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Monday, 30 April 2012

Invited Contribution: Tobias Huylmans on Armenia 1923 Yerevan Pictorials with Missing Background

After reading Trevor's interesting post on the Armenia 1923 Yerevan Issue with Missing Backgrounds I wrote him an email asking if I could have a look at his stamps and try to figure out the problem.

After receiving the stamps I did the following:

First I grouped the stamps as Trevor did in three different groups

  • Cafe Latte background

  • Pale Grey background

  • No (visible) background

Than I scanned the "patients" with 1200 dpi saved this. So now we had these stamps:

Pale grey

After that I darkened the images a bit using Photoshop:

Pale grey

Now we can clearly see the background on the first three stamps - the background always is spotted - only the last stamp does not have this feature (what seems to be the background is actually the paper - we get to this later)

So far, using an Image Manipulation Program, we learned that the Without1 stamp, which we thought might be without background, has a very weak but noticeable background!

After this I checked the stamps using a Leica MZ FL III Stereo Microscope:

Pale grey

Now we note that even in the "Cafe Latte" version where the background is clearly visible to the naked eye, it almost disappears under the microscope! You now can hardly tell any difference between the "background" of the stamps!

Now I tried to visualize the background with a higher magnification - I used 45x magnification

Cafe-Latte (clearly visible background)
Pale grey (already hard to tell)

The stamp "without1" only showed very few and pale background pigments!

After I did all this there was only one stamp which was MOST LIKELY without the background, now I checked with a very
high magnification for any "cafe latte" or "pale grey" pigments.
I looked all over the stamp but could not find
any remains of any pigments used for the background printing - this only can lead us to one conclusion:

The stamp named here "without2" is really printed without the background color!

For anyone who wants to see the pictures (and some additional ones) in a higher quality:

Along with the Armenia stamps, Trevor sent me two examples of Azerbaijan stamps - one with normal yellow background, the other one with apparently missing color yellow.

I basically performed the same steps as illustrated above - The Photoshop step I skipped - well I did not skip it but it did not bring me any useful results ;-)

Normal stamp
stamp with "missing" yellow color

As next step I made some pictures with the Leica MZ FL III

Normal stamp
stamp with "missing" yellow color

What first seems to look like yellow pigments on the right stamp are simply some
darker paper fibers - but for sure no yellow pigments!
Here are two more clear examples

Normal stamp
stamp with "missing" yellow color

Now as last step I again used a very high magnification (310x) to search for any pigments - first I show you what these pigments look like:

Normal stamp
stamp with "missing" yellow color

So, again the only conclusion can be:

The second stamp shown here is for sure without ANY BACKGROUND PRINTING!

For anyone who wants to see the pictures (and some additional ones) in higher quality:

In case you are wondering which kind of technical equipment was used, here is a picture:

At the left side you see my "Zeiss Standard 18" with different objective (6,3x - 25x - 40x - 50x - 63x)

That means with my 12,5 ocular you can see the material looked at with 78,75x - 312,5x - 500x - 625x and 787,5x magnification!)

By now I also have a special UV-Unit integrated into the microscope, this also makes it possible to study the ink and structure of the pigments with UV-light.

At the right side you see the "Leica MZ FLIII" a pretty good stereo microscope - which I mostly use for the comparison of overprints and cancels....

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Azerbaijan 1921 Soviet Pictorials: Blacksmiths

Azerbaijan has oil but, surprisingly, does not seem to have philatelists for its first Republic issues. Outside Azerbaijan, there are few serious collectors: readers don't come to this Blog looking for Azerbaijan. And the incredibly rare Blacksmith proof which was in the Corinphila sale this week (Lot 833, from me) did not sell.

Part of the problem is that we have seen too many old and dirty copies of these stamps in schoolboy collections: tens of thousands of the unoverprinted first issues of 1919 - 21 went into Woolworth packets, many years ago.

Another problem is the paper used for these stamps: newsprint is never attractive and it ages badly. Interestingly, when stamps have been gummed (either mint or used), the gum seems to help preserve the paper.

But these stamps deserve a closer look.

