Kangaroos Part 2
Now we explore Kangaroo philately at a more advanced level and look at a couple of popular areas specialists like to work with.
To set the scene we’ll assume you’ve got your basic kangaroo collection together by watermark, or you have it well underway. You’ve put them into a nice display format, you enjoy looking at them and showing them about the place, but there is a yearning for more, you feel restless, unfulfilled, what is that feeling? That my friends is the philatelic bug at work and it is whispering in your ear… it is saying, let’s do more…
So to fulfil that yearning I’d like to help you move into advanced kangaroos by explaining how to get a collection underway with Constant Plate and Watermark Varieties. These are fun and can be relatively inexpensive for specialty items.
The tools: Brusden-White (BW) Kangaroos specialist catalogue, Stanley Gibbons Australia or Empire catalogue. Loupe style or other strong magnifier (6x), internet access, a good eye, lots of patience and an ounce of luck! Talk to your dealer about the former, the last one he’s probably looking for himself!
Constant Plate Varieties: Price Range Indicator - $15 to $1,000s
Definition: A fault in the printing plate that results in the reproduction of that fault to the stamp in that plate position each time the sheet is printed, hence - constant plate variety.
Identification: Look closely at every kangaroo that comes across your desk for anything that looks abnormal and check that abnormality against the listed variety scans shown in the Brusden White Kangaroo Specialist Catalogue (BW).
Sources of material: The beauty of varieties is they are to be found everywhere. Sunday markets to high end auction houses, there are many undiscovered gems to be unearthed.
Pros & Cons: Varieties have plenty to offer. They can be relatively low in cost for a specialist item and of course you can discover them yourself without having to pay the premium attributed to the stamp once it has been correctly identified and labelled. The premium attributed to variety stamps comes about through its scarcity relative to that of a normal example. Cons – distinguishing between listed Constants, unlisted Constants and minor flaws can be challenging, but like most things it gets easier with proper practice and of course the right reference material.
Table & illustrations listing varieties from Die II, Plate E of the Penny Red. Courtesy Brusden-White (BW) know also as The Australian Commonwealth Specialist Catalogue (ACSC). BW is considered by many a philatelist to produce the best specialist catalogues in the world.
How fortunate we are here in Australia to have nine volumes of this level of detail and pricing guidance dedicated to Australian Philately. Most serious philatelist keep the BW reference material at their fingertips. A few moderate “finds” will easily justify your outlay. The additional philatelic educational content in addition to the Plate Variety documentation is quite significant. BW catalogue(s) are available directly from Brusden-White and most Dealers. We certainly stock and strongly recommend it to our customers on the Blue Owl’s Stamps website.
3(E)d. – “Extra Islands” (two Tasmanias) L25. There is no missing this well named variety. You’ll see from the table above that it is a Die II stamp, from Plate E and it is located on the Left Pane in position 25 (L25)
When you consider this stamp is catalogued at $15 as a regular 1d Red Kangaroo and $200 as a correctly identified variety, I think you will agree that the variety seek & search process is a worthwhile use of your time. Personally it’s always been my favourite aspect of philately as both a collector and in more recent years as a full time dealer.
Searching for Brusden-White (BW) listed varieties
This process of seeking out varieties begins by sifting and checking through material, (the coal face) wherever and whenever you can. Begin with your own kangaroos, then look through other sellers’, collectors, auction lots and anywhere else you find stamps.
Do any of them look different when placed next to a normal reference stamp? It’s a bit like that puzzle game you see in the Newspaper with two seemingly identical pictures and you have to try and spot the differences! A stamp variety hunt is like that too. At first they all look the same, but under closer examination you begin to see difference. These are the stamps you put aside to check against the scans shown in your BW catalogue. You’ll be surprised how quickly your brain systemised the search pattern. Some mental gymnastics, good for the grey matter eh!
Minor constant varieties
At this point I’d like to introduce you to minor constant plate varieties. These are generally considered Constants that are not dramatic enough to have made their way into BW or SG, or yet to be conclusively proven as Constants. Pretty much all Kangaroo & Map series stamps are “plateable” as they say. Meaning that through the study of the subtle nicks and scratches the stamp can be placed at a particular location on the printing plate. It is possible to reconstruct an entire plate. Below is an example of a minor variety that would be used as part of that process.
