4th June 2012
Plain or Fancy ?
Some collectors prefer their cancellations plain, others are attracted to 'fancy' types, but with the 'cork' cancellations of the Falkland Islands you can enjoy something of both.
The last sale of our Spring 2012 season is approaching rapidly and the strong section of Falkland Islands that it contains will provide us with a good overall view of the state of this market. Of particular interest within this lengthy section, which constitutes the entire afternoon session on Tuesday June 12th, is the group of lots that brings the important Clive Perkins Collection of Corks to an appreciative public.
For those not already acquainted with these cancellations, this definition provided by S. H. Creese in a paper read first to the Manchester Philatelic Society, and later reprinted in the March 1936 issue of the Philatelic Journal of Great Britain, still largely holds good, although we have since recognised a certain degree of artistic input in their design.
"The ‘Cork’ cancellation, as is well known, received its name from the fact that the cancelling stamp was made from a cork by cutting nicks out of the face. No set pattern was aimed at and there is consequently some variety of shape and size. In some case the ‘cuts’ are quite small and more or less uniform in size, while in others they are as much as seven or eight times as large and anything but uniform. The number of cuts varies from about four to twenty."
The Corks are cousins of the so-called Fancy Cancels of the U.S.A. where cork bottle stoppers were once used in post offices to apply the ink required to cancel the stamps. This ‘obliteration’ had worked well but looked so messy that it could be sometimes difficult to tell one stamp from another and so a groove was cut across the centre to form a marking that appeared as two semicircles. A second cross-cut groove at right angles would create what is now known as a country pie, whilst the addition of two more cuts makes an eight-segment city pie.
Once this sort of thing has begun there can be no halting human creativity and many hundreds of imaginative local variations may now be found, including skulls, pitchforks, animals and a wide range of geometrical shapes.
For those who like their cancellations to have character, but to be a little plainer, the Falklands Corks may be what you are looking for, allowing you to gather the colourfully named Pincers, Broken Windmill or Stonehenge, together with the more mundane Little 4 x 2 or Large Squares.
The earliest of these marks dates back to their usage on the islands’ first stamps in 1878, continuing right up until 1896 with particular types often known used on one mailing only. Forty variants are currently listed by the Heijtz catalogue, ranging from the simple two-segment Cricket Ball of 1894 to the attractive Africa of 1895 that would appear to represent the dark continent surrounded by a black halo.
According to Robert Barnes in his The Postal Cancellations of the Falkland Islands these marks were “probably the work of William Coulson who was so much involved with the postal day to day duties at Stanley throughout this period of time until his death in 1899.”
Born near Peterborough in 1843, Coulson is an interesting character who arrived in Port Stanley in the 1860s having worked as second mate on the Government mail schooner Foam; itself a vessel with a colourful history, having earlier carried Lord Dufferin around the Arctic seas, voyages which he later recounted in entertaining fashion and to great acclaim in his Letters from High Latitudes.
In 1866 Coulson dramatically saved the life of the new Governor to the islands, William Robinson, who almost drowned when the pilot boat on which he was arriving capsized in Stanley harbour. He was rewarded by an offer of employment which he accepted, later becoming government clerk with direct responsibility for all mail to and from the islands. He was held in high regard for his hard work and commitment to this task and it is very sad to relate that two lady clerks were belatedly assigned to assist him at busy mail times only in the very week that his health finally failed and he passed away at the not so great age of 56.
Due to smudging and deterioration the Cork cancellations can sometimes be challenging to identify and details about them has only slowly emerged over the years with research still continuing. Some types have proven to be very scarce indeed, particularly examples on the covers and cards that have provided us with the information we hold on suggested dates of use of each type.
Lot 704 in our June auction (right) represents the only known example of the 1894 Metal Ring on a complete postal item. In fact, due to its thin outer circle some believe this may not be a ‘cork’ at all, but possibly some form of metal handstamp pressed into hasty use. Nevertheless, its unique status makes this rare cancellation a very desirable item indeed.
So, if your Falklands collector husband (or wife) has been looking miserable recently, why not give them a ring . . . ?