These ever-popular and visually appealing stamps are made up mostly of commemorative issues with just a sprinkling of definitives amongst them.
Commemorative & Definitive differences
Before we commence and by way of explanation, commemorative stamps are as the term implies, stamps that commemorate a person, place or event. Definitive stamps on the other hand are characterised by the fact they are issued for an indefinite period and for specific usage, airmail rate etc. They are sometimes referred to as ‘regular issues’ too.
The most famous commemorative stamp of the period is no doubt the 5/- Bridge. This stamp was issued in 1932 to commemorate the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and is generally considered the Australian icon stamp. A definitive stamp of the period was the 3d Airmail. It was issued in 1929 and remained in usage until 1938 and was issued for a specific usage, see picture below.
The 1932 5/- Bridge is the best known of the KGV period commemoratives and generally considered the Australian Icon Stamp. It was issued in 1932 to commemorate the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was used to pay for larger telegrams, parcels and bulk postage.
The 1929-38 3d Airmail. A definitive stamp of the era. It was used for the basic letter rate for 1oz. letters to foreign countries. registration fees and the 1/2 oz. airmail fee for letters within Australia
Why so popular?
Of course the KGV Heads & Kangaroo & Map series issues were the real definitive ‘work-horses’ of the period, with billions of stamps collectively printed for that purpose. The KGV period commemoratives and even their definitive associates added the richness & flavour to the philatelic landscape of the time and helps explain why the early Australian Commonwealth stamps are so popular and keenly sought by collectors both here in Australia and overseas. For the philatelists all of the usual opportunities are available with wonderful array: Essays, Die Proofs, Plate No’s, Paper & Shade varieties, Constant Plate Varieties and the like all well documented in Brusden-White (BW) and the other specialised literature readily available in the market place.
Key Stamps, Traps & Opportunities
1928, 3d Kookaburra miniature sheet - Issued to commemorate the Australian Philatelic Exhibition 1928 this attractive block of 4 surrounded by its selvedge displays oh so nicely on an album page. Because of its size it is prone to handling creases and perf separation. Typically there will be gum cracking and paper curling, which is quite usual for the ‘Commems’ (the more affectionate name) of the era. Expect to pay a healthy premium if you find a fresh well centred unmounted example, they are genuinely scarce like that. You can expect a wide range in quality on this issue and prices typically range from $75-$300.
Important - If you’re prone to bidding at a ‘bargain’ auction site, understand clearly what you are bidding on. If you missed Vol 1, Issue 4 of ASP, contact the editor and secure a copy to read the grading article, it will help with your understanding of the grading/value concept.
The 3d Kookaburra Miniature Sheet. Issued in 1928 to commemorate the Australian Philatelic Exhibition. Examples with the exhibition cancellation are keenly sought,
especially where green or blue ink has been used.
1931, 2d & 3d Kingsford Smiths OS Overprints - Must be the ultimate trap stamp on the Australian scene. Forged overprints are plentiful and with OS’s selling at around 90 times the price of the standard issue it’s not difficult to understand why. Many of the forged overprints are very difficult to detect and I strongly recommend that you purchase this pair only from an accountable dealer, otherwise pay only a very heavily discounted price. If you own a CTO pair it can be a useful guide to compare against those. Price guide for quality: MUH $800, MLH $425 (with certificate or warranty). CTO $80
Kingsford Smith OS overprints. Be wary of 'bargain' prices. These stamps widely exist with forged overprints. Best purchased from an accountable dealer. They are generally supplied with a certificate of authenticity.
1932, 5/- Sydney Harbour Bridge. With only 78,000 printed this Australian icon sits proudly as the prized piece in many a collection. It is most commonly found as CTO i.e. from post authority issued collector sets with a corner cancellation. It is a difficult stamp to find as a genuinely postally used in Fine Used grade with a tidy cds. Most have heavy parcel cancellations. Quality MUH examples have now been recognised as genuinely scarce and have seen a 50% increase in value over recent years. Price guide for quality: MUH $1500, MLH $550, FU (VF cds cancellation) $450, CTO $300.
5/- Bridge Imprint Strip (BW 148zf) A wonderful Specialty Piece that just oozes X factor. The issue was printed using an '80-On' steel plate which was produced to divide into 4 panes of 20 (5 x 4). The imprint was placed centrally in the lower margin of each pane.
1934, Centenary of Victoria Set (3). An attractive set that needs to be collected in both the 10½ & 11½ perforation size. If you are not familiar with reading perfs, contact the ASP editor to obtain a copy of ASP Vol 1, Issue 5 and read the KGV Heads article, it explains all. The 1/- black seem particularly prone to oxidisation, so watch for that. Usual KGV Commem hard paper and curling. Price guide for quality set (3): Perf 10½ MUH $100, MLH $40, FU $30. Perf 11½ around 20% more.
1934, Centenary of Victoria Set (3). Collected in two different perforation sizes: Perf 10½
and Perf 11½ with the latter commanding 20% premium.
1934, Macarthur Death Centenary. Generally referred to as the Macarthur or Sheep set and should really be collected as a set of 4 as there are two 2d carmine values. The first printing of the 2d (‘White Hills’) was unsatisfactory and a second die was re-engraved (‘Dark Hills’). They are quite distinguishable when placed alongside each other, the ‘Dark Hills’ is approximately 8 times more valuable. Price guide for quality set (4): MUH $100, MLH $60, FU $45
1934 Macarthur Set (4). The complete set consists of the 2d in both 'Light Hills' (Die I)
and 'Dark Hills' (Die II). The latter is approximately 8 times more valuable.
1934 & 1937 Hermes. This long serving airmail definitive can be a trap stamp if you are not aware that the 1937 issue is printed on watermarked paper. The stamps are otherwise difficult to distinguish even though different printing equipment was used. There was a further printing on thin unsurfaced watermarked paper in 1948 too. Price guide for quality: 1934 (no wmk) MUH $85, MLH $40, FU $8. 1937 (wmk) MUH $10, MLH $4, FU $3. 1948 (thin wmk paper) MUH $4, MLH $3, FU $3.
1934 Hermes Airmail Stamp - There were 3 printings of this issue.
The first is the most valuable and is printed on un-watermark paper.
1935 Silver Jubilee of KGV – A most popular set and study stamp consisting of three highly visually appealing values: 2d carmine, 3d blue & 2/- violet. As with many issues of this era they are becoming difficult to find in fresh condition. Believed to be the first issue printed from a master plate system, meaning electros was derived from a steel master. This had the consequence of producing a rich and interesting content of plate number and variety stamps. Price guide for a quality set (3): MUH $80, MLH $40, FU $35
1935 Silver Jubilee of KGV - Great visual appeal. Popular amongst general Jubilee collectors
and Australian Commonwealth specialists for its plate varieties.
1936 Centenary of SA. The final commemorative of the KGV era this attractive little set consists of 2d carmine, 3d blue and 1/- green. The 2d carmine has 3 quite valuable inconclusively plated constant varieties BW 171d.e.& f. d. is catalogued at $1250 if you can find it on an imprint block. Nice one for the specialist. Price guide for a quality set (3) MUH $30, MLH $18, FU $15
1936 Centenary of SA - The final commemoratives issued for the KGV era. The 2d Carmine issue
has some valuable plate varieties and is popular amongst the specialists.
So there they are, the major Commems of the KGV era. Attractive, affordable and appealing with a historically strong market for quality examples when/if the time ever comes for you to sell or trade should your collecting interests find a new passion!
© Jude Koch, Blue Owl Stamps 2007