It is my very sad duty to report the passing of Bill Hornadge, Founder of "Stamp News"
& "Seven Seas Stamps".
Bill was 94, and passed away March 21.
He founded both operations 50 or 60 years back.
Large numbers of current collectors in this region got hooked on stamps due to Bill's brilliant marketing skills.
Seven Seas Stamps was back then, one of the largest stamp companies in the world, and had a vast factor/warehouse in rural DUBBO New South Wales, assembling millions of packets of stamps for the kiddies approval market.
Kevin Duffy phoned me today to pass on this sad news. The Memorial service will be in Dubbo early next week.
Kevin bought Seven Seas Stamps from Bill and sold it to Reader's Digest for $A4m in 1980, in one of the great business timing coups of all time.
Seven Seas Stamps was founded by Bill Hornadge in 1951, 62 years back. He founded "Stamp News"
a little afterwards in 1953, and was the feisty editor for decades.
Bill until recent years was still very active, and sold me huge parcels of stock in his latter years.
Including his entire Pitcairn island holdings, still sitting in a carton here - he edited and published the "Pitcairn Island Stamp Catalogue"
among many others.
Bill was until recently still in contact with his clients here and overseas via direct mail catalogues, trading as 'Review Publications' in Dubbo.
His eyesight deteriorated in later years, and his always hand typed letters and notes (not sure if Bill ever used a computer, but I never saw any evidence of it!) often had typos and overtypings etc.
I recall him saying his daughter helped him out with proof reading and letters later on in his life.
Seven Seas Stamps produced the largest range of printed albums for the Australia and Pacific area, and are still the clear market leaders in this region.
The company was based for decades in Dubbo, a country town about 300 miles west of Sydney. Seven Seas Stamps gained its strength and huge customer base from approval packets of stamps.
Mirroring the growth path of many large US based companies in the 1950s and 1960s, most comic and adventure magazines sold in Australia contained premium offers and enticements for approval packets.
Hundreds of thousands of Australian youngsters signed up for these offers. I certainly did!
Many very senior medal winning collectors in Australia today will sheepishly admit they got their start in stamp collecting from this comic book approval campaign. The 1960s "Ampol" Promotion
If you did a survey of the Gold medal winners at the forthcoming "Australia 2013" I suspect you would find a surprising percentage started their collecting via companies like Seven Seas Stamps who locally were pre-eminent then among these mass stamp marketers.
Seven Seas Stamps were also very aggressive in using stamp packets as promotional premiums for large companies.
In the early 1960s one large campaign involved over 20 million packets of colourful world thematic stamps being given away with the purchase of one brand of petrol - AMPOL.
These packets contained an incredible 70 million world stamps in sets - many of them MUH, and they ‚Äúentirely excluded cheap definitives‚ÄĚ Bill Hornadge assured me in recent years. 20 MILLION packets made
Australia at that time had a population numbering only about 10 million people, so 20 million stamp packets was obviously a vast amount, being about two packets given away for every man woman and child living in the country. The media went crazy over alleged ‚Äúrare finds‚ÄĚ.
A very inexpensive cheap album was also made available, a massive 300,000 were sold, and again this was the formative spark that attracted many of today's leading collectors and dealers.
I was certainly introduced to philately via those AMPOL packets of triangulars from Mongolia and Nudes from Spain! (I still have the Nudes.) The packets were "salted" with the odd "goodie."
When these were found the owner often got widely reported in the daily papers, creating more excitement and demand from AMPOL ... and Seven Seas.
AMPOL would always claim to have initiated "an urgent investigation" on how a 5/- Bridge or Penny Black got into their cheapie packets! The press lapped it up. ¬£2 ROO FOR A GALLON OF PETROL
One feature article widely reported across the country in the mass media had a 9 year old girl called Lisa Bell of Clontarf Street, Seaforth, N.S.W. holding up a CTO ¬£2 Roo she had found in one AMPOL packet.
Leading dealer M. C. Cohen, bless his soul, was quoted as saying he valued the stamp at a lofty ¬£9. Seven Seas Stamps were quoted as saying they would pay ¬£9 to have the stamp back again.
