World Stamps

Here’s how to classify the 1888 centenary stamps of New South Wales

May 1, 2021, 6 AM

By Janet Klug

Collecting stamps from Australia’s former British colonies can be an expensive proposition, particularly colonial stamps issued by New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria between the 1850s and 1880s.

Nevertheless, each of the colonies has classic stamps that fall into the realm of “budget friendly,” and good examples are the lower denominations of the stamps marking the centenary of New South Wales, issued between 1888 and 1910.

Eight different designs were created for the centenary through a competition undertaken in November and December 1887 by the New South Wales post office.

The competition generated 956 submissions from 250 entrants. The images were executed in pencil and were displayed publicly. The New South Wales postmaster general was the judge of the competition.

The competition first-prize winners were Maximilian Tannenberg (three winning designs), Mary Devine (one winner), H.A. Barraclough (one), Charles Turner (two), and Mrs. F.W. Stoddard (one).

As an interesting aside, Mrs. F.W. Stoddard appears to be the same Mary Devine who submitted a winning 2-penny design that wasn’t used on a stamp.

Mary Devine was the daughter of a Scottish painter, Peter Devine, studied art herself, married Frederick W. Stoddard in 1875 in Edinburgh, and moved with him to New Zealand in 1878 and to Australia in 1880.

Mary Devine Stoddard, 1852-1901, became a well-known and prolific painter in New South Wales.

Only five of the eight stamps show winning designs, however. Two others used nonwinning designs by Devine, and one was developed independent of the competition.

The lower-denomination designs, as listed in The American Journal of Philately, Jan. 1, 1903, are the 1-penny City of Sydney (Scott 77) designed by Tannenberg; 2d emu (78) by Devine (not a competition winner); 4d Captain Cook with Coat of Arms (79) by Barraclough; 6d Queen Victoria and Coat of Arms (80) also by Tannenberg; 8d lyrebird (81) by Devine (not a competition winner); and the 1-shilling kangaroo (82) described as “made up by the authorities.”

Two high-denomination stamps, 5 shillings and 20 shillings, were issued. The 5sh stamp (Scott 85) features a map of Australia, designed by Turner, and the 20sh stamp (86) depicts two New South Wales governors, Arthur Phillip and Lord Carrington, by Mrs. Stoddard.

Phillip is mentioned in this following brief history of the colony from the New South Wales government:

“In 1770, the HMS Endeavour, captained by Lieutenant James Cook sailed into Botany Bay. Cook claimed dominion over the territory for Great Britain under the name ‘New South Wales’. The claim was formalised by the arrival of the First Fleet in January 1788; which led by Arthur Phillip, established the first European settlement in what is now Sydney. Phillip was appointed the first governor of NSW in February 1788, and the colony became a state in 1901 after Australia was officially declared a nation.”

The 5sh and 20sh stamps fall outside the “budget friendly” classification, but with patience and determination you are likely to find them at a price you want to pay, in a condition that satisfies you.

These eight stamp designs might seem straightforward enough to collect, but there are complicating factors.

The stamps were issued beginning in 1888, and additional stamps with the same denominations and images were still being printed in 1890.

There also were stamps overprinted “OS” (for “Official Service,” used on government mail).

Each stamp design comes in a variety of perforation gauges.

Because stamps with certain perforation gauges have more value than others, it makes sense to spend time with an accurate perforation gauge to make sure you have the stamps you paid for.

Eight different watermarks come into play, as well. And yes, the watermarks make a difference in value, too.

All told, I counted in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue 67 different listings for these eight designs. That’s a lot, but when I referred to the Stanley Gibbons catalog, I counted 114 different listings.

The complexity of collecting these or any other difficult stamps can be reduced by spending time making a table or chart that lists all of the varieties of the stamps in an order that makes sense to you.

I chose to make a table keeping each of the different denominations together, rather than organizing by Scott catalog numbers. This way, all the stamps bearing the same denomination can be compared with one another.

Once begun, such a project can become addictive; plus, you will become extremely proficient at working with your perforation gauge and watermark detector.

Enjoy the process — the results really are worth the effort.