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Kangaroos Part 3 

So far in our explorations of the Kangaroo & Map series we’ve looked at understanding watermarks and getting basic sets together whilst using some of the budget options available for the high value Roos. Then last month delved into plate and watermark varieties i.e. how to identify and source, then capitalise on this knowledge. We also stressed the importance of owning or having access to suitable reference literature, in particular Brusden-White (BW) and Stanley Gibbons (SG).


In this final article in this series we shall look at Vignette varieties, Imprints pieces, and Monograms. I’d like first though to provide a brief coverage to Roos on Cover in the context of this series.


Roos on Cover & Piece

Whilst this may more belong to an article on Postal History, there is a growing interest amongst the more conventional Roo collectors to understand and add some diversity to their collection by adding items that show how the stamp was used – which was, after all to pay for postage!


Roo Postal History – In broad terms this includes items such as: postally used letters, Post Cards, Letter Cards, Newspaper Wrappers, Postal Stationary, Package Post Pieces, Parcel Tags and the like.


Consider this, there was just over 1 billion 1d Red Roos printed!


Question: How many used stamps are floating around in the philatelic world? Answer: You would measure it in tonnage. Next question: How many postally used survivors, with a tidy cds cancellation would you think remain on a nicely persevered Cover? Answer: A lot less that the 15x multiple generally attributed to such an item would suggest. Market price for a Fine Used 1d Roo $1, on Cover $15. For more complex and exotic pieces… many $1,000’s



1914 Parcel Tag with 3/8d franking made up with 4 x 9d large OS & 2 x 4d small os Roos.
Such high frankings, particularly in OS are rarely seen


A letter to France with the franking consisting of 2 x 1d Roos and a bisected 1d to make up the 2½d foreign letter rate of 1914. Whilst the bisection was surely illegal, it was tolerated. Maybe the PO had run out of ½d or 2½d’s, a most interesting Cover – Courtesy of private collector Tim Rodger, Mildura Vic



A superb and scarce parcel tag with the exceptional franking of 17/11d. Items such as these are genuine rarities. You could put a strong case that the market has yet to fully appreciate the scarcity - Courtesy of private collector Tim Rodger, Mildura Vic



When you consider the upsurge in traditional Roo collecting, this scenario provides yet another reason why collectors are embracing this aspect of Kangaroo philately. There is plenty of quality literature available on Australian postal history, talk to your dealer about what will suit your requirements best.



Vignette Varieties

Pronounced venyet and defined in the Oxford as; a photograph or portrait showing only head and shoulders with background gradually shaded off. In philatelic terms and specifically to this discussion we are talking about the central part of the stamp design – i.e. the actual Kangaroo


The Vignette varieties as listed in (BW) occur only in the high value Roos (bi-colours). These printings required a second plate to print the Vignette, whereas the low value Roos were printed from just one plate (mono’s). Therefore any variety you see in the kangaroo of a low value, is actually a constant plate variety or a flaw not a Vignette variety.


As you may recall from our June article, the high value Roos are:

5/-, 10/-, £1 & £2. The ½d through to 2/- are printed in one colour i.e. the Roo is the same colour as the area outside of the map.


Types of Vignette Varieties

There are essentially two varieties: the misplaced Vignette and the constant Vignette plate varieties.


The Misplaced Roo

As the high value Roos are bi-colours, a two printings process was used. The misplacement comes about whenever a problem occurred with the registration process. Put simply, the plate that printed the Roo onto the Map (the Vignette or Kangaroo Plate) was not correctly lined up with the image printed by the plate that printed the main stamp image (the Duty plate).



To qualify as a legitimate (BW) listed misplaced Roo variety, some part of the Roo must be at least 2mm outside of the map. This can value the stamp at 15 times or more to that of a comparable normal stamp.


Given the scarcity of this degree of misplacement, I believe it to be a much underrated variety.




BW 44ca. This is the most dramatic of the known Vignette shifts with the Roo misplaced 3.5mm downwards. Catalogued at 17 times the value of a normal comparable example - Courtesy Brusden-White



It is quite common to see misplacements of lesser degrees, but generally speaking unless some part of the Roo is outside of the map, no premium should be attributed to the stamp, and certainly not the full premium as scheduled in BW, as was often the case before this point was clarified in recent years.




A slightly misplaced Vignette and not really dramatic enough to even be
referred to as “Wet Ears”. Not worthy of any premium.



Vignette Constant Varieties

These are far more common, are easy to identify and have been christened with the most wonderful names. How do you like some of these: Ewe-faced, Hunched-back, Pointed tail, Rat faced and Foxed face to name a few! The fun part is they really look like that. One of my favourites is the Muzzled kangaroo, see scan 1– what a beauty!



BW (V)l. Muzzled kangaroo - found only on the CofA Watermark printing.
This Roo was on a Mint £2 SPECIMEN overprint example.



