[Van Diemens Land]

This article was firstly published on the website of Charles Leski Auctions

we have upload it here with Malcolm Groom kind permission.

Van Diemens Land:

Collecting Tasmania

by Malcolm Groom

When a collector considers a country or area to collect they have a reasonable expectation that they will achieve some level of completeness, make some discoveries and develop an interesting collection. They might also be hoping to have access to literature on the subject and gain an increased level of philatelic knowledge as a result of the collecting experience.

So why would Tasmania fulfil those expectations?

Tasmania can provide a collector with challenging and rewarding results in the traditional area of its stamps; postal history and postmarks from the earliest period of the Australian Colonies; revenues and Cinderella's and a comprehensive range of postal stationery issues.


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For those considering venturing into the traditional field of the stamps of the Colony, Tasmania can provide the full scope. In November 1853, 150 years ago, the first locally produced issues were issued to meet the needs of the Post Office Act requiring the prepayment of postage by application of postage stamps. These are amongst the most attractive 'primitive' issues of the time, known as the 'Couriers'.
For those captivated by the miniature beauty of the Chalon portrait widely used amongst the British colonies Tasmania
produced, through Perkins Bacon in London,

three beautifully printed examples of the Chalon portrait which replaced the Courier issues of 1853/54. With the transfer of the Perkins Bacon plates to the Colony a wide range of papers, shades

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and perforation varieties was produced by the local printers to provide a marvelous field for study of inks, papers and methods of perforation. The middle issues, colloquially known as the Sidefaces and Tablets (1870 to 1899) also provide study opportunities in shades, watermarks and perforations with many scarce varieties across the full range of 'philatelic terms illustrated'. If you want to learn about double prints, retouches, compound perforations or inverted watermarks they are all represented in these issues.
The Tasmanian Government was amongst the first to use their postage stamps to promote the scenic beauty of the island. The Pictorial series introduced in 1899/1900

gives a 'potpourri' of the printing methods and associated problems of the time on an easy to study format stamp which was a widely condemned design at the time because of it's departure from the portrayal of the Monarch's head and it's large size. If you have an interest in line engraving, lithographic, stereotyped and electrotyped printing the peculiarities of those printing methods are there in abundance.

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If you are seeking a subject where the objectives of completeness, variety and the opportunity of finding new information can be met then the stamps of Tasmania has great appeal.

Some of the early markings from the three initial post offices of Hobart Town, Launceston and George Town are much sought after as they form some of the earliest postal history of any of the Australian colonies. There is a rich store of postal markings emanating from the colony. In 1853 a set of numeral cancellers was issued to postmasters who were also required to endorse mail with the name of their office. With some 60 offices open (including Norfolk Island) at the time there exists both rarity and the possibility of approaching completeness within this field of collecting. The manuscript endorsements by the postmasters would even intrigue the handwriting specialist.

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Tasmania was established as a Penal settlement by the British Government up to cessation of transportation in 1853 and some wonderful social history can be gathered amongst the surviving letters written to and by convicts in the colony. Move into the period after 1860 and the next series of numeral obliterators provides 392 possibilities for the postmark collector. Whilst this sounds larhe, compare it to the numbers available in larger colonies and possibilities of nearing completion in Tasmania are enticing. Tasmania's circular datestamps which began appearing in 1900 as cancellations on the stamps rather that the covers provide a similar range of common to very rare cancellers but completion is a possibility. Here the presence of these cancels on large format Pictorial stamps makes the search for them more enjoyable as complete strikes range are available with some searching.

If your interest in postal history leans towards maritime mails, disinfected mail, instructional markings or postal rates the situation of the island on the other side of the world to the 'mother country'of Great Britain offers a formidable opportunity for the study of these aspects of the postal history.
Tasmania mails linked to all the principal contract mail carriers from the Toulim packets from 1846 through the P&O contracts, Australian Royal Mail, General Steam and Orient lines. Tasmanian mail endorsed to be carried on these services make an interesting collection and are eagerly sought out by collectors.

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Postal Stationery

If there was an aspect of postal stationery, Tasmania produced it. Whilst starting late with the introduction of postal cards in 1882 the colony eventually produced registered envelopes, wrappers, a wide variety of printings of postal

cards both locally and from England and a set of pictorial envelopes widely acknowledged as the most attractive produced in the field of postal stationery.

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Consider that only 306 sets of these delightful items are available.Embossed stationery was made available to the general public and commercial firms by order. Sometimes

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dismissed because of a 'philatelic flavour' they present an intriguing field for collectors seeking somewhere to find some recognised rarities. At the same time as they introduced the Pictorial issues Tasmania issued scenic lettercards in 1990

promoting some of the Colonies natural attractions. These were the forerunners to the Commonwealth of Australia lettercards begun in 1911. There are still a number of undiscovered combinations of scenes and colours amongst these series of cards.

Revenues & Railways Stamps

The colony produced a wide variety of postal fiscals and revenue stamps commencing with the St George & Gragon designs and the Platypus series. These can be found in a variety of printings, watermarks and perforations and have the added interest of being used for a period. With a range of embossed duty stamps, applied to documents, betting tickets and receipts they make a fascinating collection with many underestimated rarities. The railway system also produced a series of labels used as parcel stamps and these provide a real challenge for those seeking an interesting collecting field.

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There are three 'bibles' for Tasmanian collectors. Basset Hull produced the reference work for all aspects of Tasmanian philately in 1890 as 'The Stamps of Tasmania'. The increased interest in the collecting of postal history in the many years after this was published resulted in the 'Green books' otherwise known as the two volumes of 'Tasmania – Postal history and Postal markings'. Much has been discovered since their publication and articles and listings can be found in Philately from Australia produced by the Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria and 'The Courier' published on a regular basis by the Tasmanian Philatelic Society. Magpie Publications also produced a series of extremely useful volumes listing and rating post offices, postmarks and reproducing the many Acts and postal notices from 1803 to 1891. The Revenue and Railway stamp collector is catered for by the catalogues published by Craig and Ingles on these subjects and a cursory reading of these catalogues shows the variety in the issues available for study. A number of significant auctions catalogues record major collections offered over the years, especially since 1986. These provide key references to many items discovered since the major literature works were published and also provide a sense of the rarity of important items of Tasmanian philately.


A brief reference to the key correspondences which are known in connection with Tasmanian philately is warranted. As you gather together covers you will be regularly reminded of the Tattersall's lottery operation in Hobart whose correspondence has provided the backbone for much of the later postal history and markings of all Australian colonies. There are also the Leake and William Johnstone correspondences which added significantly to known world Tasmanian covers and were the source of many key markings. William Crosby and Pigeon & Son covers are also part of the tapestry of Tasmanian philately as is the R.E Smith correspondence from the later nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. There are few Tasmanian collections that do not contain items from these correspondences. To gain an understanding the subject better and in assessing the scarcity of items as they turn up.

There are few comparable fields as provided by Tasmania in philatelic terms where there is a chance of completion, the variety of philatelic subjects is wide and the possibility of discovery and adding to the store of knowledge is offered.

A forthcoming auction devoted entirely to Tasmania philately is being offered by Charles Leski Auction in Melbourne on November 18th 2003. It represents a unique assembly of the full scope of Tasmanian stamps, postal history, revenues and postal stationery produced by the colony. It is appropriate that it coincides with the 150th anniversary of the first Tasmanian stamp and the bicentenary of European settlement in Tasmania. The sale includes significant Gold winning collections formed by collectors who have tasted the joys offered by the philately of the island colony. Perhaps this is the opportunity to start a new challenge or build an existing collection and even discover why they chose to collect Tasmania.