Commonwealth Stamp Booklets 1913 – 1937


Stamp booklets which were manufactured after the introduction in 1913 of a uniform stamp series for Australia contained only stamps of that category. However, during 1913, the earlier types of booklets continued to be sold until exhaustion of stocks.

These earlier booklets were of three main types: a £1 booklet containing 120 twopenny stamps, a £1 booklet containing 240 one penny stamps and a 2/- booklet containing 18 one penny and 12 halfpenny stamps. Each type, of course, existed in six sub-types by reason of the inclusion of stamps of the six regional series bearing the name of the respective States.

Australian SB22 1927 2/- Canberra booklet.
Australian SB22 1927 2/- Canberra booklet.

It had been decided in 1910 to discontinue £1 booklets of twopenny stamps. However, because stocks of this item were slow-moving, some years elapsed before supplies became exhausted. In some cases, the stamps were removed and sold separately to clear stocks.

The £1 booklets containing one penny stamps, in their six forms, were in much greater demand and as only small stocks were held, it became practicable to introduce early. in 1913 a uniform £1 booklet containing 240 one penny stamps of the 1913 Kangaroo and Map design. However, the quantity manufactured was comparatively small as by 1914 the £1 booklet was on sale with a content of 240 one penny King George V stamps.

The 2/- booklets containing stamps of the regional series were also replaced early in 1913. The first edition of the new class of booklets appeared early in the year and contained 24 of the 1d. Kangaroo and Map stamp. This was followed, later in the same year with a booklet containing 18 one penny and 12 halfpenny stamps of the same series.

The next major change was the inclusion, in lieu of Kangaroo and Map stamps, of 18 one penny and 12 halfpenny King George V stamps. This booklet appeared early in 1915. The first edition was apparently printed in red on pink but covers of other colours, such as light buff and grey-green, and possibly others, were utilized for subsequent printings.

A decision was made in October 1916 that in future the contents of 2/- booklet, should comprise only one penny stamps. However, considerable stocks of the current booklet (containing both halfpenny and one penny stamps) were on hand and were not disposed of by distribution from the Stamp Printer until 1917. Thus the new booklets, containing one penny stamps only, did not become available to the public until after April 1917.

The covers of these booklets were printed in black on deep red in the first instance and other colour combinations doubtless occurred subsequently. In the same year, a change was made in the cover of the £1 booklet, at that time being printed in red on pink. The new cover, in the same style as before, was in black on red. This was a temporary measure, due to difficulties in regard to cover board supplies. By late 1917, the £1 booklet covers were being printed in black on pale pink. It should be mentioned that the same design, as had been in use prior to 1913 was still being utilized and booklets were still divisible into six types, distinguishable by the pictures of the respective General Post Offices of the six capital cities on the back covers. However, printings had varied in colour from time to time. The inside covers of these booklets were ruled with appropriately headed columns. As was the case from 1914, the £1 l booklets continued to contain 240 one penny King George V stamps.

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1½d. Postage, 1918

Due to postal rates being increased by a war tax of a halfpenny per article from October 1918, it became necessary to alter the contents of both 2/- and £1 booklets.

At first it was planned that the former should contain 12 one penny halfpenny and six one penny stamps. Subsequently it was decided that they should contain 16 one penny halfpenny stamps, but this was not found practicable because of manufacturing difficulties. Eventually, it was decided to produce 2/3d. booklets to contain 18 one penny halfpenny stamps. These latter booklets were first distributed in January 1919.

At this time also the familiar design of the £1 booklet was discarded and a smaller rectangular size was adopted. Contents were determined as 160 one penny halfpenny stamps. This booklet was first distributed early in 1919.

The previous 2/- and £1 booklets, containing one penny stamps only, were also being maintained on sale at post offices but by reason of the new postal charges, they were in little demand. All stocks of these booklets were recalled from post offices in July 1919 and placed in reserve. Late in 1920 and early in 1921, by which time the letter rate had risen to twopence, these booklets were placed on sale again, either complete, or with the covers detached. .

The course mentioned to dispose of stocks of the 2/- and £1 booklets containing one penny stamps was extended also in 1921 to dispose of remainder stocks of 2/3d. and £1 booklets, containing one penny halfpenny stamps, which had been held in the Stamp Printer’s stocks.

Both the 2/3d. and £1 booklets contained, at first, the one penny halfpenny King George V stamp in black-brown colour and subsequently the same stamp in red-brown colour. Cover stock of several different colours was utilized. .

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2d. Postage, 1920

Consequent upon the increase in the letter rate to two pence from 1st October, 1920, it was decided that 2/- booklets should contain 12 twopenny stamps and £1 booklets 120 of the same denomination, the latter to be in eight blocks of 15 stamps. These booklets became available generally by early 1921. The stamp therein was the twopenny orange King George V.

Late in 1921 when it could be seen that some revision of foreign postage rates would take place, efforts were made to have stocks of all booklets, particularly the 2/-, utilized as quickly as possible so that a new edition could be prepared.

However, because of an unforeseen delay in the revision, the work could not proceed and to meet current demand it was necessary to issue a small supply of 2/- booklets with plain covers, in buff or pink, for a few weeks from February 1922.

Late in March 1922 the printer was supplied with the requisite information to enable work on the new edition to be put in hand and booklets therefrom, containing the twopenny King George V stamp in red colour, were issued shortly afterwards.

In late February or early March 1922, a new experimental £1 booklet was placed on sale. This contained 90 twopenny red and 15 fourpenny violet King George V stamps. The booklet was intended to replace the £1 booklet containing one penny stamps only but it did not prove popular with the public. In June 1922 it was decided to discontinue the arrangement and revert to the former content of 120 twopenny stamps only.

