Friday, 28 July 2017

New Online Auction in Finland ....

The next internet auction is now on line at www.filateliapalvelu.com. The closing date is 18 August.

I have contributed a very large number of lots for Russia, Transcaucasia and Ukraine. Take a look!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Private Overprints on Imperial Postal Stationery Cards

For some countries, it is very common to find official postal stationeries modified with private overprints of company names and sometimes associated advertising matter. Rules differed between countries, I am sure, regulating what could and could not be done and whether without or with permission.

There are many collectors who look out for such modified stationeries and interesting collections can be made. But for Imperial Russia, private modifications are not common and I assume that this was because regulations were not very helpful. Maybe one of my readers knows what the rules were.

When I go through dealer boxes, it is only very occasionally that I find examples of modified cards. Here is one I found last week in a dealer box. As is often the case, this card has been modified by overprints printed in Polish rather than Russian. The modification in this case is very modest, though the fact that it is also on the front is still very unusual. The card has been used in 1914 from Warsaw to Novoelnya in Grodno guberniya with the addressee's name written in Polish and the rest of the address in Russian. Novoelnya returns only a couple of Google results and Rohotnej is not much better but I think it is now in Belarus.

Some of the more elaborate overprints sell for 100 - 150 euros. Even this modest one is probably worth 50 euro or more to a specialist. You should be able to work out the name of the famous writer whose Works (Dziela) are being advertised on the front of the card 🎭




Click on Images to Magnify


Friday, 30 June 2017

Book Now for London Stampex 13 - 16 September 2017

Sterling is down against the euro and is likely to stay that way. London hotels are expensive but, in September, less so than in August. London STAMPEX takes place from 13 to 16 September inclusive at the Business Design Centre, Upper Street, Islington - a short tube journey or taxi ride from London King's Cross / St Pancras Eurostar terminal. I have a stand and so do over a hundred other dealers. Think about it? 
And dealers are usually happy to accept payment in euros or Swiss francs or US dollars if you want to save on foreign exchange fees. Most are set-up for credit cards or online transfers which can be made on the spot nowadays, so you can keep your currency advantage against sterling whatever method you use to pay

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Inside the Laboratory of a BPP Pruefer

Stefan Berger, the new  expert for Armenia appointed by Germany's Bundes Philatelistscher Pruefer, is now open for submissions. He has a very expensive microscope:



and he has the necessary bits of paper and seals to certify your stamps:


Most important of all, he has spent over a decade familiarising himself with Armenian stamps and postal history; with their many forgeries ancient and very modern; and with the contents of major Armenia collections in several countries.

The BPP website is at www.bpp.de and you can contact Stefan there or directly from the information provided below:

Stefan Berger




Neunkirchner Straße 3
07749 Jena

Expert areas:
Armenien Mi.-Nr. 1-180

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Problem of Large Format Items

Albums and many other philatelic accessories were originally created for collectors of single stamps and, in many ways, they still are. Large format albums, protection plastics and storage boxes do exist but they tend to be expensive – perhaps because there is not much demand. Over time, large format items get folded, creased and otherwise damaged so that they attract even less interest from collectors. 

What, for example, am I supposed to do with the item shown below? It was a bit too big for my scanner but you can see most of it. It’s not valuable but it has some nice features: it’s a Registered banderole, the ODESSA 1 cancellation is a very good strike, the boxed and dated Odessa censor mark in violet – two strikes - is readable (it’s No.237), the franking at 26 kopeks will be fun for someone to convert to weight steps, and so on. The Registration label has been modified in violet ink with the addition of a Cyrillic letter “zhe”.  The trouble is, the whole thing is now very fragile and will separate into two halves unless put into a protective plastic (which I will do).


My guess is that at bottom left, the recipient tore out the address of the sender - maybe the Botanic Garden in Odessa - to keep for reference and some of the other minor damage may have originated in transit. So, in this case,  it’s not all the fault of dealers or collectors. There are no hinges or pencil scribbles. But if I put it out for sale at a stamp exhibition, what do I put on it? Ten euros? Probably less – and for that, you will be getting quite a lot of quite interesting postal history.


Click on Image to Magnify

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Comedy of RRRRs


Click on Image to Enlarge 

This is just the first act of the comedy.To see the rest of this enjoyable farce, go to Christoph Gaertner's June sale, Lot 21778



Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Review: Kaj Hellman and Jeffrey C Stone, Agathon Faberge



This remarkable book closes with two complimentary remarks made by contemporaries speaking about Agathon FabergĂ©; one described him as “a charming gentleman” and another as “a great philatelic scholar”. Those remarks could be applied to the co-author of this book, Kaj Hellman, who died shortly before it was completed. His fellow author, Dr Jeffrey Stone, has carried through the work to a splendid completion assisted by Kaj Hellman’s son, Oskari, and Kaarina Martilla who are responsible for an exceptionally well designed and illustrated book produced to a very high standard.

Agathon FabergĂ© (1876 – 1951) was one of the sons of the Imperial Russian court jeweller Peter Carl FabergĂ©. As a young man, he both worked for the family firm as a gemologist and became an avid collector of stamps and many other things besides. He had the resources to spend lavishly. The war and the revolutions closed the family business, resulted in the confiscation of many of his collections, put him in to a Bolshevik prison and - no doubt to survive - obliged him to work for the Soviet GOKHRAN organisation describing and evaluating Imperial jewels for later sale – in the end, it was the USA which would provide the market for them. It was not until December 1927 that Agathon escaped from Russia to Finland where he settled for the rest of his life.

My guess is that his decade in revolutionary Russia was traumatic. He never took employment after he left but also found it hard to downsize his lifestyle. He became a gentleman philatelist in constant financial difficulty, taking out loans against his collections and then losing them because he could not repay. Much of this is documented in this book. Kaj Hellman once told me that Agathon’s son, Oleg, on his father’s death had found his father’s office desk heaped with unopened letters, many containing bills long overdue.

Agathon FabergĂ© applied himself to his stamp collections in a spirit of scholarship making many discoveries which he simply noted for his own use and never published. This book retrieves some of that scholarship and makes it available. It also reconstructs many aspects of the ways in which “top end” philately was conducted in the first half of the twentieth century. We are introduced to a world of dealers who have very considerable financial resources to commit, to collectors who network extensively and exchange material privately, of international exhibitions, of personal feuds. Some of this reconstruction is enabled by FabergĂ©’s well-known habit of annotating his purchases, recording on stamps and covers who he had got them from, when and for how much. Hellman and Stone have made a big start on constructing a modern database of the annotations and this strikes me as an important piece of philatelic work. The Appendices to the text also contain valuable research material, notably in Appendix 2 which reconstructs FabergĂ©’s 1933 WIPA exhibits and Appendix 4 which is an inventory of known 1846 – 1851 Moscow postal stationery envelopes.

I would have welcomed a brief discussion of how Agathon’s collection was continued by his son, Oleg, who like his father periodically disposed of material ( Imperial Russian fiscals, Transcaucasia 1917 – 23) but also mounted up an extraordinary Zemstvo collection, which after his death was sold by Corinphila (1999) in what was the last remarkable auction of the twentieth century.

The book has been carefully proof-read, is surprisingly readable, and strikes me as a major contribution to the history of philately.

Kaj Hellman and Jeffrey C. Stone, Agathon FabergĂ©, published by Oy Hellman-Huutokaupat 2017, hardback, 370 pages, price 50 €