Australia General Issues
1937 - 1952
Following the death of King George V in January 1936 and the surprise abdication of his 1st son Edward VIII in December of that same year, his brother Albert Frederick Arthur George, ascended the throne and ushered in what is referred to in the philatelic world as the KGVI period.
Whilst this period is nowhere as prolific with its attractive commemorative issues of the preceding KGV era, there are a number of key and interesting issues for collectors to take custodianship of. The usual traps, pitfalls & opportunities are all present and the following article will hopefully alert you to the former and highlight the latter.
Sesquicentenary of NSW
This was the first set of the era and commemorates the 150th anniversary of European settlement in NSW and consisted of three values: 2d scarlet, 3d blue, 9d purple. For the philatelist the 2d scarlet is a popular study stamp and holds a couple of multi hundred dollar plate varieties, namely: the ‘Man with tail’ and the ‘Pantaloon’ flaw. As always we recommend obtaining a copy of the Australian Commonwealth Specialist Catalogue, better known as BW (Brusden-White) to identify and study these specialties. Check in at www.apta.com.au to locate your nearest/favourite stockist. All price indicators are for quality stamps or sets as appropriate. Market: MUH $30, MLH $18, FU $14
Attractive & colourful – Ses of NSW set (3). The 2d scarlet is a popular study stamp with serious collectors seeking out and studying the stamp for its valuable plate varieties.
A popular and visually appealing set (3) comprising of: 5/- lake, 10/- purple & £1 blue. These stamps were first issued in 1938 on chalk surfaced paper, commonly known in philatelic circles as the ‘Thick Paper’. There was a further printing of the issue in 1948 on unsurfaced paper, this was known as the ‘Thin Paper’. Where you have examples of each, it is quite easy to pick the difference by just looking at the gum side of the stamp as the watermark is quite pronounced on the ‘thin paper’. With used stamps it is more difficult, however by holding one end in a pair of stamp tweezers and flicking the other against your finger you will soon feel the difference. Market: (Thick) MUH $150, MLH 90, FU $50. (Thin) MUH $190, MLH $140, FU $130
The 10/- and the £1 were also issued with SPECIMEN overprints in ‘Thin Paper’ and you need to be careful of forged overprints. The former is not a problem as it is less valuable than the standard issue, however the £1 had a limited issue of only 2,860 stamps and given its MUH value of around $900 or 7 times that of the standard issue you can appreciate why you need to be careful. Always purchase this stamp with a certificate of authenticity, or at the very least with a warranty certificate from an accountable dealer. Be wary of anything that seems too good to be true!
1938 Robes set (3) on chalk surfaced paper, better known as ‘Thick Paper’. The 1949 printing was identical in appearance but printed on unsurfaced or ‘Thin Paper’. To complete your collection you need to acquire both sets.
£1 Robes SPECIMEN only 2,860 overprinted stamps were issued. Be careful of forgeries and purchase only with certification.
I’ve got the 3d Blues!
These were workhorse definitives and designed to pay: the airmail fee within Australia, the registration fee, the Step 1 foreign letter rate and the commercial papers’ rate within the British Empire.
For many collectors they are one of the more confusing and misunderstood stamp issues on the Australian scene. They do need to be correctly identified though as each stamp has its own catalogue number and spot in most albums.
The 3d Blue KGVI definitives or the Six Brothers as I like to think of them were plagued by production issues from the outset.
Essentially the problems stemmed from the engraving of the original die (Die 1) and the ink formula used in the printing of the stamps. It was these fundamental flaws that had the printers constantly grappling with the problems that manifest. Here is the Blues Brothers’ story; it is best read in conjunction with their mug shots!
(1) Die I – ‘White Wattles’ (WW) - The 1st brother. The unsatisfactory ink when coupled with shallow engraving lines led to ink stripping when the wiper went over the plate. The result was ‘White Wattles’ with its distinctive characteristics: poorly defined wattle leaves in both corners, poor chin and ear definition, TA of POSTAGE joined and two tiny inner frame line breaks opposite upper chin and lower neck on the left hand side. Market: MUH $220, MLH $125, $65.
