarcity - Courtesy of private collector Tim Rodger, Mildura Vic
When you consider the upsurge in traditional Roo collecting, this scenario provides yet another reason why collectors are embracing this aspect of Kangaroo philately. There is plenty of quality literature available on Australian postal history, talk to your dealer about what will suit your requirements best.
Pronounced venyet and defined in the Oxford as; a photograph or portrait showing only head and shoulders with background gradually shaded off. In philatelic terms and specifically to this discussion we are talking about the central part of the stamp design – i.e. the actual Kangaroo
The Vignette varieties as listed in (BW) occur only in the high value Roos (bi-colours). These printings required a second plate to print the Vignette, whereas the low value Roos were printed from just one plate (mono’s). Therefore any variety you see in the kangaroo of a low value, is actually a constant plate variety or a flaw not a Vignette variety.
The high value Roos are:
5/-, 10/-, £1 & £2. The ½d through to 2/- are printed in one colour i.e. the Roo is the same colour as the area outside of the map.
Types of Vignette Varieties
There are essentially two varieties: the misplaced Vignette and the constant Vignette plate varieties.
The Misplaced Roo
As the high value Roos are bi-colours, a two printings process was used. The misplacement comes about whenever a problem occurred with the registration process. Put simply, the plate that printed the Roo onto the Map (the Vignette or Kangaroo Plate) was not correctly lined up with the image printed by the plate that printed the main stamp image (the Duty plate).
To qualify as a legitimate (BW) listed misplaced Roo variety, some part of the Roo must be at least 2mm outside of the map. This can value the stamp at 15 times or more to that of a comparable normal stamp.
Given the scarcity of this degree of misplacement, I believe it to be a much underrated variety.
BW 44ca. This is the most dramatic of the known Vignette shifts with the Roo misplaced 3.5mm downwards. Catalogued at 17 times the value of a normal comparable example - Courtesy Brusden-White
It is quite common to see misplacements of lesser degrees, but generally speaking unless some part of the Roo is outside of the map, no premium should be attributed to the stamp, and certainly not the full premium as scheduled in BW, as was often the case before this point was clarified in recent years.
A slightly misplaced Vignette and not really dramatic enough to even be
referred to as “Wet Ears”. Not worthy of any premium.
Vignette Constant Varieties
These are far more common, are easy to identify and have been christened with the most wonderful names. How do you like some of these: Ewe-faced, Hunched-back, Pointed tail, Rat faced and Foxed face to name a few! The fun part is they really look like that. One of my favourites is the Muzzled kangaroo, see scan 1– what a beauty!
BW (V)l. Muzzled kangaroo - found only on the CofA Watermark printing.
This Roo was on a Mint £2 SPECIMEN overprint example.
These Vignette varieties can be relatively low in cost to collect as they command only a small premium over normals. When you consider you can buy a fine used normal 5/- CofA Roo for around $30 it is within the scope of many collectors to put together a collection of Vignette varieties. In total BW lists 16 of them. If you are collecting more valuable Roos it adds desirability to the stamp where a Vignette variety is present. Often sellers are either not aware, or don’t bother mentioning the Vignette Variety.
Here are some more from the herd BW (V)p. Tail and grass at right sliced off.
BW (V)q. Kangaroo’s ear at left broken. BW (V)r. Open-mouthed kangaroo. BW (V)s.
“Weeping” kangaroo. Courtesy Brusden-White
As with most areas of philatelic study, the well does run very deep. In addition to (BW), should you wish to delve even deeper, I would recommend - A plating study of the high value bi-coloured Kangaroo issues of Australia – W.H. Holbeach
The term Imprint refers to the printer’s identification marking that appears in the margin or selvedge piece that borders the sheet of stamps. Traditionally they are collected in blocks of four, however BW does allocate catalogue numbers to pairs for some of the higher values due to the scarcity of blocks. In some cases it may be the only way you can buy one. You will sometimes see a single stamp with a part imprint, and whilst these are not catalogued, they are worth a modest premium over and above a normal stamp.
Within the Kangaroo & Map series there are four Imprints you will encounter: T.S. Harrison, A.J. Mullett, John Ash and Printed by the Authority of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. Better know as simply - By Authority.
Collecting Imprints can require a significant capital. Many of the blocks or even pairs are scarce and market forces, particularly in recent years, have forced the prices strongly upwards. Prices range from around $40, up to A$265,395. This remarkable price was achieved earlier this year in New York at the Shreve’s sale of the world famous Arthur Gray Kangaroo collection.
£1 Brown & Blue, 3rd wmk – BW 52zc. Harrison two-line imprint (N over MP) block of 4. From the Arthur Gray collection this remarkable Imprint block smashed the Australian record for an individual philatelic item when auctioned by Shreve Philatelic Galleries earlier this year. The sum of $265,395 was achieved – Image courtesy Shreves Philatelic Galleries, New York.
Monograms & their background
Like the Imprint pieces, these too are the printer’s identification marking that appear in the bottom margin of the pane. They are most commonly collected as singles, however, in their purist form they are collected in horizontal strips of 3. The positioning of the monogram, whether it be CA or JBC is always located 3 positions in from a corner and thus makes the corner strip a sought after piece.
The JBC (J.B. Cooke) and CA (Commonwealth Australia) monograms were used in the Cooke printings and the early Harrison printings before being replaced with Imprints bearing the secession printer’s names. When McCracken took over in April 1940 he continued to use the Ash plates bearing that printers name until 1945 when new plates were introduced bearing the impersonalised “By Authority” imprint. McCracken was the last Roo printer and only ever printed the 2/- value. The final printing was in January 1947. Thus ended the reign of the Roo.
Today this iconic stamp lives on through a world-wide legion of accumulators, collectors, philatelist and investors. The ever growing new army of enthusiasts have been drawn to it like never before. It is difficult to pinpoint the attraction, and that will surely differ with each person, but to put it in modern vernacular – the Roo has the “X” factor… no doubt about it!
This image illustrates the plate configuration used for the entire Kangaroo & Map series printings with the exception being the early 1d Red Roos where 2 upper plates over 2 lower plates were used. Image Courtesy of Adams, Bell & Pope, 1d Red Kangaroo & Map Series.
Note the positioning of the Monograms: CA is located under cliché 57 lower left pane; with the JBC under cliché 58 lower right hand pane. You can see why Monograms are desirable as only 2 stamps from the entire sheet of 240 stamps have monograms tied to them. Image Courtesy of Adams, Bell & Pope, 1d Red Kangaroo & Map Series.
CA monogram on left hand corner strip of 3
JBC monogram on 3rd Wmk 2½d Blue
The Printer’s Imprints. T.S HARRISON, A.J. MULLETT, JOHN ASH and the impersonalised “BY AUTHORITY”. The final Roo printer, W.C.G. McCracken, used the Ash plates before introducing the By Authority Imprint