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Saturday 1 February 2014

The Igor Gorski Collection of the RSFSR

Like many of this Blog's readers, I just received the catalogue for the sale of the Igor Gorski collection coming up at Cherrystone Auctions in New York on 20 February 2014. If you don't get the catalogue, just go to to see it all.

It's a spectacular collection with many rare and attractive archival items with price tags to match.

But it struck me that until you get to the last Lot (338) where an unbroken postal history collection of 224 covers and cards is on offer, it's mainly about stamps, including their essays and proofs.

Particularly for the period 1917 to end of 1920 or even 1921, the gap between what was passing through the postal service and what was being projected in Moscow is enormous. Most of the designs submitted to the authorities in Moscow - and present in this collection - came to nothing.

It's not really until the second half of 1921 that mail going through the regular post begins to suggest the ideology or the aspirations of the new Bolshevik order. Until then, the order of the day was Improvisation using Imperial Arms adhesives to serve the postal needs of a much-reduced postal system. Remember, for example, that Bolshevik Russia had no publicly-available facilities for sending mail abroad from the beginning of 1919 until the middle of 1920 - and even then, foreign mail services got off to a slow start.

As for philately in this period, the typical philatelic covers illustrated from the Gorski collection have an amateurish appearance. I think there are three reasons. First, the initial hostility of the Bolshevik regime to philately (stamp collecting = speculation) discouraged any boldness. Second, no one had any money anyway. Third, many of the old collectors from the middle and upper classes had emigrated or, like everyone else, had no money to spend on their old hobby. The result is some pretty disappointing stuff. The non-philatelic parcel cards and money transfer forms which you can see in the Gorski collection for 1921- 22 look much more attractive to me.

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