Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Common stamps - but what were they used for?

The first set of Machin definitives included an 8d in red (or bright vermillion) issued on 1 July 1968. This was just one of the range from ½d to 1/9d replacing the Wilding definitives started in 1952.

But with the 4d brown difficult to process, that value was changed to red, and the 8d to pale blue (light turquoise-blue) on 6 January 1969.  But was there a specific purpose to this value, both colours of which are not at all uncommon in either mint or used condition?

According to British Postal Rates 1937-2000 (Johnson & Peet) the uses at the time of issue of the 8d red were:

Inland Letter 4 - 6 ounces (until 15 September 1968)
Inland Printed Papers 8 to 10 ounces (until  5 January 1969)
Foreign Printed Papers Surface 8 to 10 ounces (to 31 August 1968)
Foreign Samples Surface 4 to 6 ounces (to 31 August 1968)
Foreign Newspaper airmail Group B destinations ½ to 1 ounce and 2nd class airmail group C up to ½ ounce (both to 5 January 1969)

The specific uses of the 8d pale blue all ran from 6 January 1969 to 14 February 1971:

Inland letter 2nd class 6 to 8 ounces, and printed papers 8 to 10 ounces
Foreign Surface Printed Papers 4 to 6 ounces and Samples 6 to 8 ounces
Foreign Airmail 2nd Newspapers Group B ½ to 1 ounce and 2nd class Group C up to ½ ounce.

So, how how easy is it to find any examples of these uses on full cover or wrapper today?  Well, I would suggest very difficult.  Newspaper wrappers are usually discarded, bulk printed paper envelopes or packaging are rarely 'attractive' (or small) enough for people to have collected in the past, and of course collectors in foreign destinations would (at that time) want the stamps for the collections.

So although the red had been replaced by the time of the use shown here, it is still scarce enough, and attractive enough to be worthy of including in a postal history usage collection.  These two Printed Paper usages from Norwich to Australia, the red on 26 February and the blue on 20 November 1969 sold fifty years later on eBay for AU$65.99 - £35.50 at present.

But I'm not actually certain what postage rate they were paying, given the above tables!

Another aspect of Postal History collecting is the inclusion of at least the name and address of the recipient (and maybe the sender), and sometimes content.  From these pictures we can establish the background of the addressee:
Austine Marshall

Another outstanding lady [amateur radio] operator was Austine Henry (nee Marshall), VK3YL, first licenced in 1930. In many ways, Austine had similarities with Florence. She constructed her own transmitters, for which she won prizes and was a keen operator who was deeply respected by other amateurs.

In 1934 Austine joined the R.A.A.F. Reserve and during WWII, went on to train many operators in Morse code at the WIA during WWII.
Postal History collectors - certainly the purchaser of this pair - should be grateful that Mrs Henry kept the envelopes in which, presumably, she received QSL cards (confirmation of radio contact from other radio amateurs.\

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Postcards are a good source of solo uses.

The postcard pictured was drawn to my attention when it recently sold on online auction site eBay.

The rate to Zone C (which includes Australia) from 3 October 19966 to 15 February 1971 was 10d, so this is a good and not easy to find solo usage of the 10d Machin.  Not easy to find in Britain, but maybe easier in the pacific area?  So how did it fare?

It's not perfect with a few rust spots around the stamp and airmail label, but otherwise quite good for a postcard.  From a starting price of £5, it remained at a low level until a bidder came up and tipped it through to £20-ish.  That bidder seems to have dropped out, being outbid by the early bid of £100.  But even that was not enough as a late (snipe?) bid for £102 won the day.  The seller is located in the UK; bidding is hidden, so we cannot tell where the buyer was.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Odd-looking postal rates are likely to be right!

Most people can recognise an obviously philatelic cover, with excess postage or out-of-period (albeit valid) usage.  The logical conclusion of this is that most people can also recognise a cover which is properly stamped at a proper rate using stamps available at the time.

Sometimes, however, you find a cover with a postage rate that almost has to be right, because nobody would make it that wrong!

Here are three pieces which I picked up at London's Spring Stampex.  The first is a surface-mail picture postcard from Newquay, Cornwall, to South Carolina on 13 September 1968.  Stamped with a 5d blue Machin definitive (SG 735) it doesn't look odd, because we are used to seeing so many inland letters and cards with this stamp from 1968-71.  But that rate took effect later, from 16 September.

The 5d rate for surface postcards worldwide ran from 3.10.1966 to decimal day (15.2.71).  The Machin stamp was issued on 1.7.1968.  So although the 5d Machin on a postcard in this period is not unusual, it is interesting to see it used before it served the same purpose on inland mail.

The second is a small (125 x 80 mm) unsealed envelope containing a card.  This was sent from Romford, Essex, to South Carolina on 8 November 1983 with 14½p postage paid by a 12½p and 2p Machin definitives.  An unusual rate, but by the unusual combination of stamps, I deduced that it was probably 'right'.  And so it proved.  This is the first step (20 g) Printed Paper Rate for letters worldwide.

Lastly, an airmail letter from Carmarthen to South Carolina on 7 February 1979, prepaid at 18½p.  Now I was used to seeing 10½p, 11½p, 13½p, 19½p and 20½p stamps on postcards - and there are stamps for all of these rates, but not for 18½p - so is it correct?  Again, the answer is yes.   This is the second-step 20 g rate for Zone 2 letters (the first step was 11p).  So although the 13p dog stamp is used on its day of issue, the addition of the 5p and ½p stamps to make up the 18½p rate is perfectly right.

So although it happens to be a first day cover - and indeed it may have been used deliberately on the day of issue - it's a perfectly correct non-philatelic cover.

