Amazing Australian airmail souvenir – Dec 2 auction

Amazing Australian airmail souvenir – Dec 2 auction

Vance auctions has a unique must have Australian airmail souvenir in their Dec 2 sale. On the surface, this little pink ticket doesn’t look like much, but a bit of digging unearths its place in Australia’s rich aviation history.

Photo of a Season Ticket for an Australian airmail show 1937

1937 Australian airmail season ticket

Item 1538 Australia airmail ephemera
SEASON TICKET for AIR MAIL EXHIBITION Melbourne 5-7 Oct 1937. Price 2sh6d, green on pink. VF. Beautiful collateral item for the Airmail collector …. Est 100.00+ Vance Auctions Dec. 2, 2020

This small slip of paper will be ignored by a lot of people which means they’ll be missing a true aerophilately gem. The $100 value doesn’t do justice to its historical value

Australian airmail and aviation legacy runs deep

The 1937 exhibition rang a bell.  I remembered seeing references to it in past airmail studies. A quick search verified how important this item is. Between Oct 6-8, 1937, Melbourne City Hall hosted a 3 day aerophilately exhibition. One wonderful thing about the internet is the relative ease in finding original documents. My search through the Victoria government archives uncovered the event calendar.

Front cover from the 1937 Air Mail Exhibition

Cover from the Melbourne Air Mail Exhibition

The 38-page catalogue represents a timeline of early Australian airmail and aviation pioneers.

Aviation has made remarkable progress within a comparatively brief period and the many and varied exhibits, posters, charts and photographs illustrative of the many aspects of transportation by air makes it difficult for one to realise that the first Melbourne to Sidney air mail was carried in 1914 – twenty three years ago. – p. 18 Catalogue of the Air Mail Exhibition

The Bonney Boomerang – Maude Rose “Lores” Bonney OBE

One of the big draws at this exhibition was autographed covers flown by the Bonney Boomerang. Maude Rose Bonney was the first female to fly solo from Australia to the United Kingdom. She’s relatively unknown today, but she was a contemporary of Emelia Earhart and beat her in this race, She completed the 157-hour flight in 1933 and carried a limited number of covers with her. She posted them along the route and the catalogue lays out what autographed covers were on offer:

List of covers sent on the trip

List of covers on sale at the exhibition

Stamp dealers & their catalogues

Another fascinating aspect of this exhibition were the dealer advertisements. A couple are legendary. WM Ackland issued his own catalogues, some of which can be found for sale online. Many old catalogues are still reliable references for collectors. They are an inexpensive way to acquire quality information about stamps and covers. Modern catalogues are expensive and far out of reach for many stamp collectors. Monetary values are out of date, but those are easy to find online.

Thursday 29 December 2016 2

Ackland’s Special Australian Stamp catalogue


Scan of Willaim Ackland business card

Business card for William Ackland. Courtesy Victoria State archives

Sanabria – the best airmail catalogues around

Another renowned seller was Nicholas Sanabria. He took out a full-page ad in the catalogue promoting the 2nd printing of his specialty airmail catalogue Standard Catalogue of Air Posts Stamps.

Page from catalogue with Sanabria ads

Sanabria Air Mail catalogue ads

Sanabria specialised in aerophilately and his catalogues, though out of print for decades, are still invaluable for any airmail collector. The level of detail offered in his catalogues is excellent. A hard cover first edition can be had for as little as $12. It’s worth the investment if you specialise in aerophilately. I often refer to them when I need specialised details that are lacking in Scott or Stanely Gibbons editions.

Explaining Aerophilately & classification

The exhibition catalogue goes on to explain, in depth what Aerophilately is and the various classifications within the field. If you’re new to airmail collecting, print out the page below and keep it for reference. The classification system laid out is still in use today and a wonderful way to organise your collection. You’ll be hard put to find a better write-up.

Page 14 of the Airmail catalogue detailing aerophilately categories

The Scope of Aerophilately

If you get a copy of the exhibition catalogue, check out page 14, which breaks down the categories in greater detail. It’s a handy resource for all airmail collectors to have on file. I’ve barely scratched the surface on this event, and a thorough examination of the 1937 catalogue will uncover much more historical value for Australian history fans.

This old season ticket is an Australian airmail treasure. If you specialise in Australian philately or airmail, you might want to check out the auction here,

Quick note on the catalogue:

I originally found the exhibition catalogue at the State Library Victoria, but when I went to verify the link for this article, it was no longer available.  If it reappears, I’ll add a link. I downloaded the catalogue in pdf form when I began researching the ticket, so if you want a copy, drop me a line below and I’ll send it along to you.


Doping & 1 scarce Royal Flying Corps manual

Doping & 1 scarce Royal Flying Corps manual

Today, we’re going to look at doping. No, no, not that kind, the aviation kind. Early airplanes were made of cloth pulled taut over a wood frame. To protect the wood, and create a streamlined body, the material was covered in something called dope, a liquid designed to waterproof & pull the material tight as it dried.

