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Sunday 12 December 2010

Armenia 1921 First Yessayan: Quantity and Quality

Collectors who exhibit in order to win medals have to search for Quality and that usually means rare stamps and rare covers.

This may be one reason why basic philatelic research is sometimes neglected. Old fashioned research almost inevitably involves accumulating in quantity - just to see what's out there and to classify and evaluate it.

Soviet Armenia's first set of pictorials consists of 17 values, prepared imperforate and perforated (Michel II a - s). That's 34 stamps to kick off, to which has to be added Proofs and Colour Trials.

Only some stamps were issued and always with handstamped or handwritten surcharges in a variety of styles and in two colours (black and red). Collect one of each and you are heading towards a hundred stamps.

To deal in this issue, one of my "Specialities", I look at my shelves and realise that over the years I have accumulated five large stockbooks:

1. Genuine stamps from the Original printing carried out at the [Y]essayan Printing Works in Constantinople. A very unbalanced stockbook now. Perforated stamps are generally scarcer and the 25 000 in brown perforated is rare. I don't have one but I have hundreds of others in this book.

2. Genuine overprints, which have to be on stamps of the Original printing, in red and black. Red are generally scarcer (except for the 1 on 1) but some black surcharges are very scarce - the 35 on 20 000 and the 3 on 20 000, for example. There are varieties not listed in Michel (you will find them in Zakiyan). None of them are philatelic - the Armenian Bolsheviks has no time for stamp dealers, and even imprisoned one of them (Melik - Pacher / Pachaev).

3. The common Forgery on bright, brittle paper with shiny gum. So common that they are sometimes classed as Reprints, but actually they just don't seem like Yessayan's work especially if you compare with the Reprints he undoubtedly did make of the Second Yessayan series. A very fat stockbook of little value, but with annoying gaps. You would expect the numbers to be more equally distributed than they are in this bulging stockbook, worth no more than a couple of hundred (pounds, euros, dollars).

4. The scarcer forgeries, of which there are at least two types, on paper and sometimes with gum much closer to the Originals but with much poorer quality printing. Much less common, though I picked up an old Italian dealer's stock of them years ago, including part sheets which you rarely see because most were cut up to fill packets.

5. Forged overprints, generally on forged stamps but sometimes on genuine stamps - and these are usually good ones. Blue-black ink instead of black ink is a common feature of these well-executed forgeries which are often seen in auctions. An interesting stockbook which has involved me in many hours work: assessing "1" and "3" overprints on genuine basic stamps is not easy! An interesting book, yes, but - of course - of virtually no retail value.

In all the many years I have accumulated and traded from this stock, NO collector has ever approached me saying, "I want to research this issue. Have you got a big accumulation that I could study? I'll take thousands if you have got them".

Stefan Berger in Germany ( ) has got his own accumulation, but whether there is anyone else out there with enough stamps to really assess this issue in all its aspects, I don't know. Anyone?

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