Australia in a Nutshell

The Australian Commonwealth – When the six colonies of Australia were federated on the 1st January, 1901, they became “States” of the Commonwealth, and it was generally considered that, from that date onwards, all postage stamps used in Australia would be, as in point of fact they were, Commonwealth stamps. Shortly afterwards, however, it was discovered that according to a certain “bookkeeping period,” which was made a part of the Constitution, proper Commonwealth stamps could not be issued for a period of 10 years, the reason being given that, in order to keep the accounts of the various States separate, it was necessary to retain the distinguishing characteristics of the State stamps. On the 1st April, 1901, the Commonwealth authorities formally took over the control of the Post and Telegraph departments, but even since then the anomaly above referred to has continued.

Prior to the inauguration of Federation, New South Wales had certain postage dues in use, bearing the letters “N.S.W.” at foot. Until then the only other State issuing postage dues was Victoria, and, as it was decided that the postage due system should be introduced throughout all the States, instructions were given hurriedly to alter the New South Wales dues, so that they might do duty throughout the Commonwealth. This was done accordingly, and those of the New South Wales type, with “white space at foot,” or “blotch,” as it is frequently called, were issued, a large number of which were sent to Tasmania for use there, and although that event occurred nine years ago, some of the values were obtainable until recently. As soon as possible fresh electros were prepared and postage dues of the type above referred to, with the space at foot filled in, continued in use until a couple of years ago, when the Victorian die was adopted instead, the word “Australia” being substituted for “Victoria,” such stamps being issued for use throughout all the States, with one exception. Up till the time of writing, the 1/2d value has not made its appearance in New South Wales, the old New South Wales die, with that denomination, being still available.

In 1903, it was considered necessary to have a 9d stamp in all the States. As Queensland did not possess one of that denomination, a new stamp was prepared, containing the word “Commonwealth” in an arch above a seated figure, with the word, “Queensland,” at the bottom of the stamp, together with initials or a short form of the names of the six States on pillars, which support the arch already referred to. Shortly afterwards a similar stamp was issued for New South Wales, which bore the words “New South Wales” at foot. Both these stamps were at first printed on V and Crown paper, but they have not been given catalogue rank under “Australian Commonwealth.” It will be noticed, however, that in Stanley Gibbons’ catalogue, 1911 edition, the words “Australian Commonwealth Issues” are printed above the illustration of the New South Wales variety of the stamp above referred to. From this it will be seen that a half-hearted attempt has been made to classify the stamps subsequently issued as Commonwealth stamps.

As a stamp-issuing country the Australian Commonwealth has had a most inglorious entry.

Shortly after the 1st January, 1901, it was found necessary also to separate the State stamps from the Commonwealth stamps, and it may be explained here that in Victoria all those stamps bearing the words “Stamp Duty” were available either for “postage” or “revenue” purposes. Accordingly, on the 29th January, 1901, a new series of stamps was issued, the designs being mostly the discarded dies of stamps which did not bear the words “Stamp Duty.” The 1d stamp of 1863 was re-issued, with the word “Postage” beneath the Queen’s bust. The 2-1/2d and 5d stamps had the word “Postage” substituted for “Stamp Duty,” and in June of the same year, a fresh issue was made of the same designs, but with every denomination bearing the word “Postage.”

In 1905 it was ordered that all fresh stamps should be printed on paper watermarked with a crown over the letter A. This has been done since, but several types of watermark are to be found on the stamps of the various States; for instance, those of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria are all different, while the stamps of Tasmania and Western Australia bear the Victoria type of watermark, being printed in Melbourne.

In 1902 an attempt was made to bring Western Australia into line, by similar methods to those adopted in Victoria. The 1/2d, 1d and 3d values already bore the word “Postage,” the existing 4d had “Postage” added and a 9d value, the same type as the 4d just mentioned, together with six other denominations, namely, 8d, 10d, 2/, 2/6, 5/, 10/, and 1-pound were introduced. Note. – Prior to this, the highest denomination in West Australia was the 1/, those from the 2/ to the 1-pound being current or obsolete dies of Victoria, which had been altered to suit the circumstances. All these stamps were printed in Melbourne, on V and Crown paper. In 1906-7, fresh designs of the 6d and 1/ values were issued in Western Australia, which did not bear the word “Postage,” but it was announced that a large stock of these stamps had been printed abroad, and were in stock, ready to be issued when those of the former design were exhausted. All these stamps are listed in catalogues under Western Australia, and are treated as being issued by that State.

A strong opinion exists in certain quarters that all the stamps above referred to should be listed under “Australian Commonwealth,” and it is the opinion of several that some day they will be catalogued as such. Many collectors have begun a collection of the “Stamps of the Commonwealth,” and they include all the stamps issued in or for any of the States. Those who are in doubt would do well to follow suit. It certainly must be admitted eventually that all those stamps printed on Crown and A paper should be classified as stamps of the Commonwealth.

