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Saturday 29 June 2013

Soviet and Post Soviet Covers ... What Do You Think of These?

Some covers are interesting and frustrating at the same time. Maybe they are important and maybe they are rubbish ...

Here are three examples.

(1) On this first card, the bisected stamp does contribute the necessary 5 kopecks to make up the 10 kopeck postcard rate of 1 June 1931. The card was posted at ALEXANDROV VOKSAL 1 8 31 and arrived at BERDYANSK 3 8 31. There is a long family message in German on the back but at the end the sender writes, " Diese Karte bitte züruck" - Please send this card back (and underlined). So the sender knew that the card was philatelically interesting and maybe was responsible for the bisect. However, when this card was illustrated in The Post Rider in November 1998, Andrew Cronin commented that another bisect is known from the same region [ Added: See now below]. If the sender is not the same person, then the bisect may be non-philatelic but recognised by the sender as philatelically important. The fact that the post office clerk has cancelled the bisect carelessly does suggest that the clerk did not think of this card as philatelic. And another things I have just noticed: the pencil used for the "Please send this card back" is not the same pencil as was used to write the long message! The sender added it later ... So is this card worth 10 € or 1000 € ? Comments?

Added: Nikolai Kondrikov kindly sent me the scan below, showing a very similar card offered by Raritan Stamps in their Auction#54 (lot 936). Interestingly, this card is also written in German and makes reference to the bisect but the writing is different and this one is going abroad to Germany. It is sent from KHORTYTSA 11 8 32. The wording of the message [ Da ich jetzt in der deutschen Kolonie Choritza bin, benütze ich diese Gelegenheit ... ]suggests that the bisect is specifically linked to the German colony of Khortysta and though this is the latest known use, from the wording of the message one could infer that at the Khortysta post office pre-prepared cards were still in stock:

Added: Vasilis Opsimos has copied me the Andrew Cronin article from The Post Rider 1998 which gives the date of first known use as 17 7 31 from Khortytsa when a card with a bisect was sent to the German stamp dealers and catalogue makers, Senf, in Leipzig. They announced the local bisect in the German philatelic press. We do not have an illustration of this card.  Cronin does illustrate a card from KHORTYTSA 3 2 32 to Kiev, and translates the Russian message which makes reference to the bisect. Opsimos copied me the following images of a card sold on ebay (for $355) and going from ALEXANDROVSK VOKSAL 18 11 31 to Vienna. This card is also from a philatelist.

So in total we now have 5 recorded cards, all with bisects of the 1905 Revolution commemoration 10 kopeck. Two are internal uses, two are used to Germany and one to Austria (inland and foreign Tariffs were the same). Three are written in German and one in Russian. Three are from Khortytsa and two from Alexandrov Voksal. The period of use is just over a year. The message on the Raritan card with the use of the word "Gelegenheit" [Opportunity]strongly suggests these cards were linked to the German colony of Khortytsa and may have had their origins as a local post office provisional in July 1931, even if they were then sought out by philatelists. It may be relevant that at this time travelling in Ukraine would not have been a straightforward matter.

(2) Below there are two covers. In both cases, Imperial postal stationery envelopes have been used as the basis of philatelic mail posted on the Samara - 69 - Tashkent railway in September 1943. In both cases the Tariff is correct -  but of course, the late use of the 1934 "Horrors of War" stamps is philatelic. But it's more than that: the top cover shows the 20 kopeck brown issued stamp; the cover below shows a 20 kopeck in an unissued colour, blue, and with the design of the issued 35 kopeck blue stamp! This stamp is perforated 10 1/2 instead of 14. So the 20 kopeck stamp on this cover shows a Trial or Proof used postally and accepted for franking at 20 kopecks. So is this a 20 € cover or a 2000 € cover? ( In mint condition, my 2000 Liapin catalogue values the blue stamp  x 50 the value of the brown stamp mint)

(3) Finally, a post-Soviet example of an interesting but frustrating 1992 Belarus cover. Here the address and the sender's address suggest that this is non-philatelic (no Box Numbers, as one so often sees on philatelic confections of this period). But are these Manuscript revaluations the work of the NOVO POLOTSK VITEB[sk] 22 12 92 post office? That question can only really be answered YES if you can find other examples of these revaluations going to other addresses from other senders. Does anyone have an example? 

