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Sunday, 12 August 2018

CLOSING SOON: internet auction

The Internet auction at      closes on 17 August

With lots of people on holiday (and maybe without smartphones), there are still many Lots which have no bids. There may be a chance to get them cheap.

I have contributed material to the sections for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Crete, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania,  Russia (most sections), Transcaucasia and Ukraine. I am also responsible for the wide range of Latin America bulk lots. In total, I have over 300 lots in this auction.

Take a look at this well-established, trustworthy auction

Monday, 6 August 2018

Latvian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic 1919 - 1920

Someone once said to me that postal history collectors are really stamp collectors in disguise.

Part of the evidence, the fact that pre-philatelic mail trades at a huge discount on the prices achieved for early franked mail even when the cancellations, the routes, etc are very much the same. In addition, pre-philatelic mail is often in excellent condition because dealers and collectors have not been adding their pencil notes, their hinges, and their autographs for the past 150 years or more.

More evidence is in the fact that big areas of postal history are neglected because the stamps on the covers are the wrong sort of stamps. Collectors who supposedly specialise in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) of 1917 – 23 generally show very little interest in the period 1917 -21 when mail continued to be franked with Imperial adhesives. Likewise, collectors of early post-Imperial Latvia want to see Rising Suns on their postal history, not Imperial stamps.

But from 1917 to January 1920, there also existed Bolshevik-controlled areas of Latvia and even a Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic, with is capital first in Riga from January until May 1919, then in Dvinsk [Daugavpils] and finally in Rezhitsa [Rezekne] where a new Cyrillic canceller was used which included the word “Latvia” rather than old Imperial “Lifland”.

It’s true that it requires a bit of work to establish what is and isn’t Bolshevik mail and also to get over the fact that much of what exists was seriously damaged by The Cutter - a post office clerk employed in Riga to clip stamps on Money Transfers and Parcel Cards and who took an utterly pointless job very seriously. 

Here for example is what could have been a very attractive Money Transfer Card.
Addressed in Latvian, this card sends 3 rubels to the editorial office of “Zihna”, founded in 1904 as a Latvian Social Democrat journal and in 1919 the journal of the Latvian Communist Party, headquartered in one of Riga’s main streets, Elisabetes iela. 

The card is an Imperial card and so is the etiquette bottom left which reads SEGEWOLD LIFL. in Cyrillic. But with the declaration of Latvian independence, Segewold became Sigulda and acquired a nice new Roman script canceller and a nice supply of red ink. But when Sigulda came under Bolshevik control in December 1918 (and remained so until October 1919 – von Hofmann’s dates), the Soviets used boring Imperial stamps in preference to Rising Suns, in this case 5 x 5 kop imperforate stamps paying the minimum Money Transfer fee of 25 kopeks. The card arrived in Riga on 2 May 1919, shown by an old Imperial Cyrillic canceller for RIGA applied on the reverse. The representative of Zhina signed for the card on 6th May.

Unfortunately, as you can see, The Cutter went to work on this card which is otherwise in very good condition – over a century not many collectors have taken an interest in it

Click on Images to Magnify

Previous Blog on this subject: 23 October 2015

Sunday, 5 August 2018

A Rare One Kopek Franking

On 1 November 2013, I blogged here about the One Kopek Tariff which existed continuously in Imperial Russia from 1866 to 1917 and ended only under the Provisional Government: from 14 August 1917, the lowest tariff was set at 2 kopeks. The conditions of eligibility for the 1 kopek rate varied a great deal in that 1866 – 1917 period, but in principle, it is possible to find every type of Imperial 1 kopek used as a single franking. 

It may be that the hardest one to find is the imperforate 1 kopek issued in April 1917. April to August sounds like a reasonable period of time, but if a post office or an individual still had perforated 1 kopek stamps available, then they might well choose to use those because easier to separate – try finding a pair of scissors when you need them!

Since I began looking for 1 kopek frankings many years ago, I have only found one with the imperforate. It is used on the circular shown below and cancelled at the Petrograd 57th office on 25 5 17. I am today writing up the item for despatch to auction.

Click on Images to Magnify

BREXIT Preparations (continued)

My preparations for BREXIT are very simple.

By the end of March 2019, most of my better stock will be physically located in Finland and Germany, queued for auction at Suomen Filateliapalvelu and Heinrich Koehler.

If there is a Hard Brexit with traffic chaos (including chaos in postal services) and bureaucratic confusions about tariffs and whatever, then I will be able to wait for sanity to return – which may be never, of course. If sterling goes the way of the pesos and liras of the world, then I will benefit from my €uro-denominated auction sales (and so will Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs). 

I have already benefitted in the past two years with sterling an average of 15% down against the €uro since the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum. There is no scenario in which sterling will regain that loss. Just think, when the €uro was introduced - I was in Amsterdam on changeover day and Guilders had disappeared by lunch time - the rate was 1.40 €uro to one £ sterling and climbed to a peak of about 1.75 in the year 2000.

Back in England, I am afraid I shall only retain cheap stock with a low value to weight ratio which does not justify shipping to Europe. Since it is likely under every scenario that my UK clients will have less money to spend as consumer prices rise and the economy shrinks, then cheap stock is the sensible thing to have – and even then, not very sensible. But it will be something to do, a hobby, and I think it will increasingly remind me of how things were in the old, poorer, eastern Europe. I recall one day in Prague in the 1990s going to the weekly collectors’ bourse where I asked to take a table for the afternoon. It cost me the equivalent of one euro – and I got a receipt! Of course, I didn’t sell very much but it was a happy afternoon.

Meanwhile, like many UK-based businesses large and small, I am buying (investing) very little. I am sitting on money in the bank and letting my stock levels fall, waiting to see what happens and for the moment assuming the worst.