Dave Elsmore


This is the eight in the series of ‘Let’s Educate the Judges’ in evaluating the exhibits of the Australian States Revenue and Railway Stamps. 

This paper is not a critique: it is written to help guide the judge in this fairly new field of Railway & Revenue Exhibiting. I offer my 40 years of knowledge in collecting Victorian Railway Parcel stamps.

Most of you reading this will know all aspects of Victorian Philately has been researched to death and the railway parcel stamps are no exception. There are several references available to the judge to ‘polish up’ on, and as before, in my previous papers none are complete, in fact some are wrong & all need badly updating. Morleys Philatelic Journal 1878 has articles by Potter. ‘The Railway Stamps of Mainland Ausrtalia’ by Ingles, Presgrave & Craig 1980 is a combination of published works transcribed into a simple listing. Unfortunately wrong information has been recorded in The Stamps of Victoria by Kellow listing three blue on blue stamps of 1879 as parcel stamps when they are merely ‘cloak room’ tickets prepared and issued for pickup or delivery once the parcel had arrived at its station destination. All published works have drawn from articles by Purves FRPSL.

It must be noted that plenty of mint remainders are available to the exhibitor [who must have deep pockets] true usage prior to 1887 of most values are scarce to rare. An exhibitor should have no trouble putting together 5 frames.

It is still unclear as to the issue date of the first series an exhibit must explain this all published works show the date as 1876. The first series was printed on plain paper by an unknown printer, as usual the locomotive is pointing to the left which tells me it is going home. I am yet to sight a single Echuca stamp [fig 1] used and if displayed should be appreciated by the judges. In fact is has not been established if this series was ever used, plenty of remainder sets are available.

Fig 1.

Inscribed Sandhurst now Bendigo.

Late 1877 a second issue was released printed on V over Crown paper it included a counterfoil to be given to the sender as a receipt. Proofs are known and if shown should reward. Sent at “Owners Risk” [fig 2] this should be well explained by the exhibitor along with the different perfs recorded. Not as easy to find as the first issue but they do become available occasionally.

Fig 2.

Top half 2s3d. Lower half 9d receipt given to the sender.

Within two months a third series was issued, the 1d [fig 3] & 2d are particularly scarce to rare with an additional value inscribed “Newspapers Only” including the coat of arms, the 3d being the more commoner of the series occasionally shows up in auction. 

Fig 3.

1d on white paper.

A year later mid 1879 a fourth issue was printed on white & coloured papers wmk as before and known as the “Board of Land & Works” issue Fig 4 the size being four times that of the preceding issue. Released with a greater range of values. A 1d green on green paper is unrecorded. In 1887 three values were added to the series ½d [single newspaper carriage] 8d & 10d. I am yet to see an auction house describe the ½d with the correct date of issue, The mint ½d is the most available of this series as it ran for under twelve months. Sheets were remaindered and sold off to collectors for pennies, this should be well explained by the exhibitor. 

Fig 4

Board of Land & Works Issue.

So called secret marks top left & lower right. 

Late 1887 a fifth series was issued, brought about by the control of the lines changing hands to the Victorian Railway Commissioners. A change in design incorporating William Wyons head of Queen Victoria and printed on plain & tinted wmked papers with values added at the rates changed.  The ½d [fig 5] 4s & 5s being rare the other values scarce but available. A perf study would reward.

Fig 5

½d on lilac paper. 

The 1902 sixth series brought the first of the Commonwealth issues half the size of the preceding series redesigned with the head of Queen Victoria removed, King EDV11 Cypher included in the lower corners. Known as the “Numeral” series. Continuing with the security of both plain & tinted watermarked papers, again a perf study should reward & reversing the ‘used rare, mint common’ for this series if mint copies are shown they should be appreciated by the judges. ½d single newspaper value being rare. All other values are available to 2s with the higher values deleted. I have an unrecorded 6d on white paper. Pre-cancels [fig 6] are known but rare, it is unrecorded how many businesses brought bulk stamps at a discount and precancelled same. This series ran for 15 years and should be well explained by the exhibitor.

Fig 6

A rare diagonal pre-cancel ‘Barrow Brothers’

A redesigned seventh series was issued in 1917 known as the winged issue this incorporated a cartouche for the inclusion of a station name again the ½d is rare [fig 7] to very rare. Several changes inc. watermark & coloured papers, a security tint print added in 1934 and a surcharge, this series ran for 25 years and gives the exhibitor a chance to add to the scope of an exhibit. The reason behind the addition of a security tint print in 1934 was the fact that the 1s, 3s & 5s were forged in large quantities on plain paper being of excellent reproduction, four men were arrested and I went to prison for two years. The forged stamps were attached to films and sent to the country by ‘Film Exchange Agencies’ who were however quite innocent in the matter, I am yet to see a forged copy. All values were tint printed and are available inc. mint remaindered sheets. Unauthorized Specimen overprint sets with station names are known on remaindered stamps and should NOT be included in an exhibit these were privately produced, I am hoping auction houses will read this and stop selling these sets as genuine. Authorized specimen overprints [fig 7] are recorded but on progressive proofs without station name. Unrecorded compound perf/rouletted stamps can be found. Usage is known and should be shown. A station name study should reward.

Fig 7

1s6d Rare official Specimen Rouletted

& Rare ½d no tint print perforated.

The eighth series c1941 reverted back to the numeral design printed on grey security tint & on V over Crown watermarked paper, rouletted & inscribed “State of Victoria Railway Department” [fig 8] all appear scarce and a selection should reward. A further issue red on white with grey security tint & on V over Crown watermarked paper was issued c1943. Available but still scarce with the 4d rare.

Fig 8

4d red on blue paper.

A legend change [fig 9] saw the introduction of the ninth series in 1953. A 10s value has been added to this series, this should be well explained by the exhibitor, nothing rare but appear scarce to find. A good selection should be rewarded. 

Fig 9

Legend Change.

1958 saw the introduction of a further series of numerals which run until decimalization. Sheet layout and stamp size changed but the preceding papers continued. 10s is recorded in light and dark blue with the 4s apparently scarce. Different font size station names are noted and would fill a page or two, personal research should reward.

Fig 10

Different size station name font 27 mm & 23 mm.

In 1956 approximately 100 bulk users namely private firms were licenced to frank parcels prior to delivery at stations, this was evidenced by the licence number displayed on the franking label [fig 11] A few pages of these should reward. Again personal research into the firms licence numbers should reward.

Fig 11.

Private firm licence numbers SP1, 13 & 32.

In all, does the exhibitor have good understanding and knowledge of the subject? and does the exhibitor demonstrate this knowledge?.

Railway parcel stamps lack published information and there are few sources for obtaining material. Thus the depth of original research and the difficulty of acquisition of unusual material should be taken into account when an exhibit is compared with one from the more traditional class, even though parcel stamps are exhibited in traditional.

Treatment is left to the judge’s expertise with the exhibitor following the FIP SREV’s which can be found at the FIP web site here: https://www.f-i-p.ch/ The writer can be contacted at this email address: Dave


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