Friday 28 June 2013

Sovdepia: More About Mail Abroad in 1920

"Sovdepia" was a pejorative term used by the Whites to designate areas of former Imperial RussIA controlled by SOViets of Workers' and Peasants' DEPuties. But it's quite a useful term since it is a bit more accurate than "areas controlled by the Bolsheviks" which overlooks that there were - for short periods - anti-White and pro-Soviet areas controlled by other factions, notably the Left SRs.

Anyway, Sovdepia was without postal connections to foreign countries from the beginning of 1919 until mid-1920. This is a really remarkable fact - very rarely in modern history has a country totally lost mail links to other countries.

When mail services to abroad resumed in June 1920, then according to the Tariff of 7 June 1920 ordinary letters could be sent Free and Registered letters were charged at 10 roubles. A new Tariff of 30 September 1920 abolished all the remaining Free post services, and set a charge of 5 roubles for Ordinary letters sent abroad and 10 roubles for Registered.

With the final defeat of  Red forces in the second half of 1919, Latvia successfully asserted its Independence, though the Moscow government did not formally recognise Latvian independence until August 1920. Nonetheless, in the intervening period Latvia had become a Foreign Destination as far as mail was concerned. This is illustrated by the fact that the cover below sent from MOSCOW 25 6 20 to WAINODE 31 7 20 has a Registration label intended for foreign mail, as well as by the fact that it is franked at the Foreign Registered rate of 10 roubles ( 2 x 5 kop x 100 = 10 roubles) and not the Domestic Registered rate of 7 roubles:

The cover was top-opened by the recipient but was clearly opened through the back flap by the Moscow censor, as can be seen below. Note also that the cancellation is a new Latvian independence period device (Hofmann type 1525.1):

The next cover is particularly interesting because it shows the 10 rouble Tariff being applied on mail from another part of Sovdepia - Ukraine. In this case, the  2 x 10 Shahiv stamps have been correctly treated as equivalent  to 5 kopeck stamps and then revalued x 100 to yield a 10 rouble franking. That this letter is sent from UMAN 23 9 20 when under Soviet control is confirmed by the fact that it was routed through PETROGRAD 4 X 20 and 6 10 20 before arriving in RIGA LATWIJA 6 11 20 - again, this is a new post-Independence Latvian canceller:

The final cover I illustrate shows that the 10 rouble Registered foreign Tariff was still in place in April 1921.

This cover originated in PSKOV 29 4 21 [note the new Soviet cancel - the old Pskov cancel probably went missing at the time of the retreat of the [White] North West Army from Pskov] and was sent to MOSKVA 3 5 21 for censorship and onward transmission, reaching MAS-SALAZA LATWIJA 12 5 21. The 10 rouble Tariff is met with a 7 rouble perforated stamp used at face and a 3 kopeck perforated stamp revalued x 100:  

For the Tariffs, I have used Alexander Epstein's work as published in the Journal of Classical Russian Philately, 2, 1998, page 29.

Mail abroad in 1920 is very scarce - maybe one should say "Rare" - and the first half of 1921 is not much better! The trio above came from three different sources: the Robert Taylor collection (Moscow cover), a recent Christoph Gärtner Auction (Uman cover) and the John Whiteside collection (Pskov cover|).

Added 3 July 2013: Vasilis Opsimos kindly sent me scans of this very interesting cover which started out from PODOLSK MOCK on 23 2 [21], arrived in Moscow 29 II 21 [machine cancel on reverse] but held there at least until 16 4 21 when a Moscow three triangle censor mark was applied. It was then sent to Riga, where as an unfranked item it attracted Postage Due [ Peemaksat] - Latvian Postage Due marks are quite common at this period.

The really interesting thing about this cover, as Vasilis points out to me, is that it addressed to travel via the "Department of Diplomatic Couriers" in Moscow [ see third line of address beginning "Otdel ..."]. This may explain why it started out as a Free Frank item [ unless it was Paid in Cash and the fact noted on the missing back flap]. Perhaps it was delayed in Moscow because the "Department of Diplomatic Couriers" no longer functioned or would not handle this item. Who Knows?

