Flights of fancy

Hopes dashed. From a set of four aviation-themes stamps issued on 8 July 1970, Ansett’s Fokker Friendship was depicted with the Manam Island volcano as its back drop.

Undistracted by television, expatriate children living in Papua New Guinea were more receptive and vulnerable perhaps to urban mythologizing. One instance I well recall concerned the issue of a new five cent postage stamp which, because of a glaring imperfection, was rumoured to hold the promise of certain fortune for any kid with patience, and spare pocket money.

The stamp’s designer, it transpired, had unwittingly reversed the airline’s three-pointed tail logo. A matter of little consequence for most post office customers, this trifling error had nonetheless assumed great importance in the capital’s playgrounds by August 1970. The story had spread quickly around the Port Moresby High School, gaining significance with each retelling. While I may have been one of the last to hear I was certainly quick to react, zealously acquiring as many used and unused specimens of the 5¢ Ansett Fokker Friendship as I possibly could. All I had to do then was wait for an opportune time to cash in.

Fast forward half a century, and I have come to terms with the realization my pocket money might have been better spent … on salty plums. The warning signs were there at the time, local media reports of the stamp issue attaching no importance to the error 1“Aircraft of the Islands,” Pacific Islands Monthly 41, No. 7, July 1970, 23,

Although the design flaw has since been widely acknowledged by philatelists the stamp’s value, even amongst collectors, has scarcely appreciated (beyond its original 5 cent face value) during the past fifty years.2Ken Polsson, Postage Stamp Design Errors, 15 October 2022, Only last month a complete unused set comprising all four stamps from this July 1970 issue sold on eBay with the $AUD2.00 postal charge exceeding the $AUD0.99 winning bid.3

My interest in stamps subsequently waned.