Friday, 7 April 2017

Australia 1927 - Openinhg of Parliament House

A "provisional" building that became somewhat of an iconic Australian landmark. Improbable as it seems, it is all too true... 

Opened on 9 May 1927 Parliament House in Canberra (now known as Old Parliament House), was never meant to last for more than fifty years, just enough time, I guess, for the politicians to decide what they really wanted. Designed by John Smith Murdoch in the "Simplified Classical" style, popular for governmental buildings at the time, it is now a landmark, and serves as a museum of political history. But not everyone has always admired the building. Walter Burley Griffin, the man responsible for the city layout of Canberra, said that placing the building in that location was akin to...  'filling the front yard with outhouses'. Not a ringing endorsement! But whether loved or loathed, it has firmly established its place in the annals of Australian history. And considering it did not close its doors until 1988, some sixty-one years later, it seems to have served its purpose well.

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On 9 May 1927 Australia's issued its first commemorative stamp on the occasion of the opening of Parliament House in Canberra (in A.C.T Australian Capital Territory). Since this was to be Australia's very first commemorative, the design needed to be memorable. Accordingly, a competition was held for the best design. There were over 1,000 entries. The winning design was composed by Mr Ronald A. Harrison, an artist at the Note Printing Branch of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. This design was engraved by J.A.C Harrison. And the resultant stamp is simply stunning. 


Dominating the left side of the stamp we see a seated female figure representing Australia. She is holding in her right hand a shield bearing the southern cross. In her left hand she is carrying a palm branch, which is extended as a greeting to the new Parliament House, the building in the middle ground. The composition has been nicely seated in a simple yet tasteful and elegant frame.

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Below are a couple of the design entries from the competition. The first depicts the chair of the Speaker of the House (House of Representatives)...

 

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The second example is in portrait format and it bears the head of George V at the top. I don't mind this one. With some tweaking it could have worked. But the final choice was definitely the best in the end.



Which do you like best?

Until next time...

Thursday, 23 March 2017

I Muse...On Watermarks

Watermark. That very word can instill fear into anyone new to the world of stamp collecting. It certainly did when I first started. But over time I learned that with a little knowledge there was nothing to be afraid of at all. As with most things, a bit of research and study goes a long way. And knowing watermarks and watermark detection is no different.

So just what is a watermark? In general, a watermark is when an image or a symbol of some sort is impressed on a sheet of wet paper, creating a depression in the paper, making it thinner in these areas. This thinned area can then be seen, in theory, by holding the paper up to the light or when placed against a dark background. 

When it comes to stamps it is not always this easy. This blog isn't a discussion on watermark detection techniques, but suffice to say, there are many watermark detecting tools and gimmicks on the market claiming to be able to help you. There are also others ways that people use, such as the use of lighter fluid, which does work, but can be dangerous if not treated with respect. Ultimately, one has to find the best way that works for them. What technique do you use?

Once you have found the technique that works for you, what do you look for? Considering we are talking here about collecting King George V Commonwealth stamps, we will have a look at a couple of the standard watermarks used for many Commonwealth stamps in this period. This is not a definitive list. Many Commonwealth countries utilised their own watermarks, and over time I will look at these as I collect and study the stamps.

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Okay. There a two basic watermarks that were used in a lot of Commonwealth colonies between 1910-1935 that are very handy to have in your knowledge arsenal. The first is called Multiple Crown CA. The CA stands for Crown Agents. This particular watermark was first used in 1904. The watermark can be seen below.


And on an actual stamp it can look like this (the watermark appears backwards because it is being viewed from the reverse - or back of the stamp):


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The second watermark to remember is called Multiple Script CA. This watermark made its first appearance in 1921. See below for what this watermark looks like.


And it will look like this on a real stamp (again as seen from the reverse):


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Knowing these two watermarks will help you to identify many KGV stamps, which are otherwise identical. With that said, I wish you happy sorting.

Until next time...


Monday, 13 March 2017

I Spy...On ½d Downey Head Differences

It has been several years since I've had a good look at my Great Britain KGV collection. Because of this I have forgotten a lot of the sorting details. Distinguishing between the different types of the ½d Downey Head is one of the things that has fallen victim to my forgettery. The Great Britain Downey Head stamps were first issued in 1911. There are two Downey Head values: ½d green and 1d red. 

Both values have their own intricacies, but in this blog we will focus on the ½d green value. The ½d green has two main dies (referred to as 'types' in some catalogues). For ease of description we shall call these Die 1 and Die 2. Then it gets a bit more tricky. Die 1 can be further broken down into two sub Dies, referred to as 1A and 1B. Nervous? Well, don't be. With a bit of practice the differences can be easily learned. Then you'll be sorting like a pro!

First off let me say that the explanations that follow are the easiest way of sorting the different dies that work for me. If my way helps you along a bit that's great. So without further ado, let's grab our ½d greens and spread them out before us.

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Okay, now that you have all of your ½d greens arrayed before you, let's get sorting. To begin with it is important to know that the ½d green can be found with three different watermarks, shown below, but we will come back to watermarks in detail later. 


