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Wednesday 28 July 2010

Lubotyn / Lubotin: rare stamps for £1?

Added February 2020: Most of my Ukraine-related Blog posts are now available in full colour book form. To find out more follow the link:

This Blog is a response to some questions asked by a client in Australia, Mark Kornitschuk, about the Special or Local Trident type of Lubotin (Seichter's spelling) or Lubotyn (Bulat's spelling). He had been reading Seichter, Bulat and Ceresa - all referred to below. I have added a further reference at the end.

In his 1966 catalog of Ukrainian Trident overprints, Dr Seichter lists a local Trident type VIII for Charkow /Kharkiv and in brackets links it to the town of Lubotin. He lists it on 9 values, one of which he records as ONLY known in used condition on the old 3r50 rouble black and grey and gives a - - value, which means "too rare to call". One value he records known both mint and used, and seven values only known mint. These mint stamps he values at 350 or 360 Deutschmarks each which is high: Seichter does not use a number over 500, after that it becomes - -.

In his posthumous 2003 catalog of Ukrainian Tridents, John Bulat expands the list of known values to 10 and expands the number for which the Trident is known in used condition to 4. He also records the 3r50 as known mint and values it at - -. He puts a number on 8 of the values in mint condition, $200 each, and on 2 values used, for which the number is $250. Bulat comments "Type 8 is known only from the town of Lubotyn"

In between, Dr Ceresa in his 1987 Handbook devoted to the Special Trident Issues (Parts 20 / 23 of his Ukraine volume) consigns the Liubotyn Tridents to his Category III: Bogus Types (page 390), and values them all at £1 each, mint or used (page 425).

Why? Ceresa illustrates an album page from Seichter's collection at Plate DXIII and comments that all except one of the stamps illustrated is mint. He queries the used stamp because it appears to have a 1922 postmark and he adds that the four or five "used" Liubotyn stamps he has seen have had the Trident on top of the postmark. If this is true and if the Trident is the genuine type of Lubotin (and not a forgery of the Trident), then this is fatal to the idea that we are looking at an authentic issue

Seichter's album page no longer exists: the next owner of the Seichter collection re-mounted it. Ceresa's illustration shows a page of 13 stamps with the comment "Nur wenige Stücke bekannt" - only a few copies known. Seichter also refers at the bottom of his page to two unillustrated stamps: "Noch bekannt je eine 10/7 Kop ungebr. und 1: 3,50 Rub. alt gebr" - "Also known one mint 10/7 and one 3 rouble 50 used"

So if you are interested in rarities, here's an overprint where - - in the Ukraine catalogs means "one known" !

The stamp I want to see is the 3r50 used and Seichter does not illustrate this. The small remainders of this high value but obsolete stamp were used up in post offices to frank Money Transfer Forms with Trident-overprinted stamps. When they are found used, they often have security punch holes. Because of the large size of the stamp, it is often possible to read the postmark. So if we are going to find a readable Lubotin / Lubotyn / Liubotyn postmark it is going to be on this stamp.

So where is this stamp? A thought occurred to me. In 1960 Dr Seichter published a booklet on the Tridents of Kharkiv (Soltau, 1960). I found my copy. He illustrates the Type VIII Trident only once on a mint copy of the 1 kopeck (Tafel XI). But in the text, he says this "Von dieser seltenem und als fraglich angesehenen Typen wurden mit einige Stücke aus Amerika zur Prüfung übersandt, darunter von Herrn Bulat dies bisher unbekannten Werte 10/7 und 20/14 Kop., ungebraucht, sowie aus der Yakowliw -Sammlung eine 3, 1/2 Rubel alt auf kleinem Postanweisungs-Stück. Hier bleibt offen, ob der Aufdruck vielleicht nachträglich aufgesetzt wurde" (page 7). I translate: "Of this scarce and questionable Type, a few copies were sent to me from America for expertising, among them from Mr Bulat the previously unrecorded values 10/7 and 20/14 kopeck, mint, as also from the Jakovliv collection an old 3 1/2 rouble on a small piece of Money Transfer Form. Here it remains open whether the overprint was applied later" - presumably because the cancellation did not tie the Trident.

But it would still be good to see this stamp. So where is the Jakovliv / Jakovlev Collection?