Looking at an early manual & doping

I have a treat for you today, something from my aviation collection – a 1914 aeroplane manual from the Canadian government’s War Office. While looking at a few patents dealing with doping material I remembered something from this book:

Photo of a 1914 Royal Flying Corp (Canada) manual

Training manual for the fledgling Royal Flying Corps, Canada.

Published 2 months before the outbreak of WW1, the manual covered basics like assembling an aircraft, maintaining the engine, flying it, and of course doping the body. The book is fragile, so I didn’t scan from it.  There isn’t much in the way of diagrams anyway. But it did include a small section on dope:

The shrinking and preservative agents employed by various makers also differ widely. The best known amongst the latter are rubber, pegamoid, cellon and emaillite. P 23 Training manual Royal Flying Corps 1914

Each company developed their own recipe for dope. They were a kind of witch’s brew, with the first being composed of nitrate. Other chemicals included nitrocellulose, cellulose acetate and cellulose acetate butyrate.

British Emaillite Co., Ltd. – the “Premier Dope”

Three aircraft makers are mentioned in the manual – Avro, Royal Aircraft Factory and Farman. Specific models aren’t mentioned, but I suspect they were Avro 504, British Aircraft Factory’s B.E.2 and the Farman MF11, also called the Longhorn.  The manual recommends they all be treated with  Emaillite. The B.E. plane doping was described this way:

The fabric is sewn with needle and thread along the trailing edges and round the curved edges. It is also sewn with twine through the plane to the reverse side along each rib. Rubber solution is then rubbed into the fabric with the fingers along each rib and rubber adhesive tape applied. Rubber adhesive tape is similarly applied around the curved ends and the trailing edges.

Dome-headed brass tacks are driven in along each rib to further secure the fabric. The planes then receive three coats of the correct emaillite solutions. pg. 23

Magazine ad for Emaillite dope for airplanes

The Premier Dope Ad Rec. Num. 5 of 128
Source: Aeroplane July 3rd, 1913

The British Emaillite Co. was around from about 1911 to 1921 when it was acquired by the Titanine company. It’s difficult finding solid information about the British Emaillite Co, but after a lot of searching, I found a patent for their cellulose acetate dope from around the time the RFC manual was written.

Patent # GB191206798A by British Emaillite Co., Jan. 14. 1914

I could only find abstracts from the patent, not the entire paper. But it is informative as to what chemicals were used:

A fabric for aviation apparatus that is invisible or indistinctly visible is formed of films of cellulose acetate or like compound. Materials are added to modify the refractive index of the compound so as to render a reinforcing-material, such as silk or cotton fibres, placed between the sheets, invisible.

In an example, a composition, comprising 110 grm. of acetate or hydroacetate of cellulose, 35 grm. of a mixture composed of equal parts of naphthol, ethylic ether of naphthol, and benzene sulphonamide, 880 grm. of tetrachloride of ethane, and 120 grm. of alcohol, is spread on glass, and very fine silk tulle placed upon it while still moist. This is stripped off when dry and placed, tulle side downwards, upon a second moist layer of the composition spread on glass, and, when dry, the completed fabric is removed from the glass.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t download the entire patent, and Google Patents doesn’t offer it, just a reference. I did however obtain a 1917 patent, from the same company.

Patent # US1298199A Cellulose-ester dope or varnish by British Emaillite Co., filed June 13, 1917

This invention relates to the manufacture of dopes of the kind used for coating the surfaces of aeroplanes, and its chief objects are to improve the  adhesiveness, strength and surface of the coating and to reduce or eliminate the poisonous or deleterious properties of dopes.

From an aviation perspective, the patent is quite interesting.  Chemistry aside, it offers a bit of insight into the purpose of dope.

Aeroplane dopes must pro­duce in and on the fabric employed an elastic highly contractile film with a hard surface which when struck must yield a clear resonant note (an indication that the necessary contraction has been obtained) with sufficient body and rigidity (obtained so by a succession of coats) to retain its stream line contour during flight.

So, the dope had to dry tight enough to protect the wood and pull the material taut, to keep the airplane streamlined, but not so tight it would damage the aircraft by warping the frame. If you’re interested in the chemical components, look at the patent US1298199A – Cellulose-ester dope or varnish. – Google Patents for the details.

For now, the manual is back in its protective wrapping and back on the shelf. It’s been a real treat paging through it.

Oh what a beauty – Chalon head vignette for auction

Oh what a beauty – Chalon head vignette for auction

Collectors of early Canadian (and British colonies) will recognise the phrase “Chalon head”. There is only one – the famous Queen Victoria Chalon depicting a very young QV. Vance Auctions has an intriguing ephemera offering in next week’s sale (Jan 30, 2019) :

Queen Victoria Chalon head vignette (engraving)

Queen Victoria Chalon head vignette (engraving)

7909 – Engraved b/w 19th Century vignette depicting the QUEEN VICTORIA CHALON HEAD oval portrait sunk directly on to card (60 x 78mm). VF, Scarce. Would make a perfect opening page item for an early Canada collection. Ex Highland ….Est 500.00+ from the Vance catalogue

It’s about 2.3” x 3” in size (for those who don’t speak metric) so, yea, it’d make a great faceplate for any Chalon collection.  Usually, we see the image in a squished down format (Chalons aren’t terribly large) so it’s nice to see it in a (slightly) larger format.