It may be recorded here that the 1-pound and 2-pound postage stamps issued in Victoria 1901-2 are the only ones which bear the portrait of His Late Majesty King Edward VII.

New South Wales – The early issues of this colony are recognized by almost every collector to be of the greatest interest, and from their peculiar character, to be the most fascinating. Part I of a book recently published on The Stamps of New South Wales has been issued by the Royal Philatelic Society of London, within the past few months. It consists of 240 pages of letterpress, accompanied by 16 full-page illustrations. The book deals most exhaustively with those stamps issued prior to 1871, and consequently appeals more particularly to the advanced philatelist, than those readers for whom this book is intended. It may be said here that the great charm of the “Views” and the “Laureate” stamps is the fact that each stamp was engraved separately by hand on the plate, and consequently, every stamp represents some difference on the plate, either slight or marked. The plates for the “Diadem” issues and the 5/ coin stamp were engraved by Messrs. Perkins, Bacon and Co. of London, and the 1d, 2d, 4d, 6d, 10d, and 1/ stamps issued subsequently were engraved by Messrs. De La Rue and Co., also of London. These have their interest, owing to the various papers upon which they were printed, and the gauges of the perforating machines which were used. Because of the latter fact, however, these stamps are not very widely collected by collectors outside Australia, many of whom are content with single specimens of each. They are, however, most interesting. Many of them are inexpensive, and offer a big field for philatelic study. In 1885 New South Wales “duty” stamps of the values of 5/, 10/, and 20/ were introduced. The 5/ and 20/ stamps only remained in use a few years, but the 10/ value has not been superseded, and is still obtainable at the post offices at face value.

In 1888 it was decided to commemorate the centenary of the foundation of the colony by the issue of new stamps, all of which bore the legend “one hundred years.” The 4d, 6d, 8d, 1/, and 20/ stamps are still in use, and still bear the same anomaly, “one hundred years,” although that event happened 23 years ago. It was thought by some at the time that the existence of these stamps would be of short duration, but their prophetic fancies have gone sadly astray. In 1891, in consequence of the reduction of the oversea postage rate, and the adoption of 1/2d rate for printed matter, it was found necessary to introduce four new denominations, namely 1/2d, 2-1/2d, 7-1/2d, and 12-1/2d. The first of these was shortly afterwards superseded by the issue of a 1/2d stamp prepared from the die of the 1d De La Rue, but the 7-1/2d and 12-1/2d values remained in use until these values were abandoned altogether, which occurred when the oversea rate to Great Britain and the British Colonies was reduced to 2d per 1⁄2 ounce. The 7-1/2d was surcharged on the 6d De La Rue type, and the 12-1/2d on the 1/ De La Rue type, but both stamps were printed in different colors from those of the 6d and 1/ values, which had been in use as such. It may be mentioned here that about 1871 a 9d stamp was issued with the value surcharged on the 10d De La Rue type, and again the color was changed, but it is a remarkable fact that while this stamp was only intended to be a temporary issue, it continued in use until superseded in 1903 by the Commonwealth design already referred to.

In 1897, in commemoration of the diamond jubilee of Her Late Majesty Queen Victoria, new designs of 1d, 2d, and 2-1/2d stamps were issued, and the old 5/ coin stamp, which had been superseded in 1885, was again brought into use. The color of the 6d denomination was changed from carmine to emerald, but this stamp only remained in that color for about seven months, when it was changed to orange, in which color it is now obtainable.

In 1903 a new denomination, namely 2/6, was issued, the design being similar to that of the 8d Centennial issue, with the words “one hundred years” omitted.

In 1856 “Registration” stamps, for the purpose of registering letters, were issued. These bore no value on the face of them, but were purchaseable at 6d. Excepting the 5/, 10/, and 20/ duty stamps, they were the only stamps issued in New South Wales in two colors. This is exclusive of the 9d Commonwealth, which is likewise a two-color printing.

“Postage Due” stamps began to be issued in 1890, one die was used for all values, and they continued in use until superseded in 1902 by the Commonwealth style already referred to.

About 1880 the current stamps of that day were overprinted with the letters “O.S.,” signifying “official stamp.” Subsequent issues were similarly overprinted until 1894, when the practice was abandoned. After the Commonwealth took charge of postal affairs, it was decided that each State Government must pay postage on its own letters, and to prevent the misuse of the ordinary stamps, directions were given that those required by the various State Governments were to be punctured with official letters. The Federal Department of New South Wales adopted the letters O.S., while the State departments availed themselves of the letters O.S. over N.S.W. These punctured stamps are not recognized as varieties by cataloguers, but many Australian and other collectors include them as such. They make an interesting branch of philatelic study; but, in consequence of the holes pierced through the stamps, it is at times difficult to distinguish the watermark. There are other points which make these stamps interesting, such as the number of holes contained in the letters and the “errors” which have been produced. This is a matter for investigation.

