Introduction

Overview

The Society of Australasian Specialists/Oceania was founded in 1936. The Society is a global community of several hundred collectors that share an interest in the stamps and postal history of Australia, New Zealand, and the islands of the south and central Pacific Ocean. The Society is based in the USA, however, we welcome members from around the World and the current roster of directors and officers includes members from Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
The SAS/O conducts an Annual General Meeting, each year, in conjunction with a major philatelic show. Participation is encouraged in the exhibits at the affiliated show and the society sponsors special Gold, Silver and Bronze medals for the three best exhibits with an Australasian theme. It is also a wonderful opportunity to form lifelong friendships with other collectors who share your enthusiasm for Australasia.

Research

Over the years, SAS/O has built a significant philatelic research library focused on Australasia and Oceania. There are more than 2500 items in the library that are made available to current members. Research assistance, photocopies, and the loan of library materials are all major benefits of membership, not to mention the network of members who volunteer as area specialists (who represent a significant pool of expertise) and would be happy to respond to your inquiries.

Our Journal

The most visible benefit of membership is “The Informer”, the quarterly journal of SAS/O. It has been published continuously since the inception of the Society in 1936. Each issue contains a wide range of information and news, and in full color! The Informer not only serves as our journal of record for research and new discoveries, but also provides notice of new book releases, publication reviews, details of websites that may interest members, members’ awards and accomplishments, general membership news and information about philatelic events that may interest members. It is the lifeline of the Society and it is well supported by members with a steady stream of serious research, informative studies and review articles. Unlike some commercially based magazines, we dedicate about 60% of the total space to philatelic articles with only about 20% allocated to advertising and another 20% allocated to society and membership news.

Membership

After all is said and done, however, the greatest benefit of membership in SAS/O is the personal associations that often develop. Members often arrange to meet at local, regional and national events as well as other informal get-togethers. Many members have visited back and forth, often travelling thousands of miles to do so, and many lifelong friendships have evolved as a result. It’s great to be able to share with someone who appreciates the significance of a new discovery or the value of a new research study.
Become a member today and begin to enjoy the benefits of belonging to SAS/O. Membership is only $20 per year for USA addresses, $20 to Canadian addresses and $30 elsewhere. If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of The Informer, please send your request to the Editor

History

The Society of Australasian Specialists (SAS) came into being on 18 July 1936. Seventy-four years later one founding member, David Lebson (#5), remains an active member in 2010. His brother Hyman Lebson (#6) passed away in 2006 after 70 years in SAS/O.

The Society has gone through a number of changes over the years, and it is a tribute to our leaders, past and present, that we have such a vibrant society today.

Don Houseworth was our first President, and Owen Acers edited the first Bulletin.

Our monthly journal became known as The Australasian Informer in May 1937. That was Vol. I No. 11, and the theme for that issue was the stamps commemorating the coronation of King George VI. The September issue discussed the need for a Board of Directors and By-Laws, and it also featured our first Society Auction.

The Australasian Informer was published monthly from the beginning, although it rarely got above 4 pages (2 sheets front and back). Ed Betts took over from Owen Acers in 1938 when Owen was kicked upstairs as President.

Although our formative years focused on members’ interests, chiefly in Australian Commonwealth philately, there were articles on colonial Australia as well as other parts of Oceania. Aerophilately (a term not yet invented) occupied a number of pages as airmail routes became established across the Pacific just prior to World War II. The 70th member was welcomed in April 1938 and the 80th in August of that year.

In October 1938, it was proposed that Member Don Houseworth, editor of the International Stamp Review, take over publication of The Informer, thefirst reference to that shortened name for our journal, as a commercial venture. It never happened, thank goodness!
In May 1940, we published our “Constitution and By-Laws” of the Society of Australasian Specialists and by the end of our fifth year in June 1941, we had enrolled 93 members.

World War II impacted the Society — Editor Ed Betts was drafted! Peter Kreischer took over as Editor in October 1942. Four members of SAS were serving in the US Armed Forces by January 1943. In March 1943, the membership numbers had increased by 18, including SAS/O #127 Jack Hughes (still very much with us in 2010). Jack and George Branam (#97) entered the military that summer of 1943. Both survived the war and contributed greatly to the Society for a long number of years. We lost George in 2008 after more than 65 years as a member.

Ernie Heckenbach took over as Editor and Publisher in October 1943 “for the duration” as they said in those days. By the end of the hostilities in August 1945, 14 members were serving in the armed forces.

In January 1946, Ed Betts returned to the Editor’s job. The report for June 1946, on the brink of the Society’s 10th anniversary, noted the SAS had 173 members! They had elections for Editor in those days, and Ernie squeaked out a victory over Ed in 1947.

Stan Jersey (#372) joined the Society officially in April 1951.For more than sixty years, he contributed his Pacific island expertise to The Informer and authored many books on South Pacific philately and on the Pacific Theater in WWII.

James Schiltz took over as Editor January 1955, and Peter Kreischer (after a long stint as Secretary) became President. Homer L. Jones became Editor in January 1961, presiding over the 25th Anniversary issue in June. Also in January 1961, Edward A. Williams (“Buffalo Ed Williams” to distinguish him from J. Edgar Williams, a.k.a. “North Carolina Ed Williams”) became the Society’s Librarian.

Al Felix became Editor in March 1964 and served in that capacity for two years. In 1966, Col. Leonard H. Smith, Jr., took over publication and made reprints of The Australasian Informer Vols. 1-30, to insure the preservation of our valuable history. New By-Laws were adopted in 1966; and, in that year, the first Kreischer Service Award was proposed to honor the long-time service of Peter F. Kreischer. There were 233 members by July 1966 and membership would double again in the next decade.

In mid-1966, Col. Smith resigned from SAS to form his own organization, the Australian Commonwealth Collectors Circle that became the American Society of Australasian Philatelists in 1970. In November 1966, Col. Smith’s first issue of Australian Commonwealth Chit Chat appeared. ASAP, Inc. became Oceania, Inc. on June 1975, and the journal became Postmarked Oceania.

Al Felix resumed the Editor’s job for The Australasian Informer in 1967 and held that position until 1971, when Frank Novak took over for the next six years. The July-August 1977 issue announced a proposed merger of SAS and Oceania, Inc. The new society would be SAS/Oceania Inc. [as it is today]. Michael Schulsinger took over as Editor in September 1977. The first “combined” issue was titled “The Australasian Informer/ Postmarked Oceania, a joint publication.”. It was issued in January 1978 to more than 750 subscribers from the two societies. The new Constitution and By-Laws were published February 1978.

On our 42nd birthday, The Informer was born and the Society became SAS/Oceania on July 1978. Our present logo was introduced January/February 1979. Frank Novak came back as Editor 1981-88 and again for a third time in 1989-90. The major event in the 1980s was the Society’s charter as a Florida corporation granted on December 8, 1983.

Long-time member Janet Klug (#1804) introduced SAS/O to the electronic age by placing a few pages describing the Society on her personal web site back in the 1990s, when such things were new to most of us. “TongaJan” as she is known in the web world, also was instrumental in merging the Tonga/Tin Can Mail Study Circle members with SAS/O in 2000. SAS/O obtained a substantial specialized library of materials on Tonga as part of the merger.

Our first overseas Annual General Meeting and Exhibition was held in Melbourne, Australia in 2009. Our Australian colleagues headed by SAS/O Director Paul Fletcher organized the local meetings, and SAS/O President Dr. Robert Stein organized a series of very informative seminars. SAS/O exhibition medals were made available to the philatelic jury, and three outstanding exhibits were awarded. Our first offshore adventure was a great success!

In the recent past, at least two members have been elected President of the American Philatelic Society, at least three have signed the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists, and many more have served in leadership positions in national philatelic societies and exhibition committees all over the world. More than a score of members have published important philatelic books and won high international honors for their philatelic exhibits.

If you are not yet a part of this vibrant and fascinating group of people, send in your application now! Join in the fun, fellowship and philately that makes SAS/O one of the best. Click here for our application form.