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View down Collins Street
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Old Treasury Building
Old Treasury Building,
Spring Street
Melbourne, VIC

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View down Collins Street

The stamp was produced as a commemorative issue for the Australian Post Office in October 1956. It was produced for the Olympic Games, held in Melbourne from 22 November to 8 December that year.

There were actually two stamps in this issue, 1s. and 2s., both overseas airmail rates. One shows a remarkably blue Yarra River set against the skyline of the city of Melbourne. The other stamp (and the one we are concerned with) is a view down Collins Street as seen from a window in the Old Treasury Building. Lush European trees line what was known as the “Paris End” of Collins Street which is busy with trams and cars.

This stamp is significant from a philatelic point of view because it was the first Australian issue to be printed in full colour. Up to this point all our stamps were rather drab affairs, as they were printed in only one or two colours in the recess process at the Note Printing Branch in Melbourne. However for the grand occasion of the Olympic Games and for stamps that would be sent and viewed all over the world, it was thought fitting that our great metropolis should be seen in glorious colour. Some indication of the potential wide distribution of these stamps had already been demonstrated by a pre-Olympic Games publicity 2s. stamp issued in 1954. This was a one colour graphic design featuring the Olympic Rings, which had proved so popular that it was reprinted and then reissued the following year.

Because the Post Office had never printed full-colour stamps before, it was believed that the best results would be obtained by overseas printers accustomed to this sort of work. Two were chosen: Harrison and Sons from Britain, who were responsible for the Collins Street view, and the Swiss Courvoisier SA, who printed the Yarra skyline stamp. Each firm was asked to create a design using a 35mm colour transparency of the scene to be depicted, taken by the Post Office photographer M. Murphy. The Post Office noted that “Brilliance of colour is desirable, in view of the strong sunlight in Australia, and contrast in considered of importance”.

Work began at the two overseas printers with preparation of the original drawings by staff artists based on the transparency images. Harrisons had to make considerable changes to their photograph to get a suitable image for reproduction. In the photogravure process the plates were then etched for each of the four colours used in the stamp artwork. Harrison’s first proof was rejected because the design showed too much regularity in the trees (“a hedge-like effect”) and insufficient detail in the outline of buildings. Revised proofs were considered a vast improvement and the design was adopted.

As expected the stamps met with great approval- philatelic sales of the Olympic stamps exceeded £50,000. The success of the stamps also led to the production for most Australian stamps by the early 1960s.

We were very proud of the Paris end of Collins Street and in 1949 this view from Treasury was actually part of Melbourne’s submission for the 1956 Olympic Games. Melbourne only just won the bid, defeating Buenos Aires by a single vote in the final ballot, with Prince Axel of Denmark casting the decisive vote in Melbourne’s favour.

Collins Street was also chosen as the route for the Olympic Torch, which was carried before crowds of people on 22 November 1956, the opening day of the games.

Did you know?
The 'Paris End' is so called as it contained boutique shops, artists studios and sophisticated cafe's on a beautiful tree lined street. Although the shops have changed and the artists relocated, it is still very much the same today.
The view down Collins Street from the front doors of the Old Treasury was immortalised in a stamp produced as a commemorative issue for the Australian Post Office in October 1956. It was produced for the Olympic Games, held in Melbourne from 22 November to 8 December that year.
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