About this Handbook
To the diligent collector, oft referred to as a 'philatelic student', there are some very good reference materials available. In most cases they are far better in detail than this handbook's intent. Notable are Rosenblum's 1966 edition, Brusden White, The Australian Commonwealth Collector's Club volumes, Seven Seas Stamps of Australia Catalogues, Philately from Australia volumes, Stanley Gibbons, Robson Lowe, to name a few.
One failing of many handbooks is the degree of assumed knowledge. Some assume the student knows what 'pip' marks are. Others explain pips without diagrams. Other examples are terse references to '640 on printing', 'mill sheets', 'left pane imprint blocks'. "Huh? there's more than one?". Who is Purves?
In this work, I take great pains to explain terms as they appear. I cannot be wholly successful in that endeavour, without risking tediousness and boring the reader through repetition, exceptions, and over use of parenthesis. But, as a general rule, I have attempted through extensive footnotes, to keep the flow of dialog easy to read.
Secondly, of necessity, catalogues deal with material almost exclusively on a price basis. What variation of 'large hole' coil stamp is available at what price, with generally no explanation how, what or why this intriguing 'large hole' came about. Other examples are infinite lists of shade variations, individually priced. The student can glean little other than there are in fact shade variations, but no knowledge as to what printing process could bring this about. The only Catalogue the author has knowledge of that does an outstanding job, is Cambell Paterson's stamps of New Zealand. All other imitations of this superbly put together companion sadly lose the plot in careless presentation.
By far the best information available is in the quality of material issued regularly by PfA and ACCNSW . The necessary failing is that the 'student' really does need to read several decades of back issues to catch the plot, as much of it requires a had to have been there to read it condition. Understandably, the editors of these volumes, occasionally collate material, and publish a monogram.
There is a very poor understanding of the unrelated issues of philatelic scarcity, popularity, price, and philatelic significance. Authors of most volumes would lead you to believe , or imply, some mystic connection between them. A 5/- bridge is a pricey item, it is not at all scarce. There is great appeal in commonly misplaced and missing perfs, they have no philatelic significance. The KGV recess issue was one of the most significant philatelic events. They are dirt cheap. A specific unwatermarked KGV is both a rare, highly sought after and very expensive item. It has almost no philatelic significance being merely the beginning of a watermarked roll. Shade varieties are a pest and a nuisance, but some are extremely attractive. The point is, you the reader, must discern for yourself the desirability of individual items, as any text will introduce its own bias.
It is the authors belief, and this handbooks main thrust, that by concentrating on the printed sheet for each issue a full understanding of the stamps will ensue. The intention is to explain the issue by it's printing method, location of imprints, plate numbers, perforations and papers.
The last word on any Australian Commonwealth issue will never be written, nor does this handbook attempt to do so. What it does attempt to achieve, is a solid grounding for others to delve deeper into the nuances, vagaries and misprints of any issue and thereby solve some riddles on their own.
In time, there will be any number of collectors who, with specialist knowledge on the subject, will point out errors in this work. This is as it has always been since the GB Penny Black first appeared. Publish and be damned. However, for the majority, this work, and labour of love, is hopefully an important reference source, revealing hitherto unknown aspects of the stamps they collect.
This Author humbly submits his work to the philatelic public as a collation of all he has read and studied. I make no claims to original research. The information presented here is intended to be a reference, so that the interested student can continue with good grounding, and greater understanding, of the subject concerned.
If I make any claims to originality, it is solely in the presentation. Any opinions expressed, and all mistakes are my own.
My hope is, that you take as much pleasure reading this material as I have had in preparing it.
Mike Andrew, New Years Day, 1998