At the top on the left, a block of 4 of the 500r Blacksmiths of 1921. Someone has pencilled plating remarks and the paper has aged. On the right, the forgery of this stamp, not so common, and relatively easy to detect: the shading on the faces and shirts of the two smiths is less detailed, for example.

The background colour wash on this stamp comes in many shades, some of them rare. I have lined up those I have in the second row. On the right, the last two stamps with purple and eggshell blue backgrounds could be colour trials - but I have no means of proving this. There is also some paper variation, though ageing complicates the picture. The third stamp from the left is clearly on a white paper.

This stamp was not used for surcharging: the 150 rouble in the same design but in blue without colour wash background was used but not this 500r value.

However, for a short period at least, this stamp was made available for use unsurcharged. Michel (which gives an issue date of 1 October 1921 for the whole set), values this stamp used at 150 euro (Michel 23 - I notice that the colour combination is listed as "schwarz/violett")

My accumulation of used copies is shown above. There are four with legible April 1922 dates in the top row and two with Janauary dates (laid sideways) in the bottom row.

Two things strike me about this accumulation (pieced together over many years):

First, none of my used copies have a colour wash which is predominantly purple, violet or blue. All are basically grey.

Second, all have BAKU cancels. This is a bit surprising since you would expect to see at least one from somewhere else, like ELISAVETPOL. Maybe this stamp was only available in Baku.

Well, there's a Blog - perhaps the first ever - about just one value of this 15 value set. Someone could have a lot of fun making a specialised collection of all 15 stamps.

But for the moment, I am just thinking that those two blacksmiths never expected to find themselves on the Internet.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Armenia 1923 Yerevan Pictorials: A Frustrating Variety

Some of the 1923 Yerevan pictorials - the first stamps to be printed in Armenia - are in two distinct colours. Others have a pale colour wash background in a colour similar to the dominant colour.

This is not an all-over wash - the background colour is patterned so that it does not print on parts of the main design: see the first stamp in the display above to see this clearly.

Specialist listings claim that stamps with "background colour omitted" exist. In my experience, it is a real problem to determine in a particular case whether the colour is omitted or not.

For example, on the 2000r the background is sometimes in a pale brown colour (think Cafe Latté)and this is easy enough to see - look at the top row of stamps and see how the background colour does not extend into the Star at the top or the "Z Z" on the shield at the bottom.

But sometimes the background colour is pale grey and it is sometimes hard to see - look at the stamps in the second row. If you thought the background should always be brown then you might think these stamps are without background. That is not so - look again and on the first three stamps in this second row you can see there is a background.

But the last stamp in this row, a mint copy on the right, could be without background - the design,the gum and the paper are combining to play tricks on the eye and I find myself changing my mind ...

In the bottom row is just one stamp which I think is without background.

But I find it so difficult to decide that I do not think I have ever sold a 2000r stamp as an example of "Missing Background".Unfortunately, unsurcharged copies of the stamp are scarce - there were no large stocks of mint remainders of this widely-used stamp. If we had a few large multiples, it would be much easier.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Armenia 1923 Yerevan Pictorials

Though the Michel catalogue has a generally good listing for Armenia, it breaks down for the last issue from the 1919 - 1923 period, the Yerevan pictorials listed as IVa to IVk in unoverprinted form and 171 - 180 for the issued, overprinted stamps.

Michel does not give separate listings for stamps overprinted with metal handstamps and those with rubber handstamps, nor does it distinguish overprint colours except in a footnote which values red overprints at a x 10 premium

Above I show the 1000 rouble stamp (Fisherman on Lake Sevan) with a 50 000 rouble metal overprint in black and then in violet (Top Row) and with a rubber handstamp in black, violet and red (Bottom Row). Chronologically, the rubber handstamps came into use first and you do not find mint remainder stocks for them as you do for the later metal handstamps.

In general, metal handstamps are normally found in black, occasionally (on some values) in violet and, to my knowledge, on only one value in red (the 200 000 handstamp). Dr Ceresa lists in his Handbook a Purple-Black and it is true that, quite often, on turning to the back of the stamp which looks black on the front one can see purple (or violet) pigments penetrating. But I am not sure that this variety can always be reliably distinguished.

