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Saturday 26 September 2015

Late Use of Ukraine Tridents (continued)

Latest known use of any stamp is problematic. Even if a stamp is officially invalidated, an individual who has a copy in a pocket book may use it – and get away with it. No one notices; no one imposes Postage Due. This is really of no great interest.

More interestingly, there are cases where a stamp is invalidated – and then, out of necessity, officially brought back into temporary, provisional use. For example, Imperial Russia’s 1913 Romanov stamps were invalidated in the RSFSR at the same time as kopeck value Imperial stamps were revalued x 100, in March 1920. However, some later uses of 20 / 14 kopeck Romanovs on official formular cards (Money Transfers, Parcel Cards) are known and these look like uses which some postal district or at least some local postmaster has authorised because of local stamp shortages (which were common in revolutionary Russia). See my Blog about this dated 10 February 2011

Similarly, with Ukraine Tridents it seems that they were invalidated sometime in 1921 (I still need an exact date). However, 1922 uses can be found in south Ukraine. This is an area which Alexander Epstein and Thomas Berger have identified as an area of stamp shortages at that time, leading to the use of technically invalidated stamps and to the local revaluation of stamps to useful denominations (rather than revaluation to officially designated values). Alexander Epstein has two article on these topics in Ukrainian Philatelist # 102 (2009); Thomas Berger and Alexander Epstein have an article in the Deutsche Zeitschrift für Russland Philatelie # 101 ( 2014)

So we find items like these:

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The above item was in the Robert Taylor collection and the images have been provided by Thomas Berger.

This is a Registered letter which does not look philatelic sent from ODESSA 12 5 22 to Berlin, with a Berlin receiver on the reverse. The forty Odessa type 2 Trident overprinted 1 kopeck stamps have been revalued, following the RSFSR scheme to 1 rouble each to yield a 40 rouble franking. It's possible that the sender supplied the stamps, but for a Registered letter they at least had to be accepted by a post office clerk - the clerk who cancelled them at the counter. And because these are one kopeck yellow stamps, there is no missing the Trident overprint.

Thomas Berger provides an earlier example:

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This is also a Registered letter from Odessa to Berlin and again looks non-philatelic. The stamps are cancelled ODESSA 8 8 21. But this time the Tridents are examples of Poltava type 1 - but they are rare stamps, Bulat # 987 catalogued $140 each. 

It's true that Poltava tridents were at some time in post offices in Podilia and can be found on official formular cards, so it's possible they were also in  Odessa post office. However, the use of rare stamps out of their district of origin does (to my mind) make it less likely that these stamps were being used up by Odessa post office. But the 1921 date on this letter makes it possible (likely, even) that they were used before any official invalidation of tridents.

Here is another example of 1922 use, sent to me by Alexander Epstein:

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This is an ordinary letter sent from Molochansk, a Mennonite community in Taurida, to Czecholsovakia routed through Moscow. The stamps are cancelled 6 or 7 9 22. Revalued x 100, they yield a correct 45 rouble franking. But note ... the three 10 kopeck stamps are overprinted with Kyiv type 2 Tridents, clearly not so visible as on one kopeck stamps and which could have been missed by a clerk. Nonetheless, the letter looks non-philatelic and is the latest recorded date for any use of Trident stamps on a travelled letter. It is a bit problematic that these are Kyiv tridents: those Tridents did find their way into Podilia stamp stocks and maybe into Kherson and Katerynoslav stocks.But you would expect Molochansk to have stocked Odessa or Katerynoslav tridents.

What we really need is examples of Tridents used in late 1921 and into 1922 on official formular cards. In my previous Blog on this topic, I could not find any such official use later than May 1921. (See  my Blog for 23 September 2011)

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 13 September 2015

Earliest Known Use of Ukraine Tridents ... Can You Improve on This One?

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Roman Procyk in the USA has kindly allowed me to publish here the Telegraphic Money Transfer Form above. It shows the earliest known use of  Ukraine trident overprinted stamps at MOGILEV-POD 27 8 18 arriving in KIEV 30 8 18. The stamps are  overprinted with Podillia Type VIIIa 

This genuine use is two days earlier than on the form I illustrated here back on 3 March 2012

Can anyone come up with an earlier date?  It does seem likely that the Podillia Tridents were the first to be introduced anywhere in Ukraine - and with little or no philatelic manipulation in the early phase of their production, distribution and use. 