As a dealer, I have handled 4 copies of the Lubotyn Trident, all mint, in twenty years. Three were sold by Corinphila in 2008 (Sale 156, Lot 5274). Of these, one was originally on the Seichter album page illustrated in Ceresa's handbook and one was signed by Dr Seichter. My final copy was sold recently.

Monday 26 July 2010

Georgia 1919 - 1921 : the "Freak" varieties

Anyone who collects Transcaucasia seriously has no doubt seen some of the "freak" varieties deliberately inserted into late printings of the St George and Tamara issue.
Some are rarely seen;others turn up more frequently. Normally they are seen in pairs or blocks of four. Larger multiples are quite rare.
Recently, examining complete sheets containing the freak varieties I was reminded both how few must have been created and how easy they are to miss.
On the kopeck values, the freaks are found once in the sheet of 255 stamps - that's a big sheet and the freaks are buried in the middle rather than conveniently at the sheet margins. In their book Georgia (1983), John Barefoot and Andrew Hall give the sheet positions for each variety. But some of them - like the riderless horse on the 40 kopeck simply do not leap to the eye. Only the freak "bisect" on the 6o kopeck jumps out.
On the rouble values, the sheets are smaller - between 144 and 210 stamps. The 3r and 5r freaks are printed marginally, so they are easier to cut out. I don't think I have ever seen the 1 rouble freak inveretd rider whereas I have seen quite a number of the inverted "5" for "3" on the 3 rouble. So my guess is that the freaks were not produced in equal numbers.
If you come across blocks of imperforate St George and Tamaras it is always worth having a look to see if there are any Freaks which have been missed by previous dealers and collectors.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Catalogues and Collections: the case of Armenia

Someone beginning a new collection will almost always start with a general catalogue in hand. After all, they are supposed to know, aren't they?

Suppose you are going to collect classic Armenia (1919 - 23). If you start with Yvert et Tellier in hand, your chances of forming a decent collection are immediately reduced.

Last time I looked, they had converted all the illustrations to colour. It made it easier for me to see that the the pictures were taken from forgeries, but a novice collector won't see that. In addition, the novice will start looking for stamps which don't exist but which Yvert catalogues and gives prices for. For example, the 1922 First Yessayan series of 17 values was not (except for one stamp) issued without surcharges. Moreover,such was the hostility in Armenia at this time to philatelic speculators that you do not find CTO copies of the unsurcharged stamps. None of this stops Yvert from giving prices for Used copies. I suppose it helps sell stamps with forged cancellations.

In contrast, if you start with Michel in hand, you have a catalogue which is based on modern research by philatelists - specifically, on the work of Professor Zakiyan in Yerevan. The illustrations are good, the listing rational, and the omissions motivated. Notably, on the basis of what Zakiyan says - basing himself on official documents - Michel lists only stamps with officially authorised overprints. The other combinations of stamp and overprint also produced in large numbers at the counters of Yerevan's Dashnak - period post office for hungry stamp dealers are excluded from the Michel listing.

So far so good. But there is one BIG mistake in the Michel listing. Zakiyan found a document in the archives listing the stock of Dashnak period stamps available when the Bolsheviks took power. Michel misreads the list and thinks that it gives numbers issued. As a result, it give high valuations to stamps of which few were left. But most of these had been issued in large quantities and some are common. For example, the 10 rouble on 35 kopeck perforated (Michel 66) is valued in Michel at 750€uro. You can buy one from me for 10 €uro and it will be genuine.

This little group of mistakes is a pity. Much of the Michel pricing is sensible, though not for the Second Yessayan IIIa - IIIr which exist as Originals, First Reprints and Second Reprints. Michel has 2.50 €uro for any stamp in the set. I would be asking you for a minimum of 100 €uro for an Original and 10 €uro for a ** Reprint.

Finally, if you start with Stanley Gibbons you have a catalogue based on the researches of Tchilingirian, a very careful collector and writer. Here you will find all the philatelic counter-surcharges from the Dashnak period listed and this can be justified. These stamps were valid for postage and were used postally - they occur, for example, on the postcards which Souren Serebrakian (1900 - 1990) sent to his brother in Tiflis. You can see a couple of nice examples, correctly franked to the 50kopeck tariff, in the 21- 22 July 2010 Cherrystone sale.

Gibbons is much weaker than Michel on stamps of the Soviet period, with inadequate illustrations and distinctions, but the general problem with Gibbons just lies in the pricing. Multiply by three or five and you are in the right ball park.