Thursday, 6 March 2014

What is Unusual about this 1919 Money Transfer Form?

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Because they did not have any indication of value - no imprinted stamp - Money Transfer Forms and other formulars did not require Security Printing arrangements and in Imperial Russia were often printed locally. The place of printing is often indicated on the front  at the bottom right as in the Formular shown above where you can read EKATERINOSLAVSK P - T OKRUG - Ekaterinoslav Post and Telegraph District.

The Formular has been used to send 400 roubles from IVANOVKA EKATERINOSL[av] 16 6 19 to ROSTOV DON 18 6 19, charged at 1% as indicated by the 4 x 1 rouble imperforate Imperial Arms overprinted with the Trident of Odesa type 5d. I just assume that the Formular was used in the period of "White" control of the Katerinoslav district. Correct me if I am wrong!

The real interest of this Formular is that it is a post-revolutionary reprint of the Imperial period Formular but with the Imperial Arms completely removed from the top left of the front side. In other Districts, you see the Arms defaced in post - 1917 reprintings but these Ekaterinoslav formulars are the only ones I have seen with the Arms completely removed.  There were a couple of examples in the Zelonka collection and I also have two examples. My guess is that the reprinting dates from `1918 or even 1919 rather than 1917. The card stock used is of quite poor quality.

Of course, this is not the only thing of interest on this Formular. I am sure readers can see others.

The History of Crimea in Postmarks?

For most English people, the History of Crimea means a war fought in the middle of the 19th century. It's a pity it's not that simple. Today I looked in my boxes of pre-World War Two Soviet Union postal history and pulled out four items:

The 1929 postmark above is inscribed in Cyrillic at the top for  KARASUBAZAR, the original Tatar name for a place now called Bilohirsk (in Ukrainian) and Belogorsk (in Russian). The postmark is bi-lingual and at the bottom is inscribed in Arabic.

The 1930 postmark is in Russian at the top with a soft sign after the CH (Google tells me that in Ukrainian there would be no soft sign). The International R label on this letter transliterates the place name as KERTCH though in English-language sources it is now normally spelled KERCH. But at the bottom we have KERC in Latin script and this could be post-Ataturk Turkic - though Google has the name with a cedilla in order to indicate the soft "Ch" pronunciation: KERÇ

This 1940 Soviet postmark for SIMFEROPOL also gives the city its Tatar name AQMESCID in Latin script.

Finally, here is one where I have hit Google without success (I tried for Jewish / Karaite communities too). At the top we have what looks like KADISH and at the bottom QAD S or QAD 5 in Latin script. This is one my readers must solve. Postscript: And Vasilis Opsimos has solved it. See his Comment which identifies Kadish as present-day Voronky.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Allaverdi, Tiflis - Can You Help?

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Stefan Berger and I are looking for examples of ALLAVERDI TIFL cancels on cover or on loose stamps during the period 1914 - 1924. We are interested in all serials and types. If you can help, please send me a scan at

The example above is on a 1914 card from the Peter Ashford collection.

Update 31 July 2014: Thanks to Thomas Berger for this magnificent cover:

The cover is from the cooper mines at Allaverdi to the copper mines at Katarsky Zavod [ Giriusy, Zangezur]. They were both operated by the same Belgian company where the philatelist Gustave Boel worked as a mining engineer.

Update 5 March: Thanks to Vasilis Opsimos for this better 1915 example:

Update 24 May: Thanks to Howard Weinert for scans of the item below:

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

One of Each Collecting - Imperial Russian Stamps Used on Cover

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For very rare stamps, like Moldavia Bulls Heads, inventories exist listing and illustrating each known stamp and cover, its provenance and so on. Fritz Heimbüchler's work on the Bulls Heads is a very, very good example.

But once stamps become a bit more common, we actually have no idea how many (now) exist. How many Russia #1 exist? How many Russia # 1 on cover? It's a pity that America's NSA and Britain's GCHQ don't interest themselves in this kind of question - I am sure the Technology exists to spy into albums and stockbooks and add up the results. It would be much more interesting than the contents of people's emails.

So we have to guess. Hands up if you think that less than 500 covers exist with Russia #1. Hands up if you think less than 1 000.  More than 5 000? And so on.

Nowadays, philatelists can be snobbish about mere collectors who want "one of each stamp" but I think it can be very interesting if combined with "one of each stamp, as a single franking, at the correct period, paying a recognisable tariff, on cover". Interesting and very hard.

If you were doing it for Imperial Russian stamps during the Tsarist period (so forget about imperforate stamps issued under the Provisional Government and later), you would be well advised to ignore rouble values - unless you were willing to include Money Transfers and Parcel cards. You would also struggle with frankings comprising a single 70 kopeck stamp and even 50 kopecks would be hard.

That's not all. Even though some stamps are so common used that they really have no value, finding them on cover can be incredibly difficult. Look at the 1888 item above. It's a single sheet of printed matter, folded for despatch into letter shape, and sent from St Petersburg to Ekenas, Finland. It qualified for a concessionary Printed Matter Tariff of 2 kopecks and the franking is provided by a 2 kopeck stamp in yellow green without thunderbolts.

From a dealer's box you might expect to pay 15 euros - maximum 25 - because it is clean and pretty and announces (in Swedish) a forthcoming visit from a travelling salesman carrying samples of Härra Landrin's products. But find me another one. The NSA and GCHQ would have to do a lot of Bulk data collection to find even a few hundred of such items - that's my guess. Or to make a more precise guess, I guess that fewer examples exist of  this stamp on cover than say Russia # 2.

Of course, you can prove me wrong - just send me the scans and I will add them to the Blog!