Queensland – It will be noticed that all the stamps of this State, with one exception, bear the portrait of Her Late Majesty Queen Victoria. That exception is the 9d Commonwealth stamp. A few of the early issues are very rare, more especially the 1d, 2d, and 6d values, which were issued imperforate. These were engraved and printed by Messrs. Perkins, Bacon and Co. of London, and were issued in the colony on the 1st November, 1860. A few weeks later the stamps were issued perforated. They remained in use until 1879, and from that period were printed on various kinds of papers and perforated in different manners. These variations together with the various shades of inks used make them very attractive. From 1862, all the stamps issued by Queensland were printed in that colony.

In 1879 a new design was introduced; in 1881 values from 2/ to 20/, type 1, lithographed, were issued, and in 1882 another design for values from 2/ to 1-pound appeared. These stamps were available for fiscal as well as postal use, and many specimens are to be seen either postmarked, or obliterated with a rubber canceling stamp, used by banks, insurance offices, etc.

In 1882 another change of values up to 1/ was made, and the designs of these stamps have undergone various alterations since.

In 1899 it was considered possible to adopt a less expensive and more effective method of providing means whereby stamps could be separated, the idea being to roulette the stamps on the printing machines; but, as the stamps were gummed after being printed, the affair was a miserable failure, and the stock had to be perforated subsequently in order to use it up. Various experiments were made, which gave rise to about half a dozen varieties, two of which are scarce. Prior to Federation, Queensland had neither “official” stamps nor “postage dues.”

South Australia – In this State, also, the first stamps were engraved and printed by Messrs. Perkins, Bacon and Co. They were issued in 1855, and consisted of 1d, 2d, and 6d values. Other values in various designs were issued subsequently, and a 10d value was produced by surcharging the 9d stamp, which was printed in a different color. The feature of the stamps of South Australia is their multitudinous variety of perforations.

In 1855 long stamps were issued for values from 2/6 upwards, which as their heading (Postage and Revenue) indicates, were available for revenue as well as postage purposes. Many of these stamps are also to be found with fiscal cancellations.

In 1902 the same design was, in accordance with the edict of the Commonwealth authorities, issued for use as postage stamps only, and they bore at the top the word “Postage.” In this case the same die was issued for all the values, the different denominations being set in as required. When the “eight pence” lettering was being prepared, by an unfortunate mistake the letter “H” in “EIGHT” was, in one case, substituted by an “N.” The mistake was not noticed until some of these stamps were sold. When it was discovered, immediate efforts were made to recall those which were in the various post offices, and it is said that all but 32 were withdrawn. These stamps are now valued in the open market at from 12 pounds to 15 pounds each. In 1904 the word “Postage” at the top of the stamp was altered to thicker letters. This provides another variety for the collector.

In 1868 it was considered advisable to overprint stamps for use in the various departments with the initial letters of that department. The “Departmentals” of South Australia are well known to many collectors. There are somewhere about 1,000 or 1,200 varieties and the difficulty of obtaining anything like a representative collection of them has deterred many from undertaking the task. Some of these stamps are exceedingly rare. The overprints are found in red, blue, or black inks.

In 1874 the letters “O.S.” were brought into use for general official purposes, and, with two alterations in the setting of the letters, the practice continued in use until 1903.

Tasmania – The first issue of the stamps of this colony were likewise engraved and printed by Messrs. Perkins, Bacon and Co. They were issued in August 1855 and consisted of 1d, 2d, and 4d values. The following year similar stamps were printed in Hobart.

In 1856, 6d and 1/ denominations were issued. The first of these was also engraved and printed by Messrs. Perkins, Bacon and Co.

Between 1864 and 1870 various processes were tried and efforts made to provide an easy means of separating the stamps, and they have caused a number of varieties, which mean trouble to the ordinary collector, and, indeed, they puzzle even advanced philatelists.

In 1870 a new issue was printed in the colony from plates engraved by Messrs. De La Rue and Co.

In 1878 a supply was printed by Messrs. De La Rue which are distinguishable by the fact that they are all perf. 14. They consist of 1d, 2d, and 8d denominations.

In 1892 another design was introduced, the stamps being engraved and printed by the same firm. This design is known as the “tablet” type, from the fact that all the values have the denominations in tablet form at the bottom of the stamp. One of these, namely the 1-pound, was very seldom used and its market value is now 7 or 8 pounds used or unused.

In 1901 a pictorial issue was provided, representing various beauty spots in Tasmania. This series was also engraved and printed by Messrs. De La Rue and Co., until the printing of the stamps of that State was taken over by the Melbourne Government Printing Office.

