Yes, it's true
For years I have put these stamps aside thinking Too Difficult, Too Easily Forged.
Now when I study them I realise:
1. For a few issues, there were remainders which were recycled by the Soviet Philatelic Agency. These are the issues for which Michel gives prices for mint * copies. For all the other issues Michel gives mint * prices of - - . These issues are rare, very rare, or simply non-existent mint. If you think you have mint copies, there is a 99% probability that they are fakes. Stop looking at them. Move on ...
2. Postal services in 1920 Russia were still much reduced. Recovery is only really obvious in 1922. Now consider that the MAJORITY of 1920 Postmaster Provisionals are from out-of-the-way places you have probably never heard of. Suppose you are a forger planning to put "p" on used stamps to turn them into Postmaster Provisionals. Your chances of finding stamps with the right cancels at the right date are no greater than finding stamps which ALREADY have "p" on them! That is why forgers end up putting their "p"s on stamps with cancels of the wrong places (Petrograd, Moscow ...) at the wrong time (1915 ...). And it is easy work to eliminate such stamps as forgeries. Move on ...
3. Furthermore, most of the Postmaster Provisionals appear to have been used on Money Transfer Forms and Parcel Cards, where they generally received clear cancellations.
4. CONCLUSION: if the place name is right on the cancellation and the date is 1920, then the "p" or "pyb" that goes with it is almost certainly GENUINE.
5. It could have been even easier BUT: the people who first got their hands on Parcel and Transfer cards franked with Postmaster Provisionals decided that the way to make money was to (a) peel or soak off stamps on the back of the card to sell separately (b) cut up the card to produce single stamps on piece taken from the front (often with clipped perfs from splitting multiples) .... The result is that you frequently find two things of help in assessing a Postmaster Provsional: (1) stamps with pink or brown paper adhering on the back may well have been peeled off the back of a card (2) stamps on small fragments cut very close at top and bottom are the result of cutting up multiples. It's a great pity because it means you only get part of a postmark to study. But often it's enough and the clipped perfs are a clue that you are on to something.
6. SIGNATURES? There are some useful signatures. Mikulski signed these things, so did Pohl and Dr Jem. A useful one to look out for is KRYNINE which I think is reliable. But not a lot of the material appears to be signed, so you have to use my method ...
... and using it you can form a Postmaster Provisional collection even if you cannot afford the four-figure prices which complete Transfer and Parcel Cards obtain in auction.
Problem solved. No charge for my services because there wasn't much of a problem in the first place :)
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