Great stuff. Lisa was quoted as saying, "This is the best stamp in my collection now, and I am never going to sell it."
At one point Seven Seas Stamps in Dubbo were tearing up, packaging and dispatching 400,000 packets a week
to meet the demand - which was many times the budgeted estimate, according to then owner Bill Hornadge.
AMPOL estimated the usual "request rate" for a promo item would be the industry typical 15%. However, it immediately ran to around 50%, and stayed that way.
Young migrant dealer Max Stern was sent off packing to Europe with a blank cheque book, with orders to buy anything pretty in packet material he could lay his hands on.
Kids like me badgered Dad to fill up only at AMPOL ‚Äď so I could get the attractive freebie stamp packets.
Bet we all now are annoyed we did not keep the AMPOL packets un-opened ‚Äď the ones depicted nearby sold on ebay for $A32!
I wish Seven Seas Stamps or someone else would get McDonalds, Caltex, Woolworths, etc, to run such a campaign today.
Don't laugh ... the concept certainly worked for AMPOL ‚Äď very big time, with big sales increases, and public awareness.
The Chairman of AMPOL was reported widely in the daily financial press in 1964 speaking at the company AGM, stating sales and profits had gone up 12% over the year before, and stamp packets were the specific reason for this upsurge in business.
In 1971 Seven Seas Stamps was sold to Kevin Duffy, who continued and expanded the approvals and premium side of the company, merging it with his own large existing "penny approvals" style business.
Names like Rocket Stamps and Peter Harris were some of Kevin's creations then, as was a much more recent one sold a few years ago to John McDonald ..."William Booth."
Kevin is still well known and liked in the trade, and has many connections overseas (he lives a few hundred yards from me in Castlecrag, actually). Kevin Duffy is a multiple Past President of the Australian Stamp Dealers Association.
With exquisite timing, Duffy sold Seven Seas Stamps in late 1980 to Reader's Digest. This publishing giant was keen to expand worldwide into other "leisure activities" at this time. Philately fitted their clean cut, conservative, American corporate image perfectly.
Stamps had of course experienced phenomenal annual price growth for several years up to the purchase in 1980, but the "real" market had peaked worldwide and was in fact falling fast.
The huge "Sydpex 80" Exhibition in N.S.W. was the beginning of the end of the stamp "boom" in Decimal and Territories stamp prices. The show closed October 5.
Kevin walked away from Seven Seas Stamps in October 1980 with $4,000,000 (Australian dollars) in his pocket. What absolutely superb timing and foresight. Even Kerry Packer or Rupert Murdoch never got their timing THAT precise!
Savvy stamp dealers knew the "boom" was crashing in October 1980, but the Reader's Digest accountants only looked at past year's audited trading figures, not the present market. These were not stamp collectors, but merely corporate "bean counters."
What they saw quite simply was an upward graph going off the wall. Head office in Pleasantville, New York loved the numbers and they signed the cheque.
Reader's Digest purchased the company from Kevin Duffy for a reported $4,000,000 plus (Australian dollars). It sold later on for around one tenth of that figure.
The passion of Bill Hornadge for "Cinderella" and "Locals" stamps, and the millions of words he typed on both, remain today as a valuable resource on them.
Bill was Editor of "Stamp News" during the massive "Stamp Boom" of the 1980 era, and each monthly edition got up to near 300 pages thick - amazing for a country our size.
I took 2 facing pages of ads on pages 12 and 13 for decades.
I had a lot to do with Bill over 35 years, and he was an old school Gentleman that we do not see in the trade much of these days sadly.
Bill was also a prolific author on all sorts of subjects other than stamps. He would always mail me a copy of his latest book. He was a "stirrer" which is why we got on so well I guess.
His other books would cover things such as racial issues, and one I recall was about a Utopian Jewish settlement in remote northern Western Australia. He had a love of the history of this nation, and many of his works were historical in nature. R.I.P. Bill Hornadge.
Bill is survived by 2 children and their parters, 5 grandchilden and 2 great grand-childten.
A memorial service will be held on April 9 at Greenway Chapel, Greenway Memorial Gardens, 400 Avoca Drive, Green Point, at midday.