Saturday, 14 October 2017

Kaj Hellman Auction AFTERSALE

The  Kaj Hellman Auction in Finland is now open for online bidding for the LOTS WITH NO BIDS (Unsold Lots) at There is plenty of good material available at the Start prices.

As usual, I  contributed to the sections for Baltic Sates, Russia, Transcaucasia and Ukraine. 

You can still find genuine Armenia, for example, on offer (with Berger Opinions) at a small fraction of the prices achieved in the recent Heinrich Koehler auction!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Postal use of Dashnak Armenia stamps

The new Armenia listing in the Michel catalogue (see previous Blog post) gives separate prices for used stamps in the Dashnak period, but they are prices for CTO copies. A note simply indicates the scarcity of postally used material, and its rarity for anything used outside Erivan and Alexandropol.

There are two problems about postally used Armenian material: finding it and identifying it correctly. As for Danzig and other territories, if gum is washed off CTO stamps they often look very much like postally used stamps – especially where centrally placed cancels are applied. Worse, in some places dealers and collectors applied mint stamps singly to sheets of paper or blank envelopes and got them cancelled in bulk. But a single stamp when removed from its backing paper looks like a used stamp. This is true for all the Baltic countries after World War One and also for Armenia.

Philatelists do archive research and often find helpful information, as Christopher Zakiyan did for Armenia. But unanswered questions remain. In the Armenian case here are some of my thoughts and  speculations:

Between 1917 and 1921 postal activity was often disrupted and some Armenian post offices disappeared forever: those in the areas of eastern Anatolia taken by Turkey (all of the Kars district, notably). Alexandropol was occupied by Turkey for a period. Conflict with Georgia disrupted the postal service. It wasn’t always possible to get the trains to run. Civil conflict, famine and disease were more or less permanent features of Armenian life.

Postal activity was modest. The practice which was standard at least until 1939 of soaking stamps off covers makes it seem even more modest than it was. In addition, a significant part of internal Armenian mail would have been stampless official correspondence of which little survives which has not been faked by the addition of genuine stamps cancelled with fake handstamps. But even those fakes provide useful information.

Erivan could not always maintain contact with other post offices. It did not always supply them with stamps so cash payments were accepted – this became official policy in the transitional year 1921 (Zakiyan’s research). Conversely, those post offices could not always get things into the postal network even if they were open and a clerk on duty.

But the post offices were always there and the best evidence for that is the rapid revival of the internal post in 1922 – 1923 where old Imperial cancellations suddenly re-appear on the new Soviet Armenian issues, sometimes very dirty and worn (BASARGECHAR a good example).

A significant part of franked mail in the Dashnak period was foreign mail destined for the Allied countries – the USA, France and Great Britain – who were providing some minimal support to the new Armenian republic and sometimes helped the mail along its way, as the British did in Batum. Those covers often had stamps soaked off and that is one reason that when I try to assemble examples of postally used stamps, it is the higher values which are more common. See the scans below. Tariffs during 1920 rose through rouble steps: 2 and 4 and 8 roubles. But mail abroad seems to have reduced and even stopped before the end of 1920 – postally used examples of rouble overprinted stamps are rare. There are only two examples on my scans (both of 1 rouble overprints).

Inland mail from Erivan or Alexandropol probably had a poor delivery and survival rate. In addition, though stamps may have gone into Armenian collections, they did not leave the country once Soviet control was established. This is probably why I can show so few kopeck value stamps which would have made up tariffs of 30 and 60 kopecks and 1 ruble 20.

The stamps on the scans are ones I think probably or certainly postally used, though I cannot tell whether they were originally on philatelic covers which (for example) Souren Serebrakian sent in quantity to his brother in Tiflis. In sorting the stamps which are shown, I have looked at such things as paper adhering to the back of the stamp, careless cutting of imperforate stamps and even hand tearing, smudged postmarks which don’t look like the usual CTO. In among all the Erivan and some Alexandropol cancels, you will see a couple of manuscript cancels and just one identifiable as from another town, Karaklis, flagged up on a 3 rouble 50 kop imperforate.