Die I ‘White Wattles’, with its characteristic features of poorly defined wattle leaves in both corners, poor chin and ear definition, TA of POSTAGE joined and two tiny inner frame line breaks opposite upper chin and lower neck on the left hand side.
There were only a relatively small number of stamps printed before the problem was identified. The distribution was limited to Queensland with a few sightings in NSW VIC & WA. Obviously a loose WW stamp or an example on Cover with an appropriately dated and readable postmark outside of QLD would be a nice find!
A new ink formula was introduced to combat the problem and the 2nd brother was born.
(2) Die 1 – The new ink formula lessened the problem to some extent by greatly reducing the stripping effect, but the shallow and inaccurate engraving still produced stamps of an inferior quality. The Die I characteristics: The chin outline still lacked sharp definition and TA of POSTAGE remained joined albeit to a lesser extent. Market: MUH $65, MLH $30, FU $10.
Die 1, a new ink formula was introduced which lessened the ink stripping, however the TA remained joined and the appearance still lacked definition.
Due to the still unsatisfactory appearance, the two copper plates that were used in the production of the issue were retouched. The letters T and A in POSTAGE on each of the plates cut away by hand. The 3rd brother was born.
(3) Die 1A – Distinguishable by the tapering of T in POSTAGE. Because all of the clichés (individual units on the plate) were hand cut, you find varying degrees of T taping, i.e. the Die wasn’t modified and impressed onto a new plate as it probably should have been at this stage, that didn’t come until later. How’s this for a fun project, plating Die 1A! The old problem of ink stripping also occasionally resurfaced with Die 1A stamps taking on a WW appearance, but never to the same extent. Market: MUH $325, MLH 125, FU $25. With ink stripping: MUH $395, MLH $160, FU $40
Die 1A, each cliché was individually recut resulting in an inconsistently tapered T of POSTAGE on Die 1A stamps. The ink stripping was still an occasional problem.
The Stamp & Note printing branch in Melbourne was still not happy with the appearance of the stamp produced by Die 1A and it was decided to perform a major overhaul on Die I and give it a fresh transfer onto new copper plates. The 4th brother was born.
(4) Die II (Thick Paper) – T and A are uniformly separated and POSTAGE has been re-engraved. The King finally has a strong chin outline as does his ear. The stamp finally had an overall consistent and defined look about it. The old ink stripping problem still occasionally surfaced, but was even less pronounced now when it did. Market: MUH $55, MLH $30, FU $3. With ink stripping: MUH $120, MLH $50, FU $35
Die II (Thick Paper), the Die received a major overhaul and was impressed onto new plates. This resulted in a satisfactory final image. Ink stripping still occurred occasionally.
All was now well (within reason) and a single printing was undertaken on unsurfaced paper. The 5th brother came into being.
(5) Die II (Thin) – As there were no re-cuts or die changes this time around, the image is identical to Die II thick. The distinguishing feature is the unsurfaced paper the image is printed upon. It produced a slightly darker image and the watermark is clearly visible when viewed from the back. If you lay thick and thin alongside each other you will readily discern between the two. Very occasional ink stripping still occurred. Market: MUH $50, MLH $30, FU $3. With ink stripping: MUH $175, MLH $125, FU $125
Die II (Thin Paper), there was one printing on unsurfaced paper. The image has a darker appearance and the watermark is clearly visible when viewed from the back.
The introduction of new perforating equipment at the Stamp & Note printing branch required production of a new master plate and a new Die was engraved. There are some subtle changes in appearance with the King’s head being slightly smaller and more of his right side epaulette is visible. The 6th and final Blues’ Brother is born.
(6) Die III – Most readily distinguishable by the perforation difference. His siblings are all Perf 13.5 x 14 where as Die III is 14.75 x 14. Discernable by sight and easily confirmed by lining up an older brother along the top side, you will soon see the perf alignment go off. Presumably the new Die was engraved more deeply which took care of the occasional ink stripping that still occurred with Die II.
