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Oceania/Australia : A brief history of W.C.G. McCracken and other Australian printers

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Rob1956
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Member ACCC (Australian Commonwealth Collectors Club of NSW)
25 Mar 2017
06:15:13pm
In 1940 John Ash retired as government printer after taking the reins from A.J. Mullett in June 1927 until his retirement in April 1940. W.C.G. McCracken took up Ash's former position and immediately started utilising the Ash plates complete with the imprint of John Ash still intact.

In 1941 McCracken started reprinting the ½d roo with the 1938 plates (as well as issuing the first roo stamp with a coil perforation); and again using the same dies for the 1949 issue.

Two years after the death of John Ash in 1949, McCracken continued to use the Ash dies, this time he altered the imprint by substituting the Ash imprint with his own name; same 1938 die different imprint. The usage of the original plates of the ½d roo caused plate cracks in various sheets of the stamps; in one case creating a truly unique very early state of plate crack.

McCracken also opted to use the original thick paper instead of his signature thin paper when it came to using the original plates.

All Coronation specimens printed under McCracken's name and by the "By Authority" imprint were printed on thick paper as thin paper for the overprint was not suitable.

All Coronation stamps officially sold as 1938 and yet have McCracken's name is technically true; though they were not issued in 1938 but in 1949; and the technical part is, they were reprinted from the 1938 plates.

Illustrated below, starting from left, 1938 10/- Ash printing on thick paper; 1949 10/- McCracken printing using the 1938 plates on thick paper. 1938 £1 Ash printing on thick paper; 1949 £1 McCracken printing using the 1938 plates on thick paper. Notice the only difference is McCracken's use of deeper shades.

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History of Australian Printers

1909: A Stamp Printing Branch of the Commonwealth Treasury Department was established, with J.B. Cooke as the first Commonwealth Stamp Printer.

May 1918: J.B. Cooke retired and the Stamp Printing Branch was abolished as a separate entity; the printing of Commonwealth postage stamps was made the responsibility of the Note Printing Branch, which originally was a branch of the Treasury Department. T.S. Harrison, Note Printer and Engraver, succeeded Cooke as the Australian Note and Stamp Printer.

1924: The Note and Printing Branch transferred to the control of the Commonwealth bank.

February 1926: A.J. Mullett, retired Victorian Government printer, acted as the Australian Note and Stamp Printer until a successor to Harrison arrived from Great Britain in June 1927.

June 1927: John Ash, born in Perth, Scotland in 1872, was the Printing Manager of De La Rue & Co., before coming to Australia. He was the first Stamp Printer to take a serious interest in the quality of stamps produced, and the changeover from letterpress to recess-printing was effected in the early 1930s. Ash retired on Friday, April 19, 1940 and passed away at his home in Orrong Crescent, Caulfield, Victoria on Friday, November 28, 1947 and cremated the following day at the Springfield Crematorium, he was 75 years old.

April 1940: W.C.G. McCracken, O.B.E. In his tenure of 23 years, the successor of Ash saw the installation of more equipment and the introduction of photogravure techniques and facilities. Contrary to suggestions that political factors were responsible, McCracken when he retired on March 22, 1963 disclosed that he had suggested ending the Australian tradition of printers’ personal monograms and imprints, and the introduction in 1942 of the impersonal “By Authority” imprint. He received the O.B.E. in the 1963 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

1959: The establishment became known as the Note Printing Branch of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

April 1963: W.H. Wilcock, C.B.E., succeeded as General Manager in a period of technical developments, including the use of plastic in plate production, the introduction of helicon, additional equipment and the conversion from pre-decimal to decimal issues on February 14, 1966. At the time of his retirement on November 14, 1969, Wilcock was an Advisor to the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, and General Manager of the Note Issue department of the Reserve Bank. In 1969, the department was re-organised and the stamp production and printing activities are now carried out by the Printing Division of the Note Issue Department.

1969: H.R. Longmuir, Advisor to the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, held the post of General Manager during a period of consolidation.