When I first acquired from Dr Ceresa, about 20 years ago, his stock of Yerevan pictorial overprints, I tabulated the quantities with different colour overprints from the metal handstamps. I came across this listing, working today in my office, and it breaks down a total of 192 stamps as follows

139 stamps with Black overprints (many of these were from Mint remainder stocks)
30 definitely Purple-black (if in doubt, I assigned them to Black)
19 definitely Violet on just 3 of the ten values possible
4 definitely Red on just 1 value (the 200 000 handstamp - this red overprint may have been a philatelic late production)

For the rubber handstamp overprints, there is a different distribution. A total of 140 stamps broke down as follows:

81 stamps with Violet overprints
38 stamps with Red overprints
21 stamps with Black overprints

The 75 000 rouble handstamp, applied to the 3 000 rouble stamp, only exists in the metal version; there is no rubber handstamp for this value. It is probable that not all values can be found with Red or Black rubber overprints, but all (except the 75 000 just mentioned) can be found with Violet.

It follows that a "basic" collection of metal handstamps will show all 10 values in Black and a "basic" collection of rubber handstamps will show all 9 values in Violet.

An "advanced" collection will contain spaces where it is uncertain whether a particular value can or cannot be found with a particular colour overprint and in both mint and used condition.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Farewell, London Philatex!

London's Philatex stamp and cover show closed its doors yesterday for the last time. The Royal Horticultural Society has sold the Hall in which, for many years, it has been held. The organisers (Helen Davis, Kate Pulleston, Chris Rainey) have no immediate plans to re-open it elsewhere.

Held twice a year over three days each time, it was the first show at which I took a Stand, sometime back in the 1990s. At one point, I had two Stands: my regular booth and an adjoining booth, flying the name easystamps where everything was sold at £5 an item. It didn't last long: I couldn't get the volume of trade required to make it profitable.

London's second pair of stamp shows, Stampex, held in north London will obviously benefit from Philatex's closure - dealers who only traded at Philatex will no doubt try migrating to Stampex.

Others will investigate joining London's Strand Stamp Fair, held just a kilometre or so away from London St Pancras International terminal and less than that from London Euston.

This is where you can find me most months - it is my only London shop.

For details of dates and location, go to

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The "Constantinople Group" : making philatelic products in the 1920s

Since they are all dead, it ought to be possible now to write some kind of honest account of the doings of a group of stamp dealers, collectors, entrepreneurs and crooks who found themselves together in Constantinople in 1920 - 22/23, did a lot of stuff together, and who thereafter went their separate ways.

Who were these people and what did they get up to? In no particular order and with no proof that they were all in it together (probably they weren't):

V.M.(Y)essayan, the head of the Essayan Printing Works, who managed both to overprint the stamps of the [White] Russian Refugee Post and print the first stamps of Soviet Armenia [First and Second Yessayan] and who along the way probably printed the Levant ship fantasies (which are on paper and with gum similar to those used for the Armenian stamps). He also supplied the stamp trade with unofficial reprints and (probably)unofficial colour trials, proofs etc of the Soviet Armenian stamps. Not bad for an Armenian working in Turkish Constantinople!

Captain Sredinsky, "Postmaster" of the Russian Refugee Post from the time of Wrangel's evacuation of Crimea at the end of 1920 until his migration to Paris and his re-emergence as the stamp dealer THALS.

Serge Rockling (1893 - 1975), who probably left Tbilisi in late 1920 or early 1921 before the Bolsheviks arrived, had a hand in the National Guard and De Jure overprints of Georgia, may have had a hand in the Georgian Consular overprints of 1921, and who is best known as head of the (highly reputable) Paris stamp dealers, MAISON ROMEKO

Souren Serebrakian (1900 - 1990), born in Tiflis, who found himself in Yerevan in 1920, filled his suitcases with Armenian stamps, left in August or September 1920, and made his way via Batum, Constantinople, Leipzig, the Netherlands and Brussels to New York where he traded stamps until his death and left a vast stock auctioned a few years ago by Cherrystone. Probably had a hand in the Georgian Consular overprints of January 1921.

