Sunday, 26 June 2011

Collecting Sheets? Why does no one do it?

Yesterday, I was cutting up sheets. Sheets of stamps that had remained intact since 1920. Sheets that I have tried to sell as sheets, but without success.

Why? No one collects sheets; they don't fit onto album pages or exhibition pages. That's the real reason, not the expense of buying 100 stamps when one will do.(Some of the cut - up sheets I had been offering cheap - under 50 euros. It didn't help).

It's also a deterrent that it's expensive to have albums with sheet-sized pages made to order. But there are cheaper variants - German manufacturers produce "Bogenmappe" which are good for storage though not for display.

It's a pity no one collects sheets. With a sheet you can do plating, whether of a basic stamp or its overprint. For Civil War Russia, there is a lot of scope since many overprints are typographic and easily plateable. It's true, some of the sheets are very large. The printers' sheets of 1920 - 21 Azerbaijan pictorials are enormous. I did once manage to sell a big lot of those intact.

Cutting up sheets of bi-coloured Far Eastern Republic stamps (Chita issue) it looked to me that there was a single plate involved. Values were plugged in to the plate and could be changed. Some collectors will have noticed that there are small versions of the "20" on the 20 kopeck stamps and larger versions of the "20". These are simply plateable variants within the sheet. Actually, you only need a block of 4 to show both types.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Romanian Occupation of Pokutia - again

I just received my copy of Ingert Kuzych's new Comprehensive Catalog of Western Ukrainian Postage Stamps 1918-1919 and, as one often does, started from the back. Pages 57 -58 are devoted to the CMT overprinted stamps which were issued during the Romanian Occupation of Pokutia.

Kuzych sticks to the "short" CMT listing which you will find in John Bulat's catalog but - except in one instance - he downgrades the prices to below those in Bulat - and below the prices being achieved in recent auctions (Raritan, for example). The "short" list includes only those combinations of stamp and overprint originally issued. Reprints using the original handstamps can be found on a larger range of stamp + overprint combinations - see the list in Michel, for example.

Kuzych comes in lower than Bulat because he thinks that "It is not possible to readily distinguish stamps of the original 13 values from their reprints" so the prices he gives relate to his assessment of the combined numbers of originals and reprints. In contrast, Bulat prices on the Originals and though he expertised CMT overprints, to my knowledge, he nowhere indicates how to differentiate originals and reprints

In my view it is true that for mint stamps, originals and reprints cannot be reliably distinguished except where the basic stamp + value combination is wrong.But used stamps can be differentiated and Original stamps used within the Occupation period identified. The latter are rare but if they have postmarks dated in the period of occupation from one of the offices supplied with the CMT stamps, then they are going to be Originals.

As for covers, I would be surprised if more than a few dozen non-philatelic covers exist used within the correct time period at the right offices. But they do exist - the stamps were distributed within Pokutia and were used on correspondence. In his memoir, Czerniawski indicates that he was able to colect them at the time. There are a handful of non-philatelic covers in the upcoming Corinphila sale of the Zelonka collection.

For some reason, Kuzych retains one of Bulat's high valuations: he pitches the 60h on 20 heller green with inverted overprint at $2750. Bulat has $2350 but with a note insisting on positional importance. A block of 4 showing the correct position (first stamp in the sheet based on Cerniawski's narrative account of the original issue) and expertised by Bulat sold recently for $800 before commissions in Raritan, so about half Bulat. I have never seen another example of the positional block.

Even when one lumps Reprints along with Originals, it is my experience that the stamps are scarce. I have a minimum price of 10 euro for a mint stamp in good condition. Curiously, most of the stamps one does come across are in good condition. Whether Originals or reprints, CMT overprints never made it into schoolboy collections. They were always too scarce for that.

Monday, 13 June 2011

The World's Last Money Letter?




I used to buy large quantities of post 1991 commercial mail from former Soviet republics. I still have thousands of covers sitting in my office, and occasionally I take a look at them. This cover amused me: a Money Letter for 900 roubles sent on 15 10 94 from Tver to Moscow with a single Soviet period wax seal of Tver Pochtamt on the back (the Avis de Reception has been removed).

One day - perhaps it has already happened - the world's last wax-sealed money letter will be sent. Maybe this is it, though I doubt it. Can anyone find a Russian one from the 21st century, I wonder?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Katerynoslav Trident Type II - Haddendorf type

Click on image and use your Magnifier to enlarge



The framed Katerynoslav type II Trident is attractive, not common, and much forged. The most well-known (and collectible) forgeries are the quite good ones distributed by the Constantinople dealer Samuel Guéron. These are often found with fake KHARKIV postmarks. In the early 1990s, I walked into a stamp shop in Tunbridge Wells in England and asked for any Russian or Ukrainian material. Much to my surprise, the dealer produced a very, very old stockbook stuffed with Katerynoslav Type II tridents, many on kopeck values and many on unaddressed philatelic covers. At £25 I thought I had made my fortune - but the whole lot were Guéron forgeries. I remember sending photocopies of the untouched stockbook to John Bulat before I broke it up.

There is a variant of the Type II which is not well known, the so-called Haddendorf type. In his Ukraine Jekaterinoslaw Bildanhang (1956), Dr Seichter illustrates two examples (illustrations 37 and 39 - see the picture above) and labels them "Haddendorf-Type (Neudruck)= abgenutzte Type II mit fast fehlendem Rahmen". In other words, it is a Reprint with the frame lines almost missing.

I have only ever seen a very few examples and at the present time I have just one in my stockbook, on a 25 kopeck stamp illustrated above.

John Bulat does not mention this Reprint in his Catalog and neither does Dr Seichter in his Sonderkatalog. More puzzling, in his booklet Was wir über Jekaterinoslaw wissen (1956), published in the same year as the Bildanhang, he makes no mention of the Haddendorf type.

So all we have is a name and a few examples. Information please!
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PS. The 25 kopeck example illustrated above has now been sold