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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The New Michel for Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan

Stamp catalogues never know where to put the countries of Transcaucasia – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In the 2006 Michel they were included in Mittel-und Ostasien, a fat catalouge which runs from Afghanistan to Usbekistan. The new replacement 2017/2018 catalogue cuts down the number of countries included, taking out China, but still leaves the Caucasus housed beside Japan, Korea and Mongolia. It doesn’t make much sense and it’s a pity because the new Michel includes a completely re-worked and expanded listing for pre-Soviet Armenia. 

For the first time, black and violet Dashnak overprints are separately listed  and so too are Combined overprinted stamps (Z + rubel value) which come with and without Monogram. The scarce to rare second type of the ten rubel overprint, which is just a “10” without the letter “r”, is listed for the first time. The last series of overprints on Erivan pictorials are now separated into those made from metal and those made from rubber handstamps.

All this moves Michel closer to the Stanley Gibbons listing but Michel stays with the approach of Christopher Zakiyan who listed only the overprints which were officially authorised and not the counter-surcharges, the inclusion of which makes the SG listing much longer than that in Michel.

There were serious mistakes in the 2006 listings and these have been removed. The revised valuations go a long way towards getting it right with regard to what is common and what is rare. It is to be hoped (but is not very likely) that auction houses in France and Italy will take notice of the new Michel listings. In Germany, of course, it will be automatic.

There are a few things which could have been included without making the listing longer. No example of the first Soviet Star set, which Zakiyan thinks an officially authorised trial, is illustrated. But the bogus second Star set gets its regular illustration and there is space beside it for an example of First Star. The SPECIMEN overprints on  low value Chassepot stamps could have been mentioned, but then it needs to be said that all Specimen overprints on the higher values are fakes (mostly from the 1990s and mostly Californian - David Feldman was selling the remainder stocks recently). The two unofficial Reprints of Second Yessayan, made by the printer,  could have been identified in a sentence and that would have been helpful because most unoverprinted stamps in collections are Reprints – very few are Originals and very few are the obvious Forgeries.

But these are relatively minor points. The important thing is that we now have a short listing which is fully based on the best available research (Tchilingirian & Ashford, Zakiyan) and a reasonable assessment of market conditions. In that it is unique. The revised Michel pages are the contribution of Stefan Berger, the new BPP accredited expertiser for Armenia. He is to be congratulated on his work.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Russia Revenues: Imperial Moscow Police residence permit stamps, first issue

St Petersburg and Moscow police departments began using adhesive stamps to record payment of residence permit fees in the 1860s. Most St Petersburg stamps are common, though one is a great rarity, but Moscow’s are not common even though they remained in use until at least 1881 when new stamps prepared by the State Printing Works were issued.

Nothing about the first Moscow issue suggests it was printed by those State works. The gum, the variable paper, the wide variation in colour, the deterioration of the printing plate, the lack of alignment of individual stamp clichés – all this is well below the standard achieved by the State works. The stamps look like a job which might have been done in-house by the Police department itself. To me, the stamps look as if printed by lithography, the plates retained over a long period and the quality of the print greatly deteriorating.

It is quite difficult to study the issue for four reasons. First, the scarcity of large mint multiples for plating purposes. Second, the impossibility of dating the use of stamps which have been taken off document, where they were always cancelled by a simple pen cross. Third, and connectedly, the difficulty in distinguishing printings when there appears to be wide variation within printings and not just between them. Fourth, the scarcity of stamps used even on a fragment of a document. In addition, lacking access to the relevant sources I do not know what the fee structure was or how it changed.

On the pages illustrated below I have assembled over 100 Moscow stamps now in my possession. About half of them have pencil notes on the reverse which indicate that they are from Agathon Faberge’s collection. These notes are dated between 1900 and 1907, though some notes do not give a date. It is my belief that Faberge annotated stamps that he bought individually but that, in addition, he bought bundleware or kiloware of these stamps for research purposes and only annotated those where he noticed something unusual. My guess is that in the 1900 – 1914 period Faberge owned and studied many hundreds of these stamps, now dispersed across many collections.

