Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Adelaide Provisional issues of 2016, sometimes you just gotta take a risk....

If you are a collector of contemporary Australian issues and have not seen the discussion on the stampboards.com board, then you may not be aware of what has been happening down there in wake of the recent postal rate hike increase from Aus$0.70 to Aus$1.00

The new rate went into effect on 4 Jan 2016.  Unfortunately many postal areas were short of 30c stamps to offer customers as make-up rate stamps.  In South Australia, many of the post offices in the Metro Adelaide area were completely out of 30c stamps within the first 24 hours.  Unable to secure supplies, the regional head of the Australian PO in Adelaide authorized the printing of 30c provisional stamps on remainder stock of the 1994 Computer Value Indicated self adhesives featuring Koalas and Kangaroos. As there were six different designs in this issue, this resulted in a set of six provisional issues, all carrying the inscription "30c Adelaide 2016" at the bottom.

According to what I have read on the relevant thread on Stampboards, these computer vended stamp issues were phased out and the equipment destroyed in most of Australia around 2001 or so, with the exception of Adelaide where the computer to print the issues was preserved to allow the post office to print special event stamps for local events in South Australia. Thus the regional director in Adelaide had the tools to print 30c stamps to meet the shortfall in the Adelaide area until supplies of regular 30c stamps from the main Australian post office system could be provided.  All printing was done from the central post office in Adelaide, under strictly controlled circumstances, and was discontinued when supplies of the current 30c definitive were again available to Adelaide post offices staring on 8 January.

As far as can be ascertained, the first of these provisionals were sold on 6 January, and were sold on 6 and 7 January.  After 7 January sales of these provisional stamps ceased as supplies of the regular 30c definitive arrived at the local post offices.

There was no advance information from Australia post regarding the release of these provisionals from Adelaide, and the first inkling of their existence was posted on the stampboards forum on 17 January, catching the very active philatelic community there almost completely unawares.

There has been no information as to exactly how many sets were sold across the Adelaide region, though there were limits on the number of sets one person could purchase at any time.  They were only sold for a maximum of perhaps 2 1/2 post office business days (6, 7 and maybe the first part of 8 January), and have appeared on commercial covers as well as unused sets.

Once I read about this release I thought that this was going to be something quite special, so I contacted Australian dealer Glen Stephens to see if he had any sets for sale.  He did have a few and I purchased two sets from him on 19 January. These just arrived in my mailbox safe and sound today.

One set is for my collection, the other is for a rainy day, as I just have a hunch this set is going to become a very desirable specialist item for collectors of Australia or topicals such as fauna, Australiana, koalas and kangaroos.

There is still a lot of unknowns about the set, and the marketplace will probably need several months to determine a value for the set and for used on and off cover.  The first mint set that was offered on ebay.au ended up selling for over Aus$1000.00 (US$700.00) and a dated cover with a date of 17 January is currently in an auction on ebay.au with a high bid of a bit more than Aus$350.  And will it receive catalog status?

For more information on this issue check out the thread at stampboards.com

 Who knows if I made a lucky choice or if my purchase will turn out to be worthless a year from now, but it will be fun to see how this drama plays out over the next few months. And if it turns out that this issue does turn out to be the key set for 2010s Australia, then taking a risk to purchase a couple sets early will have been a risk worth taking. Or i might be out of something under US$100 if they don't turn out to be the key set. But if I had not taken the risk, and they do go on to be the key set, I'd probably have kicked myself for missing getting in at the start of the market.  Sometimes you just gotta play your hunch and see what happens.  Millions of people spend more per year than I have on these sets playing the lotteries, with much much lower odds of ever breaking even.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Specialized Catalog For China 1878-1949 released by China Stamp Society is a gem!

It may seem that I've been spending more time acquiring specialized postage stamp catalogs than actual stamps. Well there is a logic to my madness - since I am rebuilding my stamp collection from scratch and creating my own albums and want to include varieties as well as the items listed in mainstream catalogs such as Scott, it makes sense to get a really good specialized catalog for each major country I am considering collecting (and as a worldwide collector, that means ALL of them LOL!).

