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Sunday, 12 August 2018

CLOSING SOON: internet auction

The Internet auction at      closes on 17 August

With lots of people on holiday (and maybe without smartphones), there are still many Lots which have no bids. There may be a chance to get them cheap.

I have contributed material to the sections for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Crete, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania,  Russia (most sections), Transcaucasia and Ukraine. I am also responsible for the wide range of Latin America bulk lots. In total, I have over 300 lots in this auction.

Take a look at this well-established, trustworthy auction

Monday, 6 August 2018

Latvian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic 1919 - 1920

Someone once said to me that postal history collectors are really stamp collectors in disguise.

Part of the evidence, the fact that pre-philatelic mail trades at a huge discount on the prices achieved for early franked mail even when the cancellations, the routes, etc are very much the same. In addition, pre-philatelic mail is often in excellent condition because dealers and collectors have not been adding their pencil notes, their hinges, and their autographs for the past 150 years or more.

More evidence is in the fact that big areas of postal history are neglected because the stamps on the covers are the wrong sort of stamps. Collectors who supposedly specialise in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) of 1917 – 23 generally show very little interest in the period 1917 -21 when mail continued to be franked with Imperial adhesives. Likewise, collectors of early post-Imperial Latvia want to see Rising Suns on their postal history, not Imperial stamps.

But from 1917 to January 1920, there also existed Bolshevik-controlled areas of Latvia and even a Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic, with is capital first in Riga from January until May 1919, then in Dvinsk [Daugavpils] and finally in Rezhitsa [Rezekne] where a new Cyrillic canceller was used which included the word “Latvia” rather than old Imperial “Lifland”.

It’s true that it requires a bit of work to establish what is and isn’t Bolshevik mail and also to get over the fact that much of what exists was seriously damaged by The Cutter - a post office clerk employed in Riga to clip stamps on Money Transfers and Parcel Cards and who took an utterly pointless job very seriously. 

Here for example is what could have been a very attractive Money Transfer Card.
Addressed in Latvian, this card sends 3 rubels to the editorial office of “Zihna”, founded in 1904 as a Latvian Social Democrat journal and in 1919 the journal of the Latvian Communist Party, headquartered in one of Riga’s main streets, Elisabetes iela. 

The card is an Imperial card and so is the etiquette bottom left which reads SEGEWOLD LIFL. in Cyrillic. But with the declaration of Latvian independence, Segewold became Sigulda and acquired a nice new Roman script canceller and a nice supply of red ink. But when Sigulda came under Bolshevik control in December 1918 (and remained so until October 1919 – von Hofmann’s dates), the Soviets used boring Imperial stamps in preference to Rising Suns, in this case 5 x 5 kop imperforate stamps paying the minimum Money Transfer fee of 25 kopeks. The card arrived in Riga on 2 May 1919, shown by an old Imperial Cyrillic canceller for RIGA applied on the reverse. The representative of Zhina signed for the card on 6th May.

Unfortunately, as you can see, The Cutter went to work on this card which is otherwise in very good condition – over a century not many collectors have taken an interest in it

Click on Images to Magnify

Previous Blog on this subject: 23 October 2015

Sunday, 5 August 2018

A Rare One Kopek Franking

On 1 November 2013, I blogged here about the One Kopek Tariff which existed continuously in Imperial Russia from 1866 to 1917 and ended only under the Provisional Government: from 14 August 1917, the lowest tariff was set at 2 kopeks. The conditions of eligibility for the 1 kopek rate varied a great deal in that 1866 – 1917 period, but in principle, it is possible to find every type of Imperial 1 kopek used as a single franking. 

It may be that the hardest one to find is the imperforate 1 kopek issued in April 1917. April to August sounds like a reasonable period of time, but if a post office or an individual still had perforated 1 kopek stamps available, then they might well choose to use those because easier to separate – try finding a pair of scissors when you need them!

Since I began looking for 1 kopek frankings many years ago, I have only found one with the imperforate. It is used on the circular shown below and cancelled at the Petrograd 57th office on 25 5 17. I am today writing up the item for despatch to auction.

Click on Images to Magnify

BREXIT Preparations (continued)

My preparations for BREXIT are very simple.

By the end of March 2019, most of my better stock will be physically located in Finland and Germany, queued for auction at Suomen Filateliapalvelu and Heinrich Koehler.

If there is a Hard Brexit with traffic chaos (including chaos in postal services) and bureaucratic confusions about tariffs and whatever, then I will be able to wait for sanity to return – which may be never, of course. If sterling goes the way of the pesos and liras of the world, then I will benefit from my €uro-denominated auction sales (and so will Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs). 

I have already benefitted in the past two years with sterling an average of 15% down against the €uro since the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum. There is no scenario in which sterling will regain that loss. Just think, when the €uro was introduced - I was in Amsterdam on changeover day and Guilders had disappeared by lunch time - the rate was 1.40 €uro to one £ sterling and climbed to a peak of about 1.75 in the year 2000.

Back in England, I am afraid I shall only retain cheap stock with a low value to weight ratio which does not justify shipping to Europe. Since it is likely under every scenario that my UK clients will have less money to spend as consumer prices rise and the economy shrinks, then cheap stock is the sensible thing to have – and even then, not very sensible. But it will be something to do, a hobby, and I think it will increasingly remind me of how things were in the old, poorer, eastern Europe. I recall one day in Prague in the 1990s going to the weekly collectors’ bourse where I asked to take a table for the afternoon. It cost me the equivalent of one euro – and I got a receipt! Of course, I didn’t sell very much but it was a happy afternoon.

