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Information and Reference of the Designing, Printing and Distribution of the Stamps Through the British Crown Agents Philatelic Services

Scott Catalog 438-41, Stanley Gibbons 464-7

Saint Helena 1985 Audubons Birds Stamps
Marquee for Golowe's Reference Site on the Format International Security Printers

In my acquisition of the documents used in the trials against the Format International Security Printers Ltd. and the associated companies including the British Crown agents philatelic agency, I found 65 documents in reference to the creation and distribution of the 1985 Audubon Birds stamp issue for Saint Helena.
These documents give a much clearer look at how stamps are created, produced and distributed to collectors around the world.
This group of documents gives us a basic idea of how all Saint Helena stamps were produced during the 1980's and 1990's and how varieties were commonly requested by the philatelic agencies to promote collecting and increase revenues.

These documents were originally intended to prosecute the above mentioned companies for illegal intentional production of errors and varieties where in the end of the trials it was proven they did nothing illegal and produced varieties of stamps legally and under contract to do so.

Anyone who contests the facts given can request a pdf file of all the documents for a fee.

The Creation

In May of 1985 The Saint Helena Stamp Committee met for the first time since June of 1984. They expressed disappointment at there not being any new stamps issued for Saint Helena for the year. The topics of stamp issues was already set by the Crown Agents and the Birth Bicentenary of John J. Audubon issue was one that was approved.

In the research to find Audubon paintings of birds that related to Saint Helena, only three could be found. The decision was made for the Common Gallinule, Noddy Bird and the Tropic Bird.
Since Saint Helena's style of stamp issues during that time was generally four to five stamps in each issue, a fourth stamp needed to be decided on. It was suggested by John Gothard of the Crown Agents on June 7 to use a portrait of Audubon which would complete the set nicely.

It was agreed and on June 18 Mr. Gothard telexed the Saint Helena Treasurer Phil Knights that the Crown Agents were proceeding with production of the issue. At this time the release date was not decided and Mr. Gothard requested it so the Crown Agents could obtain maximum publicity. Orders were sent to the Format International Security Printers to print on June 17. First Day Covers without stamps were ordered to be produced by B.C. Deere Ltd. Trade Diestampers on June 20.

On June 24 The Garden Studio invoiced the Crown Agents for the artwork for the Audubon portrait stamp and the First Day cover Artwork. The art was done by Josephine Martin.

On July 2 a telex was sent to the Crown Agents from the Postmaster stating the issue date would be September 2, 1985.
On July 3 the Crown Agents were invoiced for photographic services by Norman Harvey A.R.P.S..

On July 8 announcements through the Crown Agents were released on the upcoming issue.
On July 10 telex was sent to Saint Helena requesting change in format of stamp positions on the First Day Covers.
It was agreed on to have the three birds on the upper right corner and the portrait on the left between the country name and signature.

The Quantities Produced

In my research on the printers and practices they followed it is little known by the majority of collectors and most "experts" just how massively produced stamp issues really are. In many cases the quantities that a given country states were issued and what was actually produced and distributed to the market are extremely different. This does not just hold true to the PDC, Format Printers and various companies who were put on trial. It holds true with the majority of other philatelic agencies, bureau's and printing companies who were and are doing the same exact thing. The trials against the Format Printers revealed these facts. What is being overlooked and or completely ignored is the fact that basically all of the printers followed orders given to them by the philatelic agencies. This one case will show you the evidence that even the British Crown Agents stamp company were ordering quantities and varieties in limited quantities just as the PDC (Philatelic Distribution Corp.) did.

The reason I state this is because these documents are based on orders given by the British Crown Agents who many argue would never do such a thing!

The table below is another example where the philatelic agency (namely the Crown Agents) ordered large quantities of this issue.

On June 17, 1985 the Crown Agents Stamp company ordered the Format International Security Printers to print the following quantities and send them to the listed locations.

11p 25,000 20,000 10,000 55,000
15p 25,000 20,000 10,000 55,000
25p 25,000 20,000 10,000 55,000
60p 25,000 20,000 10,000 55,000

3,500 Special First Day Covers were also ordered and sent to the postal authority.

The Postal authority is of course the Falkland Islands Philatelic Bureau. CASB is the Crown Agents Stamp Bureau based in the U.K. CAPC is the Crown Agents Philatelic Corporation which was based in the U.S.

This shows that the Crown Agents ordered large quantities of stamp issues in exactly the same way as Philatelists Ltd., PDC and many other philatelic agencies did and are doing today! I do not have a specialized book on the Saint Helena stamps but I am fairly certain that the stated quantities issued in most is far less than what was actually produced and exists today.

On July 17, 1985 the Crown Agents ordered these special varieties from the Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau.
750 First Day Covers
300 Sets of Stamps 'Cancelled to Order'
On August 23, 1985 the Crown Agents ordered these special varieties from the Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau.
10 Sets of Stamps 'Cancelled to Order'
On November 22, 1985 long after the first day of issue the Crown Agents ordered these special varieties from the Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau.
200 Sets of Stamps 'Cancelled to Order'

Is there a difference in ordering these varieties from the Philatelic Bureau in the stated limited quantities or ordering imperforates, Specimen overprinted or progressive color proofs in the same fashion from the printer? None whatsoever.
Many times CTO stamps are produced by the printer rather than the philatelic bureau. It only depends on whether the country has invested the funds to purchase the special cancel equipment needed to run the panes through. Many times for many countries who do not have this equipment 'cancelled to order' stamps are made by the printer instead.