So, when I read on the stampboards.com forum that the China Stamp Society here in the United States had just published a brand new edition of its specialized catalog for the stamps of China 1878-1949, my mouth salivated and I knew I needed to add it to my library.

To be honest I have almost no background in Chinese philately, so this catalog is a great introduction to that branch of the hobby, which if you follow the philatelic market you know is also THE hottest philatelic property around, as the economic transformation of China and Taiwan have created wealthy middle and upper classes who see the stamps of China as part of their national heritage.

So on New Year's Eve I placed my order, and within a week the catalog arrived from the Society, which is based in California.  Not bad delivery time considering the intervening holiday!

The catalog is huge - almost 500 pages, soft cover with a spiral binding, so it lays flat when open (much like the Canada Unitrade catalog. Wish more specialized catalogs came this way!)

The catalog is also EXHAUSTIVE.  From the introduction, the items not included include :

Also not included are the Local Post Issues of the Treaty Ports (Shanghai etc) which are covered quite well in the Scott Specialized 1840-1940 catalog, and the issues released by the Communists as they took over different regions of China during the civil war of 1945-1949, which considering they are seen as forerunners of the PRC starting in 1949, makes sense not to be included here. Coverage ends in 1949 - the post-flight issues of the ROC on Taiwan after 1949 are not included.  

Otherwise...it's definitely an exhaustive specialized catalog of almost 500 pages covering the Late Qing, Republic, Regionals, Wartime Surcharges of the Republic, The inflation surcharges of the 1945-1949 Civil War era Republic (gold and silver yuan), Back of Books (including specialized items like Postal Savings, see below), Japanese regional occupations and Manchukuo.

Since pictures speak a thousand words, the rest of this post will be eye candy samples of pages 

The China Stamps Society sells the catalog to members for US$59.99, with non-members paying a US$10 surcharge.  Either way, it is worth every penny especially if you happen to have an old collection and start looking for varieties, that could pay for the cost of the catalog with just one or two lucky finds lurking in an old Big Blue.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New High Value USA stamps continue American Landmarks Series

On 17 Jan 2016 postal rates in the USA will rise, though not for first class mail. That will remain at US$0.49 for the first ounce.  However, increases in Priority and Express Mail rates (rather steep ones, Priority rises to US$6.45 from US$5.60, and Express rises to US$22.95 from US$19.99!) mean that there will be two new additions to one of my absolute favorite series of contemporary USA postage stamps, the American Landmarks series begun in 2008.

The additions for 2016 are these beauties

For Priority Mail, La Cueva del Indio in Puerto Rico

For Express Mail, The Columbia River Gorge on the Washington-Oregon border

These two values join the following stamps in the series that have been issued over the years since 2008 as rates for Priority Mail and Express Mail have risen

2008 Priority Mail, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

2008 Express Mail, Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona border

2009 Priority Mail, Redwood Forest in California

2009 Express Mail, Old Faithful in Wyoming

2010 Priority Mail, Mackinac Bridge in Michigan

2010 Express Mail, Bixby Creek Bridge in California

2011 Priority Mail (no Express Mail rate change), New River Gorge Bridge, West Virginia

2012 Priority Mail, Sunshine Skyway Bridge, Florida

2012 Express Mail, Carmel Mission, California

2013 Priority Mail, Arlington Green Bridge, Vermont

2013 Express Mail, Grand Central Station Main Terminal, New York

2014 Priority Mail, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, New York

2014 Express Mail, USS Arizona Memorial, Hawaii

As there were no rate increases in 2015, no new hi-value stamps were issued last year, much to the relief of many a collector's wallet.  The series is artistically GORGEOUS, but the price even for a set of singles is not exactly pocket change. The fifteen stamps in the series (including the two new values for 2016) have a face value of US$176.79 (!).  But these, combined with the similarly gorgeous (and now alas completed) American Landscape Airmail series are some of my absolute favorite USA postage stamps of the past two decades.  If only we could get similarly-designed lower-value definitives for first class use, rather than the ubiquitous -Flag over...- series that has been the workhorse definitive series for most of the past quarter century.

My only beef with this series, nothing from Ohio! Why not the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for a future Landmark issue???