Royal Reels: Gambling


This fine registered cover looks almost too good to be anything but philatelically inspired. It has a 3 colour stamping with the red 1½d Opening of Canberra Parliament stamp of 1927, the blue 3d Kookaburra stamp of 1928 and the green 3d first airmail stamp of 1929, a total of 7½d, all finely placed and postmarked by three HARDEN/ 6-P 10 JE 30/ N.S.W postmarks. It has the blue AIR MAIL vignette and the Harden N.S.W. registration label applied, as well as the crossed red crayon markings, which carefully do not impinge on the stamps. It is addressed to Mr. A. Cormack, C/- General Post-office, MELBOURNE, Victoria which address is crossed out and redirected to the PO Harden NSW, both in red manuscript (Figure 1).

The reverse has 8 postmarks, the central one being the identical Harden originating postmark surrounded by 3 Melbourne registered postmarks, all of which are different. The first of these is the reception REGISTERED / 2/ 315 P 11 JE 30/ MELBOURNE, the next is REGISTERED/ 815 A/12 JE 30/ MELBOURNE with the distinctive 4 horizontal lines, both above and below the date faintly applied, and the third is similar but not identical to the first, REGISTERED/ 4/ 3 P 17 JE 30/ MELBOURNE.

The first TPO which has both a black and a red arrow is difficult to interpret but appears to be T.P.O.1 SOUTH/ UP 10 JE 30/ 3/ N.S.W, the TPO with a single black arrow is T.P.O.2 SOUTH/ UP 18 JE 30/ 1/ N.S.W. and the third with a single red arrow is of a different configuration to the other two, T.P.O.1. SOUTH/ UP 18 JE 30/ 1/ N.S.W, showing the two horizontal lines, one above and one below the date-line (Figure 2).

The first TPO was UP to Sydney on10 JE 30, and the letter was received in Melbourne by air from Sydney on 11 JE 30. The vendor has identified all 3 of the TPO’s as UP, and does not give the dates, but has identified the types as ‘2S8’, rarity rated as ‘8’ and is also the earliest recorded date; ‘1S11’ rated as ‘6’; and, ‘1S13’, rated as ‘6’, respectively. All these ratings are from Richard C. Peck’s Travelling Post Offices (of N.S.W.) 1985, updated to 2005.. As they are on a cover, the ratings for each would be uprated one point to 9, 7 & 7, respectively.

My interpretation is that the cover travelled from Harden to Sydney on June 10 1930 as a TPO, went by air Sydney to Melbourne, was not picked up at the G.P.O. in Melbourne (remaining there from the 11 to17 June, until re-directed back to Harden. It was sent to southern N.S.W. by unrecorded-on-the-cover means, thence by two TPO’s in NSW on the 18 June arriving in Harden on or after the 18th June. Because of the complexity of the routing, I have to admit that the sender could not have produced this fine cover by any philatelic connivance. But, a list of people living in the Federal Capital Territory in 1929 shows an A.Cormack as a junior Postal Assistant working as a Telegraphist in Canberra. I do have a feeling of mild paranoia concerning the cover’s provenance, but Harden is “about 80 minutes drive north-west of Canberra via the Barton Highway and the Burley Griffin Way…..(it is) situated on the Main Southern rail line linking Sydney and Melbourne”, (a quote from website:, so that philatelic connivance is difficult to justify.

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