Two covers addressed to A.A. Rosenblum, one definitely philatelic and the other suspiciously so, are an introduction to the publisher of a classic book The Stamps of the Commonwealth of Australia A Handbook for Philatelists by Alec A. Rosenblum O.B.E., B. Sc. This book was the standard text for this subject from its first edition in 1922 until its greatly expanded sixth edition with its supplement in 1966.
The internet is surprisingly useless for researching this Australian philatelist and any discussion of him is related to my personal copy of his fifth edition published in 1947-8. The only competition to Rosenblum’s book on the Commonwealth Stamps of Australia was the Australian Commonwealth Specialists’ Catalogue by S. Orlo-Smith first published in 1926 which went through 15 editions to 1955, and which was successively published by John Gartner for 24 editions, by Seven Seas Stamps for 2 editions, and then greatly expanded into the ongoing editions published by Brusden-White. These have all been catalogues with prices, but this was not Rosenblum’s goal.
The first cover is for the 5th Anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it has 2 copies of the 2d red Harbour Bridge stamp (one each of the recess, above, and one of the letterpress below, printings), as well as the 3d blue recess printing. These stamps were issued on the 14 March 1932, the bridge opened on 19 March 1932 and the Fifth Anniversary cover is dated 23 March 1937, during the Australasian Philatelic Exhibition..
The stamps are cancelled with 2 copies of the red 5TH AUST. PHILATELIC EXHIB/ 345P 23 MR 37/ SYDNEY, as well there is a green boxed 5TH AUSTRALIAN/ PHILATELIC/ EXHIBITION/ SYDNEY marking, and there is a R6 Registration label with 5th Aust. Philatelic Exhibition, Sydney. The letter is addressed to Alec. A. Rosenblum Esq., Box 1657 N., Melbourne, Vic (Figure 1).
The reverse has a copy of the same green boxed mark, as well as a transit REGISTERED/ F/ 23 MR32/ B/ SYDNEY N.S.W and a reception postmark REGISTERED/ 1-15P 24MR32/ MELBOURNE (Figure 2).
The second cover has a faint typed ‘First Flight King Island’ placed over a R6 registration label Elizabeth St. Melbourne VICTORIA, a blue Air Mail label, 2 copies of the red 1½d and a single red 2d KGV head stamps, indistinctly postmarked but with a nearby CURRIE/ 18 OC 33/ KING ISLAND cancel. The faintly typed A.A. Rosenblum, King Island, Tasmania is crossed out and there is a manuscript ‘Unclmd, Return to sender’ with an arrow pointing ro the printed address for Rosenblum, the same as that on the first cover. Eustis states this #338 flight, Currie to Melbourne was on 14 October 1933 (Figure 3).
The lack of information on Rosenblum is surprising, but his now out-of-date book went through 6 editions and is still a source of information not available elsewhere. He approached the subject of Commonwealth of Australia stamps in a scientific manner, but gave no information about the rarity or the price of the stamps. He gave more information concerning certain features which are often ignored, such as the thickness and quality of the paper, the presence of small holed perforations, and more particularly perforations that were seen in his times, but in recent times relegated to a footnote in the Brusden-White ACSC Postage Dues 1999.
This was brought home to me in May 2007 when an Australian stamp auction had an auction lot that was described as follows: 1902 Blank Tablet at Base 3d emerald watermark inverted with White Flaw in Front of ‘D’ of ‘DUE’ as (type) D10d, Perf 11.8 marginal example from top of sheet, a couple of short perfs at the base and a little soiled at lower-right, manuscript cancellation (my underlining) as was the common practice. Unlisted in ACSC. RPSofV Certificate (2006) (Figure 4).
ACSC states "The 3d Perf 11.8 has been reported to exist and was previously listed, but no examples have been identified by modern-day collectors and the listing has been deleted pending confirmation of its existence." The existence of this stamp has been reported to Dr. Geoff Kellow for inclusion in the next edition]. On page 227 of his fifth edition, Rosenblum lists perf. 12 x12 for the emerald green 3d postage due for the 1902 Provisional Postage Due issue (blank tablet).
The statement (of not reported to exist by modern-day collectors) is repeated in the ACSC for three other values of the 1902 blank tablet at base postage dues, namely the ½d perf. 11.5, the 1d perf. 11 and the 6d perf. 11.5. Rosenblum’s book lists all of these perforations, also on page 227. This gives some idea of Rosenblum’s depth of knowledge of Australian postage dues.
The aforementioned lot had only bidder and it was sold for the entry level price of AUD 3,800. I wonder how many Australian postage due collectors rushed to do what I did, and found not one such 3d perf 11.8 item, but a postally used block of six of the watermark inverted in my collection. The block has a marginal line on the two left hand stamps, and 4 incomplete and 1 complete cancel of the late use Type 2 HOBART/ 14 DEC 18/ TASMANIA postmark. The block has not had certification, but 2 of my philatelic colleagues believe that the stamps are the long-lost 11.8 perforation (Figures 5 & 6).
Explanation for Figure 6: The block had a best fit on all four sides on Stanley Gibbons Instanta perforation gauge for 11.8.
The 5 cm ruler used in Figure 6 was used to count the perforation tips in 5 cms.
If the block was the common11.8 along the top of the stamp and 11.5 along the side of the stamp then the side of the stamp would have had 28.5 perforation tips in 5 cms, as in the calculation:
11.5 x 5 cms divided by 2 cms = 28.5 tips.
If the side of the block was perf. 11.8 as stated, there should be 29.5 perforation tips in 5 cms:
11.8 x 5 cms divided by 2 cms = 29.5 tips.
Rosenblum rounded up the perforation to 12, and there should be 30 perforation tips in 5cms:
12 cms x 5 cms divided by 2cms = 30 tips. What do you think?
This is my tribute to a great Australian philatelist, and a surprising find.
Addendum: Alec A. Rosenblum (1895-1973) was probably the most prolific writer on the Australian philatelic scene in the 1920s and 1930s. He served as editor of both the Australian Philatelic Record and the Australian Stamp Monthly. He first wrote on Victorian topics, but soon turned his attention to Australian Commonwealth philately and produced much of the basic research on the Kangaroo and King George V values. He described the dies of the Kangaroo stamps and performed much research into retouches and re-entries on various KGV issues. His discovery of the retouch of the line though the value flaw (thin FOUR PENCE) on the 4d KGV was the first published report of a retouch on the surface printed stamps of any country. He also published important serials on the N.W.P.I. overprints and the Lakatoi electrotypes of Papua.
Both Rosenblum and Purves assembled great collections of Australian Commonwealth stamps which became the focus of interest at the 1928 Melbourne Philatelic Exhibition. The Judges' nod went to Purves. A picture of Rosenblum is seen in Figure 7.
Alec Rosenblum's researches culminated in the publication of his The Stamps of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1922, and this handbook became the "bible" for collectors of Australian stamps, and it went on to its 6th edition in 1966. Rosenblum claimed it was the longest running handbook on stamps written by the same author. A picture of the 1922 handbook is seen in Figure 8.
I am indebted to the article in the Australian Philatelist, Vol. 1, No. 3 June 1988 pp. 43-49 by Geoff Kellow and Richard Breckon.
Addendum: A portion of this paper, related to the find of the perf. 11.8 blank tablet 3d Postage Due find, has been published in the NSW Philatelist, May 2007, Volume 29 pages 1-3.
Addendum (October 2010): A better photo of Rosnblum with other philatelists is seen in Figure 9.