1971: R.A.S. Bywater, GC, CM, born in England in 1913 and came to Australia in 1954, joining the Reserve Bank in 1957 as a research chemist. He later moved to manager, Research and Development, assistant to Mr. Wilcock, and finally General Manager of the Note Issue Department.

1976: G.M.E. Seats became General Manager of the Note Issue Department, and directed the move to the new Note Printing Works at Craigieburn, 25km north of Melbourne.

1981: D.R. Parr became General Manager.

Since 1977 a number of private security printing companies have been contracted to print Australian Commonwealth stamps.


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Winedrinker
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26 Mar 2017
01:48:11pm
re: A brief history of W.C.G. McCracken and other Australian printers

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Quote:

"In 1941 McCracken started reprinting the ½d roo with the 1938 dies (as well as issuing the first roo stamp with a coil perforation); and again using the same dies for the 1949 issue."



Stanley Gibbons (and I suspect the ACSC as well) properly lists the 1938 roo (SG 164), the 1942 roo (SG 179), the "line to kangaroo ear" variety (SG 179a), and the coil perforation pair (SG 179b).

Scott lists the 1938 and the 1942 roos -- 166 and 166a, but woefully does not include the coil pair or the "line to ear..." variety. Scott does include some consolation blurbage, "A special perforation was applied to stamps intended for use in coils to make separation easier...." and says that Scott 166 was one of them. But no unique listing of the stamp, and no listing of the "line to kangaroo ear" variety.

PS The kangaroo's name was Duke, a denizen of the Melbourne Zoological Gardens.

E
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Rob1956
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Member ACCC (Australian Commonwealth Collectors Club of NSW)
27 Mar 2017
12:14:39am
re: A brief history of W.C.G. McCracken and other Australian printers

Quote:

"the "line to kangaroo ear" variety"


I have that variety in both the coil and normal perforation.


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Special Coil perforation - stamp bottom right corner

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Normal perforation - stamp top right corner

The ACSC is a very good book when defining Australian stamps; I have a SG book, I only use it for current references not for pre-decimal it explains very little and the Scott catalogue is too simplified; and the Renniks catalogue is very much the same as the Scotts.

Yes, you are correct about the name of the wallaroo and what zoo it was in; and the reason it was chosen was because of it's friendliness and popularity with the visitors.

P.S. Nice stamp.

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Winedrinker
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27 Mar 2017
12:46:18am
re: A brief history of W.C.G. McCracken and other Australian printers

Very nice stamps Robert.
I just purchased a coil pair on eBay this evening. As for my scan, which I thought was a 1942 version of the Wallaroo, turns out it does not have the C of A watermark, but rather no watermark -- the 1949 version. So back to eBay. I am looking for the other varieties of this stamp now as well -- quite entertaining.

Ok, dumb question probably, but why is this stamp called Wallaroo. I understand the word is a combination of Wallabie and Kangaroo, but I thought the creature depicted was a Kangaroo. I am about to google this, so this might be considered a rhetorical question.

Cheers!
Eric

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Rob1956
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Member ACCC (Australian Commonwealth Collectors Club of NSW)
27 Mar 2017
04:00:06am
re: A brief history of W.C.G. McCracken and other Australian printers

I spent most of my adolescent and early twenties in the outback of Australia. Kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos were plentiful. The size of a wallaroo is between a kangaroo and a wallaby, (the 1960s TV series, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was actually a wallaby, it was far too small to be a kangaroo).

If you look at the small black animal and compare it to your stamp you will see the exactness of the animals.
https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-Kangaroos-Wallabies-and-Wallaroos

Wallaroo vs kangaroo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyPjCV7oHbs

Close-up side view of a wallaroo, same as stamp.
http://www.bergenphotography.net/uploads/1/4/9/6/14962280/6502552_orig.jpg

The 1938 & 1942 stamps have the watermark.


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"Specialised Collector of Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Stamps"
Rob1956
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Member ACCC (Australian Commonwealth Collectors Club of NSW)
27 Mar 2017
07:12:35am
re: A brief history of W.C.G. McCracken and other Australian printers

Eric

Email me your address or postal address and I'll send a watermarked roo to you.

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