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Thursday 12 August 2010

ARTAR or Zakiyan? Armenian revenue overprints

I have always believed that when the Paris printers Chassepot prepared the first pictorial stamps of Armenia in 1920, they despatched only the low values in the Eagle design to Yerevan. By the time they got to print the high values in two colours, the Dashnak regime had collapsed. The high value stamps were remaindered from Paris, which is why they are more common in Europe than the low values, many of which had been despatched to Yerevan. (For the later crude Reprints, all values are equally common).

This story would explain why Christopher Zakiyan, in his book Armenia: Postage Stamps, Fiscal Stamps, Postage Cancels (Yerevan 2003, pages 63ff)lists Soviet fiscal overprints on only the 1,5,10 and 15 rouble Chassepot stamps, which are also the only values which appear on the documents he illustrates (There is an unexplained mystery about what happened to the 3 rouble Chassepot stamp).

In the ARTAR catalog, it seems that the same account is going to be accepted from the text on page 126, but then on page 132, we are shown fiscal overprints on all the high value stamps with accompanying high valuations (minimum $450). But if the conventional wisdom is correct, these high value stamps were not available for overprinting because they had not been sent to Yerevan. So any fiscal overprint on these stamps, whether Originals or Reprints, must be a fake. (On page 131, ARTAR also lists the 3 rouble with fiscal overprint and also gives it a $450 valuation).

These overprints on high values were first announced to the philatelic world in an article by Joseph Ross ("Armenian Revenue Stamps and their Uses", The Post-Rider, No 41, 1997, pages 40 - 48). I replied in issue 49 of the same journal (November 2001, page 111). By this time I had seen actual examples of the overprints on the high values, all of which were identical in terms of frame line breaks and so on. From this I concluded that they had been digitally produced on the basis of a scan from just one stamp. Examples I saw included ones on reprints, so necessarily fakes. These stamps had all come from one source in the USA. All were mint, as are all those illustrated by both Joseph Ross and ARTAR.

The conservative and, I believe correct, position is this: there is no good evidence for the existence of fiscal overprints on the Chassepot high values. The best information we have is against the possibility. The stamps listed at page 132 of ARTAR must be fakes. The listing given by Zakiyan in his 2003 book should be retained.

As a general point: Armenian revenue stamps of this 1918 - 23 period are actually more common on documents than as loose stamps. Mint stamps are rare. This is because most examples remained locked in Armenian archives until around the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. At that time, quite large quantities of documents became available in Europe and America.

Some of those documents were subsequently "enhanced" by the addition of fiscal stamps, sometimes genuine stamps, sometimes fakes. For example, I have seen a fake fiscal overprint on a 10 rouble Chassepot REPRINT attached to an authentic document. Such a pity: a nice document and a crude fake!

1 comment:

  1. Trevor Pateman is basically correct in what he reports. I have over a 1000 documents with revenue stamps including war charity stamps used as revenues in my accumulated collection, 86 have the war charity stamps used alone or in combination duting a period of shortage of revenue stamp but, excluding war charties fiscally used, only 56 loose revenue stamps including TSFSR, 10 mint and 46 used. The Armenian coat of arms on high value Chasepot are all forgeries as are the high values with REVENUE overprints. My collection starts wth Imperial Russian fiscals used in Armenia and ends with ends with Soviet Poshlina used in Armenia. (Eight frames received a vermeil award at Stampex this autumn, just 2 mark sort of a gold and I plan to re-enter in Autumn 2011. Some of the genuine Chassepot revenues have an appearance similar to the reprints so be careful in rejecting such documents. Dr. Ray Ceresa