The description assigned by ABP to the stamp below reads: Shading below Albany: (a) 0.5mm breaks in lines 2 and 3, 2.5mm to 3.25mm from left frame, with a smaller break in line 1, forming a roughly triangular flaw. (b) Shading above Albany: break in line 2, 1.75mm from left frame. I did mention in last months article that the well runs deep!
Nowhere nearly as dramatic as Two Tasmanias but nonetheless a constant plate variety, albeit considered a minor. GR51 (4) - Plate G, right hand pane, position 51 on the plate. the (4) is a scarcity factor allocated by ABP. I have used 1d Red, Kangaroo and Map Series – Adams, Bell and Pope (ABP) as reference. An outstanding, highly detailed comprehensive study of the 1d Red Kangaroo and recommended reading. Many collectors accumulate these minor varieties with the aim of proving they are constants by accumulating multiple examples, for plate reconstruction purposes, or just for the fun of it.
Of course many irregular looking stamps won’t be listed Constants either major or minor. Many will be inconsistent flaws that are produced as the printing plates deteriorate and the myriad of variables that affect the print outcome have their influence. It is important to bear in mind that the printing technology was not what it is today and this caused all sorts of minor imperfections to show up. How wonderful!
If you find something with an interesting flaw that is not a listed plate variety, it often has a value over and above that of a normal stamp. Something more dramatic, can in some cases, be quite valuable. At the very least keep these “finds” on a separate page in a stock book to show other stamp people. It can be very interesting what comes out of it and what you can learn in these “show-and-tell” sessions. Join your local stamp club, you’ll be made most welcome, here is a good place to share information.
Stanley Gibbons (SG)
The other catalogue that should be mentioned at this point is Stanley Gibbons (SG). Their reference numbers are well known and widely used right around the world. Their regular catalogue for Australian stamps would be considered semi-specialised and lists only a relatively small number of constant plate varieties when compared to the approximate 280 constant plate varieties listed in BW Kangaroos. It is very strong however in the watermark varieties which we shall look at shortly.
Any varieties that are listed in SG should have particular notice taken of them as many collectors build their collections based on their listings alone. Often when a stamp variety makes it way into SG numbering, the demand for that stamp increases.
If varieties develop into one of your specialty areas you’ll thrive on the challenges and rewards they offer. If you are just so-so about them, I believe it is still worth your while developing a reasonable level of proficiency, as this can assist you in funding your stronger philatelic passions.
Watermark Varieties: Price Range Indicator - $25 to $1000’s
Definition: Where the top of crown points anywhere but to the top of the stamp.
Identification: As discussed in the June issue, the watermark can sometimes be difficult to see. Holding the stamp up to the light, looking from both sides with a strong lighting source behind the stamp and lying against a contrasting background, a black stock card for example, will usually do the trick.
Source of material: Like the constant plate varieties they are to be found everywhere. 1d Reds are a good starting point, they can be purchased in bulk and there is some outstanding specialist literature available. The 1d Reds are popular and provide an interesting range of varieties. Most of them are listed on the Blue Owl website. Have a look sometime. I provide close up scans of the actual variety, so if you are new to varieties, it will give you a good idea what it is all about.
Pros & Cons: The same Pros as with Constants, plus usually easier to check for. Strong SG listing presence. Cons – not as varied or challenging to find, but some may see that as a plus. But what it does mean is that in relative terms there may not be as many undiscovered treasures.
Quite an ordinary looking 6d Ultramarine 2nd watermark roo one may think. The stamp is sound, but has a rather unattractive parcel cancel - How much? $15 to $20 would be about the mark. The other side reveals an inverted watermark and it commanded $48,500 price tag!
Watermark varieties consist of: Watermark Inverted (most common), Watermark Sideways with crown pointing to left and crown pointing to right. No Watermark? Spoken of, but a myth. Just look harder, you’ll find it!
If you are not familiar with the different Dies of the Kangaroo & Map series, it’s worth familiarising yourself with them. The Blue Owl Table of Watermark Varieties for the Kangaroo & Map Series: Value Ratio vs Normal Stamp will highlight this point. The Dies are illustrated and explained in great detail in BW. SG clearly shows them too.
The Blue Owl Table of Watermark Varieties for the Kangaroo & Map Series: Value Ratio vs Normal Stamp
Known as Inverted
MINT Price Ratio to Normal
USED Price Ratio to Normal
Known as Sideways
1d Die I
1d Red Die II
1d Red Die IIA
2d Die II
2d Die IIA
3d Die I
3d Die II
3d Die IIB
9d Die II
9d Die IIB
1/- Die II
1/- Die IIB
2/- Maroon 1945
£1 Brown & Blue
£1 Lt Brown & Pl Blue
£2 Black & Rose
How the Table works
Using the example of the 2d Die II, 3rd Wmk. The Price Ratio to Normal is 3. This is derived from a catalogue value that lists a Fine Used example at $15 and a Fine Used example with an inverted watermark valued at $50. Therefore $50÷$15=3.33. The spreadsheet rounds down to 3. Pretty simple really, but a nice guide to relative value of an inverted or sideways compared to a stamp with a normal watermark configuration. It also shows at a glance what issues are known to have inverted and sideways watermarks. It may help you decide whether or not you should purchase a particular bulk lot based on its composition. Does it have the potential for high ratio finds?
What do these numbers mean?
Continuing on with the 2d Die II 3rd Wmk, its ratio of 3 indicates the stamp in question is quite common with an inversion. If you look at it in Mint grade you will also see a ratio of 3. It therefore has the same relative value, with inversion, whether it is Mint or Used. As you explore the table more closely you will find this is not always the case as often postally used examples are more difficult to find than Mint. The 1/- Die IIB watermark sideways being a good case in point. In actual $ terms this stamp usually fetches $100 as Mint vs $60 for a normal, but a genuine postally Fine Used $400 vs $15 for a normal (400÷15 = 27, hence ratio vs normal 27). Another interesting apparent anomaly is 5/- 2nd wmk, you would think that this would be a rare stamp, but in reality it only commands a small premium over a normal. In fact with the round factor it only rates a 1. Now obviously this is a far more valuable stamp than a 1d Die with a Mint ratio of 6, but the table’s role is to highlight relative value compared to a normal comparative stamp.
What the Table can do for you
Returning to our 2d Die II, 3rd Wmk highlights a classic case of “the more you learn – the more you earn”. Take a look at the same stamp as a Die IIA. It has a whopping ratio of 800. Many collectors would not be aware of the difference between Die II and Die IIA. It is a subtle difference but once you are aware of what to look for, you will identify IIA quite easily. The stamp is listed in Stanley Gibbon 2007 Commonwealth and British Empire Stamps Catalogue – SG 35daw. at £8000.
Their pricing for this high end material is derived by a pricing committee that uses auction house realisations as part of their determination, so more often than not these prices have actually been realised.
This is an extreme example I agree, but then again “finds” are regularly listed in Auction catalogues as such. If you enjoy sifting through material you have a head start, but without the knowledge base you can acquire from the specialist literature it can’t really come to much.
One final point on this matter is that major finds for most collectors amount to one or two (or even none) in a life-time, but the bread ‘n’ butter (minor finds) will be regular if you go about your search in a systematic manner. It has the potential to aid you with funding your hobby and provide a good educational basis of how the material was produced, and its historical context. For many collectors this is the joy of the hobby and a good philatelic library facilitates this enjoyment.
A final point
By the way all the same principles apply to sifting KGV heads for varieties as with Kangaroos. Of course with Georges it becomes far more complex, but why not start to accumulate them when a good opportunity arises. We’ll cover them sometime in the future. Like with kangaroos it is important that you acquire the right literature. Have a chat to a knowledgeable dealer who can put you on the right path. My advice is to definitely start with kangaroos, they are far more manageable.
© Jude Koch, Blue Owl’s Stamps 2007
Continue onto Kangaroos Part 3
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