Added 14 July 2013: Alexander Epstein kindly sent me the scans below. They show an unstamped letter addressed in both Estonian and Russian at the top and addressed to Tartu. On the back is a Tallinn transit roller cancel 3 VIII 20 and a Tartu receiver. On the front is an Estonian censor triangle and a Postage Due cachet. This cover is most probably from Russia, sent during the period when ordinary letters abroad were Free, but according to Epstein would have been sent with Russian diplomatic mail to Tallinn rather than through the Russian post office - there are no Russian markings at all. Epstein says that the Postage Due raised is the actual cost of an ordinary letter rather than twice the cost, as would be usual for Postage Due. This suggests that the letter was put into the Estonian mail stream in Tallinn as part of an agreed procedure for handling Russian mail. Of course, this is a rare item.

Friday 21 June 2013

1919 Georgia "Freak" stamps from the Peter Ashford collection

Click on Images to Magnify

In a collection of the 1919 - 21 St George and Tamara stamps of Georgia, Peter Ashford devoted a section to the so-called "Freak" varieties. These were deliberately created varieties which were inserted into just part of the total printing and were not released for postal use, though some of the sheets with varieties were later used for the National Guard and de Jure overprints. Normally, there is just one variety in a large sheet of 12 x 12 or 12 x 13. For the Tamara stamps, the 2 rouble variety is an inverted "2", for the 3 rouble an inverted "5", and for the 5r rouble "Tamara asleep" - this is the most popular of the Freaks.

In his collection, Ashford classifies some of the Freaks as Trials for the Freaks proper. I show his holding of these "Trials" above:

- on the left, 2 rouble with shield rotated to the right so that St George is charging downhill. I have enlarged this stamp
- next three stamps, shield still rotated on the 2 rouble and in addition the 3 rouble printed on the reverse with a variety, Diagonal Line below the number "3"
- final stamp, large white patch on Tamara's knee

Now, my question is this. I cannot recall seeing these "Trial" Freaks in large multiples whereas I have seen the standard Tamara Freaks in complete sheets - and have them in stock in sheets at this moment. Does any reader have these so-called "Trial" Freaks in large multiples, I wonder? 

As a small aside, the printing and paper quality on these "Trial" Freaks is poor whereas the regular Tamara Freaks are often well printed on gummed white paper .

September 1917: A Message to Kerensky

Click on Images to Magnify

It's September 8th 1917 in Piteevo village - a long way from Petrograd in the Solikamsk uezd of Perm guberniya. The village Volost executive committee has met and has decided to write to Kerensky himself, the Minister - President of the Provisional Government in Petrograd.

Over the signature of their Chairman, I. Sharayev, they express complete confidence in the Provisional Revolutionary Government and swear support. The counter-revolutionary activity of General Kornilov [ the "Kornilov Plot" of August 1917] has made them indignant and they demand the arrest of all counter-revolutionaries and their prompt and merciless judgement. They want to see the Government reinforced - and only with socialists.

Their Resolution reached Petrograd on 10 9 17 and was passed to the special branch for handling government mail - it's distinctive cancellation appears at the top of the card, dated 12 9 17.

The blue crayon on the reverse is typical of endorsements often seen on official correspondence but what does the "K ... K" mean? It could be a note made by Kerensky himself and initialled but perhaps it is an official's note meaning something like "For the information of K [erensky]" . Does anyone have an answer?

Thursday 20 June 2013

1912: Sir John Ernest Buttery Hotson visits Baku

Click on Image to Magnify

There is a detailed Wikipedia entry for Sir John Ernest Buttery Hotson (1877 - 1944) , a Scottish-educated naturalist and philatelist who spent his career in the Civil Service of British India. But Wikipedia does not tell you that in 1912 he visited Transcaucasia and, among other things, went to the post office in Baku and bought a selection of available stamps, pencilling in the margins "Baku May 1912". The stamps ended up in the collection of Peter Ashford, who was responsible for the album page shown above.

