Friday, 19 August 2016

Auction Records - calling my Auction House Readers

Is this a record?

The Philatelic Services of Finland company (Suomen Filateliapalvelu Oy) held its 98th auction today, an Internet-only auction. I had 150 Lots for sale and so I was watching closely. I was also buying. When I looked at the Results, I noticed

Lot 212 Start price 10 €   Hammer Price  3068 €
Lot 244 Start price 5 €  Hammer price 1011 €

You can still have a look at if you want to see what these lots contained. You will smile :)

But does the Result on Lot 212 set a record? The Hammer price is 307 times the Start price
Do any of my auction house colleagues recall a Result which beats that?

Of course, there are lots of reasons why Start price and Hammer price sometimes differ x 10 or even x 20. For example, an auctioneer with a sense of humour may know that a particular lot will attract a lot of attention. So it's fun to start it at 10 when you know it will sell for 100. But time in the auction room is precious and an auctioneer can't really waste time just to have a bit of fun. On the Internet, it's different - there is no real-time auctioneer at work so you can start at 10 and can indeed sit back and enjoy the fun.

Some things have no known market value, often because they are obscure. So an auctioneer has to start with a cautious estimate.

Some things are simply not understood by an auction house describer. There is one successful auction house in the UK which basically prices everything in the 100 - 300 range and leaves the buyers to work out the real value. You don't need much expertise to put everything into a 100 - 300 range.It's not very efficient of time in the auction room, but it's the model they have adopted and it seems to work.

Some things are understood  but there may still be uncertainty. I remember once doing some work for Heinrich Koehler. I had ten single Lots taken from a collection on which I put start prices of 1000 to 2000 €, but I said to Koehler: Look, one or two of the ten will go up but I don't know which ones so I have put them all in this 1000 - 2000 category. Well, one lot went to 36 000 and one to 52 000. But the others stayed closed to my Estimates. In the case of the 52 000 item, some of the uncertainty was caused by the printed company name on an envelope.It definitely added a premium, but I didn't know how much of a premium it would add. In the end, I think it contributed a lot to that 52 000 figure.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

STAMPEX September 2016

I have a Stand G5a up in the Gallery at London STAMPEX 13 - 17 September 2016. 

With Sterling so cheap, it must be a good time to visit London - and most dealers at the show will accept US dollars,euros and Swiss francs.

Just Google STAMPEX to find out all the details - where it is held, what times the show is open, who will be there. Admission is Free.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

1917 Kerensky Postal Stationery Card

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This is my August Competition.

Here's an ordinary 5 kopeck Kerensky (Provisonal Government) Postal Stationery card correctly used from TAMBOV 25 11 17 to Moscow. So it is used a month after the October (Bolshevik) Revolution. On the back the sender has dated their message to 25/XI so we can rely on the postmark.

The Competition is simple: Send me a scan of a Kerensky card showing an earlier date of use. No prizes, except publication here with your name. Scans can be sent to

Your turn ...

August 10 2016 and Ivo Steijn in the USA sends these examples from the Robert Taylor collection, giving us 9 11 17 also from TAMBOV to Moscow and 15 11 17 from PETROGRAD to Koebenhavn, uprated to the foreign 8 kopeck rate. Thanks, Ivo! So now the challenge is to beat 9 November (Old Style).

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August 10 2016 and Alexander Epstein in Estonia shows us three examples, top to bottom 

MOSKVA 25 10 17 [ first day of Soviet power in Petrograd] to Yuriev [Tartu]
MOSKVA 4 11 17  to Reval and Registered
REVAL 25 10 17 to Petrograd and cut down at right

So..... just one day earlier than 25 October 1917 and we will have a Kerensky card used in the Kerensky [Provisional Government ] period.  Who has it in their collection? 

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Added 27 August: Henri Taparel submits this interesting card used from IRKUTSK at the end of November, with a transit censor mark of Petrograd on the reverse. The use of the Kerensky card for foreign mail is unusual at this early period, partly because the foreign postcard tariff was 8 kopecks - this card is under-franked and has a Tax "T" marking and a "15 c" charge in violet crayon. The oval French censor mark shows that it arrived in France.

