Covers addressed to the United Kingdom and franked with these stamps show a variety of routes. From Brisbane mail could be sent North up the coast to Thursday Island, through the Torres Strait which separates Australia from New Guinea, and thence to Suez OR it could be sent South down the coast to Sydney and Melbourne and hence to Suez. On arrival at Suez it could pass through the Mediterranean to Gibraltar, the Bay of Biscay and to a Channel port, the so called ‘direct sea route OR from Suez it could go to Brindisi, overland through Italy and France, ending with a short Channel crossing to London, the so called ‘short sea route’. Other mail was sent from Brisbane to Sydney for onward transmission to San Francisco via New Zealand to be followed by an American overland journey and an Atlantic crossing to reach England. Whichever way was chosen it was first necessary for inland mail to reach Brisbane or to intercept a mail shipping route and this journey within Queensland might well add three weeks to the overall transit time.
During the period there were changes in the postal rates which can be shown only on covers bearing the 1879 issue. From 1876 the rate via Brindisi had been 8d. for a single weight letter but for a few weeks at the beginning of 1880 this was decreased to 7d. Covers bearing this rate are rare. In March 1880, the Imperial Post Office, without consultation with the colony, decreed that the ‘direct sea route’ was to be abandoned and that all mail would be routed via Brindisi at a 6d. rate. This had been the rate for the ‘direct sea route’ and initially it would appear that some letters still went by this longer route. At one stage the Queensland authorities introduced a 4d. rate via Torres and the ‘direct sea route’ but this was not recognised by the Imperial Post Office and covers are scarce.
Covers of any kind are not all that common. They have not been preserved to the same extent as the Chalon covers and they precede by some fifteen years the plentiful covers of the Tattersall era.