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Monday 26 February 2018

A New 1922 Postmaster Provisional from Kharkiv?

Click on Image to Magnify

How do you know when you have made a discovery?

Above are two halves of the back of a cover sent from KHARKIV 15 9 22 which transited MOSKVA on 18 9 22 and arrived in BERLIN 27 9 22.

Without overprint if 18 stamps of 5 kopeks were revalued x 100, then they would pay a 90 rubel Registered tariff, assuming no stamps on the front of the envelope. But in 1920, Kharkiv 5 kop stamps were revalued x 100 by means of black pyb overprints, which are very common. Maybe by September 1922, those overprints had been used up.

With the 0250 overprints shown here the stamps would pay a 4500 =  45 rubel ordinary letter tariff, assuming there were no stamps on the front of the envelope.

But is the 0250 overprint genuine? I have not seen it before.

In favour, there are two things. First, the overprints appear to be under the cancellations and the KHARKIV cancellation appears to be genuine. When an overprint is heavy and a cancel light, it is always hard to be sure, but under natural light and under magnification, every way I look, the cancels do look as if they are over the overprints. That is essential.

Second, I am told that another example of this overprint on 5 kop stamps with KHARKIV cancels is in a St Petersburg collection. In this case, the stamps are imperforate. The cancel is not the same one, which also helps support the idea that the KHARKIV cancel on this cover back is genuine: a forger would not waste time and money making two different cancels.

Against this is the simple thought: How come a Postmaster Provisional from a big city like Kharkiv has not been recorded sometime in the past 100 years? That is a serious question. The best answer is for one of my readers to produce another example of this overprint, ideally on a 5 kop stamp with a Kharkiv cancel – a heavy cancel would be nice!

Discussions are ongoing: I have discussed with Joseph Geyfman and he has discussed with Alexander Epstein ... We are still talking about probabilities rather than certainties so we really need some new evidence. See also now comments below from Ivo Steijn.

UPDATE 30 May 2018 Tobias Huylmans offered to look at the item using his specialist BPP equipment. He could not get a definite result. This is partly because the inks of the overprint and the canellation do not show the kinds of fluorescence which would enable him to get a contrast. So we still need new examples of this overprint before we can make any progress.

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  1. Wouldn't 4500R make 0.45R (1922)?

  2. One further comment. It's in fact possible we are looking at a kind of two-stage revaluation here. The 5k stamps were originally revalued to 250R with the surcharge. This must have been in... early 1922? Then, when the 1922 ruble was introduced, each 5k stamp became (invisibly) revalued to 50,000R and the old surcharge was simply ignored. There is a precedent for this from Pokrovsk, Samara, where 10R Control stamps were revalued in manuscript to 100R each, which was then ignored when they were later used at 250R each.

    1. Actually, I am of the same opinion that the stamps were surcharged at the end 1921-beg. 1922 (if genuine, of course) but not released at that time. Generally, there was no need in such sucharge, since the CPA ordered using Imperial Control and SPB stamps to match the 250-rub rate for inland ordinary letters. However, I have never seen such covers from Kharkov franked with those stamps.