? ? Samuel Gueron, a Constantinople stamp dealer responsible for the rather good "Gueron forgeries" of Katerynoslav Type II Tridents.

? ? A.M. Rosselevich, an accomplished draftsman who in later life designed the 1957 Rossica society souvenir sheets and vignettes celebrating the hundreth anniversary of Russia #1, and who I have been told (orally) was in Constantinople at the time I am writing about. In later life, expertised stamps using the handstamp ROSS.

? ? Paul Melik-Pachaiv may not have made it to Constantinople. The Bolsheviks imprisoned this philatelic speculator who dominated the production of Armenian stamps after Serebrakian left, and as a result of his imprisonment he may have left later and by another route. But, curiously, in 1923 he can be found in Leipzig - a city also on Serebrakian's migration route, so I have added his name here just in case there is more to the story than we know about.

If this Blog has older readers, they may be able to continue the story.... It is one worth researching.

Georgia 1921 "De Jure" overprints and the "Constantinople Group"

Here are two covers: both use pre-printed business envelopes of a member of the Rockling family in Tiflis, both are franked with genuine examples of "De Jure" overprints intended to mark the full recognition of Georgia by the League of Nations on 27 January 1921, both are addressed in the same hand and marked "Registered" in the same hand, to no obvious purpose since there are no Registration cachets or numbers. Both have identical cancellations:

- a TBILISI serial "ts" with a pattern of 4 dots on either side of the serial dated 21 2 21
- a TBILISI serial "z" with no dots either side of the serial and dated 22 2 21.

Now, the only real question of interest is this: were these covers favour cancelled at a Tbilisi post office counter, just before the Bolshevik capture of Tbilisi on 25 February, or not? And, if not, where were they cancelled.

Peter Ashford in his Georgia: Postal Cancellations 1918 - 1923 lists the first "ts" cancellation as genuine type, gives it the number Type 26A but says of it, "So far only seen dated 21.2.21 on philatelic covers bearing top values of "De Jure" issue, cancelled for friends of S.Rockling. Confirmation of other usage awaited" (page 68).

However, Ashford then lists the "z" cancellation as a Fake, a forgery (page 151) used by the 1920 - 21 "Constantinople" group of stamp dealers, collectors, printers and crooks - of which more in a moment. This "z" cancellation, says Ashford, was "used to 'cancel' a whole range of phantasies" (page 151)

In my opinion, it is more probable that either both these cancellations are genuine or that both are fake.

On the one side,these cancellations are well-made devices in a style very close to that of other Tbilisi cancellations. The ink pad used yields impressions which are similar in colour and so on to that of clearly genuine cancellations of the period.

Of course, it could be that they are genuine post-office made cancellers which, along with an ink pad, found their way to the other side of the post office counter and thence to a Forger's Den in Constantinople.

It could also be that they were made privately in Tbilisi for someone who knew he was going to (have to) leave and wanted them to take with him, to Constantinople.

Given their quality, it seems less likely that they were made in Constantinople.

Crucially, unless we can find examples of BOTH of them used on uninteresting mail before or after 21/22 2 21 it seems unlikely that they were at the post office counter in Tbilisi on JUST those two days. It seems more likely that they were never there and that, wherever they were made, they were only used in Constantinople to create what French dealers now like to call produits philatéliques.

I probably would not have put you through this analysis but for one thing: on the first cover illustrated above (blue stamps) on the right towards the bottom, is the house mark of ROMEKO PARIS.

Now Serge Romeko's original name was Rockling and these covers are on his family's business notepaper. As a Paris stamp dealer, Romeko was remarkably careful about applying his house mark. I have only once or twice seen it on a "bad" item. In adddition, I have many times seen sheets or blocks of stamps from Transcaucasia annotated in pencil by Romeko with the word "Bon" and his initials - it seems that he checked stuff coming into his stock and used this pencilled note to indicate that he was satisfied with the item. So I would be surprised if Romeko put his house mark on a fake, even one he had made himself as a younger man, en route to Paris from Tbilisi via Constantinople ...