In 1882 certain fiscal stamps were authorized for postal purposes. They are seldom met with postally used, and collectors should be careful in satisfying themselves that the postmarks are genuine. In 1862 the platypus type of duty stamps was issued. These stamps were also available for postal use, and are frequently met with postmarked.

Victoria – It is said that variety is charming, and, for this reason alone, the stamps of Victoria should be the most fascinating of all, but somehow they are not so popular with collectors as they ought to be. This may be owing to the fact that the majority of the early issues were badly printed, and the paper which was used was in many cases of an inferior quality, making it difficult to procure the stamps in good condition. Another objection to the collection of the stamps of Victoria is the fact that in many cases they are found to be very heavily obliterated.

The first issues were printed by lithography, and the results were anything but satisfactory. At the same time it must be asserted that these stamps, known as the “washer-woman” type, present many points of interest to students. Some of them are comparatively rare, which, coupled with the difficulty in securing specimens with sufficiently wide margins to determine their catalogue position, hinders the study of them.

The 2d stamp known as the “Queen on throne” is very artistic. The letters at the lower corners were inserted to prevent fraud. There are 50 varieties on the engraved plate. Its companion, the 1d Queen on throne, issued in 1856 and the 6d from the same die, printed in 1858, are also very artistic.

No prettier stamps would be found than the 6d and 2/ stamps which were issued between the years 1845 and 1864. Experimental methods of providing means of separating them have caused the existence of several varieties which are highly prized by collectors; some are difficult to get owing to their rarity.

In 1857 an attractive design with “emblems in corners” appeared, the values being 1d, 2d, and 4d. They are found printed on various kinds of papers with a variety of watermarks, some being imperf, others rouletted, and a number perforated. They require close scrutiny. Some are very rare.

In 1863 the “laureated type” was introduced and printed, in the early stages, on paper watermarked with numerals. Here again, the printers failed to realize what the intention of the numeral was, namely to be a check on the denomination of the stamp. One of these, namely the 4d wmk. single line 8, ranks among the great rarities. In 1867 paper watermarked V and Crown came into vogue, which continued with a few exceptions up till the introduction of Crown and A paper in 1905. There is an impression amongst some collectors that the date given in Messrs. Gibbons’ catalogue for the issue of the 6d “laureated” on paper with various watermarks other than normal, viz., 1871, is too late, and that they very probably appeared about the same time as the varieties of the 1d and 2d, the idea being to use up the old paper before introducing the “V and Crown,” but as this is a matter more particularly for the advanced philatelist it is only referred to in passing. It shows the value of stamps on originals with postmarks.

The three most sought-for varieties of the Victorians are the 2d first issue, with fine background and fine border; the 7d orange beaded oval; and the 5/ blue on yellow; the principal reason of the demand being that all these varieties can be seen at a glance.

The issues from 1873 to 1901 do not call for much comment. In the beginning of the latter year, owing to the necessity of separating the stamps intended for postage use from those required for duty purposes, fresh arrangements had to be made, for from 1884 postage stamps in Victoria were available for duty purposes as well, and every stamp bore the words “Stamp Duty.” In consequence of Federation, hurried changes had to be made and, the Commonwealth authorities having decided that, in future, all postage stamps must bear the word “Postage,” this had to be added to the design in nearly every case.

In 1884 stamps which had been issued for duty purposes only were authorized for use as postage stamps as well. Many pen-marked and fiscally cancelled specimens may be seen, but they only represent the various types of design, and do not partake of the rank of “postage stamps” unless postally obliterated.

Since the introduction of postage dues in 1890 only one design has been used. In 1909 the word “Victoria” was altered to “Australia,” and this now does duty for the whole country, with one exception.

West Australia – A glance at the catalogue will show that it is almost impossible for a collector of the stamps of this State, being possessed of only moderate means, to acquire all the issues of the first ten years, owing to the fact that as, in the early days, West Australia was very sparsely populated, few stamps were required. The designs are very pretty, most of them having been engraved by Messrs. Perkins, Bacon and Co. Some were printed in London, and some in the colony from the Perkins Bacon plates, while one issue consisting of two values, namely 2d and 6d, was printed on lithographic stones by the Government Printer. These stamps were only in issue for about three years, and they are exceedingly scarce in any condition, more especially so if fine.

From 1865 down to 1901 there is not much that is attractive in the stamps of this State. Few of them are highly priced, and most of them are readily obtainable. The majority were printed by Messrs. De La Rue and Co., and they do not contain many varieties.

It may be mentioned here that the adoption of the black swan was made from the fact that they abounded in a river in West Australia, which was called the “Swan River.” It will be easily seen that when in 1902 the Melbourne printing office took over the task of supplying the stamps for West Australia, several Victorian designs were introduced; but in every case not only the color of the stamps as used in Victoria but the denomination also were changed.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top