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Wednesday 19 January 2011

1917 - 1923 Baltics, Caucasus and Ukraine: an Odd Fact

The famous stamps of "classic" philately - Penny Blacks, Bulls' Heads, Post Office Mauritius - appear over and over again in auction. There is a huge data-base of knowledge: how many exist, what prices they fetched, who owned them, and so on.

For the 1917 - 1923 period there are rare and fascinating items from the Baltics, Caucasus and Ukraine which have never appeared in auction as single lots. Either they have been bundled up in big lots or they have been sold privately - passed from collector to dealer to collector for decades. In such cases, there are often no publicly available pictures; there is no inventory of how many exist; and little is known about the prices which have been paid.

Some of these items are unique, some exist in a handful of copies. They are rarities. Most of them have probably been bought and sold for modest sums - let's say, under 1 000 (euros, dollars, pounds).

Not all of these things are obscure. For example, Latvia's 1918 # 1 Map Stamps are famous. But they were available in Riga for regular postal use for only two weeks at the end of December 1918 before Red Army troops occupied the Latvian capital and the post offices started using Russian stamps once again.

The number of genuinely used commercial covers with Map stamps from those two weeks in December 1918 is extremely small. But how small, we do not know. I have only ever seen (and sold) one and I could not get anything like the price I thought it deserved - which itself was, in my view, still ridiculously low (I asked for $1000 and didn't get it)

It's not hard to find auctions offering a choice of Russia # 1 on cover. The likely sale price is known. But there are many things from 1917 - 23 Baltics, Caucasus and Ukraine for which the likely sale price is unknown because they have never been seen in auction. And one reason that they have not been seen is that they are much rarer than Russia # 1 on cover ...

1 comment:

  1. Very true, although I'd add that prices are generally influenced by demand as well. Some Siberian Civil War items are howling rarities (only a few known on cover, that sort of thing) but there are also only a few aficionados who wish to buy it. Where as Russia no.1s on cover attract a healthy mob of bidders. Personally, I am quite at peace with that: let me collect the howling Siberian rarities without a mob of competitors. If that results in a price which is really too low I won't complain.