Which brings me to the "Constantinople Group", the subject of my next Post.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Dr Raymond Casey Grand Prix Collection at David Feldman

Dr Raymond Casey, at the age of 94, remains an indefatigable collector. Yesterday, I saw him in animated conversation at London's Philatex stamp show. A couple of weeks before, he was at my table at London's Strand Stamp Fair - and,remarkably, I found something ( a small something) to offer him for his Ship Mail collection.

Today, I sat down at my computer and watched the sale of his Grand Prix collection of Russian Post Offices in China, Mongolia and Sinkiang. I didn't get the item I really wanted: a 1918 insured letter from Pekin to Petrograd, returned as undeliverable even before it reached the border. It interested me as showing that in the Pekin Russian post office, they still thought Petrograd a possible destination as late as May 1918.

Particularly interesting also were the Romanov franked items in the collection, all of which achieved high prices - and in some cases, very high prices. Here, I want to put out an unorthodox idea:

The conventional wisdom, endorsed by Dr Casey (page 17 of the catalogue), is that the Romanov stamps were not stocked in the China post offices (let's leave out Mongolia and Sinkiang from this and stick with China). However, so the story goes, they were valid for use if supplied by the customer - and this is how we come to find examples of them.

In the Feldman sale, no PEKIN items are franked with loose Romanov stamps; one very philatelic KALGAN cover has a 3 kop Romanov (Lot 20047); no CHEEFOO or HANKOW items have Romanov frankings; but two SHANGHAI items, both seemingly non-philatelic and dated 1913 and 1914, have low value Romanov frankings ( 2 kop, Lot 20064 - shown above - and 10 kop x 4, Lot 20065).

In the recent past, I had in my stock a fragment of a wrapper from Shanghai the franking on which included a 4 kop Romanov. I am sure I have seen loose stamps with Shanghai cancellations.

So my hypothesis is this: for some reason, the Shanghai Russian Post Office did receive some Romanov stamps for its stock. Maybe they asked for some.

Over to the specialists!

Dr Casey's collection realised over one million euros, with only one Lot unsold. You can consult the results at where you can also browse the illustrations of every Lot.

Russia: Air Mail fantasies?

I have seen these items on several occasions, usually as single stamps. But what are they? Though there is no country name, it seems clear that they are supposed to be Russian and the denominations place them in the 1920-23 period.

The word "Pochta" means that they are supposed to be postage stamps and the air plane suggests that they are for Air Mail. But though I have seen them described as "Essays" I think they are fantasies. But whose fantasies?

If you think you know, please comment below!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Russia #1

Unlike the Penny Black, the first stamp of Russia is not common. It was too rapidly superseded by Russia #2 and Russia #5 - #5 is so common that though it is catalogued in Michel at 25 euros, I sell it for 10% of that unless there is a nice postmark.

Russia #1 is catalogued in Michel at 500 euro with pen cancel, 750 with combined pen and proper postal "Stempel" cancellation, and 1000 euro with "Stempel" alone.

For pen cancelled copies with minor faults it's worth paying 100 euro. If they have been in old collections, a gentle wash may well improve them unless the pen cancel dissolves (which is unlikely).

As a specialist Russian area dealer, I am more or less obliged to keep Russia #1 in stock. At present I have three copies, shown above. On the left, a copy which has four margins and part of a BERDIANSK cancellation (not so uncommon - Berdiansk was a busy commercial centre at this time). But from the back you can see a small amount of damage caused by old hinges and their removal. I have got 290 euro on this stamp and would no doubt settle for 250-260.

In the middle, a copy with four uneven margins - on the left, part of the adjoining stamp has been cut into. So though the margins are uneven, this left margin shows you how wide the spacing between stamps actually was, making it of more interest. As well as the cancellation reading "1858" there is also the left hand end of a company's oval cachet - these are quite often seen on stamps at this period. On the downside, the right margin curves dangerously close to the design. On this stamp, I have got 365 euro and would not want to drop below 350 - this stamp has two interesting "additional" features.

Finally, on the right, is the pièce de résistance: a stamp with four neat margins, brilliant colours, set off on the blue background of a fragment with a complete BERDICHEV cancel. This stamp has a Mikulski certificate which praises the item as "aussergewöhnlich schon ... sehr guter Prägung, sauber "Adler"-frei gestempelt - extraordinarily beautiful ... very good embossing ... neatly cancelled clear of the Arms.

