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Thursday 19 July 2012

Visitez Londres! But not just yet ....

As from November 2012, London's monthly philatelic Bourse, The Strand Stamp Fair, will be held on Fridays - not Wednesdays. It will still be held in the Royal National Hotel which is just a short taxi ride (or 15 minute walk)from St Pancras International station (OK: I know the unnecessary Border Controls make it less convenient than it could be. Sorry!) and 3 minutes walk from Russell Square underground station.

The first Friday Bourse will be held on 23 November and the next on 14 December. The dates for 2013 are shown above.

So now you can attend London's leading stamp fair (where many dealers will accept €uros) AND spend the weekend in London!

See you soon!

Friday 13 July 2012

Russia RSFSR 1917 - 1923 Provisional Cancellations

One can guess that provisional cancels come into use during the Civil War period for several reasons:

- the old canceller got destroyed in fighting
- the last lot of people to control the post office took the canceller with them when they left
- the old canceller just broke and could not be repaired
- the post office became very busy so there were not enough cancellers for every clerk
- a new post office was waiting for its canceller

Provisional cancellations can be frustrating, just like dumb [mute] cancels, when it is not possible to identify where they came from.

I illustrate three items.

The fragment of Insured Prarcel Card with 10 kopeck stamps is from LUDONSKOE PETROGRAD probably in 1920 or 1921 with the 10 kopeck stamps revalued x 100. A Soviet seal with hammer and sickle provides the cancellation.

The Imperial seal in black with posthorns and thunderbolts, used to cancel 10 rouble stamps, can be identified as from ..ATOKA in Kostroma Guberniya, but I cannot work out the first letter: nor can I find it by trying all the likely letters in Gary Combs' post office list.The item is part of a Money Transfer Form used as a Parcel Card. On the back there is a PETGROGRAD 19 3 21 receiver.

The final item has 10 rouble stamps cancelled with an improvised grill, a bit like those you see on Post Office Savings Bank cards. It's dated 15 X 1920 and has part of a PETROGRAD receiver on the reverse. The cachet at bottom looks like it is inscribed PETR GUB and the place name commences RO .. but I cannot complete it. ROMANOVKA would be a guess.

A nice little collection could be made of such items, though they are not very common.

An Odessa document from 1882

This is a very ordinary document, but I don't remember seeing one like it before. It is of interest because it shows the use of French as a common language. The document reads as follows:


The Odessa post office certifies having received from the Consulate General of Turkey at Odessa the sum of twelve roubles and six kopecks in [payment for] over-the-counter frankings [ the actual words are affranchissements instanes] and registrations for the month of March 1882.

The Deputy Director

S. Liachovet ... [I am not sure about this and Googling for similar names hasn't helped]

[Postmark] Odessa, 12 12, posthorns without thunderbolts, 2 April 1882


This item is for sale

Thursday 12 July 2012

In Praise of Large Format Items

Most - nearly all - philatelists are looking for things which fit on an album page. Today, an album page means a sheet of A4. Dealers can't sell items which will not fit on an A4 sheet - unless the collector can see a way to fold or cut the item to fit the page.

This is a bad situation to be in. Imagine. Someone offers you the Mona Lisa and you say, No Thanks, IKEA does not do a frame that size. Or worse: Yes, please, I think I can cut it to fit ...

Covers and sheets (Ganzbogen)should never, ever, be folded, trimmed or cut to fit. It is the frame that needs to be changed!

Many large format items get damaged because dealers don't have protective holders to put them in.

A well-preserved large format item can be a very attractive thing indeed. I have always liked the above cover. I think it's visually very appealing. It is made from (unfinished?) Court stationery. The address to the Justice of the Peace Court in Kamenets Podolsk is written in large letters across the front. The Registration cachet of BALIN Nr 165 is also in manuscript. The two 25 kopeck stamps are overprinted with Podillia XVIa (Bulat 2129, $30 each)and neatly cancelled BALIN POD in violet. On the back, there is a receiver cancel of KAMENTEZ POD "c" 22 4 19

This item is still in my stock for just one reason: it's too big. This implies we have a very strange approach to collecting!

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:

ArGe Russland at Sindelfingen 2012

At this year's Briefmarkenmesse Sindelfingen (Stuttgart)25 - 27 October, the Russia collectors' group ArGe Russland (part of the Union of German Philatelists, the BDPh) is organising a 100 frame exhibit of Russian philately for the "Russland-Jahr in Deutschland 2012 - 13". I was asked to contribute a small Exponat.

I plan to show early use of Russia Imperial Arms imperforate stamps in 1917 - 1919 when they were used at face value. After Sindelfingen, I will put the Exhibit onto this website. For now, here is just a sneak Preview of one sheet.