In the case of the Saint Helena Audubon stamps indeed the CTO stamps have a rarity factor and were ordered directly from Saint Helena by the Crown Agents based on orders from buyers. Much like gutter pair orders from other countries for Saint Helena it appears with the exception of a few sets that the Crown Agents did not order them from this country during the later 1980's, but rather decided for Saint Helena to concentrate more on CTO sets instead.

On September 7, 1985 the Crown Agents acknowledged receipt of the 750 First Day covers

Saint Helena Official 1985 Audubon First Day Cover
Saint Helena 1985 Audubons Birds Official First Day Cover
The following documented evidence shows how the Crown Agents worked to gain profits with large stamp dealers by creating unofficial first day covers almost a year after the day of issue!

On April 16, 1986 the Crown Agents posted a request for advice on the status of FDC cachets they sent to Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau to be cancelled with the First Day of Issue dated September 2, 1985. Indeed stating they were for the Unicover Audubon Project.
Unicover was in fact Fleetwood a major U.S. based company that produced first day covers, commemorative covers, panels and many other stamp related projects.

Fleetwood 1985 Saint Helena Audubon Birds Unofficial First Day Cover
Saint Helena 1985 Audubons Birds of the World Fleetwood First Day Cover
Fleetwood 1985 Saint Helena Audubon Birds Unofficial First Day Cover Back
Saint Helena 1985 Audubons Birds of the World Fleetwood First Day Cover Back
On April 21, 1986 the Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau responded stating they could not identify the Unicover Audubon Project and to please send full details.

On May 5, 1986 the Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau telexed the Crown Agents stating 4500 covers affixed with the 25p and 60p Audubon stamps were received but with no correspondence. Again asking if these were for the Unicover Audubon Project.

On May 6,1986 the Crown Agents responded stating indeed that they were. The offer to Saint Helena was 7c (U.S.) for each cancel plus the return airfreight fees.

Here again is solid evidence of a bureau using the special First Day cancels long after the actual date of issue. It shows that this practice of cancelling first day covers upon demand rather than only on or before the first day of issue is commonplace. It is solid evidence that the majority of the unofficial Fleetwood first day covers were never cancelled on or before the first day of issue but were cancelled for guaranteed profits from customer orders long after the first day of issue. Therefore unless proven otherwise all Fleetwood First Day Covers are not First Day Covers at all! Many are falsely advertised as First Day Covers, They are deceiving collectors into thinking they are first day covers by printing that they are on the back on many like 60th Birthday FDC's.
You can call them commemorative covers that were sold at the time and even today at much more than they will ever be worth. I am sorry but this is just another example of seedy people that have infested the philatelic market. It should be illegal for a philatelic bureau to use a first day cancel device after 24 hours of the day of issue. Any country and company that does not comply with the rule should be shunned from the stamp market.

The Rarities Produced

In my analysis of the trial documents and what is on the market my conclusions are:

The stamps in and of themselves are quite common. Around 45,000 sets exist.

Around 1-2,000 Official Stamp First Day Covers exist unless all were saved which is usually not the case.

The rarer items are:

Only around 500 CTO stamp sets exist unless more were made and not documented. Try to find them! In my searches I found only one set out of dozens of mint sets. With many CTO stamps it is the other way around.
Gutter pairs seem non-existent and there is no documentation of any orders for them.

No errors appear to exist for this set.

It was stated in one document by the British Crown Agents philatelic agency when they were promoting contracts to various countries that it is inadvisable to retain a philatelic agency that is a stamp dealer claiming the Crown Agents were not. One reason being that the dealer run agency would retain errors and varieties getting the"jump" on other dealers thus hurting philatelic popularity of the country.
This section of documents and evidence shows that the Crown Agents were involved in creating limited varieties and ordering double the quantities that were ordered by the Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau. This is supposed to not happen according to their own standards and collectors beliefs. This information has either been overlooked or ignored by collectors, dealers and "experts" alike. In most cases probably because of the fear of devaluing the stamp issues and varieties they hold.
Instead of looking at the evidence presented in the trials against the Format Printers in the sense that all printers and agencies were doing the same thing, they singled out one printer and their associates and ignored the others.

So the question is who is at fault? The Saint Helena Philatelic Bureau or the British Crown Agents Philatelic Agencies....or us for not delving deeper into what really goes on behind closed doors of philatelic bureau's and agencies and the printers they use!?!

As for British Crown Agents Stamp Company not being a stamp dealer...well, what were they going to do with all those stamps....store and admire them? I never saw anywhere that they were a "non-profit" organization. Have you?

This basically sums up the development and production of the Saint Helena 1985 Birth Bicentenary of John J. Audubon Birds Issue.

References taken from:
Stanley Gibbons Saint Helena and Dependencies
Scott Catalog
Trial Exhibit #476

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UPDATED LAST ON: 31-Jul-2015 06:27 PM