My assembly does not include two varieties listed in the John Barefoot catalogue: an error of colour on the 5 kopeck printed in blue instead of the correct green; and a perforated version of the 5 kopeck green. I have never seen either and would be pleased to illustrate them here if anyone has either of them. Added: John McMahon has kindly provided the following scan of his error of colour stamp. This appears to be the only recorded copy,from the Marcovitch collection. However, to my eye, the blue would be more convincing if it could be matched to the same blue appearing on a 3 kop stamp (the 3 kop stamps were printed in blue). 

I can show two varieties identified by A Faberge: bisects on the 2 kopek and manuscript revaluation of a 2 kopek stamp to 3 kopeks.

On my very provisional pages, I have copied back-of-stamp A Faberge’s notes and written them underneath the stamps on which they are found. Any notes above the stamps are mine. Click on Images to Magnify.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

More from the Faberge Fiscal Collection

This Blog post assumes you have read the previous Blog post.

In the period before World War One, obtaining older fiscal stamps and documents from smaller cities and towns was probably as difficult as finding stamps and covers from the more distant Zemstvos and perhaps more difficult. The collector societies in St Petersburg and Moscow eventually set up arrangements with many Zemstvos to supply new issues, and the Zemstvos were often co-operative when they realised that their stamps could yield a significant income. In consequence, they began to issue stamps rather in the way that Liechtenstein or Monaco do today. But I doubt that writing to distant courts asking for their stamps would do anything other than create suspicion. To this day, the pre-1914 fiscals of small administrations are very scarce, especially on document. So it was a nice surprise to find in my London purchases the following item:

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I have seen the stamps of Yaroslavl before but not on complete document. This one, dated 1878, and folded for the illustration was obtained by Agathon Faberge in September 1913. He got it from Göschiel [ not a supplier I have encountered before ] and paid 15 rubles [ pd – k – 20 IX 13 Göschiel: I decode the “k” as “ kauft” meaning purchased rather than “k” as in kopeck. See Hellman and Stone, Agathon Fabergé, page 242 ].

It seems that B E Saarinen picked out some of these provincial fiscals for re-mounting and I assume that the simple exhibit page below is his work (further information welcome). I haven’t seen the two listed stamps of Kolpino before. Agathon F got the top piece with the red stamps from Karing in 1914 but no price is indicated. Agathon has also worked out the date written across the stamps as 15 September 1898. There are no notes on the back of the strip of blue stamps but I suspect they are also ex-Faberge.

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Faberge was able to acquire some court fee stamps in bulk, notably from Baku, where someone cut off many hundreds of the locally-produced stamps from their original documents. They ended up in Faberge’s hands and were eventually dispersed. The Faberges did begin to study them, though the published plating study is due to Jack Moyes. The stamps were printed like raffle tickets in strips of six. The counterpart to the left of the MAPKA part was a receipt KVITANTSIA. These are rare. There is one example in my new acquistions, and on the back Oleg F has written FOTO, suggesting that an article or book was contemplated on the lines of the Zemstvo book for which Oleg also wrote FOTO on the back of items. 

Despite having had a stock of these Baku stamps since the 1990s I had never seen a strip of six until the London sale and now I have just one such strip, with no acquisition note on the back

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More difficult than any provincial revenue stamps are the tax banderoles and labels applied by the Maria Feodorovna charities to packs of playing cards, over the production of which they held a monopoly. People who played cards were wasters rather than hoarders and simply did not think to keep the bands and labels for future collectors. So it was an agreeable surprise to find in my London purchase a complete but empty playing card packet.