These Vignette varieties can be relatively low in cost to collect as they command only a small premium over normals. When you consider you can buy a fine used normal 5/- CofA Roo for around $30 it is within the scope of many collectors to put together a collection of Vignette varieties. In total BW lists 16 of them. If you are collecting more valuable Roos it adds desirability to the stamp where a Vignette variety is present. Often sellers are either not aware, or don’t bother mentioning the Vignette Variety.



Here are some more from the herd BW (V)p. Tail and grass at right sliced off.
BW (V)q. Kangaroo’s ear at left broken. BW (V)r. Open-mouthed kangaroo. BW (V)s.
“Weeping” kangaroo. Courtesy Brusden-White



As with most areas of philatelic study, the well does run very deep. In addition to (BW), should you wish to delve even deeper, I would recommend - A plating study of the high value bi-coloured Kangaroo issues of Australia – W.H. Holbeach


Imprint Pieces

The term Imprint refers to the printer’s identification marking that appears in the margin or selvedge piece that borders the sheet of stamps. Traditionally they are collected in blocks of four, however BW does allocate catalogue numbers to pairs for some of the higher values due to the scarcity of blocks. In some cases it may be the only way you can buy one. You will sometimes see a single stamp with a part imprint, and whilst these are not catalogued, they are worth a modest premium over and above a normal stamp.


 Within the Kangaroo & Map series there are four Imprints you will encounter: T.S. Harrison, A.J. Mullett, John Ash and Printed by the Authority of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. Better know as simply - By Authority.


Collecting Imprints can require a significant capital. Many of the blocks or even pairs are scarce and market forces, particularly in recent years, have forced the prices strongly upwards. Prices range from around $40, up to A$265,395. This remarkable price was achieved earlier this year in New York at the Shreve’s sale of the world famous Arthur Gray Kangaroo collection.


£1 Brown & Blue, 3rd wmk – BW 52zc. Harrison two-line imprint (N over MP) block of 4. From the Arthur Gray collection this remarkable Imprint block smashed the Australian record for an individual philatelic item when auctioned by Shreve Philatelic Galleries earlier this year. The sum of $265,395 was achieved – Image courtesy Shreves Philatelic Galleries, New York.



Monograms & their background

Like the Imprint pieces, these too are the printer’s identification marking that appear in the bottom margin of the pane. They are most commonly collected as singles, however, in their purist form they are collected in horizontal strips of 3. The positioning of the monogram, whether it be CA or JBC is always located 3 positions in from a corner and thus makes the corner strip a sought after piece.


The JBC (J.B. Cooke) and CA (Commonwealth Australia) monograms were used in the Cooke printings and the early Harrison printings before being replaced with Imprints bearing the secession printer’s names. When McCracken took over in April 1940 he continued to use the Ash plates bearing that printers name until 1945 when new plates were introduced bearing the impersonalised “By Authority” imprint. McCracken was the last Roo printer and only ever printed the 2/- value. The final printing was in January 1947. Thus ended the reign of the Roo.


Today this iconic stamp lives on through a world-wide legion of accumulators, collectors, philatelist and investors. The ever growing new army of enthusiasts have been drawn to it like never before. It is difficult to pinpoint the attraction, and that will surely differ with each person, but to put it in modern vernacular – the Roo has the “X” factor… no doubt about it!




This image illustrates the plate configuration used for the entire Kangaroo & Map series printings with the exception being the early 1d Red Roos where 2 upper plates over 2 lower plates were used. Image Courtesy of Adams, Bell & Pope, 1d Red Kangaroo & Map Series.


Note the positioning of the Monograms: CA is located under cliché 57 lower left pane; with the JBC under cliché 58 lower right hand pane. You can see why Monograms are desirable as only 2 stamps from the entire sheet of 240 stamps have monograms tied to them. Image Courtesy of Adams, Bell & Pope, 1d Red Kangaroo & Map Series.



CA monogram on left hand corner strip of 3



JBC monogram on 3rd Wmk 2½d Blue



The Printer’s Imprints. T.S HARRISON, A.J. MULLETT, JOHN ASH and the impersonalised “BY AUTHORITY”. The final Roo printer, W.C.G. McCracken, used the Ash plates before introducing the By Authority Imprint  







J.B. Cooke

1913 - May 1918

Monograms CA & JBC

CA in the left pane, JBC in the right pane

T.S Harrison

May 1918 - Feb 1926

Mongrams CA, Imprints

CA Monograms both left & right panes for 1st 6d printing, then replaced by imprints

A.J. Mullett

Feb 1926 - Jun 1927


Printed the 6d Chestnut, 1/- & 2/- Maroon. Two-line imprint

J. Ash

June 1927 - Apr 1940


Two different setting were used N over N and N over A

W.C.G McCracken

April 1940 >


Used the Ash Imprint until new plates were introduced in 1945 and the "By Authority" imprint was adopted


© Jude Koch, Blue Owl’s Stamps 2007

Blue Owl Stamps Pty Ltd

Australian Colonies, Kangaroos, KGV Heads, Pre-Decimals, Booklets,
G.R.I. Papua, New Guinea, N.W.P.I. NZ in Stamps, Specialty Items and Usage on Cover