During July 1922 certain amendments became necessary to the printed postal information on the back covers of 2/- booklets. As an interim measure, it was required that the changes be made by hand on existing stock of booklets held in the States.

Cover stocks at the Note Printing Branch were provisionally amended by the use of type in the two places required. The amendments comprised an alteration of the parcels rate to the United Kingdom by the all-sea route from 1/- to 1/4d. for the first pound, and the words “except U.S.America 1½d. 4 ozs.” after the rate for newspapers to foreign countries. When this overprinted cover stock was used up, the amendments were incorporated in the text of new printings.

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Reduction to 1½d. Postage, 1923

New postal rates effective on 1st October, 1923, brought about a lid. letter rate and it was decided that future 2/- booklets should contain 16 one penny halfpenny stamps and that the £1 booklets should be made up of 160 stamps of this value. At that time the penny halfpenny King George V stamp in use was of green colour and was included in both booklets.

It was found that the inclusion of 16 stamps in the 2/- booklet brought about manufacturing difficulties and early in 1924 the value of the booklet was altered to 2/3d. and 18 one penny halfpenny green stamps were included. There would appear to have been two different editions, distinguishable by different printing colours on the cover.

Later in 1924, when the colour of the one penny halfpenny stamp was altered to red, the content was so varied for both 2/3d and £1 booklets.

During the penny halfpenny postage period differences of watermark and perforation came about and these were reflected in the contents of successive editions of booklets.

A special 2/- booklet was issued on 9th May, 1927 in connection with the opening of Parliament House, Canberra. This booklet contained 16 one penny halfpenny Canberra commemorative stamps, with a specially-designed front cover. A picture of H.M.S. “Renown” and descriptive text appeared on the back cover. The total issue was 72,200 booklets.

In 1.928, a special plate was prepared for the printing of one penny halfpenny stamps to be included in the 2/3d. booklets, the impressions being arranged in the plate in units of six. Half these units were upside down in relation to the other half, and as a consequence, half of the stamps printed from this plate and subsequently included in the booklets showed the watermarked inverted.

Because of amended telephone charges and changes in postal rates on parcels which became effective on 16th December, 1929, the text on both the 2/3d. and £1 booklets had to be altered. All booklet covers printed after 7th January, 1930 embodied the desired changes.

Further changes came about later in 3930 consequent upon Postal Union Convention decisions affecting small packets. The Note Printing Branch was asked on 21st August, 1930, to incorporate the required amendments in future issues of both 2/3d. and V booklets.

During 1929 the Australian Post Office had issued a 3d. air mail stamp and in Yarch 1930 it was decided that it should be made up into booklets to contain 12 stamps and 12 air mail labels. Proofs were approved on 16th April, 1930, and a printing of 50,000 booklets was authorised. Distribution of supplies to post offices commenced in July 1930 and it was placed on sale, at the price of 3/-, immediately upon receipt of stocks. Supplies of the printing became exhausted at the Note Printing Branch in September 1933 but at that time considerable stocks were held in the States. The cover of this booklet was printed in black on blue and included on the front the words “AIR MAIL SAVES TIME”.

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2d. Postage, 1930

New postage rates effective from 4th August, 1930, brought about twopenny letter postage and the requirement to include twopenny stamps, instead of one penny halfpenny stamps, in both classes of booklets. The new 2/- booklets, which appeared later in 1930, contained twopenny red King George V stamps on small multiple crown A paper. The booklet cover was green with printing in deeper green. On the back cover, within a panel, was the injunction “USE THE AIR MAIL”. Concurrently, a £1 booklet containing 120 stamps was provided.

The Note Printing Branch was requested, in December 1930, to vary the printed text relating to the maximum weight of small packets in both booklets. A further change, approved in May 1931, included a modification of the front cover of the 2/- booklet to show the content at the top and some postal charges below. About this time also a decision was made to discontinue £1 booklets.

From about December 1931 the 2/- booklets included the current twopenny King George V stamp on paper watermarked small multiple crown C of A. As from 1st March, 1933, postal information included a change in the rates of postage for parcels posted in Australia for delivery within Australia.

The next change in the text took place in June 1934, affecting telephone charges. Opportunity was also taken to redesign the front cover upon which was featured a notice headed “IMPORTANT!I” and commencing “Address your mail fully…”

Changes in the text relating to registration were made in September 1934 and booklets embodying the alteration appeared shortly afterwards. The same section was amended again a few months later, additional matter being added, and the relevant booklets were in circulation from about April 1935.

It had been decided, in December 1934, to order a further supply of air mail booklets. The order was not lodged, however, until February 1935, and was for 12,300 booklets, each to contain 12 air mail labels. The front cover of this booklet was arranged quite differently from that of the 1930 edition and it carried the injunction “USE THE AIR MAIL”. The booklet became available to the public in May 1935. No further supplies of the air mail booklet were printed.

As from 1935 Commonwealth Bank advertisements were included in the ordinary 2/-booklets, this move necessitating the redesigning of the front cover. Paper stocks used were of two shades of green.

Reference has been made in the philatelic press to a booklet containing the twopenny Anzac stamp of 1935. However, examination of all available papers has not disclosed that this stamp was authorized for inclusion in booklets and a search of Note Printing Branch records has also proved fruitless. For those reasons, a booklet containing twopenny Anzac stamps cannot be recognized, on the evidence at present available, as being part of the authorized booklet issues.

The 2/- booklets containing twopenny King George V stamps were continued in use until later in 1938 being then replaced by booklets of smaller format containing twopenny King George VI stamps.

Extracted from APO Philatelic Bulletin Vol 13, No 6.