Meanwhile, like many UK-based businesses large and small, I am buying (investing) very little. I am sitting on money in the bank and letting my stock levels fall, waiting to see what happens and for the moment assuming the worst.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

New August 2018 Online Auction at Filatelia Palvelu

Now online, the next Internet auction at

Note the early closing date: 17 August

I have contributed a lot of material to the sections for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Crete, Georgia, Poland, Romania,  Russia (most sections), Transcaucasia and Ukraine. I am also responsible for the wide range of Latin America cheap lots.

Take a look at this well-established, trustworthy auction

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Globalisation? Nothing New to Stamp Collectors

Globalisation is nothing new to philatelists. From the moment that collecting stamps became a hobby in a few countries, it also became a global trade. When a country joined the club of stamp-issuing countries, at least one person started to ship the new issues out of the country and make some kind of business out of doing so. In some cases, they shipped to lots of other countries; in other cases, they shipped to a select few and specifically to the biggest dealers: Moens in Belgium, Senf in Germany, Gibbons in Great Britain, and so on.

One hundred and fifty years ago and even more recently, there were often restrictions on both exporting and importing. In some countries, like the old Soviet Union, private individuals could only export through official channels, specifically the Soviet Philatelic Association. Even now, there are “heritage” restrictions on exports from countries like Russia and Poland. Those restrictions are often ignored, and always have been. Stamps are very portable and if you don’t want to follow the rules, it’s very easy not to.

Countries  sometimes impose restrictions on imports, making duty payable on stamp imports. If I buy something in a Swiss auction, then I expect to be charged 5% import VAT. But sometimes an official mistakenly charges me 20% and sometimes nothing at all – when they can’t cope with the volume of work, I suspect they just let some things through. If people don’t want to pay import duties, then often enough at the airport they walk things through Customs.

One way or another, we have globalisation and it’s a bit like the famous Six [ or Seven ] Degrees of Separation. In fact, for New Issues it must be unusual for there to be as many as seven links between a person buying stamps at a post office counter and a collector buying those stamps across a stamp dealer’s counter. It’s more likely to be two.

When we move away from New Issues to material which has been inside the philatelic world for decades or more, there is an interesting distinction between those stamps which constantly churn and those which are still only a few degrees of separation away from their starting point. For example, there are “Investment” grade stamps like the 1929 British PUC Congress £1 stamp which circulate more or less continuously in auctions and have no obvious “provenance”. They are both common and anonymous. It is really only because they are investment items that they command prices which make it worthwhile for an auctioneer to present them as a Single Lot item. The PUC £1 is a common stamp.

Over my quarter century as a stamp dealer, it has interested me that some of the material I handle is only a few  degrees of separation away from its original starting point even when that starting point is over a hundred years away.

For example:

In 1861, the Moscow Police authority issued its first stamps to indicate that someone had paid the fee to register their residence in the city with the police. In 1881, the rather crude first issue was replaced by a State Printing Works-grade second issue. I guess that it was around this time, that PERSON 1 approached someone in the Police department and enquired whether it would be possible to buy the unused remainders of the first issue (which might otherwise have been destroyed). With or without bribery and corruption, PERSON 1 got the stamps. They sold them on to PERSON 2, the famous Belgian dealer Moens, who put the sheets and part sheet into his stock. It’s possible that Person 1 and Person 2 were the same person, namely Moens, but I assume there was an intermediary.

Much later, PERSON 3 bought some of the stamps from Moens – some in large blocks. That person was Lentz, who sold on to PERSON 4 , Agathon Faberge who helpfully recorded on the back of his blocks that he got them on 21 I 07 from Ltz Moens Lager [Lentz Moens stock]

When Agathon Faberge died, the stamps passed to PERSON 5, his son Oleg Faberge, who probably put them onto new album pages. Late in his life, Oleg sold the stamps to PERSON 6, a Finnish collector B E Saarinen who took them off the new album pages. Then it becomes a bit unclear. 

We know that he sold on parts of his Faberge fiscal collection to another Finnish collector and to a British collector, but neither was the PERSON 7 who (probably after Saarinen’s death) kept or bought the best bits of the collection, including the ex-Moens mint stamps, and sold them at auction a couple of years ago to me, who is therefore PERSON 8 at the current end of a chain which stretches back to the 1880s. 

That’s a very short chain for 130+ years.  In those 130+ years, the stamps have crossed from Russia to Belgium, back to Russia, out to Finland in 1927 when Agathon Faberge fled/ was allowed to leave Russia, and finally from Finland to the UK [directly?] under EU single market rules.

Click on Image to Magnify

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Apologies for Absence

I am sorry there have been so few Blogs recently. There are two reasons.

First, I was waiting to go into hospital for an operation - something which has now happened and should mean that I will soon be "back to normal".

Second, I have been buying very little new stock because of the uncertainty which British government policy (or lack of it) has created even for a very small business like mine. A lot of my Blogs are based on new material which has come into stock and I don't really have any new stock right now.

Instead of buying new stock, I have been sending off lots of old material to Finland and Germany for future auction sale, taking advantage of the single market while it lasts for us here in the UK. I really have been emptying the cupboards. So over the next nine months you can expect to see lots of my stock coming up for sale not only at but also at Heinrich Koehler in Wiesbaden.