Royal Reels: Gambling


This World War II censored cover was posted ‘On His Majesty’s Service’ from Canberra A.C.T. on 17 FEB 1942 with a machine cancel postmark ‘REGISTER/VALUABLE/MAIL’on the 3½d overprint on the 3d blue KGVI stamp. It was sent to Mr. Alfred Lichtenstein at a London S.W. 9, England address. In spite of it being sent from a Commonwealth of Australia Department of the Interior, Acton, Canberra A.C.T., it was subjected to opening with a red ‘3 Opened by Censor’ label, as well as a purple diamond shaped mark ‘3/ Passed / by/ Censor/ 305’. It had a London reception postmark at Stockwell S.W.9 on 8 May 1942, with a manuscript redirection to Cassila de corred central No 2479 Buenos Aires, Argentina, where it received an Argentinian postmark (not legible) on 26 JUN 42. There were 2 additional Spanish manuscripts, one in black, and one in red, both not identified (Figure 1).

On the reverse, the easily identified roller postmark shows that the cover arrived in Buenos Aires/ 28 on 27.6.1942 and there were several additional small Argentinian postmarks, plus the folded-over red Australian Censor Label, and a large black printed label ‘P.C. 90/ OPENED BY EXAMINER/ 1,093’ presumably originating in England (Figure 2).

An additional finding was the presence of an English label printed in black on green paper which stated: ‘P.C. 11./ POSTAL CENSORSHIP./ The British Censorship is not responsible for the mutilation of this letter’. The label was initialed by the censor ‘D.K.B.’ (Figure 3).

I presume that the double censorship, in spite of the cover originating from an Australian Federal department was because of the Germanic sounding name of the addressee, a highly respected American philatelist.

Alfred F. Lichtenstein (August 6, 1876-February 24,1947) was the president of the Ciba Company in New York, a world famous manufacturer of dyes, and the forerunner of a giant drug pharmaceutical firm, Ciba-Geigy. He grew up in Brooklyn and acquired an interest in stamps whilst in school, and he became one of America’s most famous philatelists. During his lifetime he built some of the greatest collections ever formed: Canada and the Provinces, Switzerland, Cape of Good Hope, Gambia, Ceylon, Mauritius, Uruguay, Argentina and U.S. Western Express franks. Not only was he an ardent collector, he was also a perfectionist in his acquisitions, aiming to obtain the best copy in existence.

He retained a strong predilection for stamps of the classic period and he has been quoted as saying that all stamps issued after 1870 were junk. His (and his daughter’s) enormous stamp holdings were auctioned by Harmer’s in 1968-71, 1989-92 and 1997. His honours in the philatelic world were prolific and he was often referred to as “the philatelist’s Philatelist”. His memory lives on in the prestigious Lichtenstein Medal established by the Collector’s Club in New York in 1952. For 3 decades Lichtenstein was an international judge and he was the chairman of the 1913, 1926 and 1936 international philatelic exhibitions held in the U.S. He was also named chairman of the 1947 Centenary International Stamp Exhibition (CIPEX), but he died less than 3 months before it opened (Figure 4).

A special exhibit of part of his collection was displayed there in his honour. Money was no object, and he spent large amounts in obtaining the best stamps. He purchased the George H. Worthington collection for $500,000. His stamp collection valued at over 3 million dollars was left to his daughter. His daughter, the Vassar-educated Louise Boyd Dale (1913-1967), inherited Lichtenstein’s collection, but she already had a major stamp collection and philatelic reputation prior to his death. In particular she expanded the U.S. area of his collection. She was an accredited philatelic judge and in 1956 she became the first woman to serve on the jury for an International Philatelic Exhibition, (FIPEX, New York). The philatelic community mourned the passing of Louise Boyd Dale in 1967 at the age of 54 (Figure 5).

Addendum:  As stated above the extensive Lichtenstein collection was sold by Harmers of New York in multiple sales over many years and this is the front of their catalogue of Australasia held on May 14 1990 (Figure 6).

Addendum (November 2007):  A composite photo taken from a Harmer’s advertisement of three philatelic giants is shown for Alfred Lichtenstein, his daugher Louise Boyd Dale, as well as Alfred H. Caspary (Figure 7).

Categories: Philatelists