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31st October 1956

The 1956 XVIth Melbourne Olympics.

Staged in Melbourne from November 22nd to 8th December.

This motley set of four has little to recommend it as a series. Each stamp of course is beautiful, but as a whole, they are unrelated.

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Melbourne Coat of Arms.

Layout: Medium Type A, Portrait.

Printings had already been completed for this series when a postal increase to the basic letter rate was announced. Rather than apply an overprint, the 3d was  re-engraved and reprinted. A small number of the original printings, perhaps 12 stamps, were released from the Australia post archives in 1988.


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The Olympic Torch

Layout: Long Format Type C, Portrait.


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Collins St, Melbourne

Printed by Harrison and Sons, England by photogravure.

Sheets of 80, 8 x 10.



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Yarra River, Melbourne

Printed by Courvoisier, Suisse by helio . This is a superior stamp. Ignorance and Empire caused the authorities of the time to select the inferior Chambon photogravure presses,

Sheets of 80, 10 x 8

Imprint strip across middle 6 stamps on top and bottom of sheets.


Images courtesy of Geoff Roosen



Appropriately featuring Australia's first use of true multicolour stamps. Colour was a spectacular introduction to the general post ww2 drabness of daily life. I can well remember being startled by the colourful Olympic rings adorned on city buildings.

The 1/- and 2/- values were printed overseas as part of a competitive tender for new photogravure printing presses. Whoever 'won' would supply photogravure machinery to replace the Hoe Rotary Recess machines. In fact, Harrison 'won' due to Xenophobia as the Swiss 2/- is a demonstrably better stamp. Perhaps in justice, and ironically, the installed presses were subsequently found to be inadequate to the huge quantities required and were confined to short run commemorative issues.

It should be noted the unique firsts associated with these issues.

bulletThis was the first time the Commonwealth had contracted for printing outside of it's own premises.
bulletThey show blatant advertising for the two companies on every stamp
bulletUnlike any other Australian issues, they contain the sheet value in the margins of the post office sheets.


Aside from the Olympic Games, the thematic content is notable, municipal government and heraldry being the most prominent subjects, but the design also contains elements relevant to the cattle and wool industries, whaling, and shipping.

The ACSC states: "All preparatory work for the base-rate value of the Olympic Games issue was done on the basis of a 3d value. The increase of the basic letter rate to 4d on 1st October 1956 was done on short notice, and necessitated a change of value. By that time, however, the 3d die had been engraved, steel master plates and electrotype plates prepared, both for sheet stamps and a special plate for a 3/6d booklet. No sheet stamps were printed, but a printing was made from the 432-on booklet stamp plates comprising 27,000,000 stamps. The Post Office retained some uncut sheets of the 3d booklet stamps [and destroyed the balance]...The Archival Sales are the sole source of the 3d stamps. In total 40 stamps were sold, comprising four singles, four booklet panes of six, and this Plate Number 2 block of 12."


Unissued inter-marginal block of 12 (3x4) comprising two complete booklet panes with a complete Plate Number '2' [BW #332E(1)z].  Ex Australia Post Philatelic Archival Sale  and Tim Rybak
commemorative booklet covers Unissued
2/- imperforate colour separations in blue, purple, yellow or pink plus the composite proof which differs from the issued stamp in that the inscription '1956 XVIth OLYMPIAD MELBOURNE' is in white instead of dark blue. Also the sky and the banks of the river are in deeper shades than on the issued stamp. All affixed to part of a page from the Courvoisier record book Phase d'Impression #1.


a very similar lot but from Phase d'Impression #2 (in red at the upper-right) with the first proof being in a deeper (less greenish) shade of blue, printed date of production 'Actes No 563.32.11 du 25.4.56' at the base.


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