Search This Blog

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Russia's Imperial Arms Imperforate Stamps 1917 - 1922: a Theory

I have Blogged before about the distribution of Russia's Imperial Arms imperforate stamps, issued from 1917 on as Emergency supplies. Today I was looking at a big collection (Peter Ashford's) of Dashnak Armenia surcharges. I realised that it is only at the end of 1920 / beginning of 1921 - when the Bolsheviks entered into or  formed the government of Armenia - that certain imperforate values become available in Armenia, notably the 20, 35, 50 kopeck and 7 rouble.

This led me back to my Theory. Let's assume that the imperforates were all produced in 1917. But they weren't all distributed in 1917. That's the first part of the Theory.

If perforate stamps became available - either from fresh printings or from supplies found in a cupboard - then those were distributed in preference to imperforates, which were a nuisance at the post office counter. So if you look at mail from Petrograd or Moscow, the busiest post office counters, then you see that low value Imperforates come into use early (1917) and then disappear - perforated stamps make a comeback. That's the second part of the Theory. In principle, you could probably establish rough periods of use. I would start with the 5 kopeck as an example.

Just as important, I think that some post office districts got preferential treatment and that others had imperforate stamps dumped on them. Petrograd and Moscow are the most obvious districts likely to have been favoured. That's the third part of the Theory.

So where were the stamps dumped? The biggest receiver was Ukraine - and it is possible that this happened as part of some bigger deal at the end of 1917 / beginning of 1918 between the Bolshevik postal authorities in Russia and the government postal authorities in Ukraine. That's the fourth part of the Theory. The evidence for this claim is the fact that postal use of higher value kopeck imperforates though not common anywhere occurs earlier and more frequently in Ukraine, both before and after Trident overprinting.

(In this connection, I actually have some doubts about the usual story of devalued Russian stamps being sold across the border in Ukraine as what we would now call "Postage", creating the need for trident overprinting in order to safeguard post office revenues. Were there really at this time  - mid 1918 say - dealers travelling from Russia to Ukraine to sell stamps for ordinary postal use at a discount on face value?)

Leave that aside. How does the story continue? As the Bolsheviks regained control of territory from the Whites, so they often had to distribute fresh supplies of stamps. For this purpose, unwanted stocks of imperforates - still held in the distribution centre in 1920 / 21 - could be used up. That's the fifth part of the Theory. So if Armenia put in a call for fresh supplies of stamps at the end of 1920 / beginning of 1921, then it's call was partly answered by new supplies of imperforates. The alternative is to suppose that Melik-Pachaev or some other dealer was instrumental in bringing previously unavailable imperforates (the 20, 35 and 50 kop; the 7 rouble) into Armenia at that point.

Of course, the kind of theory I am outlining can only be developed by someone able to study the Archives in St Petersburg and Moscow. Maybe it has been done ...

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Ukraine: Kyiv 2 Single Handstamps and the Bulat Catalogue

Why did I have to think of this today? The sun is shining and I should have gone for a walk, but instead ...

In his Ukraine catalogue, which we all use, John Bulat has a long list of stamps overprinted with single handstamps of  Kyiv 2 type. The list starts at # 257 and ends at # 581. That's a lot of stamps. Pity that no one collects them.

In notes in the text, Bulat says that on kopeck values sub-types bb, ee, f, g, gg are stand-alone single handstamps in the sense that we only need a single stamp to classify it as having come from a single handstamp. In other words, bb,ee,f,g, gg are never to be found in the standard a- b - c - d - e five-cliche handstamp.

But sub-types a, b, c, d can only be identified as from single handstamps if they occur in pairs or in right or left marginal positions (b,c,d) or in pairs or right marginal position (a).

Got it? Fine? Now I am going to spoil your day ...

 Consider the two strips of five below. Click on the Image to magnify if you think it will help:

At the top, we have single handstamp a on 4 kopeck perforate, Bulat # 262, catalogued $8

Underneath, we have single handstamp gg on 15kopeck imperforate, Bulat 536, catalogued $12.