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The first detail to tackle is sorting Die 1 stamps from Die 2 stamps. This is actually quite easy, and if you have descent eyes, it can be done without any aids. Otherwise, a magnifying glass will be more than adequate. I have created a diagram - see below - to help us along. Looking at the diagram you can see immediately the differences in the beard. In Die I the beard is very heavy and undefined. And in Die 2 this was neatened up and the beard is more defined. The way I remember this is that in Die 1 good old George goes to the barber. In Die 2 he has visited the barber and is looking quite dapper.


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But what if the ink has faded somewhat or there is a ruddy great postmark over the top of the beard? Fear not. There is another way to distinguish between Die 1 & Die 2. Again I have created a diagram to help out. See below. This time we need to turn our attention to the decoration above the word 'HALFPENNY'. Inside the decoration, above the 'P' we can see a difference between Die 1 and Die 2. In Die 1 we can make out two shading lines. In Die 2 these lines become one fat line.


Still with me? Excellent. We can now identify Die 1 and Die 2 stamps. Pretty cool.

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Now things get a bit more tricky. As I mentioned above, Die 1 can be broken down into two sub Dies, called 1A and 1B. So how do we find these differences? Well, to distinguish 1A from 1B a good magnifying glass is needed. Or better yet, a scanner. Below is another diagram to help us. This time around we must turn our attention to the dolphin at the bottom right of the stamp. Can you see the difference? In Die 1A the top scale is an extra large triangle, whereas in Die 1B there is an extra scale and the top scale is incomplete on the left side.


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Again, if the above difference is blotted out by a postmark or too difficult to distinguish, we have a second chance at identification. For this difference - it's a tiny one - we need to look to the crown at the top centre of the stamp. See below again. Inside the crown there is a Maltese Cross, and right in the centre of that cross is a curved mark representing a jewel. In Die 1A this curved mark resembles a comma. In Die 1B this curved mark is a bit bigger and it looks more like a crescent.


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After all this we can now not only distinguish between Die 1 and Die 2, but we can further identify Die 1A from Die 1B. That is pretty awesome, I reckon.

Now if your brain hasn't gone into complete meltdown, we need to briefly go back to those watermarks I mentioned right back at the beginning. That is which Dies have which watermarks. Below is a list, complete with Stanley Gibbons Catalogue Number, Dies, and watermarks for each Die.

SG# 321 - Die 1A - WMK Imperial Crown (type 49)
SG# 324 - Die 1B - WMK Imperial Crown (tyoe 49)
SG# 334 - Die 1B - WMK Simple Cypher (type 100) Found in Booklets only
SG# 338 - Die 2 - WMK Imperial Crown (type 49)
SG# 344 - Die 2 - WMK Simple Cypher (type 100)
SG# 346 - Die 2 - WMK Multiple Cypher (type 103)

We are done! I hope my method will help you sort your ½d green Downey Heads with a little more ease. If there's anything I missed - I am still a novice - please talk to me in the comments!

Until next time...


Friday, 10 March 2017

I Muse...on Slogans

A short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising. This is the definition of a slogan. The word 'slogan' actually derives from Scottish Gaelic, way back in the 16th Century. It is a combination of sluagh, meaning ‘army’ and gairm, meaning ‘shout’. So, basically a War Cry.

The use of the term has evolved somewhat since the 16th Century. And today we see slogans for advertising everywhere! Radio, TV, Internet, you name it! Even on mail. In philatelic terminology mail with slogans are called "Postmark Slogans" and the envelopes on which they are placed are called "Covers". Collecting covers with postmark slogans can actually be a lot of fun. I especially like KGV ones from Australia and Great Britain.

I thought it might be a bit of fun to look at some Australian postmark slogans. I'm not 100% certain when postmark slogans first came into use in Australia, but I have found three books on the subject and all of them begin in 1917, so it is probably safe to say 1917 is the year.

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The first cover, dated 18 June 1918, bears a 1d red stamp tied to the cover with machine slogan cancel. The slogan is a bit indecipherable in this example unfortunately.


This is a facsimile of the slogan:


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This cover, dated 23 October 1923, bears a ½d green and 1d purple tied to the cover with another machine slogan cancel. I really like this slogan. It is promoting the British Empire Exhibition in 1924.


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This next slogan is on piece, bearing a 1d red. It is another machine cancel, dated 5 September 1919. It cries out for people to help those having returned from the atrocities of World War I.


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Next we have a really cool slogan, promoting the use of that new-fangled device called a "Telephone". This commercial cover, dated 22 June 1937 bears a 1d green tied to cover with a stamped slogan postmark.


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This next commercial cover, dated 6 July 1937, bears a 1d green tied to cover with a rather cool slogan postmark advertising the fact that 1938 (the next year) will be the 150th anniversary of the first landing at Sydney Cove in 1788.


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And here's one more for the road. It is another commercial cover, dated 12 August 1937, promotes the use of the Telegraph system for sending birthday wishes.It bears another 1d green.


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To ensure you don't go into "slogan overload", I'll leave it at that for now. I'll post some more up in the near future. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Roos Philately for the use of the commercial covers.

Until next time...