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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Armenian Forgeries

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It's hard to get excited about forgeries of Dashnak Armenian stamps. They were produced on an industrial scale - and no doubt there is someone still producing them. You don't need more than kindergarten skills.

Many forgeries were probably produced by people who did not possess genuine examples and had only seen pictures. Some forgeries were produced by people copying forgeries which they may have thought to be genuine examples - for Dashnak overprints they may have put their trust in the illustrations of Yvert et Tellier, all of which are (or were - I last looked a few years ago) copied from forgeries.  Over the decades, Yvert probably did more harm to Armenian philately than any other catalogue. 

The forger who produced the small multiples shown above had almost certainly seen genuine stamps since he (it's normally he) has copied a feature you see on genuine sheets - the post office clerk testing out his (then it was always his) handstamp in the sheet margin. As forgeries, these are consequently Above Average.

The 10r on 25 kopeck imperforate forgery is interesting. This is a stamp which I think exists in genuine state, but it's rare - the 25 kop was not a common stamp imperforate and it would probably only have reached Armenia in the first Bolshevik period (end 1920 - beginning 1921) and would then have been used by Melik-Pachaev to produce scarce philatelic varieties in the second Dashnak period of 1921. 

Though basic stamps and Dashnak overprints are combined in a myriad of ways, many of the permutations the inspired work of dealers and speculators, there is one area where some kind of discipline was maintained. This is the case for high value overprints (50 rouble and 100 rouble) on rouble value basic stamps. The 50 r overprint was normally applied to the 1 rouble stamp and the 100 rouble overprint to the other high value stamps (3r 50, 5r, 7r, 10r). Though genuine 100r overprints can be found on the 1 rouble, 50 rouble overprints do not appear to exist on the higher value stamps. Some 5r stamps exist overprinted 25r - and then corrected to 100r. 

So it appears that either a ruling by the post office or the economics of the situation meant that no one got hold of surcharges below 100r on stamps above 1 rouble It's curious but seems to be true. 

But spaces for lower value surcharges on higher value stamps found their way into old French album pages and forgers obliged with stamps to fit. Or vice versa: the album pages were designed for the forgeries. Below I show an old album page, given to me at the Paris Salon d'Automne with spaces for 50 r surcharges on imperforate 3r50 and 5r stamps (#73, 74). And I also show a block of 50r on 5r forgeries from an old dealer's stock which I bought at auction many years ago in Paris's rue Druout stamp trade district. I think it's a chicken and egg situation: did the album page come first or the forgery?

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

Post-Soviet Meter Frankings

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Some of us are slower to adapt to changes than others. Here is an office clerk stuck with a Soviet-era meter franking machine which only goes up to 9 rubles 99 kopecks. But he or she is trying to send a large envelope from Moscow to Estonia in July 1973. I count 86 individually-applied labels at 900 kopecks and 2 at 300 kopecks, yielding a total franking of 780 roubles. The Catch 22 is that the weight of these labels and the glue used to apply them probably altered the weight step for this letter ....

In other offices,clerks dealt with the inflation problem by removing the "k" for "kopeck" on the machine and inserting a "p" for "ruble". In this case, the franking could then have been applied by using just one label. 

This is by no means the most exotic item you could find from Russia's 1990s inflation.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Soviet Union - Meter Franking and Stamp Automats

Meter mark frankings from the Soviet Union do not become common until after 1945. Some early meter marks command high prices - or at least, high prices in the catalogues.

An automat franking is not the same thing as a meter mark franking. With an automat you put in your money and the machine then franks your letter. It is then ready for the mail box. The cover below shows what I take to be an example of this kind of automat franking:

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I have never seen anything like this before. Can any of my readers help? 

The dates on all the postmarks are compatible with the automat date of 2 8 38 and the 5 kopecks would have to be a local tariff. The cancels on the reverse are all a bit exotic: the roller cancel reads LENINSKI UZEL and the two double ring cancels read FRUNZENSKI  and FRUNZESNKI UZEL (My dictionary gives "junction" and "centre" for UZEL)

I would guess that this is a philatelist's letter - it's partly the very careful handwriting which makes me think this and partly the fact that the letter has been opened at the bottom, not the top (leaving the meter mark neatly framed by the unopened top of the envelope). But I may be wrong.

Automats are things which go Out of Order. I cannot imagine that Moscow's AUTOMAT No. 1 was in use for very long. But did it even exist? Answers please!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Romanovs in the Soviet Union

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I came across this Banderole in a dealer's box. It reminded me that there is an interesting collection to be made from the posthumous (post - 1917) use of the 1913 Romanov Tercentenary issue and its associated stationeries.

The item shown is of course a 1 kopeck Romanov newspaper wrapper. It has been used as a Blank in 1932 by the Soviet Philatelic Association sending a journal to Austria. This is a very late use but it continues a practice established by the S Ph A in the 1920s to use / use up Romanov postal stationery. 

The Romanov stamps themselves were invalidated in Bolshevik Russia at the time of the x 100 Revaluation in 1920 but even then some later, sanctioned (non-philatelic) uses can be found. In a previous Blog I showed the 20 / 14 kop Romanov being used at x 100 on Money Transfers in 1920 Siberia; it was almost certainly being used as some kind of Postmaster Provisional in the context of a stamp shortage.

It seems that the Soviets were reasonably relaxed about the Romanov stamps, except those portraying Nicholas II. Late uses of those stamps are rare and probably illustrate no more than a philatelist taking a risk. How big a risk, I don't know.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The One Kopeck Tariff in Russia, Imperial and Soviet

Imperial Russia had a One Kopeck tariff from 1866 to 1917. The items of mail which qualified for this concessionary tariff varied throughout the period, but still it should be possible to find every variety of Imperial one kopeck stamp used as a single franking. This includes the 1 kopeck imperforate of 1917 (I have one example). Below I illustrate an early item from the well-known Gunzburg correspondence. This is a single sheet of printed matter sent in June 1869 from St Petersburg to Vilnius, franked with a 1 kopeck on horizontally laid paper. I show both sides of the lettersheet (Click on Images to enlarge them) :

Perhaps more surprising, a 1 kopeck tariff was re-introduced in the early Soviet Union. I have only a few examples and illustrate them below. The first from October 1923 is a printed item sent locally in Petrograd franked with an imperforate Worker stamp. The second item is an unsealed envelope containing Printed Matter (PECHATNOE) sent locally within Leningrad in 1925 and franked with a perforated Worker stamp. You can see that it was unsealed, with the flap tucked into the envelope, because the roller cancel on the back does not run all the way across the flap. The final item is a single printed sheet sent locally in Leningrad in 1929 and franked with a large Head Worker definitive. The printed text would make it a nice item for a Pushkin collector

Whereas auctions are full of high-value frankings you will very rarely see 1 kopeck frankings in auction. But some of them are much scarcer than the 30 or 40 or 50 kopeck frankings. You will have to look for the 1 kopecks in dealers' boxes ...