I have a reason for choosing this sheet. I cannot believe that this is the earliest use of an imperforate stamp - though it is the earliest I have found. So I do not want to go to Sindelfingen saying "First Recorded ..." and then someone comes up to me and shows me an earlier example, which I think someone can do!

Do any of my readers have an example of use, philatelic or non-philatelic, earlier than 16.4.17? If you scan me [.jpg] your example at then I can show it here with comment and acknowledgment. Maybe we can have some fun over the next couple of weeks!

Monday 9 July 2012

Romania 108 Parale Bulls Head - now with Opinion Heimbüchler

Back in May, I posted a Blog piece about my first ever Bulls Head. Today, I received the stamp back from Dr Heimbüchler with his Opinion. It is especially nice that he thinks the cancellation is BAKEU -in his Inventory of Bulls Heads, he records only two copies of the 108 Parale used at Bakeu out of a total of 177 recorded used copies.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Armenia 1923 Yerevan Pictorials, again

I have previously Blogged about this issue and in the past I mentioned the Lists I had made many years ago when I acquired Dr Ceresa's holdings of this issue, in the mid 1990s. I now publish those Lists.

If you click to enlarge my Lists you will find you can read them

Basically, when I write "nil" this means I did not have the combination of stamp and overprint in question AND that it is not listed as existing by Dr Ceresa in his Armenia handbook.

But where I write "Ceresa" this means that Dr Ceresa lists and prices it BUT that I did not have a copy.

My original selling prices are written in by hand, ranging from £5 to £200 (the £200 was a bit optimistic and I don't think I ever got £200 for one of these stamps even though some combinations are very rare).

It is clear even from a quick glance that for METAL handstamps overprints are normally black and that for RUBBER handstamps overprints are normally VIOLET.

This weekend I am assembling a collection of as many varieties, mint and used, as I now have (I later added to the stock I originally got from Dr Ceresa). It will be quite an extensive collection and I plan to offer it to Corinphila, Zurich for their auction in early 2013.

Postscript 9 July.
There are several detailed listings of the overprints on these stamps. Dr Ceresa's is not quite complete as I realised putting together the collection referred to above - I found two unlisted varieties in my stock.

Christoper Zakiyan denounces post - 1923 production of new varieties (specifically, new handstamp colour varieties), but he does not list or illustrate them so we do not know what to look for. I do think it very likely that the Soviet Philatelic Agency did use original handstamps and authentic inks to create fresh stocks either of new varieties or scarce original ones. These varieties are often signed SPA on front or back and are only found in mint condition.

Artar has very good illustrations of many genuine types,but there are also faked items illustrated i the postal history. The catalogue listing itself unfortunately cannot be used because of an uncritical approach to what it includes - for example only, no previous writer has claimed that a rubber handstamp for the 75000 surcharge exists and it is reasonable to ask for more evidence before accepting the existence of a previously unrecorded (and very highly catalogued) variety shown only in an unexplained mint example.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Armenia 1920 Chassepot Unissued Pictorials

July, August: no stamp shows, no auctions, my clients on holiday. This is when I tidy the office - and the stockbooks. Today it is the turn of the unissued Dashnak Armenia pictorials of 1920 - the "Chassepot" stamps, named after the Paris printing works where they were printed.

And reprinted. The Reprints are very common and varieties which are rare for the Originals, like imperforates and inverted centres, are common for the Reprints.

Fortunately, it's very easy to tell the difference. Shades, gum, paper, printing quality differ. Most importantly, the plates were reset for the Reprints (and probably a different printing method used). On the Reprints, the stamps are spaced wider apart.

Unfortunately, very few collectors want to know this and continue to buy Reprint varieties at prices which should only be paid for Originals.

Above at the bottom, the brown stamps are my stock of 1 rouble imperforates from the Reprints. The wide margins are a give away. And the price ought to be a give a way too, at most a dollar. And that is tops.

But the 1 rouble imperforate from the Original printing will cost a minimum of $150 if I can find one for you.

Above at the top in lilac and black a very rare block of 70 r imperforates from the Original printing with the centre inverted. Think four figures in dollars, euros or pounds. (I bought it from the Cunliffe collection of Inverted Centers of the World).

Underneath, 70 rouble imperforate and centre inverted blocks of 4 but Reprints so maybe $5 for the imperforate block and maybe $20 for the inverted centre block - the inverted centres are quite popular, even as reprints. But if you were buying the Original block, you would get these free for sure.

By clicking on my images you should be able to see not only the differences in print quality but the differences in spacing which make all the difference. All part of the service :)

Thursday 5 July 2012

Why Kustanai? 1920 RSFSR Postmaster Provisionals

Look at the list of places which issued local Postmaster provisional revaluations in 1920 and chances are, I think, that many will be places you have never heard of.

