World Stamps

How to collect Australia’s Kangaroo and Map issues

May 4, 2021, 2 AM

Stamps Down Under — By Janet Klug

Though Australia became an independent federation in 1901, the stamps issued by the Australian colonies of Great Britain continued to be used throughout the nation until 1913.

On Jan. 2, 1913, stamps in 15 different denominations and colors, all depicting the same image, a Kangaroo and Map (a design also known as “Roo and Map”), were issued by Australia. 

The issues, Scott 1-15, extend from a ½-penny stamp in green (Scott 1) all the way to a £2 bicolor stamp (15) in deep rose and black. 

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Many collectors naturally attempt to get examples of all 15 stamps, but upon reaching the 2sh brown stamp (Scott 11), the cost to complete the remaining issues in the series through the £2 stamp becomes quite expensive.

In addition to the basic Kangaroo and Map stamps, there also is a long list of their collectible varieties; the situation becomes complex, causing some collectors to give up, and that’s too bad. 

Try setting some parameters of what you are willing and able to do with this stamp series, and keep it enjoyable.

For example, the Roo and Map stamps include perforations of both gauge 11½ and 12, and some collectors simply don’t like to use a perforation gauge. 

You can collect the issues without measuring perfs, of course, but that choice ignores one of the interesting technical aspects of the stamps.

These 1913 stamps have Scott Watermark 8: Wide Crown and Wide A. If you are not yet experienced with looking for watermarks, the Roo and Map stamps are good to work with. The process is fun and possibly might lead to something valuable. 

Get a nice black watermark tray and watermark fluid from a stamp accessories supplier — you’ll find sources in the display and classified ads in any issue of Linn’s. 

Place the stamp face down in the tray and dribble a drop or two of fluid on the stamp. Watch carefully and see the watermark emerge.

For each stamp you check, make a note about the orientation of its watermark: upright, inverted or sideways. If you identify an inverted or sideways watermark, you have a stamp that has significant value, and that is a good find. It is worth the time and effort to look.

Should you wish to continue collecting Kangaroo and Map stamps from throughout the period of the design’s use, to 1946, you will have to check the watermarks. The stamps all look about the same, but the watermarks can make a huge difference in the value of the stamps.

The early Roo and Map stamps were created using varying dies. A die is a piece of soft metal or other material upon which an engraver etches the stamp image. 

When completed and hardened, the die is multiplied as many times as needed to produce the desired number of stamps on the printing plate. A die variety can occur if more than one die was made, because additional dies could have slight differences.

One of the easiest and least expensive of the first 15 Kangaroo and Map stamps is the 1d carmine (Scott 2). 

Examples of the 1d denomination are still easily found, and there are only three different die varieties for this stamp. Identifying the die varieties does require a very good magnifier.

Look at the bottom-left corner of a 1d stamp, just about even with the top of the letter “O” in “One.” If you find a break through the thin inner frame, you have found Die 1. If you don’t see a break in the inner frame, you have discovered Die 2, which has no break in the bottom-left corner. 

Die 2A also does not have a break at the bottom-left corner, but it does have a break closer to the top-left corner.

To find a Die 2A 1d stamp, move your magnifier about 6 millimeters down from the upper-left corner and see if there is a little break in the inner frame. If yes, you have discovered Die 2A, and you have learned how to identify die varieties.

The procedures mentioned above involve some basic technical stamp skills and are not really difficult, but if you’d rather not get involved in watermarks and dies, you can explore other ways of collecting the early Kangaroo and Map stamps. 

Start with some of the stamps and perhaps some quadrille paper (also known as graph or grid paper) upon which to mount them. 

Using the 1d carmine stamp as an example, you can begin by looking for different shades of carmine. 

Nearby is an illustration of two 1d stamps of slightly different carmine shades: bright red and pale red. 

All of the Kangaroo and Map stamps have color varieties, some of which even have been assigned their own numbers in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.

The more Kangaroo and Map stamps you collect, the more likely you will be to recognize many interesting color varieties.

Another collecting option is to start looking carefully at postmarks on Kangaroo and Map stamps. 

Shown nearby is a 1d stamp mounted on quadrille paper with a barred oval numeral cancel that identifies the town where the letter was mailed. The “120” marking is from Wedderburn, a rural town in Victoria. 

One source for identifying Australia postmarks is New Look Pictor-Marks Priced Handbook: Australian Pictorial and Commemorative Postmarks 1887-1987, compiled by C. Peck. It can be borrowed from the American Philatelic Research Library in Bellefonte, Pa. Details can be found here.

Circular datestamps also are enjoyable to collect. The earliest Roo and Map stamps were issued in 1913, so try finding 1d issues postmarked in each month. 

These stamps also were used in 1914, so while you are at it, find one stamp for each of the 1914 months. That ought to keep you busy for a while.

The Australian states were British crown colonies that became states within the Federation of Australia. Finding 1d Roo and Map stamps canceled from each of the states can be both amusing and educational — you get to see some of the very interesting place names in Australia, such as Koo Wee Rup in Victoria, shown in the last illustration.

The Australia Kangaroo and Map stamps of 1913 kept being reissued through 1946, using different watermarks and perforations, and any of these issues can become fine collections. Gather the stamps, study them, and arrange them in creative ways that will make you happy.

For more information about collecting stamps of Australia, contact the Society of Australasian Specialist/Oceania, Steven G. Zirinsky, Box 230049, Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10023; or visit its website.

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