Hotson bought: a block of 25 of the 1 kopeck, 25 of the 2 kopeck, 6 x 3 kop, 8 x 4 kop, 10 x 7 kop, 8 x 10 kop, 4 x 14 kop, 4 x 15 kop, 4 x 20 kop, 2 x 25 kop, 1 x 35 kop and 1 x 50 kop - a total of 98 stamps which I will send to filateliapalvelu for auction. 

Really, it's only a curiosity - and a pity that he did not visit in another year - maybe May 1922 - when his naturalist's Specimens (beautifully preserved on Ashford's pages and most never hinged!) would probably have been rather more philatelically interesting!

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Denikin Stamps and a common catalogue fallacy

Click on Image to Magnify

One of the most common catalogue errors is to value very old stamps on a New Issue basis. Low value stamps get low catalogue values and higher value stamps get higher ones. But this is often a very poor metric to use: in periods of inflation, for example, low value stamps have little postal utility and higher value stamps often get used in big multiples. This is true for several Russian Civil War issues, including the Denikin stamps of South Russia.

Michel 21010 / 2011 values used Denikin stamps as follows:

5 kop              0.20
10 kop            0.20
15 kop            0.20
    35 kop            0.20   
  70 kop            0.20 
1 r                   0.20
2 r                   1.50
3 r                   1.00
5 r                   1.20
7 r                   2.50
10 r                 1.70

In the Schmidt Collection (see previous Blog), a very old accumulation of Denikin Bundleware and Used Off Paper contained the following quantities of used stamps:

5 kop        17
10 kop      90
15 kop      91
35 kop    266
70 kop    337
1 r          176
2 r            83
3r            66
5r            64
7r              0
10r         220

Now, from experience, the 7 rouble is not a great rarity. It is simply missing from this old Lot - maybe it is in another cigar box. So I don't draw any conclusions from the fact there are no copies present. But look at the other figures. The concentration of  35 and 70 kop stamps reflects the fact that these were letter rates or the basis of letter rates ( 35 kop Ordinary / 70 kop Registered; later 70 kop and  1r 40 kop). The concentration of 10 rouble stamps reflects the fact that these were most needed for Money Transfer Forms and Parcel Cards.

I have illustrated the Denikin stamps with horizontal pairs. But for rouble values, vertical pairs and strips are more common - the space on Money Transfer forms and Parcel Cards allowed for stamps is a vertical strip. In contrast, horizontal pairs of 35 kop and 70 kop are common - they were used as letter seals.

Suppose I had the 7 rouble value. I estimate there would be 50 - 60 copies. So the constraint on making sets is provided by the 5 kopeck. I could only make 17 sets. (And the pair I have shown is the only pair I have ...) . A "Short Set" of used Denikins would exclude the 5 kop, not the 10 rouble!

One further comment: ALL the stamps in the accumulation I have studied are used in the period of "White" control of South Russia and Ukraine. Later dates which would represent Soviet use appear not to be present.  Such later use is most common on Parcel Cards. The low kopeck values would have been revalued x 100 in Spring 1920 and it may be that as a result the low values become more common in the Soviet period, but in my experience it is the higher values - especially the 10 rouble - which still dominate. 

The Joy of Bundleware

Kiloware, Bundleware, Used Off paper, Packet Making - these are things which only exist because of philately. From the very beginning, the hobby was dominated - and still is dominated - by stamp collecting. To service that hobby, a labour-intensive  industry developed which took archives and correspondences - not by the kilo but by the tonne - and turned them into saleable individual stamps. In the process, of course, irreplaceable postal history and historically valuable documents - once the stamps were removed - were turned into waste paper.

Sometimes the workshops were amateur and careless. At other times, material was more carefully graded. For example, clean covers with good cancellations on the stamps might be taken out and only covers with poor cancellations cut up and the stamps washed off the paper. I have been told that in some cases, workers were paid a bonus if they found errors or varieties - probably they were told what to look for.

Yesterday, I was looking through old Bundleware and "Used Off Paper" from the Philipp Schmidt collection - recently sold as the "Krim Sammlung" by the Bamberg auction house Arbeiter. This has been locked away for decades and was collected beginning in the 1930s - when an old glassine gives a dealer's address as "Adolf - Hitler - Str" it helps date the collection !  (Click on Image to Magnify)

I was looking through Russian  Civil War material.