Claims to beat the 27 August date can be posted here if you send me a good quality scan (email me at I have to reserve the right to decline (with an explanation) obvious fakes or dubious philatelic items. I am hoping for something as good as this Telegraphic Money Transfer Form! ( I will not be able to respond until 20 September - I will be away from my computer for a week).

Added 20 September: Roman Procyk has now added from his own collection this loose stamp used at NEMIROV on 24 8 18. I would prefer to see a cover or MTF with receiver cancels to help rule out slipped dates, but the example is plausible: it is a perforated high value and these are normally seen with early dates. The stamp is signed Bulat and the Trident type is VIIIb:

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Added 22 September 2015: Oleg Matveev in Ukraine sends me scans of two parcel cards with Trident stamps cancelled 13 August 1918. Both look to me completely genuine. One has Poltava Tridents and is sent  from POLTAVA 13 8 18 with receiver cancellation of ROSTOV DON 2 9 18. The other is from DZHURIN POD 13 8 18 [the blue ink typical for this post office] with receiver cancellation of TAGANROG 1 (?) 9 18  

I think it will be difficult to improve on these items. Even if there is a date slip from 23 8 18 to 13 8 18 that would still be a day earlier than the previous example posted here ... 

It is now important to find some items sent between the 13 August (the Oleg Mateev items) and the 24 and 27 August of the Roman Procyk items. This will add to the plausibility of the items we already have and may also show more Trident types used at an early date. So far we have Podillia VIIIa, VIIIb, XIIb, and Poltava I (and on the 3r50 it could be Poltava II but I cannot see enough detail). 

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Added 23 September 2015: Roman Procyk provides confirmation of August use of Poltava Tridents with these examples of 3r 50 perforated stamps with Poltava type I cancelled at NOVYI ORLYK POLT.  22 8 18 (ignore the 20 kopeck stamp for now):

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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:

Mail from Russia to USA 1917 - 1918

In a small sample of 24 covers and cards sent from Russia to the USA between April 1917 and July 1918, I notice that all 16 covers have been opened by British censors though none of the cards have visible British censorship. At the Russian end, 23 items have been visibly censored: they show violet censor cachets or paper seals or both. One letter has US censorship applied on entry to the USA..

Among the sample, I picked out these three covers from the publishing house of Abraham Stybel, born in Poland in 1884 died in New York in 1946. His interests included contemporary Russian art and literature and Jewish questions: note the "Art Nouveau" style in which his name and address is printed at top left. I just assume the covers are to his brother but I cannot get a Google fix on that.

Covers to Joachim Stybel are often seen in dealers' boxes and even in auction. The three below nicely illustrate the three Foreign Tariffs which were applied through the period of the Provisional Government and the first year of Soviet power.

I have no mail to America via the Western route after July 1918; most mail after that date goes out from White-controlled areas through Vladivostok.

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Commercial correspondence, Registered letter from the publisher Abraham J. Stybel to his brother (?) in Philadelphia sent from MOSKVA 1 EXSPEDITSIA 11 5 17 with circular violet Moscow censorship mark, British censor tape and on the reverse NEW YORK .N.Y. REG’Y DIV. 7 14 17 and Philadelphia arrival July 10 1917. Allowing for the difference in calendars, about six weeks in transit. Franked at 20 kopecks, the correct Foreign Registered Letter rate.