I think if you went to a dozen dealers looking for these last two, you probably wouldn't find anything at those rates, even with other stamps to make up the rates.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

International mail: solo uses, and high value research.

My latest finds, from the local philatelic society fair included some really nice examples of postal history items which require a bit of digging and delving - to find out whether they are 'right'.

Three letters to Greece
From 26 April 1976 the postage rate for letters to Europe was 10p for 20g, so this letter, without a clear UK postmark (see update below) but with an Athens arrival of 31 May 1977, was correctly prepaid with the standard 10p light orange-brown.

On 13 June 1977 the rate was increased to 10½p.  This letter - with the Athens arrival mark of 4 September 1977 on the reverse, and a violet boxed C85 (or 685) cancelling the stamps - was prepaid with the same 10p stamp and an additional ½p stamp.
My thanks to PA for this additional information, which coincidentally identifies the postmark on the above cover as Reading:
The cancellation is actually 635. These rectangular ‘killers’ were applied to uncancelled stamps in the Reading Foreign Section in the 1970’s. i.e the letter could have been posted from anywhere in the South East. Reading FS was in a separate building from the MLO at that time.

The third one, to the same addressee but from a different sender, uses the shortlived 10½p yellow, issued on 25 February 1976 and replaced on 26 April 1978 with the grey-blue version.  Finding covers to Europe franked with a single stamp for the right rate is not easy and the destination of Greece rather than, say, France or Germany is even better.

The other international cover I bought today is a gem: not pretty, not tidy, but a gem of an exercise in rate research.   This is an airmail insured packet to South Africa, prepaid £3.35 with the use of 3 x decimal £1 stamps, a 20p dull purple, and 3 x 5p pale violet, and clear New Barnet Parcel Post marks dated 23 December 1976.  My initial thought was that insurance must have been expensive, but in fact it is only a low fee.

My source was the website of the Great Britain Philatelic Society (GBPS) which has an excellent series of postage rate tables for inland and overseas mail including 'special services'.   In these tables I found that insurance fee for this date was 65p for up to £175 and 70p for up to £210, so this packet insured for £200 needed the 70p fee.  The balance of £2.65 was obviously the postage, but how is this arrived at?

The airmail small packet rate tables show 130g is 49p, and each additional 10g is 3½p.  3½p doesn't divide evenly into £2.65 (=75.71) so it probably wasn't a small packet, although 130+ (75x10g) 750g is still within the limit of 1kg for a small packet.  Curious.

The GBPS website doesn't include all the parcel post rates - for some periods there were many different rates for the countries around the world and in some periods they changed more than once during the year.  But the site does reference the publication of amendments to the Post Office Overseas Letter Post Scheme in the London Gazette, the official public record for certain legislation, regulation, and official notices, etc.   Here, I found that the rate for an Airmail parcel sent outside Europe varied from £2.20 to £3.60 for the first ½ kg, depending on destination, but the rate for South Africa was... £2.65: the packet was prepaid exactly as it should be, as you would hope for something posted over the Post Office counter!

The clue as to whether it was a Small Packet or Parcel lies in the Barnet parcel post label on the reverse.  A Customs Form would have indicated the weight, but I suspect that was removed on arrival in South Africa, where the white label shown was attached, indicating a fee of 50c for Wharfage.

When the basic inland postage rate was only 8½p for second class, a £1 stamp would almost certainly only have been used on parcels.  To find three on one cover - even a slightly damaged cover - is very pleasing!

(Click on the images to see a larger version.)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Recent acquisitions: a 1972 parcel tag and an enigma

As I haven't had time to sort through my collection into any order, and thereby make some properly structured posts, the next few will be recent acquisitions - more or less as I get them, or at least as I finish researching them.

This 1972 Parcel Tag originated in Norwich in 1972.  Although the parcel postmark is not clear, the nursery kindly added the date at the right and of course their return address is printed on the tag.

Evidently there was something wrong with the address, and the plants were returned.  Coincidentally there is (now at least) a garden centre in Orchard Road, Coton, Cambridgeshire, where Mrs R P Barnes may have lived once.

21p paid for an inland parcel up to two pounds in weight (about 900 grammes which would now cost £2.90).  The postage is paid by the 20p 'high value' and 1p Machin definitives issued in 1970/71.

This other cover, though, is something of an enigma.  I bought it knowing that it was almost certainly wrong!  It's been sent by Recorded Delivery (apparently), on 24 May 1975? - I couldn't be sure.  But I did know that on decimal day, 15 February 1917, the minimum inland postage rate was 2½p - and recorded delivery had been 9d, becoming 4p on decimalisation.  So the postage had to be at least 6½p, not the 5½p represented by the 2 x 2½p and single ½p stamp.

On close inspection the year on the datestamp does appear to be 1975, by which time the 2nd class postage rate had risen to 5½p.  At the same time the recorded delivery fee was 7p, so the correct postage would have been 12½p (or 14p for 1st class).  We will never know whether this was handled under the recorded delivery system or not - but if it was, it was underpaid by 7p.  I suspect the sender knew what postage was required for the letter.  The Post Office almost certainly affixed the recorded delivery label, and may even have taken the fee - but if they did, they forgot to apply the extra 7p stamp!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Remarkable Lives stamps now being used by Royal Mail's bureau

Royal Mail Tallents House have been using stamps on some mail for at least a year, with last year's Butterfly stamps being the most common until recently.

Complete Set of 10

Now the Remarkable Lives stamps issued earlier this year are being used:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

More Modern British Postal History Coming Soon.

I've been prompted by a recent article in Britain's Stamp Magazine to take another look at modern postal history, so look out for some more postings in this blog before much longer.

Just for starters, proof that special stamps are still used here.

2013 Butterfly set and Football Heroes set

These are all on complete covers.