What are his catalogue values values of? 

In the case of the 4 kopeck strip, you could extract three collectible units: two pairs and the fifth (right marginal) stamp.  

In the case of the 15 kopeck strip, you could extract five collectible units since these stamps are identifiable as coming from a single handstamp whatever - gg does not occur in any 5 - cliche handstamp

So what are Bulat's catalogue values values of? Here are some possibilities:

1. Bulat values are values for a strip of 5, whatever

2. Bulat values are values for whatever is the minimum unit from which you can identify a single handstamp having been used, so either a pair or - in some cases -  a single stamp

3. Bulat values are values for individual stamps but some stamps are only identifiable if they come in pairs

For the 4 kopeck strip that creates a range of possible Bulat values for collectible units in my strip ranging from $8 to $40 unless you think the two possible pairs are only worth the same as the one marginal stamp, in which case the top value drops to $24

For the 15 kopeck that creates a range for collectible units (all five stamps are identifiable singly) going from $12 to $60

Remember that in these same listings Bulat also gives values for rouble values which are always overprinted with single handstamps and always collectable as singles. So he must be valuing single stamps when he is valuing rouble stamps ...

I told you I was going to spoil your day .... Coming tomorrow: How many angels can dance on a pin head.

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:

Sunday 14 July 2013

RSFSR /Sovdepia, Ordinary [Einfach] mail abroad 1920 - 1921

In his article on RSFSR Mail Abroad, detailed in my previous Blog, Alexander Epstein inventories 129 Registered letters going abroad in 1920 and until end of August 1921. But he is only able to inventory 13 ordinary (Einfach, non-Registered) letters - so that these make up just 9% of all letters inventoried.

I can only illustrate two. The first is an extraordinary item posted on the Ryazhsk 61 Vyazma TPO on 24 10 20 and addressed to Belgium ( a country which does not appear at all in Epstein's 142 item inventory!). It is franked at the officially correct 5 rouble rate for an ordinary foreign letter, using an imperforate 5 kopeck revalued x 100. Censored in Moscow 27 10 20 ( and opened through the back flap), this letter received a BRUXELLES - BRUSSELS reciever cancel on 8 XII 20.

If Soviet postal history was taken seriously, this cover - October 1920! TPO! Belgium! Ordinary letter! - would be a 1000 dollar / euro / pound item though minus whatever discount is due for the idiot Biro marking, bottom right of the cover front.

The second cover, from the end of the period when 5 roubles is the generally correct franking, was posted in VETLITSKOE SMOL[ensk] on 1 7 21, though the date has slipped to August. A Transit from another town in Smolensk guberniya is dated 2 7 21, the Moscow roller cancel 5 7 21, and the inevitable three triangle Censor 21 8 21 - clearly they were busy and this letter has been opened through the back flap. It is also roughly opened on one side, suggesting that it did indeed arrive in Switzerland, a country which accounts for 9 items in Epstein's 142 item inventory. The 5 rouble Tariff is paid for with a 1 kopeck imperforate and pair of 2 kopeck perforate stamps, revalued x 100. The sender did plan to send this letter as a registered letter - you can see Zakaznoe crossed out top right on the front of the cover. Fortunately for postal history, the sender changed their mind... :

RSFSR / Sovdepia: persistence of the 10 rouble Foreign Registered tariff in 1921

Understanding the franking of mail abroad in 1920 - 21 is complicated by the existence of locally-authorised Tariffs. Alexander Epstein discusses this in his article, "Lokale Tarifautonomie 1920 - 1923, Teil 1, Auslandspost 1920 - 21"  in Deutsche Zeitschrift für Russland-Philatelie, Nr. 94, 2011, pp.26 - 36

However, there is what one could call a normal or dominant 10 rouble Tariff for Registered letters, that is 5 roubles for a letter of the first weight step plus 5 roubles for Registration. This Tariff persists at least until the end of August 1921, as illustrated by the following covers. I date them according to the postmark applied to the stamps:

Moscow 4 2 21 sent to England
Tambov 18 4 21 sent to France
Syzran 30 5 21 sent to USA via Berlin
Omsk 22 7 21 sent to Germany
Petrograd  12 8 21 sent to Czechoslovakia
Petrograd  25 8 21 sent to Germany
Petrograd   30 8 21 sent to Latvia

All these covers are franked with Imperial stamps - the new Arts and Industry stamps were not released until August 1921. The Omsk cover is franked with imperforate stamps. The last cover is franked with 10 x 1 rouble stamps with horizontal varnish lines.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Armenia 1922 - 1923 Postal Use of First and Second Yessayan

Evidence of private use of postal services in Armenia during the complete six year  period 1918 - 1923 is extremely scarce.

Mail in a few categories can be found as follows:

- Mail Abroad (mostly to the USA) during 1920 when the British facilitated its transmission
- As a sub-category, Philatelic mail to Tiflis sent during 1920 and notably by Souren Serebrakian
- Mail Abroad ( again mostly to the USA) during 1922 - 23
- Money Transfer Forms sending money internally or within Transcaucasia 1922 - 23

Peter Ashford's collection, about which I recently Blogged, also included a few examples of a further category:

- Internal private mail during 1922 - 23

His material comprised a few large fragments of covers or nearly-complete covers from the so-called "Law Courts Hoard" which was available to Ashford (and Tchilingirian) back in the 1950s and which appears to have been free of the kind of "improvements" made to more recently released archive material which started out as stampless, official letters but  to which stamps have been added in the recent past.

Ashford's material shows private individuals writing to the Courts ("People's Courts" on all the addresses). One puzzle concerns the status of the so-called "Second Yessayan" stamps - the slate and red stamps. These were supposedly Famine Relief stamps, issued around the same period as those in Azerbaijan and Georgia. As such, one expects to find them used in conjunction with "regular" adhesives as evidence of payment of a Charity supplement, as on this cover:

Click on Image to Magnify

This Registered cover started life in DZHELAL OGLY and is cancelled 22 2 23 on the front and 24 2 23 and 25 2 23 on the reverse. It was addressed to a People's Court in Alexandropol and a receiver cancel was applied ALEXANDROPOL 26 2 23. The letter was forwarded to Yerevan and got there though the dates on the two strikes of an ERIVAN cancel are not legible. The franking is provided by two copies of First Yessayan 50 perforated surcharged "5" together with Second Yessayan 2000  surcharged "5" . So one could suppose that the Tariff was 10 gold kopecks and the Charity surcharge 50% of that, 5 gold kopecks. 

However, it is possible to find Second Yessayan stamps used alone, as on this nice and nearly complete cover:

This Registered cover is locally sent within Karaklis, again to a People's Court. The cancellation on the front is date readable as KARAKLIS ERIVAN 8 7 22. Franking is provided by a single copy of the Second Yessayan 500 surcharged "3". Now, either the full (local?) Tariff was 3 kopecks and this stamp is used as a regular adhesive not a Charity stamp or - possibly - the Tariff was (say ) 2 kopecks and the Charity contribution 1 kopeck. In the absence of either a 2 kopeck First Yessayan or a 1 kopeck Second Yessayan, the postal clerk could then have decided to show the total paid by means of this one stamp. Does anyone have a better idea?

Ashford's material also included this third item which has no Second Yessayan adhesive. Sent just one month after the first cover I illustrated, it seems we get confirmation of a 10 kopeck Tariff. Sent Registered from KAMARLYU ERIVAN  29 3 23 it has no arrival marks (I am told that it is addressed locally to the Kamarlyu Court - the word in the top line is Kamarlinkskomu). It is possible that something has been left behind when this cover was cut from the archive book - the fragment is very reduced. But even so, one might expect to see at least a small part  of a receiver cancel to one side: