Australian ‘emergency stamps’ become modern rarity


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02 May 2016
$_57-88973.JPG The rare stamps
Sets of Australian 30c ‘emergency’ stamps, issued during a recent shortage prompted by a price rise, are selling for hundreds of pounds on the internet.

Sets of Australian 30c ‘emergency’ stamps, issued during a recent shortage prompted by a price rise, are selling for hundreds of pounds on the internet. 

The emergency stamps were produced in Adelaide following the rise in ‘standard letter’ domestic postage rates from 70c to $1 in January. With a shortage of 30c stamps to make up the new rate, the Adelaide GPO printed emergency stamps featuring the value and the text ‘Adelaide 2016’ using a Counter Printed Stamp (CPS) printing machine said to be more than twenty years old.

An Australia Post spokesperson told us: ‘Prior to the Basic Postage Rate increase, and currently, customers have been able to purchase 30 cent stamps to use in conjunction with existing 70 cent stamps to send a regular letter in Australia. This follows an increase to the Basic Postage Rate in January 2016 from 70 cents to $1. A small number of Post Offices in Adelaide sold what is known as “counter printed stamps” which were printed locally to meet customer demand in the first few days of the new price coming into effect. The standard 30 cent stamp, featuring a crocodile as the image, continues to be available across Australia.’

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The stamps, which depict photographs of kangaroos and koala bears, are thought to have been on sale in selected post offices across the state for no more than three days, making them very rare. ‘This emergency printing stock was distributed to a small number of outlets in and around Adelaide late on January 5, and the first day of cancelling of posted mail bearing the stamp took place the following day,’ Australian stamp dealer Rodney Perry said.

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‘By 8 January, stock of the regular issue 30c stamp had been replenished, and no further printings of the CPS emergency stamps were produced. The initiative to print the emergency stamps was a practical decision, purely to satisfy demand for essential postal purposes, and was both innovative and justified. Were it not for the chance encounter by a philatelist on 18 January, it is likely that the principal source of this stamp issue would have been those stamps used in the normal course of postal service.’

Now the stamps are selling for high prices on the internet. A set of six of the 30c stamps sold for A$1,651 (approximately £800) after 49 bids on eBay recently, while a single value featuring a photograph of two kangaroos sold for A$118 (£57). According to Rod Perry around 12,000 stamps have been produced, or 2,000 sets of six design units. ‘This estimate is based upon fifteen Adelaide vicinity post offices receiving between 500 and 1,000 stamps each,’ he told us.

The news has attracted interest from both philatelists and the national press in Australia, with newspapers such as The Sydney Morning Herald reporting on the story. Australia Post shared news stories about the emergency stamps on their own social media pages, but have rejected calls to print more of the stamps or sell related collectables such as first day covers, insisting they were ‘retail’ rather than a ‘philatelic’ products.

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