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The blue front packet design is less elaborate than the beautiful red and black design illustrated in John Barefoot’s Russia Revenues catalogue [Plate I ] and on this Blog on 13 January 2016, and does not look like the work of the state printing works. But whereas the tax work is done by the later red and black design, the actual tax work is done here by the black strips which seal the packet horizontally and vertically and which are intact on the reverse of the pack. Like the blue design they incorporate the image of a pelican feeding her young which is the logo of the Maria Feodorovna charities. I illustrate these sealing strips on my Blog of 13 January 2016

Friday, 22 September 2017

Faberge Imperial Russia Fiscals Collection

Faberge is the collection which keeps on giving. Agathon and Oleg never organised it all or disposed of it all in a systematic fashion and undocumented material still keeps appearing, as it did on 21 September in a London auction which offered 27 lots of mainly Faberge Imperial Russian fiscal material.

In the same period of fifteen years before World War One when Agathon was assembling his Zemstvo collection, he was also assembling a Russian Imperial fiscal collection in very much the same way. He bought common stamps in big quantities and then tried to plate them or looked for errors and varieties (and found them). He made notes on the backs of stamps recording his discoveries, though in the case of common stamps I do not think he always wrote the name of his supplier and the price paid. He bought scarce stamps and also fiscal documents and stamped paper, though some categories of document were hard to obtain. Only when things like court archives were later disposed of or simply looted did complete documents become available. When Agathon got to Finland in 1927 there were probably some emigres happy to sell him old documents from their family archives.

I think Agathon mounted some of his collection on album pages and I think that Oleg re-mounted them, as he did the Zemstvos. Oleg also put on to album pages stamps which had never been there before. This much I infer from the hinges on the backs of a great deal of ex-Faberge material. But at some point all the material was taken off pages. In contrast, when after Oleg’s death, Corinphila sold the Faberge Zemstvo collection in 1999, about ninety percent of it was on modern, massively annotated album pages which represented many meters of shelf space.

The recent London Faberge sale included a modern stockbook which includes both stamps which look like remainders of something else, but also carefully selected choice pieces which would display well or which have research interest. As an example of a visually attractive piece, see the scan of this Moscow Court stamp. Oh, and I nearly forgot - it's not only pretty, it's also imperforate between vertically:

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As an example of a research item, consider the scan of this Moscow Police stamp. On the 21 January 1907, Agathon bought two blocks of four from Lentz [abbreviated as often the case to Ltz] who in turn had got them from the stock of the Belgian dealer Moens [ Moens Lager, in pencilled German]. Separately, a pair has been acquired and either Agathon or Oleg has then re-joined what are parts of a separated block, using slips of stamp hinge. This gives an unusually large mint multiple for this early stamp. But though the block has two modern hinges (presumably Oleg’s), we now have no indication of how it was written up.

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Agathon’s and Oleg’s close attention to the detail of common stamps did pay off. The stockbook contains, for example, a bisected 2 kop stamp used to make up a 3 kop rate. That is not unusual. But it also contains a 2 kop stamp uprated in black ink to make a 3 kop rate, a fact I only discovered when I turned over the stamp and read on the back 3 auf 2k! I would be interested to know if this variety has been recorded elsewhere. I show it above along with an example of the bisect.

More to follow.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Who Is Trevor Pateman?

Who is Trevor Pateman?

There are now several Trevor Patemans on the Internet…. I am the one born in England in 1947 with a previous academic career which is easily tracked. I am not on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram. Those are other Trevor Patemans J  

This Trevor Pateman spent last week 12 – 16 September working at STAMPEX London. My stand was busy and now it is all over, I am very tired. On the front of my stand, my assistant was selling All World liquidation items at £3.50 each item – there were a few thousand items to pick from. I sat at the back of the stand selling mostly Russia, Iberian Peninsula and Latin America, including collections as well as single items. 

It was a bonus in the last afternoon of the show when an ebay dealer sat down and ended up buying some bulky Latin American accumulations based on the ancient stock of Errington & Martin [Errimar]  and Oswald Marsh. The dealer's smartphone App. allowed him to make an immediate transfer to my bank account.

I hope to have some new Russia stock soon which I can Blog about but I have not been a very active buyer recently. The adverse exchange rates make it difficult for me to buy outside the United Kingdom right now.