Look at Kustanai. In what other context have you ever heard of Kustanai? It still exists and is today a city of 200 000 inhabitants in northern Kazakhstan. It's name is now normally transliterated as Kostanay, Qostanay or similar. There is a Wikipedia entry under "Kostanay"

In 1920, it was still quite new as a Russian town. It was founded as recently as 1883 and granted rights as a city in 1893. It was connected to the railway from Cheliabinsk only in 1912-13.

Soviet power came to Kustanai in January 1918 [New Style]. But then, like much of Russia during 1919, it went under White control. The Red Army took back Kustanai in August 1919 as part of campaigns which saw it re-gain control of all areas of "Russia Proper" by the end of 1920.

The Red Army stayed in Kustanai through 1920, a suitable base because it was a railway junction town. Only in October 1920 was a proper Kazakh Soviet government constituted, initially called (misleadingly for a non-specialist) the Kirgiz ASSR[ Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic].

The Red Army was not only engaged in "Clear, Hold and Build". I read on the Internet, "In Spring 1920 forced seizures of grain, livestock and clothing began throughout the [Kazakh] steppe". These requisitions included not just organised, policy-directed seizures. Red Army soldiers acquired, legitimately or through looting, food and clothing which they could send home.

Most Red Army soldiers were not local to Kustanai. They came from the Bolshevik heartlands between Petrograd and Moscow. So they sent home parcels - often large ones - by post.

The Kustanai post office was busier than ever before, certainly busier than in Imperial times. That is why the Kustanai postmaster provisional overprints of 1920 are relatively common - in the Michel catalogue, they are valued as little as 15€ each. The stamps were used on parcel cards and (less often) Money Transfers, mostly sent to Petrograd, Moscow and other solid Bolshevik areas.

Sometime in the 1920s, the Commissariat of Posts and Telegraphs handed quantities of archived 1920 parcel cards and money transfers to the Soviet Philatelic Association (or other trade organisations) which had requests from collectors and (foreign) dealers for examples of Postmaster Provisionals. The SPA peeled stamps off the cards and cut them up in order to maximise the number of individual items for sale. That is why so many cards are in the fragmentary state illustrated above.

Monday 2 July 2012

Unpopular Stamps: Kyiv II Trident Overprints From Single Handstamps

First you learn that the Kyiv type 2 trident handstamps used on kopeck value stamps are horizontal clichés holding five Tridents and displaying sub-types a-b-c-d-e. Then you get told, ah, but single handstamps made from dismantled cliches were also used, so that instead of getting a-b-c-d-e on a row of 5 stamps you get a-a-a-a-a and so on through a very large number of possibilities (Bulat 257 - 581).

In order to be sure that you are dealing with a single handstamp version of (say) sub-type "a", you need a pair or an example showing right-hand margin. Ideally, so that you can contrast them on a well-designed album page with regular five-Trident handstamps, you need a strip of five.

To be honest, I have never met one collector who gets enthusiastic about these stamps. If you are a serious Trident collector, you have to do them as part of your duty. That's about it. They are hard work to identify, in many cases hard work to find, and they don't look that different to regular 5 - Trident material, except that they usually jump about across the horizontal row of stamps as in the example shown above. This is Kyiv 2ee (just to complicate matters, a sub-type of a sub-type) on 4 kopeck imperforate, Bulat # 400, catalogued $8 (Dr Seichter catalogued 15 DM).

Frustratingly, neither Seichter or Bulat tell you what this catalogue value refers to. I assume it prices a pair or a marginal copy - ie, enough to identify the stamp In the case of Kyiv 2f, 2g and 2gg which don't appear in the 5 - Trident cliche, single stamps are sufficient to identify and maybe there it is single stamps which are priced. It's possible that both Seichter and Bulat are pricing single stamps for all the single handstamps and you just multiply by the number of stamps in your unit to get to its value. I just don't know, which is a terrible state to be in after all this time ...

For twenty years, I have dedicated a 48 page stockbook to these Single Handstamp varieties. The contrast between relatively common stamps and the scarcer ones is striking - my stockbook now contains mainly the common stamps, often in multiples. Some of these are remainders from my very first Trident purchase.

The nice auction house of Schwanke in Hamburg offered for sale early in the 1990s some 30,000 Trident stamps in complete sheets, folded once but otherwise in very nice condition, and among which were some sheets with single handstamps (already identified by the previous owner). I think I paid a few thousand Deutschmarks for the whole lot. There was a time when I thought I would never sell all these stamps, but the sheets of the regular stamps have all gone by now and only some of the single handstamp material remains.

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: