I am a dealer, specialising in Russian Area and East European Philately. You can contact me at
You can also find material from my specialised stock in the regular online auction at www.filateliapalvelu.com
There are 500 Posts on this Blog but no advertising, no Pop Ups.Nothing on the Blog is cut & paste from other Blogs.
The latest auction from www.filateliapalvelu.comis online. Closing date for bids 30 November. As usual, I have contributed hundreds of lots across the auction, including some very cheap mixed lots with material unsold in previous auctions. Take a look!
One way to combine
stamp collecting with doing postal history is to collect covers with single
frankings, one cover for each stamp issued. It should be easy – after all,
stamp denominations relate to tariffs. Or do they? Inflation is the main enemy of
single frankings. Another is the inability of Supply departments to get the
right stamps into the post offices at the right times.
For Imperial Russia,
there are really a very small number of stamps to collect from one kopek to 10
rubels, which is just like the range 1 cent to $10. Ignore the rubel values and
surely the kopek values will appear as single frankings….
It’s actually very
difficult to complete this relatively small set. It seems that collectors quite
often get stuck on the 70 kopek, so here is a cover to prove that 70 kop single frankings
BUT it’s a use in
Bolshevik Russia in September 1918 – and a very unusual one. This is a
registered court envelope sent from Petrograd to Sestoresk. There is a cachet
on the back and a number (450) bottom left of the cover which together entitle
this letter to a privilege. The Court did not have to pay for the basic letter
( a 35 kopeks tariff at the time) ONLY for the Registration fee (70 kopeks at
If you have interesting
single frankings at 70 kop, send me a scan and we can expand this section …
Click on Image to Magnify
Added 17 November 2018: Here's a very fine cover from Howard Weinert (USA). This 70 kop franking from 1916 represents a sixth weight step ( 6 x 10 kop) plus 10 kop registration fee on a large envelope from Tiflis to the Psycho-Neurological Institute in Petrograd. Mail to this Institute does turn up in dealer boxes so at some point I guess its archive was sold off.
Click on Images to Magnify
Added 19 November 2018: Here's a very nice 1911 registered cover scanned to me by Henri Taparel (France), this one going abroad. Note that this cover shows an early printing of the 70 kop in a paler brown. Howard Weinert's cover above shows a later printing of the 70 kop in a darker brown:
The latest auction from
www.filateliapalvelu.comis now online. Closing date for bids 30
November. As usual, I have contributed hundreds of lots across the auction,
including some very cheap mixed lots with material unsold in previous auctions.
Take a look!
For many countries,
fiscal / revenue stamps issued by national governments for general use are very
common. In contrast, stamps issued by provincial or local government
organisations can be scarce or rare. The obvious reason is that fewer copies were used; the less obvious reason is
that dealers or collectors at the time may not have known of their existence
and so did not seek them out.
Early Soviet Russia was
a very bureaucratic society but also one where local improvisation and local
initiatives were common. There are a LOT of early Soviet fiscal stamps which were
not issued by the national government.
I illustrate here one
example since I cannot find these stamps already illustrated on the Internet.
They were issued and used in Tula and they imposed a local tax on land
transactions in addition to that nationally prescribed. This local tax was
intended to fund agricultural improvement. It’s possible that there was some
continuity with the activities of the Tula Zemstvo organisation.
which indicated payment of the local tax were locally produced on poor quality
coloured papers and had no gum – sometimes they were attached to legal
documents by overlapping the gummed national-issue stamps. There is evidence of
their use in 1922, 1923 and 1924. There were three values: 5 k orange, 10k pink
and 20k green. The high value appears to be the scarcest. The stamps were also
modified in three different ways as I illustrate below. Click on Images to Magnify.
kop without modification used here on a May 1924 document:
kop with revaluation to rubels by means of manuscript
Руь in tablet at base used here on
kop without modification used here on May 1923 document:
kop with handstamp Γ.Ο.З. in tablet at base used here on
June 1923 document:
kop with handstamp С Д А Н О in tablet at base
used here on February 1923 document:
Kop without modification used here on February 1922
document. The 20 kop appears to be the scarcest value and the strip of three on
this document is the largest multiple on any of the documents I have seen:
I am just back from a
visit to the annual Sindelfingen (Stuttgart) stamp show – the Briefmarken Messe Sindelfingen. It’s
still very good, even though visitor numbers were clearly down as they are at
every stamp show now. That did mean that I was able to look through dealer
boxes - some with thousands of covers - without too much fighting with other people’s elbows.
I found a couple of
Crimea items from the period when Stalin’s nationalities policy meant that
local languages were officially recognised alongside Russian. In Crimea, the
other recognised language was (Turkic) Tatar. Originally, this was written in Arabic script and some postmarks can be found in that script. But later Tatar was written in the modernised Roman script
introduced into Turkey by Ataturk. I have blogged about this before on 6 March 2014.
