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Australia 1931-36 £1 grey "The Kangaroo and Map", SG137

SKU RS3488

Australia 1931-36 £1 grey "The Kangaroo and Map" interpane horizontal pair with ‘JOHN ASH' imprint, SG137.

A fresh and fine unmounted mint example with full original gum (usual light fold in interpane margin).

A rare and desirable positional piece of Australia's most famous stamp.

Australia specialised catalogue no: BW 54za.

The Kangaroo and Map (also referred to as “Roo and Map”) was the first stamp issued by Australia, on the 2nd of January 1913. It has captured the minds and hearts of collectors ever since.

It was issued amidst great controversy…

The controversy of The Kangaroo and Map stamp

It took 12 years from federation for Australia to issue its first stamp.

One of the reasons for such delay was the amount of political debate regarding the design.

In 1911, the Postmaster-General’s Department launched a competition to come up with the ultimate stamp design for Australia’s first stamp.

The competition attracted 1,051 designs from 533 entrants.

The first prize was originally awarded to Hermann Altmann from Victoria. He produced a classic design featuring the full-face portrait of King George V. It was customary at the time for all stamps from British Commonwealth countries to include the King’s head.

However, a new Postmaster-General called Charles Frazer had different ideas…

He did not want any inclusion of British royal symbols or profiles. He believed:

“A postage stamp is one of the best advertising mediums the country can have”.

He demanded the design should break tradition to make a bold statement about the new nation. He wanted a symbolic home-grown design. The kangaroo, as the national animal emblem of Australia, needed to feature on the stamp.

The final approved design amalgamated the coastline map of Australia by the water colourist Blamire Young and the Kangaroo from one of the runner’s up from the previous competition, Edwin Arnold (ironically, an Englishman).

The design was widely criticised…

One letter to a newspaper said: “The design is delightfully empty land with nothing but kangaroos in it.”

The Argus newspaper from Melbourne went even further in its damning criticism, saying: “Our postage stamps go all over the world; they become, in the course of time, a sort of national symbol; and it is therefore very annoying to find that our country is to be represented in the eyes of the world by a grotesque and ridiculous symbol, and that she will be a laughing-stock even to childish stamp collectors of every nation.”

With the notable absence of the image of King George V on the stamp, the government was accused of being unpatriotic and anti-British.

Regardless, a determined and modernising Frazer was not to be swayed. He got his way, thus creating the stamp that today is considered iconic and representative of the strong and bold nation of Australia.

The stamp was so successful it remained in circulation for the next 35 years until it was withdrawn in 1948.

The Kangaroo and Map stamps were reissued through to 1946 using different watermarks and perforations. The stamp issue has become a field of specialised philatelic study.

Many famous collectors over the years focussed exclusively on building a whole collection of just the Kangaroo and Map stamps.

Learn more about this stamp in our newsletter.

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