First I looked through hundreds of used Shahiv stamps - the first general issue stamps of Ukraine, in use from mid-1918. Here I was looking at postmarks but I was really hoping to find local perforations. I found one, shown below, with a place name cancellation which is not familiar to me. (Click on Image to Magnify)

Then I looked at hundreds of used Denikins - all values. Here it was very noticeable that there were only a few copies of the 5 kopeck stamp. In periods of inflation,the lowest value is always hardest to find used. This is also true of the 10 Shahiv Ukraine stamp (and in another region, the Far East Republic definitives). 

Among the Denikins, I was hoping to find local perforations but did not. I did find a few examples of stamps printed on white paper - these are from a small printing and can also occasionally  be found mint with white gum, quite different from the thick brown gum and brown paper used for most of the issue.

And, I did find one rare item - a 70 kopeck block of four, cut into two pairs, with a central gutter. Now normally the printer's sheets were cut before use and it is really very unusual to find a used gutter pair. 

It is not much of a reward for a lot of work but I am pleased with these items. And, of course,there are also the postmarks ...

Sunday 9 June 2013

Soviet Union: Red Army Mail in the 1920s

For the Civil War period, ending 1921, it is possible to find mail endorsed "Red Army". This includes Free Frank mail from soldiers to their families and also franked Parcel Cards sent at reduced Red Army tariffs and originating from loot sent home by soldiers on active service.

But after the Civil War, I don't think I have seen 1920s Red Army mail until I came across these two stampless items.   The first is going from one military address  to another in Luga. There is a LUGA LENING[rad] receiver cancel of 23 7 25 on the reverse but also an interesting KRASNOARMENSKILAGER [ Red Army Camp] 21 7 25 cancel - I have enlarged this above. On the front there is an endorsement "Red Army" at top right and also on the front is a LENINGRAD 20 7 25 civilian cancel.

The second is family correspondence from a soldier, Pechatrikov, in Leningrad sent to Voronezh - on the reverse is a VORONEZH 25 10 25 receiver cancel. This letter is also endorsed "Red Army" top right and below it there is a violet Free Frank seal. The part cancel to the right with "36" at the base is almost certainly a regular Leningrad postmark.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Peter Ashford collection 7: Mountains of Ararat to Scotland 1857

Click on Images to Magnify

This letter was written in July 1857 "on the Russian side of the boundary between Russia and Turkey and about 19 miles from Mt. Ararat itself". The Crimean War had only recently ended and the writer's presence on the Russian side of the border is no doubt connected to Russia's defeat. The letter was probably taken by courier as far as one of the Ottoman Black Sea ports or maybe as far as Constantinople. Written on the 9th July, it was in London by 8th August 1857. This is the kind of letter which will probably repay intensive Googling! 

Monday 3 June 2013

Peter Ashford collection 6: Armenia First Yessayan, Mount Ararat

Serious collectors of Armenia know that one way to test whether the stamp shown above is genuine - from the Yessayan printings in Constantinople - is to look for a dot or a dash above the top frame line, two thirds along from the left. Stefan Berger has written about this on his website


Sometimes I have been asked, Is the dot or dash always there?

This large block is interesting because it is from the early printings in milky-blue. Multiples of later printings in a darker blue and with some wear to the lithographic plate can be found with the "50k" overprint in black, but multiples from this early state are rare. So I looked at this one with interest.

There is always a dot or dot + dash but sometimes it is almost invisible. Click on the Image below to see it magnified - you can easily see the amount of variation:

In the past, I have done work to establish transfer groups. Usually it is quite easy. But on this part sheet, I cannot see what the transfer group may have been ... maybe I am missing something

Peter Ashford collection 5: Harenik [Hairenik] Press and Law Courts covers

In the 1950s when Tchilingirian and Ashford were working on The Postage Stamps of Armenia they had access to just two main groups of non-philatelic postal history for the 1919 - 1923 period.