The oval portrait appears on a number of early stamps from Canada, New Zealand, Tasmania, Bahamas, Queensland, Natal and Grenada, comprising some of the most collectable stamps I know of. I’ve met people who go gaga over them and dedicate a hefty portion of their collections to Chalons.  They are alluring little beauties to chase.  Although I’m more a Small Queens fan, I do appreciate the odd time a Chalon passes my desk, even if it’s a Jubilee edition.

Scan of an 1887 Queen Victoria Jubilee 1/2c stamp

1887 Queen Victoria Jubilee 1/2c stamp

I’ve had a few low quality Chalons in my collection, but have to confess to swapping them years ago for some early airmail stamps. Push comes to shove, I’ll sacrifice my Queen for airmails. So about the only ones I have are the few Jubilees, which really aren’t Chalons in the strictest sense in my opinion.

The Chalon image is from an Alfred Edward Chalon painting, c 1837, of Queen Victoria in full robes shortly after she came to the throne.  I tried to find out where the original painting hangs, but pretty much every article I read looped to Chalon stamps. It’ll take a trip to the library to find out, so next time I’m at the reference library, I’ll pop into the art section and see if I can find an answer. If you know, drop a note in the comments section.

Portrait of young Queen Victoria, painted by Chalon

Queen Victoria, portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon c 1837 | [Public domain]

An engraving of Victoria’s head from this portrait, by Samuel Cousins, was distributed to the public as souvenirs on coronation day.  It was later the basis for the famous Chalon stamps.

So, back to the topic, the engraving, if your interested, wander over to Vance and check it out.  It’s auction item #7909, listed under ephemera.  Don’t forget to search for Chalons stamps as well. There are a couple of bargains, including a New Zealand lot (#7381).

If you’re looking for a bit of fun, check out the mystery novel The Chalon Heads by Barry Maitland. I read it a few years ago and found it thoroughly enjoyable. I mean, how many murder mysteries are centred around stamp collecting? This one has it all – murder, forgery, Scotland Yard, stamp collecting, Chalon heads, what more do you want?  Check out Good Reads.

A short bio on Alfred Chalon: Archives Canada

For information on engraver Samuel Cousins:
A kickass article on New Zealand Chalons can be found at Ashford Stamps Limited:


Sparks Auction gem – WW1 war saving poster up for grabs

Sparks Auction gem – WW1 war saving poster up for grabs

I wrote about this WWI war saving poster back in 2015 Canada war revenue poster – Great War propaganda. I put it up as my wallpaper now and then because I like it so much. It’s one of those posters you look at and idly think wow wouldn’t that be great to own.

1918 Canada WW1 war saving poster

#FWS1-4 var World War I War Savings Stamps Poster

Imagine my surprise when I was leafing through the Sparks catalogue for the upcoming auction and saw it listed. Not just any copy of the poster – a pristine issue. I’ve never seen it up for auction in all the catalogues I’ve looked through. It’s the type of offering that appeals to collectors from a number of areas – philately, WW1, history, ephemera and propaganda.

This poster is quite remarkable because of it’s condition. For a 100 year old piece of paper, it’s still bright, crisp and nearly as clean as the day it rolled off the press.  Very importantly, it comes from a non smoking home and stored properly, so it won’t have the nasty yellowing so often seen on old paper documents.  According to the listing, the poster wasn’t folded, and  never used for public display, hence the sharp colours.

#FWS1-4 var WW1 war saving poster,

an original poster measuring 20½ x 27 inches, printed and issued by the National War-Savings Committee, Ottawa. These were folded twice to be mailed to post offices for display, and this one appears to have escaped any public display, as evidenced by its gorgeous condition, bright colours and such. It depicts a large $5 stamp (FWS2) in colour of issue (green) plus nine smaller 25c stamps (FWS1) in brown.

This poster alerted the public for the purchase of the 1918 series of War Savings Stamps, as listed by van Dam as #s FWS1-4. A very rare showpiece, which has been stored in a non-smoking and archival environment for the past 100 years. There is a small (insignificant) repair in the lower left margin, else a remarkable poster, in fresh original condition, offered in a rigid top loader protective sleeve for viewing. Another great addition to the other lots we offer pertaining to this interesting issue. – Sparks Auction #27 catalogue

The  estimate is set at $750, well worth the price for such a great piece of Canadian, philately and WW1 history, especially one in such prime condition.  Check it out it out – Sparks Auction #27 pg 54 in Part 1 — Canada & British North America.