Commercial correspondence, Registered letter from the publisher Abraham J. Stybel to his brother (?) in Philadelphia sent from MOSKVA 1 EXSPEDITSIA 26 2 18 with circular violet Moscow censorship mark, British censor tape, and on the reverse  NEW YORK .N.Y. REG’Y DIV. 9 3 18 and Philadelphia arrival Sept 4 1918. The calendars now aligned, so a transit time of six months. Franked at 40 kopecks the correct Foreign Registered Letter rate


Commercial correspondence, Registered letter from the publisher Abraham J. Stybel to his brother (?) in Philadelphia sent from MOSKVA 1 EXSPEDITSIA 25 5 18 with circular violet Moscow censorship mark, British censor tape, and on the reverse  NEW YORK .N.Y. REG’Y DIV. 9 23 18 and Philadelphia arrival Sept 24 1918. The calendars now aligned, so a transit time of four months. Franked at 60 kopecks the correct Foreign Registered Letter rate

Saturday 12 September 2015

Rarities: Making Lists, Inventories and Guesses

In a recent auction there was a Romania Bull’s Head that I wanted to buy. When I saw the auction catalogue illustration, the first thing I did was consult Fritz Heimbüchler’s Die Ochsenköpfe der Moldau / The Bull’s Head of Moldavia  1858 – 1862 (1994; Supplement 2007). I found an illustration of the stamp I was looking for together with a note telling me when and where it last appeared at auction.

There aren’t many books like Heimbüchler’s, which is fully illustrated, hardback and very expensive.

But making lists of “All Known Copies” is one of the things which experts can and should do.

Heimbüchler  was for many years the German BPP expert for Romania and so got to see many Bulls Heads sent to him for expertising. Most of these were already known copies. A few were previously unrecorded. But to make his Inventory I guess he also had to go through hundreds of old auction catalogues and stamp magazines. Making a serious Inventory is the work of many years.

It can be done by Experts working alone but it can also be done by “Study Groups” – but those are perhaps less common than they used to be. It could be done through dedicated Internet sites, with anyone able to contribute but with editorial control to prevent  forgers getting their work listed as genuine.

There are actually very few stamps ( I  leave out postal history for now) for which we know how many exist. There is probably a number above which it is no longer interesting or practicable to Inventory a stamp.

For example, I assume that thousands (many thousands?)  of copies exist of Russia # 1 and it is not really sensible to try to build an Inventory – too many copies are in collections whose owners would never know an Inventory existed. Likewise, it would be hard to inventory Russia # 3 and #4 because so many of these will be unrecognised as such by their owners ( I once bought a stockbook of miscellaneous Russian stamps which contained five or six of them, completely unrecognised by the seller – and by me, until I got the book home! I have no idea by what route they got there).

In contrast, you could probably get somewhere making an Inventory of Russia # 1 in multiples – pairs, strips of three, blocks do not exist in thousands. It would be easy to create a dedicated website and put up the pictures. Forgeries are fairly difficult to make, though you would need scans of both front and back.

I am surprised that there is not a website housing Inventories of rare Zemstvo stamps. When the Fabergé collection was sold in 1999, an opportunity existed then to make Inventories but the chance was missed – at the time of the sale, no one knew how popular and expensive Zemstvos would soon become! The auction catalogue is very useful but is now, of course, out of print.

My real frustration is in the fact that I often handle stamps which I think are as rare as a Moldavia Bull’s Heads but for which absolutely no public inventory exists or even much intelligent guessing. 

For example, among Russian Civil War period stamps 1918 – 1923 there are many that are rare or rare in used condition or rare on cover – but we never really know how rare.

I will give one example. Soviet Armenia in 1922 – 1923 engaged in absolutely zero philatelic speculation; indeed, it imprisoned at least one philatelic speculator (Melik-Pachaev). The various varieties of overprint were produced with no ulterior motivation.

Some are very rare. Take the overprints on First Yessayan (Michel 142 – 166). Some are in red, and these are generally scarcer than the normal black overprints. But though it is relatively easy to find the 1, 2 and 4 overprints in red, mint or used, the same is not true of the 10 or 15 overprints. In twenty years I have handled maybe half a dozen and there is really no way I can go out and buy them – they are unlikely to turn up as single lots in auction, unlike Russia # 1. My guess is that worldwide less than one hundred copies of each could be found today. In contrast, of the 1, 2 and 4 in red I guess that the worldwide supply comfortably exceeds one thousand of each. But these really are guesses. 

But the chances of making a reliable Inventory are very low. And the same is true for many other stamps or stamps on cover. This is why you so often read in auction catalogues phrases like “only a few are believed to exist”. Such phrases come from Experts, collectors and dealers like myself who can only say “Well, in the last twenty years I have seen only … “ And that is as good as it gets.

Friday 11 September 2015

Ukraine 1917 - 1922: Post Offices in Podilia

Here is a list of post offices in the Podolia guberniya for which I have cancellations from the 1917 - early 1920s period. I have transliterated from the Russian postmarks rather than giving the Ukrainian names of the places where these former Imperial Russian post offices were located. In the past I had a bigger collection of these cancels, with more offices represented, and this list is certainly incomplete. This List was last updated on 13 September 2015.







KRUTIE (1922 only)

LYANTSK ORUN (Imperial canceller used in 1924)
















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:

Thursday 10 September 2015

Ukraine 1918 - 20: Forged Cancellations of Podilia

By 1917, the Imperial Russian postal service operated a couple of hundred post offices in the Guberniya of Podolia. A few were in the main towns - Kamenets, Vinnitsa, Zhmerinka, Proskurov - but most were in small towns. If you Google those small towns, most of them show up on Genealogy and Holocaust sites as Jewish shtetls.

Between 1918 and 1920, stamps in the post offices changed as the Ukrainian National Republic introduced the General Issue of 1918 and later in the year the Trident overprinted stamps. But the old Imperial cancellers remained in use. I know of only one distinctive new canceller - and that was introduced by the Polish during their occupation of Kamenets Podolsk in 1920. They produced a canceller with Polish spelling (KAMIENIEC) - this is illustrated in the Fischer Catalog Tom II and on this Blog - click on the Label at the end of this Post to link to the relevant page.

There is also a Kamenets canceller with Ukrainian spelling (KAMYANETS) but this is a Forgery. Though similar in style to Imperial Russian cancellers, it appears to have a fixed date 19. 7 19. It is only found on cancelled to order stamps, some genuine and some forged or doubtful. The ink used for all cancellations is different to the inks generally used in Podilia during 1918 - 20. Here are some examples of the cancellation. At the top it is applied to a genuine 20 Hr General Issue, a genuine type 3 Kharkiv Trident and a genuine type 1a Podilia Trident. Then at the bottom are two examples of Podilia 1a in violet or violet-black ink. These are usually regarded as Reprints or Forgeries though the discussion in the Trident literature is pretty perfunctory.

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Other forged cancellations exist but are rarely seen. I think this is simply because there is so much used Podilia material freely available. Over the years I have assembled only the small group of doubtful items shown here and on which I comment below:

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Top left: Genuine Podilia 1a on 50 kopeck with what I take to be a forged cancel of Zhmerinka Voksal. The genuine cancel is oval in the usual Imperial style and rarely seen at this time, though I have one example on a General Issue stamp. 

Top centre: Genuine Kyiv III with what I think is a forged GORODOK POD. cancel. I don't like the general appearance, the ink, the circles instead of stars and the date 10 7 18, well before any Trident overprints appeared - the earliest known dates are at the  end of August.

Top right: Signed Dr Seichter BUT the cancel is in a style with very large letters and numbers quite unlike any known Podilia cancel

Bottom row: Genuine Kyiv II and Podilia overprints, mint with full gum,  cancelled with what I take to be a forged Ukrainian Field Post cancellation. The complete text of the cancel can be seen by looking at both pairs of stamps. The date 18 XII 19 on both items allows a remote possibility that this is a genuine cancel.


One other thing: I have had some kind of collection of Podilia postal history for 1917 - 1921 for over twenty years. But - apart from the stamps - it does not feel very Ukrainian. The cancellations are in Russian and it may be that the employees of the post offices were mostly Russians or at least fluent Russian speakers. All their paperwork was in Russian (except at Yampol where the postmaster printed his own Ukrainised Money Transfer forms). Letters to the Courts are addressed in Russian. I suspect that most of the people who used the post offices identified themselves as Russian or Jewish - and from Googling, it would seem that Jews tended to use Russian rather than Ukrainian when they were not using Yiddish or Hebrew. Am I wrong about this?

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:

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Mail from Russia to Finland 1917 - 1918

After the overthrow of the Tsar, mail from Russia to Finland continued normally. After Finland’s declaration of Independence in July 1917, mail continues to be franked at the Domestic Tariffs in force under the Provisional Government. There is normally NO Russian censorship applied to the outgoing mail but normally there is Finnish censorship evidenced by typical oval cachets in red, usually applied in Åbo. In my holding of 29 items of mail sent during the period of the Provisional Government just one has Russian censorship, applied at its starting point in Orenburg.

After the Bolshevik seizure of power, there is a rapid change in the way mail is handled. The majority of mail now shows signs of Russian censorship with  letters actually being opened and re-sealed. At the same time, the red oval Finnish censorship cachets disappear. In my sample of 27 items sent after the Bolshevik seizure of power, 19 have Russian censorship indications including all the letters and just one has a Finnish censorship mark and that is a new post-Independence mark. 

This abrupt introduction of Russian censorship probably reflects the Soviet fear that Finland would be used as a base for counter-revolutionary activity (as it was).

Mail continues to be franked at the domestic rates except for two ordinary commercial letters sent in early 1918 from Petrograd and Moscow, franked at the foreign rate of 20 kopecks. 

The Bolsheviks had recognised Finnish independence in December 1917 but this does not seem to have been routinely carried through into the Tariffs applied .

Some of the mail sent in the first few months of Bolshevik power shows evidence from arrival cancels of long delays in delivery, extending to months. This no doubt reflects the impact on the mail service of Finland’s own Civil War.

I have no items sent after March 1918 except for one letter with an unusual official seal cancellation, with hammer and sickle, which has post - Independence Finnish censorship and an Mss. arrival note for 27 October (presumably 1918) and looks as if it is franked as a double weight domestic letter (35 kop x 2) from the Tariff period 28 February – 14 September 1918 

Ordinary letter sent from PETROGRAD 18 8 17 during the period of the Provisional Government, franked at the Domestic tariff of 15 kopecks with oval red Finnish censorship cachet. No markings on the reverse

Ordinary letter sent from PETROGRAD 3 1 18 [Old Style] under the Bolsheviks, franked at the Domestic tariff of 15 kopecks with Petrograd paper censorship strip and boxed violet cachets. Received in Helsinki (roller cancel on reverse) 12 March 1918 [New Style]

Ordinary letter sent from PETROGRAD 14 1 18 [Old Style] under the Bolsheviks, franked at the Foreign letter tariff of 20 kopecks with Petrograd paper censorship strip and boxed violet cachet  (on reverse). Received in Helsinki (roller cancel on reverse) 13 March 1918 [New Style]

Ordinary letter originating in Petrograd (sender's address on reverse), hammer and sickle seal used as cancel, Petrograd paper censorship strip and boxed violet cachet on reverse. Post- independence Finnish censorship on the front at bottom right. Franked at 70 kopecks probably representing a double weight Domestic letter sent in the Tariff period 28 February - 14 September 1918. Mss. POL[ucheno = Received] 27 OKT[ober] top left, confirmed on reverse by crayon 17 / 30 Oct marking - ie, Old Style 17 October, New Style 30 October.

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Added 30 September 2015: In relation to the cover above, Kaj Hellman draw my attention to this illustration in The Finnish Philatelist, November 2000. The seal used as a cancellation is, in effect, a censorship / control mark specific to mail going to Finland: 

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Added 12 September 2015: 

Kaj Hellman tells me that the Civil War in Finland is usually dated as beginning 27 January and ending 15 May 1918. During this period, mail from Bolshevik Russia travelled only to Red controlled areas in the south of Finland ( Helsinki, Turku, Wiborg etc).

Mail later in 1918 is very scarce. It includes the last item shown above which has been censored at RAJAJOKI with a # 1 Censor mark. Other numbers exist but the mark is rare - Kaj Hellman says he has seen 4 or 5 examples [ to which I add: in his long career as Finland's leading specialist stamp dealer and auctioneer].

Rajajoki was on the old (pre-1940) river border between Finland and Russia. It is now Sestra in Russia. The censor mark reads at top line TARKASTETTU (Inspected), then RAJAJOEN (Rajajoki's), then P:nä (Day) and ... Kuuta (Month) which have not been filled in on this example Finally, at the bottom there is "No. 1"

Added 20 September 2015: Alexander Epstein provides this very nice cover from Kislovodsk to Hanko. I think it is a double weighted Registered letter (35 +35 postage + 70 kop Registration), routed via Petrograd censors. The important things are the dates: sent 29 3 18, arrived .. X 18 (receiver cancel on reverse)

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Sunday 6 September 2015

Romanian Occupation of Pokutia C.M.T. overprints and the Ivan Cherniavsky Monogram

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At the very useful Philatelic Experts website created by G. Kock ( you can find a drawing of Dr Ivan Cherniavsky's Monogram handstamp, the drawing provided by the Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society. An image of the real thing can be seen, in violet, on the stamp above together with one of John Bulat's handstamps BULAT BPP from the time when he was a Bundesprüfer for the German BPP

I think there is a little story here. Dr Ivan Cherniavsky was joint creator of the Pokutia C.M.T. overprint issue of 1919 together with Major Turbatu of the Romanian occupation forces. I have written about this in two previous Blogs. You can use the Labels below to find them.

Cherniavsky was a lawyer in charge of the Kolomya District Court and most of the existing non-philatelic envelopes franked with the C.M.T. issue are addressed to the Court, where they were collected by Dr Cherniavsky.

Cherniavsky was a cover collector and would not have removed a stamp from a cover unless ...

The clue is in the green colour of the paper adhering to the stamp. This stamp was removed not from an envelope but from an entire letter - and more specifically a Court Delivery Letter. Such letters or entires were often on thin greyish or greenish paper. In Pokutia, as in the rest of Galicia, a Court Delivery post operated which in the Austrian and Polish periods used distinctive adhesives, the Gerichtszustellungmarken. The stamp above has also been used as a Court Delivery stamp - and Cherniavsky had to peel it off the letter because the document to which it was affixed had to stay in the Court archives, unlike the lawyers' envelopes which he could remove complete. Cherniavsky applied his Monogram after peeling the stamp off the Court Delivery document.

The stamp is uncancelled. Twenty years ago John Bulat - who at some point acquired material from Cherniavsky's collection -  sold me three or four examples of this stamp which did not have postal cancels but did have paper on the back. He was puzzled by them. I think I have solved the puzzle.

In fact, I want to go a bit farther and suggest that the C.M.T. overprints on Austrian Postage Due stamps (Bulat 9 - 13; this is an example of #9) were intended as Court Delivery stamps and were indeed used as such.

Maybe one of my readers can produce a complete Court Delivery document to support this claim? The stamp is for sale.

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:

Saturday 5 September 2015

Stamp Dealing as Work ...

Friday 4th September

Get up, shower, tea and biscuits

Leave home, drive into Central London, a 60 mile / 100 km journey which this morning takes one hour and fifty minutes (which is good: this is England. We don't do fast roads).

Unload car, park car, set up my table at Central London's monthly stamp fair  at Russell Square (near both Euston and Kings Cross / St Pancras Stations). Officially, it's called the Strand Stamp Fair but it is many years since it was held in The Strand. Some people call it The Bourse. Go to to find the details

Start trading. At this small but busy fair I sell cheap material, most of it at £2 and spread over my 2m x 2m table. I guess there are 5000 items on the table, lots of it Great Britain but also Russia and Eastern Europe. The prices are good value - Gunstig! - and I sell to both dealers and collectors. Most people here are "Regulars" which is a challenge: every month  I have to find something new. Today I have a new stock of covers from Turkey (bought in Switzerland and delayed for two weeks by our Soviet-style Customs), German pre-philatelic (also Switzerland, also delayed), Third Reich (covers to Finland bought in Finland and not delayed, thanks to the EU), and new Great Britain (bought in Germany and not delayed)

Eat the breakfast sandwich I have bought with me

The room gets busier as people arrive after travelling free or more cheaply on off-peak trains  and buses. No one wants to pay the huge fares which apply early in the morning. We dealers who drive in arrive by 07.00 to avoid the heavy traffic of the 07.00 - 10.00 period.

I close my shop. Yep. If I stay later, the journey home in the Friday traffic is just horrible and at 68 years old I have lost my youthful enthusiasm for traffic nightmares.

 After a very quick lunch on the premises, I load up my car and set off home

Home. Two hours 40 minutes after leaving London, which is good - on a really bad Friday, it can take three hours.

A cup of tea, read my emails and then unload my car, put my boxes away, sit down with my red Accounts Book and do the Income and Expenditure columns for the day.


My next drive to London will be for LONDON STAMPEX at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 16 to 19 September. I have a Stand in the Gallery, near the cafe. I will have with me my Russian and related areas stock and also my new Latin America stock. There will be a one - price (£7.50) All World range too!

Thursday 3 September 2015

RSFSR: Two Interesting Covers from 1922

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We think of the Bolsheviks as specialist in propaganda, extensively using methods old and new, before and especially after the revolution. Everyone has heard of Agitprop and knows about the posters, the films and even the Agit trains.

But as far as the postal system was concerned, the Bolsheviks took several years to even begin to use postage stamps, postal cancellations and postal stationery illustrations for purposes of propaganda. For all practical purposes, post - 1917 Revolution mail looks just like Imperial mail, except dirtier. Aside from the Kerensky Chainbreakers and stationery cards used by the Bolsheviks - and some censorship marks - there is nothing to signal the change of regime until the Arts and Industry stamps appeared in the Autumn of 1921 - and even then not in sufficient quantities for the change to be sustained.

Take a look at these covers from 1922. At the top, an ordinary letter to Finland sent from the Nicholas Station in Petrograd on 14 October 1922 - still with that name and still using the oval Imperial cancellation. On the front, only the Soviet Three Triangle censor mark marks this as a distinctively Bolshevik item.

The effects of the censorship can be seen on the back, at the right side of the cover. The recipient opened it with scissors, slightly reducing it. But the censors had already been inside, through the triangular flap, damaging the stamps and the tissue paper lining of the envelope. The two Petrograd 1st Exspeditsia cancellations dated 16 10 22 are transit marks applied after the censor's work had been done, though it looks a bit as if they were applied on the right side to cover up the mess left by the censor.

The cover is franked as an ordinary foreign letter, correctly, at 75 roubles. This is interesting in relation to the date it was sent: 14 October is the first day of the new Tariff schedule - or rather, of a Tariff schedule for which Alexander Epstein notes two possible dates of introduction (14 and 18 October): see his article on Foreign Mail tariffs in Zeitschrift für Klassische Russland-Philatelie 2 (1998)

Last but not least, the stamps are scarce ones. They are perforated 12.5 not the regular 13.5. These stamps are from a post - 1917 printing: Michel dates the printing to 1918 and catalogues the stamp at 30 €uro in used condition (Michel 80 C x b II - I think that is what you call a really Unhelpful Numbering System).


Now the second cover. This is addressed to Czecholovakia and also starts out from the Nicholas Station in Petrograd but a few months later on  6 10 22 - oval cancellation on the top. The Three Triangle Bolshevik censor mark is at the bottom of the cover dated 9 10 22. But this is a Registered cover, and to indicate that the clerk ahs reached back to pre-1914 times and come up with an R-label inscribed "S. - PETERSBOURG. / gare Nicolas." This use in 1922 of a reminder of the Imperial past is known from other covers - it is hard to find but not impossible. It shows the Bolsheviks as enthusiasts for recycling.

On the back we again have a block of 10 of the 7 rouble stamps, but this time with the regular perforation 13. 5. There are transits of the both the 1st and 6th Exspeditsia post offices in Petrograd. I think the censor got in to the envelope at the base, using the flaps on either side of the 5 kopeck stamps. These have been revalued x 100 to make 5 rouble stamps (Revaluation of March 1920) and the total franking of 90 roubles is correct for a Foreign Registered letter according to the Tariff of 17 6 1922. 

It looks as if the letter was received and opened normally, but there are no receiver cancellations. The only unexplained mark is what looks like a pencilled "6" right in the middle of the front of the envelope.