On this item, I have put 980 euro - 98% Michel - and I might let it go for 900. But I would be sorry not to have it in stock just to show people.

Added 12 June 2015: All these stamps have been sold

Monday, 16 April 2012

"Na Parokhod" - By Steamship

This is a fairly ordinary Russian pre-philatelic entire letter, written (in Dutch or Flemish) in St Petersburg on 23 July 1829. It arrived in St Nicolas, Vlandern (Flanders) on 21 August, having passed through Berlin on the 15th August - see the transit cancellation.

What is interesting is the annotation top left of the front, "Na parokhod" - By Steamship. I wonder if this is an early date for such an annotation, which I have not noticed on other pre-philatelic letters of this period. Does anyone know?

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Russia: Romanov Tercentenary stamps 1913

Looking at this unusual fragment, I was reminded that next year 2013 sees the 100th anniversary of the issue of Russia's Romanov Tercentary stamps - and, of course, would have been the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.

I am sure there will be lots of Romanov items on offer in auctions around the world and maybe some really nice stamp collections among them.

Lots of interesting collections can be formed from Romanov stamps and postal stationeries. The larger format of the stamps means that they are good for postmark collections. The stationeries are not all easy to find, especially in used condition, so that is a challenge for those who seek one.

The stamps continued in use after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917 and interesting collections of "late use" material can be made. Some of it is philatelic but probably most is not. The Soviets invalidated Romanov stamps from 10 March 1920 [That is the date I have - is it correct?] but even after that date there are occasional examples of post offices using Romanovs on Money Transfers and Parcel Cards - I discuss an example on my Blog of 10 February 2011.

The fragment at the top is unusual. Part of a Money Transfer Form, it shows two 3 rouble Romanovs used in combination with First General Issue of Ukraine 40 Sh and three Imperial Arms stamps with Kyiv I Trident overprints. The cancellation reads IZYASLAVL VOL 12 10 18, so over a month into the Trident period.[ I think the place in question is also known as IZYASLAV ].

Friday, 6 April 2012

Armenia 1922 Second Yessayan stamps: a short guide

This set of eight values, each value printed in either red (rose) or slate (grey) was prepared in Constantinople by the (Y)essayan printing works. There are three Yessayan printings and one Forgery of the series:

1. ORIGINAL Printing. Yessayan printed each value on a separate sheet (i.e., normally). As far as I know, no complete sheets now exist and the largest multiples are probably no larger than twenty or thirty stamps. Three values were not issued at all, and the other five values were only issued with surcharges. The values which were not surcharged are scarce and the issued values are rare without surcharge. There is some colour variation in this Original printing and for the grey stamps, there are two distinct papers - though it seems that only some values can be found with both papers. All the stamps were gummed and the gumming is the same as that found on First Yessayan stamps: done with a machine and with a clear gum stop at the sheet edges.

2. FIRST Reprint. Yessayan prepared these for the stamp trade. None were sent to Yerevan and none can exist with genuine surcharges: a surcharge on a Reprint is ALWAYS a forgery.

To economise on lithographic plates, Yessayan RESET the eight values onto just two plates of unequal size. These two plates yield 147 stamps in total providing stamp dealers with 18 sets and 3 spare stamps .... Most sheets were cut up for the packet trade and se-tenant multiples are rarely seen. The paper is always white. About half the sheets were not gummed, and the other half are with white gum which has a different appearance to that used on the Originals.

A pair of First Reprint sheets are in the April 2012 Corinphila auction (Lot 1764). They are from me.

3. SECOND Reprint.. Again to supply the stamp trade, Yessayan made a Second Reprint (probably a couple of years after the First)and this time used just one plate for all values. There are 74 stamps on this plate, yielding 9 sets and 2 spare stamps ... Most of the sheets were cut up for the packet trade and se-tenant multiples are rarely seen. None were sent to Yerevan and a surcharge on a Second reprint stamp is ALWAYS a forgery.

