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Monday 25 February 2013

Armenia? Azerbaijan? Georgia? Romania? Russia? Ukraine? ... We Need Experts!

At the back of every Michel catalogue, you will find a list of Experts accredited by the Bundes Philatelischer Prüfer [BPP]. For German stamps alone, there are dozens of Experts - some of them specialists in just a few stamps. For other countries, there is normally at least one Expert. For the countries listed in my title there are none.

There are, of course, some recognised Experts for these areas and others associated with them, including members of the AIEP [International Association of Philatelic Experts]. Mikulski was the most important of these, but he no longer signs because he has sold his Reference collections.

But it's really the BPP which matters. It's the best organised and the most systematically rigorous and reliable, with clear and public rules which you can find in the back of a Michel catalogue. In comparison, some other national organisations which claim to offer expertising services are simply not reliable or reliable only for a few areas. Some of these organisations have been prone to laxness or scandals.

Collectors in the areas in which I specialise should be pleading with the BPP to look for potential Experts and train them for the task. In the case of Ukraine, Dr Seichter, John Bulat and before him Kobylanski were all BPP accredited. Now there is no one. I don't think there has ever been anyone for Transcaucasia. There have been BPP Experts for Poland ( for example, Jungjohann), Russia and Soviet Union (in these cases, not always good choices) but now there are none. Now that Heimbüchler has reached the BPP retirement age, the same is true for Romania.

It does make life difficult for both collectors and dealers. Let me use the example of Ukraine. Here are some stamps I want to sell: a block of 4 mint 10/7 kopeck stamps with an overprint which is "obviously" Podillia and two used 10/7 stamps with overprints which I think are the same. I have put the mint stamps close to the used stamps, but they are not attached to the Money Transfer fragment:

Now in the case of Podillia you have a choice of over 60 handstamp types and sub-types - quite enough work for one dedicated BPP expert! I think that the 10 / 7 stamps are overprinted with Type 13c (Bulat's Type 44). I get to this conclusion by looking at the illustrations in the catalogue and by referring to one stamp I am holding for reference, the 1 kopeck shown at the top. This stamp has XIIIc written on the back in Zelonka's handwriting and Ron Zelonka usually knew what he was doing. Ideally, I would like a block of stamps with 13c so that I could see variations caused by inking and pressure. But I don't have one - other than the 10/7 block shown here. The problem  is that 13c is not a common stamp (see the Bulat listing 2001 - 2013 where only four stamps are priced, all the others being - - cases).

If you ask how I know that the stamps have genuine overprints, then I have to say that it's a lot to do with the ink and the fact that the fragment of Money Transfer and the cancellations on it are pretty clearly genuine.

But there are two reasons I would like to send my 10 / 7 stamps to an Expert.

First, there are several handstamp types very similar to 13c so I would like a second Opinion. It's not always like this - some handstamp types are unambiguous and I am quite happy to judge them - see previous Blogs about Podillia. 

Second, if these stamps are 13c then they have significant catalogue values in Bulat: $35 each for the mint stamps and unpriced - - [rare] for the used stamps. But if I am going to ask clients to pay  a significant amount for this little group - and many others like it for other sub-types - then they should expect something more than my claim that these are indeed 13c's. They deserve an Expert's opinion. Even if these stamps were already signed Dr Seichter BPP or Bulat BPP it would not help very much because neither of those experts routinely pencilled identifications on the backs of stamps when they signed them. The signature indicates the overprint is genuine without saying which overprint it is....

So there you are. Over to the BPP!

1 comment:

  1. Inspired by your post I zoomed over to the BPP website and found a useful article on how to become a BPP expertizer. It isn't cheap! A fixed safe for storing items under review, a stereo microscope and a 400,000 Euro insurance policy to cover any losses while material is in your possession are all mandatory.