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Thursday, 4 August 2016

Kaj Hellman

Readers of this Blog may wish to know that Kaj Hellman died today. He was probably best known to collectors for his Auction, held twice a year in Helsinki. He was a very knowledgeable philatelist, especially in relation to the postal history of Imperial Russia. He handled the sale of a great deal of material from the Agathon and Oleg Faberge collections, and at the time of his death was working in collaboration with Dr Jeffrey Stone on a book on those collections. He was what in English would be called a Gentleman Dealer, always polite and helpful, even in the past few years when he was in poor health. But he valued most of all his family life.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Unusual Cancellations on Ukraine Trident stamps 1918

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The Ukrainian National Republic declared in 1918 claimed more territory than it ever controlled. As soon as German military protection was removed, the territory it did control contracted rapidly. 

Very occasionally, you see General Issue or trident overprinted stamps used in 1918 outside "core" Ukrainian guberniyas, most often Minsk and occasionally Kursk. The stamp shown above is the first I have noticed with a Voronezh guberniya cancel.

The small town of Valuyki is now in Russia, 15 km outside the modern Ukraine - Russia border, so it's possible that it was briefly under UNR control in 1918. The cancellation is dated 21 10 1918, so shortly before the German collapse. It could be CTO but I rather doubt it - the cancel is characteristic of use on a Money Transfer or Parcel Card. The stamp itself with Kharkiv III overprint is scarce but not rare (Bulat # 758, $65). The cancellation, of course, makes it much more interesting. The stamp is signed both UPV and Philip Schmidt in whose collection I found it. I will send it to Filateliapalvelu in Finland for auction.

Added 12 August 2016: Roman Procyk has kindly contributed the following scans  showing Kharkiv trident use on Telegraphic Money Orders at at Valuyki. They provide additional evidence of the little-known use of Trident stamps in Voronezh guberniya. Note the dates, late in the period of German Occupation of Ukraine, and the destination - a bank in Kyiv (written in Russian).

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Russian Levant Obrazets overprints

Sometimes you notice things, sometimes you don't. Here are two Levant surcharges on Imperial stamps. In the background you can see some kind of blue diagonal inscription, very weak and unreadable unless you know what it says. It says OBRAZETS and these are Specimens, even though this is not the usual form of Russian OBRAZETS overprints which are big,bold, unmistakeable and much forged on computers. But if I had not seen these almost invisible blue oveprints before, I would have missed them.

I Googled to check that I was right and within the usual 45 seconds had located an interesting Auction lot from Cherrystone where the blue OBRAZETS is combined with a UPU administration's own SPECIMEN overprint. The lot sold for $500.

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Lot #2358


1903-05 surcharged 35pi and 70pi on 3.50r and 7r respectively, each overprinted "Obrazets" (specimen) in blue cyrilic letters, affixed on piece and further handstamped "Specimen" in violet (Samuel ty. NA2), as applied bythe Natal Post Office on receipt from the UPU, fine and possibly unique combination of Specimen overprints, with BPA cert.

A Very Obscure Item from Soviet Armenia

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Sometimes you notice things, sometimes you don't. Above is a relatively common (and nicely designed) fiscal stamp of the Transcaucasian Federation. First issued in August 1923 with a face value of 60 000 Transcaucasian roubles, it was then overprinted in the new Gold currency - the Chernovets - and becomes a 10 kopeck stamp. This stamp seems to be used in 1924, I think in May - have a look at the line of red-violet writing, in the same ink as the cross cancellation.

At the bottom there is part of a seal in black and bottom right you can see an upside down hammer and sickle, so it's a Soviet seal. Under the seal and in the cartouche - the tablet - there is a number in a different violet ink which looks like 1 450 000 p. In other words, another re-valuation.

I head to Christopher Zakiyan's Armenia: Postage Stamps, Fiscal Stamps, Postage Cancels (2003) and from that I conclude that I am looking at a local re-valuation done at Goris - the place also known as Giryusy in Elisavetpol guberniya and in the same region as the famous Katar copper mines [Katarsky Zavod ].

Zakian does not list a 1 450 000 revalution on this stamp but all those he does list for Goris have high numbers which suggest Gold currency was not in use there when these stamps were available. The figure in the tablet probably just indicates the amount actually paid in tax using this stamp. That may have something to do with the anomalous location of Goris - part of Armenia but formerly part of the Elisavetpol guberniya. That may have put it in a different currency zone.

In the same way, one known consequence of the anomalous administrative position of Goris is that the 1923 Star overprints on Imperial postage stamps, normally found used only in Azerbaijan, are occasionally found used in Armenia at Giryusy and Dyg - the obvious explanation for this is that these places were still receiving stamps supplied from Baku or Elisavetpol.

What would be nice, of course, is to find some document which shows the black seal in full and in a way which allows it to be linked to Goris.