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Saturday 4 December 2010

CMT overprints

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Today, I am looking at CMT overprints

During and especially after World War One, army officers became addicted to occupying bits of other people's territory in order to issue Occupation stamps. They were nice little earners. They cannot be written off, however, because most of them had not only official legitimation but also some legitimate actual use.

This is true of the CMT overprints from the 1919 Romanian Occupation of Pokutia (the district of Kolomya in what was Austria-Hungary, then in what was briefly Western Ukraine, subsequently in Poland and now in Ukraine via the Soviet Union). Pokutia really was the back of beyond and the local occupation issue was the work of just two people, the Romanian Major Turbatu of the occupying forces and Ivan Cherniavsky, a prominent lawyer in Kolomya - and philatelist (though very much a collector rather than a dealer).

When you read the documentation they left behind, you get the feeling that they were both unusually honest and conscientious in their approach. The issue they prepared was simple, comprising just thirteen stamps, and it was distributed to 6 of the 8 post offices under temporary Romanian control, and largely used up. They clearly did themselves a few favours - just eight copies of the #1 stamp which they would have been crazy not to have bought up on the spot. But as things went at the time, this seems modest.

Cherniavsky's real perk, in due course, was to get the secretaries in the Kolomya district court [he was in charge] to let him have envelopes arriving at the court. He was a cover collector and the CMT stamps distributed across the District came back to the Court on envelopes sent in by small town lawyers.

Except from Lanczyn, where it seems [from my research] that a local philatelist bought up the CMT stamps and stuck them for cancellation on blank covers. So they did not travel back to Kolomya - Cherniavsky observed in 1928 that he did not have covers from Lanczyn in his collection and this is probably the reason why!

Indeed, the modest and undemonstrative way Turbatu and Cherniavsky went about things clearly annoyed stamp dealers and even collectors across the borders in Romania and Austria when they got to hear about what was going on. Here were these people issuing stamps and they hadn't been offered any!

The Major and the lawyer seemed oblivious of the kind of demand for these things which existed at the time. Dealers in Vienna could shift tens of thousands of provisional stamps. They weren't interested in covers which had been genuinely used to the District Court.

Eventually, the dealers and at least one collector got their way - presumably by paying to get it - and the Romanians furnished them with new editions of the CMT overprints, using the original handstamps and even the same ink pads, but applied to a much larger range of basic adhesives - around 50 different basic stamps. They also got "Proofs" in red [which I have seen] and blue [which I haven't] in suitably small quantities.[ Turbatu and Cherniavsky seem not to have even thought of making Proofs ].

As far as I can tell, it is generally impossible to distinguish between mint copies of Turbatu - Cherniavsky originals and mint Second Editions which were produced outside Pokutia at Cernauti, like the Originals, but never taken inside Pokutia.

Used stamps from the Original printing will have a very limited range of cancels - probably from just the six offices which received the stamps - from a limited period (14 June 1919 - 20 August 1919). Reprints which have been cancelled will fail this cancellation test.

There is one small complication to this story. A small part of the fresh overprints were done for a Cernauti Professor, Gronich, and applied to stamps he had taken into Pokutia and had CTOd in Kolomya during the period of the Romanian occupation. These overprints were applied [ acccording to my research which still needs further corroboration] in a very watery violet ink, perhaps to disguise the fact that they were being applied to stamps which had already been CTOd. But the CTO dates, at the beginning of August, are within the right time period for legitimate use and with the cancellation then in use at Kolomya.

Does any reader have further information?

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