This second reset plate shows the stamps with worn impressions - there are more white areas. The colour of the stamps looks pale in comparison to the First reprint but actually the colours are very similar - it is just the extra white areas which make the stamps look pale.The paper is again white. It seems that most of the sheets were gummed. The gum is yellowish and gives the paper a yellowish appearance.

4. The Forgery. There appears to be only one Forgery type. The designs are crude, the paper grey, and the gum thick and yellow. The Forgeries copy the Reprints: the different values are printed se-tenant, but I do not know if one or two plates were used.Examples can be found with the gum washed off and from these copies you can see that the paper is normally grey and coarse. For some reason, red Forgeries appear to be scarcer than grey forgeries.

The consequence of this printing history is that a complete collection of this issue WITHOUT SURCHARGES - excluding shade, paper and gum varieties and se-tenant groups comprises 16 Originals, 16 First Reprints, 16 Second Reprints, 16 Forgeries ...

The listing of surcharged stamps in the Michel catalogue is good, but the pricing of the unsurcharged stamps is not sensible.


(Note: the used copy of the red stamp about has a Georgian arrival cancellation at top)

Monday, 2 April 2012

From the Archives to the Philatelists ...

In the 1920s, Money Transfer Forms and Parcel Cards from the 1917 - 21 Soviet archives were passed to the Soviet Philatelic Association and maybe other organisations. There they were used like corpses for organ donation.

First, stamps were peeled or steamed from the back of the Formulars, as in the example shown above. This provided an initial supply of used stamps for philatelists who wanted used stamps. In the case of the example illustrated, the process turned a very attractive piece of postal history into damaged goods.

Then the fronts of the Formulars were raided - stamps were clipped from them, individually, even if they were part of a block or strip. In the example below, the Formular has been clipped to provide just one copy of a 1 kopeck imperforate. The stamp had been placed to cover up the Imperial Arms at top left and completed the franking of 124 roubles (6200 roubles transferred x 2% = 124 roubles, provided by (4 x 30r Blagoveschensk issue) + (4 x 1 kop x revalued 100) = 124 roubles.

Alternatively, all the stamps were soaked off, sometimes causing water damage - this is very obvious on 10 rouble Denikins, the red ink of which is partly water soluble.

Eventually, the remainders of the corpse with a few stamps adhering - or sometimes none at all - were sold off.

I would like to know more about this history. Many thousands of Formulars must have been treated in this way. Very few now remain intact. I think that most went through Soviet hands, but it is possible that some Ukrainian Formulars (for example, those of Podillia) were taken into exile by National Republic officials.

I would be grateful for more information on who did what, when and for whom!

Corinphila Auction April 2012

The catalogue for the Corinphila auction in April 2012 is now on-line. You can see it at

and in more searchable form at

However, you may find different illustrations on the two sites.

I draw your attention because I have a lot of my Stock for sale in this auction :)

If you have been reading this Blog, you can probably recognise what is from me. Mostly it is Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, West Ukraine with some Poland and Romania too. Of course, not everything in those sections of the catalogue is from me!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Postal History for Beginners :)

I was one of those boys who took the stamps off old postcards. My aunt had quite a collection and, rather reluctantly, she let me peel off the stamps. So I got damaged stamps and she was left with damaged postcards.

It's called, Not being able to see the wood for the trees. I know better now, but it took a long time.

Postal history should always be placed in the biggest context possible:

Who sent What to Whom? From Where, When and Why?

How much did it cost and how was the cost shown (the Franking)? By what Route did the item travel and how long did it take (Receiver cancellation - Despatch cancellation = Transit time)?

How was it handled en route? Did censors open it? Was it delayed by conflict?

Was it a typical item? Was everyone doing it? Was it specific to a particular time and place?

Some times the answers to these questions are obvious and sometimes they require a lot of research.

Today I was looking at Dr Raymond Casey's collection of Russian Post in China and Mongolia, as illustrated in two fine books The Russian Post in the Chinese Empire (David Feldman) and in the catalogue for the forthcoming sale of that collection (also David Feldman). This is how postal history should be done. Dr Casey pays attention both to the traditional philatelic matters - stamps, cancellations, tariffs - but also to the wider contexct of this mail. And what he has done can be done for items costing a dollar, not just for those costing thousands.