Die III, new perforating equipment was introduced which required a new master plate. A new Die was therefore engraved. Brothers 1 to 5 are Perf 13.5 x 14 where as the 6th (Die III) are perforated at 14.75 x 14. The King’s head is smaller and more of his right side epaulette is visible.
3d Blue Summary: Die 1 (White Wattles), Die I, Die 1A and Die 2 are all essentially Die 1 in different forms. Die III was actually a new Die. The ongoing problems stemmed from fundamental flaws, namely Die I was poorly engraved, the ink formula was unsuitable. I am reminded of an old carpenter’s saying that goes, measure twice – cut once!
Some final points to note: The stamps are small and you need a strong magnifier (x7) to read them properly. Another good study technique is to scan at 600 dpi and view them on your PC monitor. The Brothers seem particularly susceptible to toning and especially around the perf tips, so watch out for that. If you find a high quality example(s), pay the asking price, they are very tough to find and most unlikely to be any cheaper in the future.
Anyway there you have the life & times of the Blues Brothers, their tale would make for a nice Club level display. Who said stamps can only tell a story through postal history!
Australian Imperial Forces
Best known as the A.I.F. set, these four big bright and colourful stamps were issued in 1940 to commemorate Australia’s involvement in WWII. They use the design of the three Arms of the fighting forces and the Nursing service.
Usage: The 1d Green was the concession rate for troop’s letters, 2d Red was the standard letter rate within Australian and the British Empire, the 3d Blue standard letter rate to foreign countries and the 6d Brown a scale 1 parcel rate and forces’ parcel rate.
They A.I.F issues make for nice study stamps with many listed constant plate varieties and a number of unallocated constants. Market: MUH $35, MLH $20, FU $16.
Australian Imperial Forces or A.I.F. set (4). Big, bright and colourful commemoratives representing Australia’s involvement in WWII. Popular amongst the specialists with many listed constant plate varieties.
Coat of Arms
This set of four high value definitives feature the Australian Coat of Arms as their central design. They were issued in 1949 and replaced the Robes. There were four values: 5/-, 10, £1 & £2 and like the Robes were essentially used to pay for higher value telegrams, parcels, airmail and bulk postage charges. Market: MUH $250, MLH $125, FU $30. Specimens (3): MUH $225, MLH $100. 5/- Thin Paper: MUH $140, MLH $100, FU $100
The Coat of Arms replaced the Robes in 1949 and was used to pay for higher rate telegrams, parcels, airmails and bulk postage.
The 5/- has a paper variety that is valued at around 35 times of a regular issue. It is catalogued as ‘Thin’ paper and when handled against a regular issue the paper difference is obvious. By sight the watermark is pronounced, even when viewed from the front. The £2 has a number of extremely valuable plate varieties that are listed and illustrated in BW. The three higher values were also issued in PO collector sets and overprinted SPECIMEN. Forgeries are not a problem with these because they are quite common. However, for the big ticket SPECIMEN overprint varieties: ‘IM’ joined, ‘SPOCIMEN’ and the 3mm high overprint, a certificate of authenticity should be insisted upon.
The 5/- carmine had a small printing in 1951 on thin paper (0.096mm). The watermark shows strongly through the stamp making it easy to identify. Confirmation should be made with a micrometer.
Specimen overprints were issued in PO collector sets. Forged overprints are not a problem. The high ticket overprint varieties should however only be purchased with a certificate of authenticity.
This era is quite popular amongst general collectors, as there is much low cost material to bulk up albums, and philatelists alike. This latter is aided no doubt by the quality of study literature available in the market place that identifies and quantifies the scarcity of many specialist items. Generally speaking the material has yet to reach the price levels of the KGV era, but that gap seems to be closing. As with most areas of philately, strong prices are being witnessed for quality material. As always opportunities abound for those with an eye for detail. Remember the more you study and look, the luckier you get!