Monday, 27 March 2017

Wilfried Nagl

Wilfried Nagl, the well-known Russia specialist from Bamberg in Germany, has died at the age of 76. His funeral is on 27 3 2017. For many years, he produced auction catalogues to a very high standard with detailed descriptions of specialist material.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Early Bolshevik Russia 1917 - 1921 - Unsold Lots at Heinrich Koehler

The unsold lots from my Early Bolshevik Russia collection are now available at Heinrich Koehler. I have authorised sale at 20% below the Ausruf prices. Take a look! Some "White" mail at the end.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Something Is Always Missing: Podolia / Podilia 1917 -21

Something is always missing. If you try to reconstruct the postal history of a place or period, there will always be gaps. Only some archives have survived. Some got burnt, some got bombed, some fell into the hands of stamp dealers who soaked the stamps off. Sometimes, you end up with a very unrepresentative picture of what went on in the post offices of some place at some time.

I have accumulated material from the Podolia / Podilia government of Ukraine over many years. Most of the material is concentrated in the 1917 – 21 period. I have a lot of Money Transfer Forms and Parcel Cards, the things you most often see. My assumption is that when the government of the Ukrainian Republic moved into exile through Podilia, they took the post office archives with them. A great deal ended up in the well-documented collection of Eugene Vyrovyj before 1939. 

Then I have Registered letters addressed to Kamenetz Podolsk court which have appeared much more recently on the market. After that, there is very little in the collection.

Private correspondence is remarkably scarce. I don’t think this reflects a high level of illiteracy. I think it just means that during the Holodomor of the 1930s and the Holocaust of the second world war, a great deal was destroyed, sometimes simply burnt for fuel or used as cigarette paper.

Then there are the Remittances from the USA. Migrants to the USA, mostly Jewish, sent money back to Imperial Russia. The Advice cards for these money transfers are common, usually with the addresses for the Russo Asiatic Bank in Petrograd and M.I.Blitzstein and Co in Philadelphia. These cards can be found up to and including the period of the Provisional Government in 1917 but then they stop and do not resume until 1923/ 24 when the Russian Commercial Bank in Moscow now sends out the advice cards. Here it seems likely not that cards from the 1917 – 23 period were destroyed,but that there was no service available.

Railway cancellations in the 1917 – 21 period are rarities. In the 1918 period of Austro-German occupation, this may be explained by the use of railways for military purposes. After that, there was no period of stability in which railway post offices could resume normal service. But here was surely some railway post in the 1917 -21 period. But the most I can show is one General Issue stamp with a ZHMERINKA VOKSAL cancel for 30 10 18.

Podolia / Podilia had a large, literate Jewish population, living in the many small towns which cover the map of Podilia with dots. Their names can be found on Money Transfers and Parcel Cards. But as part of the general lack of personal correspondence, there is simply no surviving Jewish correspondence whether written in Yiddish or in a Roman or Cyrillic script which shows that it is written by someone more familiar with Hebrew script. But when you get into the 1920s, some Jewish correspondence re-appears, but not sent locally. It is mail going abroad to the USA or to Dr Brender in Berlin and so escaped whatever happened to local correspondence in the 1930s and 1940s.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Esperanto in early Bolshevik Russia

As would-be world revolutionaries, the early Bolsheviks were sympathetic to Esperanto. It provided a means of international communication before the hegemony of English was established. Since Esperanto is basically a Romance language with a Roman alphabet, Russians who used it were making a bigger effort than those they were writing to. In any case, as Leninism turned to Stalinism, Esperanto fell out of favour as did any kind of private international communication even through authorised channels. This can be seen for example, in the decline of Philatelic Exchange letters in the 1930s. Private individuals were simply too afraid to send them.

The card below caught my attention first because of its date. It was sent from Petrograd to Switzerland in May 1921 and arrived the same month - the receiver mark is on the picture side. So it was sent within the scarce 1920 - 21 period when foreign mail services had just re-started. They were all suspended in January 1919 and resumed in June 1920. It's a registered  postcard and as seems to be normally the case, it is franked at the registered letter rate of 10 roubles using a 10 kop stamp revlaued according to the March 1920 x 100 revaluations.

But then I looked at the Esperanto Star and Flag printed in pale ink on the card and realised that this is in fact an old Imperial formular card which has been recycled with these symbols on the address side and Zamenhof's picture on the correspondence side. All Imperial postal stationeries with a face value were invalidated on 1 January 1919 but continued in use as blanks, as did formulars without a face value.There were huge quantities available and the practice of overprinting them was common in the early Soviet period. The dealer Tarasoff did it in Archangel and the Soviet Philatelic Association did it in Moscow. You could probably make an interesting collection of all the different overprints, say from 1917 through to 1925 or so.

Click on Images to Magnify

I have taken the following from the Comments section below:

The sender of this card is of interest to me. S.N.Podkaminer (1901-1982) was an aircraft engineer by profession, He also worked as a college lecturer. As a Red Army volunteer he took part in the civil and Great Patriotic wars. Having learned Esperanto in 1920, the young Semyon Podkaminer immediately became active in the movement. He took part in the 3rd Russian Congress of Esperanto, at which the Soviet Esperanto Union (SEU) was founded, then he led their youth section, and was repeatedly elected as a member of the Central Committee of the SEU. In 1926 he was secretary of the 6th Congress of a left-wing body called SAT in Leningrad, when special stamps were published. When in the late 30's Stalin undertook purges against speakers of Esperanto, he was fortunate enough to avoid arrest, but was expelled from the Communist Party.

This card was sent when he was 20 years old and relatively new to the language. In it he appeals for people who want to correspond with him about political and other matters.

The original card was oprobably produced in 1912 on the 25th anniversary of Esperanto.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Women on Stamps: Armenia

Click on Image to Magnify

I am sure one of my readers can answer this question to which I don't know the answer:

When and where was the first stamp issued which showed a woman who was not a queen, princess, president or mythical figure? Maybe someone famous, maybe an ordinary person ...

And then maybe a second question:

When and where for a stamp showing a woman doing an ordinary job as on the stamp above?

In the United Kingdom, a woman who wasn't the Queen did not appear until 1968 when the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst appeared on a stamp. In contrast, Turkey had put suffragettes on stamps as far back as 1934, the year in which all Turkish women got the vote. The Soviet Union depicted a female worker and peasant in two of the designs for the 1929 definitive series - earlier definitives showed only male workers, soldiers and sailors (Correct?).

I like the Armenian stamp and think it's a pity it was never issued. It exists in both slate and red as do all the stamps in the series. But another value in the set was issued, with a surcharge and this shows a woman carrying water:

Click on Image to Magnify

The stamps are all from the 1921 Second Yessayan series printed by the Armenian firm of Yessayan (or Essayan) in what was still Constantinople. The stamps were ordered by the new Armenian Soviet government and the designer was Sarkis Khachaturian. Yessayan had fairly recently printed the Wrangel Refugee overprints and the Levant ship fantasies which did not stop him getting the Soviet order.

Part of the original printing of the Second Yessayan stamps was on a porous, yellowish paper rather than the usual white and non-porous paper. The 100r above is on the yellowish paper but both of the 1000r are on the normal white paper. The stamps on the yellowish paper are normally in an ink which is nearly black rather than grey and they are sometimes mistaken for proofs. All the reprints of the slate colour of this stamp are a paler grey and the red stamps a paler red, and only the forgery uses a yellowish paper - but then the paper is not porous and the yellow gum is laid on thick. The unissued 100r stamp above is really quite scarce but the issued stamps with surcharges are not so hard to find.

It would be interesting to know the source of Khachaturian's designs - he also has a shepherd boy, for example, and a train leaving Yerevan station (popular with Thematic collectors). Did he have photographs of the woman spinning and the woman carrying water? Or did he make a sketch? Note that the woman fetching water appears to be barefoot.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Guest Blog: Howard Weinert on Money Letters

Postal Rate Chronology for Russian Money Letters 1872-1917

Compiled by Howard L. Weinert

1 January 1872: A unit weight fee of 10 kopecks*, an insurance fee, and 5 kopecks for a receipt. The insurance fee was determined as follows: a) for a declared value of 1 ruble up to 100 rubles – 1 %, b) for a value above 100 rubles up to 400 rubles - ½ % plus 50 kopecks, c) for a value above 400 rubles up to 1600 rubles – ¼ % plus 1.5 rubles, d) for a value above 1600 rubles – 1/8 % plus 3.5 rubles. Values expressed in rubles and kopecks are rounded up to the next ruble before the insurance fee is calculated. A full kopeck is collected for any part of a kopeck. No postage stamps are used on money letters. *The weight fee for money letters sent abroad varied by destination.

20 March 1879: A new unit weight fee of 7 kopecks for all money letters. New insurance rates as follows: a) for a declared value of 1 ruble up to 600 rubles – ½ %, b) for a value above 600 rubles up to 1600 rubles – ¼ % plus 1.5 rubles, c) for a value above 1600 rubles – 1/8 % plus 3.5 rubles. Money letters now had to be registered for a fee of 7 kopecks, but the fee for the receipt was discontinued.

1 April 1889: For international money letters, the unit weight fee and the registration fee were both increased to 10 kopecks.

            1 June 1893: New international insurance rates: 3 kopecks for each 75 rubles of declared value for countries bordering Russia (Germany, Austria, Rumania, Turkey, Sweden, Norway), and 7 kopecks for all other countries.

            20 December 1898: New international insurance rates: for each 112.5 rubles of declared value - 4 kopecks for countries bordering Russia and 10 kopecks for all others, with a 4 kopeck supplement for sea transit.

            1 January 1903: New domestic insurance rates: a) for declared values up to 600 rubles - ¼ %, b) for a value above 600 rubles up to 1600 rubles, 1/8 % plus 75 kopecks, c) for a value above 1600 rubles - 1/16 % plus 1.75 rubles.

            1 July 1904: Henceforth, all money letter fees will be paid for with postage stamps.

            1 August 1904: Instead of clerks writing serial numbers by hand on money letters, a blue-bordered printed label will be affixed, showing the serial number and the post office name.

            1 January 1905: New domestic insurance rates: 10 kopecks for declared values up to 10 rubles, 25 kopecks for values above 10 rubles and up to 100 rubles. For values above 100 rubles, the rate was 25 kopecks plus 15 kopecks for each additional 100 rubles or part thereof. The fees for registration and sealing wax** were eliminated for domestic money letters.

            1 May 1909: New international insurance rates which varied on the destination – from 4 kopecks (Germany) to 22 kopecks (Somaliland) for each 112.5 rubles of declared value.

            21 September 1914: For domestic money letters, the unit weight fee and the registration fee were both increased to 10 kopecks.

            15 August 1917: New domestic insurance rates: 15 kopecks for declared values up to 10 rubles, 30 kopecks for values above 10 rubles and up to 100 rubles. For values above 100 rubles, the rate was 30 kopecks plus 30 kopecks for each additional 100 rubles or part thereof. These insurance rates remained unchanged until 28 February 1918 (new style).

**Each money letter has either official wax seals or those of the sender or some combination of both. The number can vary from two to six or more, but is usually five. The sender could use his own wax or purchase it from the post office. Based on empirical evidence, the cost of wax was one kopeck for five seals before May 1898, and 1 kopeck per seal after March 1901. The price change happened sometime between 1898 and 1901.

Below are some fine examples of Money Letters for the period 1876 - 1913, from Howard Weinert's Collection and with his descriptions. Thank you, Howard, for providing this very informative Blog - TP

1876 money letter enclosing 83 silver rubles sent from Bolkhovskoye to Constantinople for transmission to a Russian monastery on Mt. Athos in Turkey. The total postage was 1 ruble, 8 kopecks (20 kopecks for double-weight, 83 kopecks for the 1% insurance fee, and 5 kopecks for the receipt).

1885 money letter (stationery of the Imperial Russian Technical Society) enclosing 50 rubles (equivalent to 200 francs) sent from St. Petersburg to the director of the Berlin Trade School. The total postage was 46 kopecks (14 kopecks for double-weight, 25 kopecks for the ½% insurance fee, and 7 kopecks for registration).

1891 money letter enclosing 1060 rubles (equivalent to 4240 francs) sent from St. Petersburg to Vevey, Switzerland. The total postage was 4.65 rubles (40 kopecks for quadruple-weight, 4.15 rubles for the insurance fee [1.5 rubles plus ¼% of the insured value], and 10 kopecks for registration).

1896 money letter enclosing 5 rubles (equivalent to 20 francs) sent from Sochi to Berlin. Total postage was 24 kopecks (10 kopecks for weight, 3 kopecks for insurance, 10 kopecks for registration, and one kopeck for sealing wax).

1904 money letter enclosing 5 rubles sent from Vorontsovskoe-Aleksandrovskoe to Worms, Germany, then forwarded to Speyer. The total postage was 29 kopecks (10 kopecks for weight, 4 kopecks for insurance, 10 kopecks for registration, and 5 kopecks for sealing wax).

1905 money letter enclosing 100 rubles sent from the fieldpost office of the First Siberian Army Corps in Manchuria to Borga, Finland. Total postage was 39 kopecks (14 kopecks for double-weight and 25 kopecks for insurance).

1913 money letter enclosing 5 rubles (equivalent to 131/3 francs) sent by the Kiev provincial prison inspector to the Hachette publishing house in Paris. The total postage was 26 kopecks (10 kopecks for weight, 6 kopecks for insurance, and 10 kopecks for registration).

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Visit London Stampex while the Single Market lasts ...

Visa-tree travel, no Customs paperwork, some pointless queues at Border Control it's true. But until 2019 you will still be able to visit the UK as if it was a nearly-normal country. And enjoy a favourable Exchange Rate on your dollars or euros! (Advice: Most dealers will accept dollars and euros and accept them at the actual Bank rate of exchange, so don't lose money by buying sterling before you arrive). Maybe just as important: roaming charges on EU mobile phones brought into the UK will also stay regulated until 2019. 

London STAMPEX runs from 15 to 18 February 2017. Find my stand up in the gallery close to the very good cafe and restaurant. Full details at

I will be selling from my specialised stocks of Russia and related areas, Baltics, Finland, Transcaucasia, Ukraine. I also have stocks for Poland, Romania, Hungary, some Germany, and a very big stock of  Latin America. Other dealers offer GB and British Commonwealth and, really, All World. 

After 2019? I am glad I am not organising LONDON 2020.