I now add to that Blog
with the two cards below. You can see a cover with a postmark of Cyrillic Yalta
ЯЛТА and Tatar UALTA and then a card with
Cyrillic Simferopol СИМФЕРОПОЛЬ and
In my areas of
philatelic specialism the question is often asked, Were these stamps really
To answer this, you
need answers to several other questions:
Was there a post office
or post offices?
Were these stamps “available
at the counter” – even if only for a short period of time – and would they have
been used to frank mail brought in by “an ordinary member of the public”?
What did the post
office/s do with the letters franked with the stamps? Did they have the ability
to put them into a mail delivery system – and was that system local, regional,
national or international?
A key part of this set
of questions is played by the “ordinary member of the public”. If the stamps
will only be brought out for known philatelists (dealers or collectors) or,
say, for the local military commander who has ordered their production, then in
the ordinary sense of the word, they are not a regular issue. They are stamps
produced by or for favours. On the other hand, the stamps may have franking
validity and may succeed in getting a letter carried from A to B in which case
one might say that they had a “limited issue”.
For many stamp issues,
the vast majority of used stamps are found on (obviously) philatelic mail. The
British Empire used to control many small and remote islands – still does – and
issued stamps for them. But in some cases as many as 99% of all covers now existing
But what counts is the
1% of non-philatelic mail – the same stamps were available to “ordinary members
of the public” (maybe there were just two of them) as well as philatelists.
That is why the 1% (or
even the 0.1%) is so important. For example, it is the 1% or less which shows
that the stamps of the Northern Army and the North West Army were issued. There
clearly exist cards and covers which were not sent for philatelic motives. It’s
true that the distances they travelled are mostly quite limited – backwards into
Estonia, most notably. But a few made it as far as Finland and in that case you
have an even stronger case for saying that the stamps were issued and served
to get mail put into a mail distribution system. Similarly, though their
period of use in December-January 1918-19 was very short, the original map
stamps of Latvia saw limited non-philatelic postal use, both on internal mail
and on mail to Germany.
The really difficult
questions arise with stamps which appear to have been issued but for which
evidence of ordinary postal use is now missing. In some cases, there are not even
philatelic covers. There are undoubtedly stamps which were officially prepared
and would have had postal validity if
used but which went straight from post office counter to waiting philatelists who bought everything for onward sale as mint stamps, none even stuck on philatelic covers. This would be true of an unknown proportion of the combinations of stamp and overprint issued by Dashnak Armenia which could have been used but weren't.
The only really clever
guy in the confusing postal history in which I specialise was Dr Ivan Cherniavsky
who produced the 1919 CMT overprints of Kolomea in co-operation with the occupying
Romanian military commander. Cherniavsky required that quantities of the stamps
be distributed to the post offices which the Romanian authorities controlled.
These post offices actually served very few people in a widely illiterate
countryside. But they did serve local lawyers who were always sending petitions
to the district court in Kolomea, and the stamps got used on their registered
Dr Cherniavsky was in
charge of the district court in Kolomea. His clerks simply passed to him the
one hundred percent genuine commercially used envelopes which brought petitions
to the court. Cherniavsky was an unusual collector. He was interested in
ordinary commercial mail.... He took a chance that no one out in those small towns
and villages would spot the opportunity to buy the CMT stamps for onward sale.
As far as I know, only at one office did some other collector/dealer get to
secure part of the issue. Elsewhere, it seems that everything went to the
lawyers and back to Kolomea, as Cherniavasky intended.
I was very interested by
the short account (pages 12-13) of the Estonian Venemaalt [ From Russia] markings of 1920 – 21. When Bolshevik
Russia re-introduced a foreign mail service in June 1920, the new Foreign
Tariff schedule provided for Free Post on unregistered mail going abroad.
Registered mail had to be franked. This arrangement was identical to that
applied to domestic letters. However, the new schedule was replaced by a new
foreign Tariff on 30 September 1920 which required all mail going abroad to be franked.
So there was a three
month period when unfranked ordinary mail leaving Russia would not attract any
internal Postage Due marking because there were no charges due. But nor were
there any payments scheduled to the postal administrations of foreign
authorities did not really want to deliver Russian mail for free. But rather
than charge the usual x 2 the postage
deficiency, they decided to apply the ordinary inland Estonian rate to incoming Russian mail. This is the origin
of the Venemaalt markings. Ahto Tanner illustrates a very nice item at page 12.
In the early period
June – September 1920 it’s likely that anyone in Russia who could afford to
register mail would do so. Unfranked foreign mail is now very hard to find – no
doubt also because people were more likely to throw away cards and letters without
After the external free
post tariff ended, there were people who did not realise that things had
changed or who had no money to frank mail anyway. They continued to send mail unfranked,
which explains why the Estonian Venemaalt
markings continue in use until 1921.
Most of the research on
this topic is due to Alexander Epstein.