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Monday 1 June 2015

Dashnak Armenian Stamps: Relative Values

Stefan Berger has just published a short piece on his website about the relative values of Dashnak Armenian stamps. He takes as an example the framed Z overprints of 1920. Correctly in my view, he makes three claims:

- small framed Z overpints are much scarcer than medium or large size framed Z
- black overprints are more common than violet ones, except on one or two values (he lists the 5 rouble imperforate)
- some low value perforated stamps are scarce with these overprints, in any size or colour. He instances the 2 kopeck perforated with black overprint.

Of course, I immediately thought that I had just offered a 2 kopeck perforated with large framed Z in black in the last auction. It had a Stefan Berger Opinion included. I described it as a "scarce value with this overprint" - an understatement, of course, so as not to exaggerate. It sold for 20 euro, the start price, with just one bidder. That's basically giving it away - and that's because very, very few people know what Stefan Berger and I know: it's actually quite a rare stamp.

The real problem is this: there is a very big market in Armenian stamps, mostly on ebay and other sites, dominated by sellers who don't care what they sell and buyers who don't care what they buy. There just aren't many serious collectors of Armenian stamps, just as there are only a few serious collectors of Armenian postal history a couple of whom exhibit at International shows (Nagapetiants, Sarkissian)

Maybe 20 year ago now, I was asked by an Armenian dealer to supply him with stamps. He sold album pages, very nicely produced, aimed at the Armenian "Heritage Collector" market. He explained to me that it didn't matter if the stamps were genuine or forged, his people weren't worried about that. As long as the stamps cost less than the album pages, they would be happy. They would have something to show their families and friends.

That Heritage Collector market has now shifted onto the Internet where it combines with the market of one-of-each collectors or filling-an-album collectors who aren't much worried about rarity or authenticity but who just want some cheap stamps. And in the case of Armenia, there are so many forgeries around, sure, you can have as many cheap stamps as you want.

Matters are not helped by the fact that the catalogues are often useless. Yvert traditonally used forged stamps as the basis of all its illustrations, and now has them in colour; the supposedly specialist Artar catalogue uses a mix of genuine and forged material in its illustrations. Michel has got the structure right but relative prices wildly wrong. Only Stanley Gibbons gets its reasonably right, basing itself on the old Tchilingirian and Ashford listings. (I haven't seen Liapine; Ceresa's pricings are unfortunately spread out over several A4 handbooks but are no longer valid in any case).

It's a bit depressing. If I can only get 20 €uro for a rare stamp with a good certificate (for which I have paid), I may as well give up and start selling forged Armenian stamps on ebay.


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