For the Dashnak period, they had examples of mail sent abroad to the Hairenik [sometimes Harenik] Press in Boston, USA This was an important Armenian diaspora publisher - a Google search shows it publishing books and journals until the 1970s.

The Ashford collection contained three Hairenik Press items; two were offered as single items and illustrated in the catalogue and the third - shown below - was included in a group Lot and not illustrated. None of these three items has transit or receiver cancellations but it seems likely that they - along with other covers to the same address - travelled and thus became available to collectors in the West. They would have gone first to Batum and then to Constantinople. The British would have been involved for the period during which they occupied Batum [ See Footnote *]. Click on Image to Magnify.

For the Soviet period, T&A had access to internal mail from what they call the "Law Courts Hoard". These were covers sent by private individuals to Law Courts not only in Yerevan but other districts. They were franked with adhesives. Many of them are damaged or cut down. At the time these covers were sent, Courts often bound or sewed correspondence into files; they could only be removed by tearing them or cutting them out.

These covers should not be confused with the Soviet Armenia official correspondence of the 1921 - 23 period which came on to the market in the 1990s. This mail was originally stampless [ Free Frank] but came on to the market only after adhesives had been added and cancelled with fake cancellers - I have written about this in several places, starting back in the 1990s.

The Law Courts covers look rather different. One notable feature is that imperforate stamps have often been separated by tearing by hand or slitting with a knife - indicating that the post offices had no scissors. This is illustrated by the cover below, sent locally within Karaklis to the Karaklis People's Court. On the left of the cover you should be able to make out how this cover was originally held in a binder - there is a crease and a pin hole. As an example of a Law Courts cover, it is one that is nearly intact - others are more fragmentary. Unfortunately, the first people to obtain these covers amused themselves by pencilling the covers with catalogue numbers, values and any other random thoughts that occurred to them. These pencilled notes have been rubbed out on the cover ilustrated but can still be seen on these high-quality images. [ Moral: Tell dealers not to scribble on their stock!]  Click on Images to Magnify.

* Footnote added 5th June 2013: I just noticed in Ashford's Georgia: Postal Cancellations 1918 - 23
the following, " Voikhansky, in his handbook on the stamps of Azerbaijan, quotes a Baku newspaper announcement which said that, commencing 2 July 1919, civilian mail from Transcaucasia to Europe and U.S.A.would be conveyed by the British Army P.O. Weekly batches of mail often only addressed in English would be made up at the Batum and Tiflis P.O.'s (and at Erivan and Baku) addressed to various countries and sent through the British Army P.O. at Batum to Constantinople for onward transmission" (page 13)

Sunday 2 June 2013

Peter Ashford collection 4: Azerbaijan forerunners

After the abdication of Tsar Nicholas, the Transcaucasian guberniyas developed forms of autonomy and co-operation before eventually declaring individual independence. In this transitional period, postal services appear to have functioned as before - though subject to war -time disruption, especially in Armenia. But postal history material is hard to find. This may have a simple explanation: before the introduction of distinctive postage stamps, such mail does not immediately identify itself as from the transitional period and in the bad old days, any covers were no doubt used by dealers and collectors simply as things from which common stamps could be torn off...

The cover below is from independent Azerbaijan, but a month before Azerbaijan's own "Musavat" stamps appeared. It was registered from Baku on 24 9 19 and arrived in Tiflis on 27 9 19: it would have been carried on the Baku - Batum railway. The already-high franking of 1 rouble 70 kopecks is worth noting. It is a business letter with no philatelic inspiration but is sent to a member of the Rokhlin family [see previous Blog], in this case Zachary Jakovlevich Rokhlin- who I think was Serge Rokhlin's father.

Click on Images to Magnify:

Peter Ashford collection 3: Rokhlin family correspondence

In Part Three of Imperial Stamps Used in Transcaucasia, published in 1978, Peter Ashford lists the cancellations of  BYELYI KLYUCH - a place which he describes as a "hill resort .... where many well-to-do Tiflissians sought to escape the oppressive heat of July and August" (page 159). He goes on to list a Type 5 cancellation and records its use only in the Independence period, on a 7 kop Letter card to which a 60 kop Georgian stamp has been added. Here is that card (click on images to magnify):

This is an item of Rokhlin family correspondence, and Serge Rokhlin's Romeko partner, Arnold Meckel [ or maybe his son; but the name MECKEL provides the - ME of Ro - Me - Ko[mpanie]] has provided an English translation for Peter Ashford. 

Philatelically, the card shows early use of the St George 60 kopeck - on white paper (from the first printing) and imperforate (the imperforate stamps were issued first). Glue has been used to stick the stamp to the card which is a little surprising since these first printing stamps are normally gummed (with clear white gum). Maybe the gum was so clear that it was invisible!

Peter Ashford collection 2: Georgia Essays

The postal authorities of the Menshevik government of Georgia (1918 - 21) did operate an effective mail service, both domestically and internationally. It is not hard to create a postal history collection for this period though few collectors try to do so.

But the authorities also produced a great deal of philatelic material for sale to the stamp trade and collectors. This included Proofs, Colour Trials, Printer's Waste [Makulatur], and the well-known range of  "Freak" varieties on the St George and Tamara issues. Most of these are not difficult to obtain and are not very expensive.

However, this is not true of the Essay for the unissued 10 rouble Tamara. Collectors quite often ask me if I can supply an example, and I have always had to say "No - I've never seen one". Now I have and illustrate below the group which was in the Peter Ashford collection.

Click on the Image to magnify, and you will see that Ashford gives an account based on information from "S.Rokhlin" -  the "Ro..." half of "Romeko". All five examples have the house mark of MAISON ROMEKO PARIS.

Rokhlin lived in Tiflis until early 1921 when he left for Constantinople. He was already philatelically active.

He claims that for each colour of these Trials just one block of 10 (5 x 2) was produced. This does not seem likely given the very large quantities of other material produced. However, these stamps - the examples here are on thin card / thick paper - are undoubtedly rare and it is possible that Rokhlin had a monopoly on them. I wonder if any of my Readers have copies?

The Transcaucasia Collection of Peter Ashford, 1

The Transcaucasia collection of the late Peter Ashford (P.T.Ashford,  1925 - 2010) was recently sold at auction in England. It was not a very large or very impressive collection, but it had been assembled over 50 years - beginning in the 1950s - and did include many items of interest.

Ashford is best known as the author of several important philatelic works: on Batum, Georgia, the Transcaucasian Railway, the cancellations used in Transcaucasia during the Imperial period, and in collaboration with Tchilingirian, a pioneering work on the stamps of independent Armenia. Many of these works date back to the 1950s and Ashford's collection contained a great deal of material used in writing the books.

I will publish some examples of material in the collection in my next few Blogs, concentrating on items which  which I have not seen illustrated elsewhere or which are interesting and unusual.

In Part Four of The Postage Stamps of Armenia (published 1960) Tchilingirian and Ashford (T & A) discuss the Soviet Pictorial issues of 1920 - 1923. For the First Yessayan pictorials they list "Artist's Proofs" and describe them as follows:

imperforate, on same paper as the issued stamps, except the 5,000 r., which is on a toned paper  looking brown ... Usually without gum, although a few values are exceptionally met with gum. A few sheets of each value were printed in varying shades of grey-black to black for presentation to designer S.Khachaturian, and were later split up by him in smaller blocks or singles, and disposed of on the market (page 194)
This story is consistent with the story Christopher Zakiyan tells about another issue, the First Star Set of 1921. As I noted in a previous Blog about that issue, the new Soviet government of Armenia in effect funded a trip by Khachaturian to Constantinople by supplying him with a small quantity of First Star overprints which he was allowed to sell there. Giving him some Proofs to sell as a way of paying for his more important work and foreign travels during the preparation of the First Yessayan set must have been an economical choice for the new Soviet Armenian government which had very little money to spend on anything. (As an aside, after 1991 the new Armenian government appears to have distributed New Issues via its new Embassies as a way of raising funds in local currency).

Though T&A report "a few sheets of each value", these Artist's Proofs seem to be rarer than that description suggests; I don't think I have seen them before I acquired this group - not a complete set - in the Ashford collection. Click on the Image to magnify: