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Sunday 23 November 2014

Collectors and Collectibles

Recently, I was asked to value a large collection. The owner came to my house and went out for a walk, leaving me the collection. He knew it would take me some time. In fact, I gave up very quickly. It was impossible to examine the stamps.

They were mint and a lot depended on whether they were* or **, hinged or never hinged. But they had been mounted on what we call "Home Made Pages" using a complicated system with the black mounts hinged rather than stuck to the A4 pages. Every time I tried to remove a stamp from a mount to look at the back, the mount promptly fell off the page. Worse, the pages were organised back to back in the cheapest office stationery protectors. Every time I tried to remove one page, the backing page came too and stamps fell out from the back.

It was a valuable collection but I gave up.  Everything was falling apart and I did not want to be responsible.

Some of the stamps - they were Russian - had chalk lines ( varnish lines) on the front and they had aged - become very visible. I think this is sometimes the effect of contact with cheap plastics.

Many thousands of pounds had been spent on the collection. A few pounds on the home made albums. It is a false economy and not the first time I have seen it.

I have also seen albums stored flat, not standing up, so that stamps stick to the pages. I have seen albums stored in damp conditions. And of course, I have seen cheap hinges which won't peel off, photo corners which damage minisheets, covers and cards, pencil notes scribbled on covers, covers cut down to make them "look better" and so on and so on. Collectors are the enemies of collectibles.

Recently, I was going through some pre-philatelic letters. Not for the first time, I was surprised at their very good condition. How come a letter of 1814 is so much better preserved than a letter of 1914?

It must have something to do with the very high quality paper often used before letter-writing became a mass activity. But there is a more important reason: there are few collectors for pre-philatelic mail, the letters have passed through fewer hands, they have been in fewer dealer boxes, and they have not been ironed or cut-down to look good on an album page.

A collectible is something worth conserving. It's something worth storing and displaying in ways which do not damage it. It's something which easily loses value. Just think, for every one thousand Penny Blacks which entered collections say 100 or 150 years ago, how many now are in as good condition as a Penny Black which happened to get lost inside an envelope left inside a book, 100 or 150 years ago, and only now re-discovered?

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Forgeries of Denikin stamps

The "One Russia" (or "United Russia") stamps issued by General Denikin's administration in 1919 were printed in large quantities and widely used in all the areas Denikin's White Armies controlled - not just the Don and Kuban but the North Caucasus, Ukraine and Crimea - and even north into Russia proper. As the Bolsheviks defeated Denikin's forces, they nonetheless continued to use the Denikin stamps especially on the parcel cards accompanying the Loot which Red Army soldiers sent home (they qualified for reduced postal tariffs).

Forgeries of the Denikin stamps exist, as Dr Ceresa confirmed in his Handbooks, but they are very rare. For a long time, I identified them from the gum. As with most genuine Denikins (though not all), the gum on the forgeries is thick and brown. But it is smooth and varnish like - the gum on the genuine stamps is full of lumps, particles and what looks like dirt. It's very uneven and you would not want to lick it.

For a long time I could not find anything on the front which told me that a stamp was a Forgery. There is something wrong with the ornaments - the shading is too light - but that hardly distnguishes them from lightly printed genuine stamps. And St George, his horse and the dragon in the middle don't look quite right, but that could just be inking or wear. IN other words, these Forgeries are really very good copies and the colours are almost exact copies.

But today, for the rouble values, I think I have found a feature which can be used to sort the genuine from the (very rare) forgeries. It's St George's lance. On the genuine stamps,it touches the edge of the coloured oval and on the Forgery it doesn't. I have chosen the dark coloured centres of the 3 rouble to illustrate my point - the Forgery is on the right:

And here's a set of rouble value forgeries. Don't worry. You are very unlikely to see them again! Click on images to Magnify 

And to illustrate my point about Red Army use of Denikins, here is a Parcel Card  from ROSTOV NA DON 20 4 20  endorsed at the top "Certified Red Army N 1026" and charged at 1 rouble for each of the 17 Funt (there is a 2 rouble Denikin on the reverse), sent to a private address in Serdovsk, Saratov guberniya. As it happens, the 3 rouble stamps are from the part printing on white paper:

Postscript 23 December 2014: I have received the following interesting commentary from Adam Szczesny which I have cut and pasted from his email to me:

Herr Pateman,
aller wichtigsten Merkmale für Erkennung von Denikin-Fälschungen
(Rubel-Werte) sind:
1. Das Papier: Das Papier ist mit bunter Faser (mit verschiedenen Intensität).
2. Abmessungen: In Regel größere als die echte Briefmarken.
3. Gummi: Dick und Braun, mit Streifen oder ohne .
4. Abbildungen: Kleine/Größe  Unterschiede.
Doctor Ceresa hat nur Fälschungen von Kopeken-Werte erwähnt, leider
ohne genaue Abmessungen. Herr Ihor Miaskowskij hat die Fälschungen
in zwei Bücher beschrieben:
1.“Poschtowaja Istorija Grazdanskoj Wojny:Wypusk Generala Denikina“ und
2.“Stranicy Poschtowoj Istorii Grazdanskoj Wojny – Sprawotschnik“.
Herr Miaskowskij hat dort die Kopeken- und Rubel-Werte beschrieben,
die Fälschungen sowie die echte Briefmarken.
Leider ist dort nicht alles erwähnt über diese Fälschungen. Wahrscheinlich
für Autor fehlt noch Briefmarken-Vergeichsmaterial. Seit ein paar Monaten
suche ich Kontakt mit Herr Miaskowskij, zurzeit vergeblich.
Nirgendwo ist E-Mail zu finden.
Zurück zu Rubel-Fälschungen.
Die Rubel-Werte wurden in kleinen Bögen (4 Reichen je 7 Briefmarken) gedruckt,
gesamt 28 Briefmarken. Je Werte haben zwei unterschiedliche Typen:
Typ 1: die erste und die dritte Reihe,
Typ 2: die zweite und die vierte Reihe.
Die oben genannten Typen stammen von mir, Herr Miaskowskij klassifiziert
die Typen etwas anders.
Die Ränder sind ohne Spuren von Farben und ohne andere Merkmale wie z.B. Plattennummer.
Die vom Ihnen hier abgebildete Denikin-Fälschungen, Herrr Pateman, sind folgende Typen
(in Klammern schreibe ich die Klassifizierung von Herr Miaskowskij):
1rub. – Typ1 (Miask. Typ2)
2rub. – Typ2 (Miask. unterscheidet keine Typen für 2 Rub.)
3rub. – Typ2 (Miask. unterscheidet keine Typen für 3 Rub.) 
5rub. –  Typ1 (Miask. Typ2)
7rub.  – Typ2 (Miask. Typ1) 
10rub. – Typ1 (Miask. Typ2)
Alles wichtigste Merkmal für 3 Rub.-Fälschungen:
ALLE Fälschungen, egal Typ1 oder typ2, haben in Wort „Rub“ (rechts),Buchstabe „y“
die andere „Bein“, längere und nach oben gekrümmt. Ist in Ihrer Abbildung sofort zu erkennen!
Natürlich gibt es auch Unterschiede bei Papier (mehr oder weniger bunten Faser), bei Gummi
Sind die Pinsel-Spuren und ohne) und so weiter.
In meiner Sammlung habe ich auch Fälschungen mit den verschiebenden Zentren oder  mit 3 Zentren.
Es gibt auch Unterschiede zwischen Fälschungen die stammen (sind von mir gekauft) in ehemalige
Soviet-Union und West Europa Länder.
Die Kopeken-Werte wurden in kleinen Bögen (5 x 5) gedruckt. Alle wichtigste Erkennungs-Merkmale
sind das Papier und die Abmessungen. Aber das ist noch eine andere Geschichte…..
Am Ende noch ein Rätsel. Alle Philatelisten die beschäftigen sich mit Süd-Russland-Briefmarken
wissen, wer war Herr Rosselewitsch. Vor ein paar Monaten habe ich in eBay eine 1 Rubel-Fälschung
gesehen mit Signatur „ROSS“, also Rosselewitsch-Signatur. Diese Fälschung war gut zu erkennen
(die Scans von Awers und Rewers waren sehr gut).Jetzt kommen die Fragen:
1. Hat Herr Rosselewitsch die Fälschung nicht erkannt?
2.War die Rosselewitsch-Signatur eine Fälschung (ich habe noch keine gesehen) ?
3.Herr Rosselewitsch hat die Briefmarke absichtlich signiert, weil „die Fälschungen“ sind keine
Fälschungen (?!) aber zum Beispiel eine Art von Technologische Proben ?
Ich hoffe das jemand liest die Wörter und lade Ich die Person zur eine konstruktive Diskussion ein.

Dieser Philatelistischer Bereich (Denikin-Fälschungen) ist zur Zeit sehr veranlässing
Und wollte ich die anderen Philatelisten zu Diskussion einladen.
Das war mein Ziel bei o.g. Kommentar.
Vielleicht können Sie selbst mein Kommentar ins Ihr Blog einfügen?

Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Adam Szczesny

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Russia 1920 Revaluations: More About Kustanai

Back on 5 July 2012, I blogged about Kustanai, explaining why its 1920 Postmaster Provisionals are quite common - probably the second most common after the "pyb" revaluations of Kharkiv. Today, I tried to organise my holding of the commonest Kustanai types, 4 and 5. I only have a few of Type 3 and none of Types 1 and 2 (unless I have misclassified them).

It was an interesting exercise. The great majority of my stamps with identifiable cancellations are cancelled with just one large, dirty KUSTANAI type. This is a great help in authenticating the surcharges.

Pink and yellow formular cards were in use at Kustanai in 1920 and on quite a few stamps traces of pink or yellow paper are to be found on the backs of stamps. In some cases, stamps are clearly from the same formular. Look at the first image below. The large fragment in the middle did have stamps on the back but they were "harvested" for individual sale. Two of them are to be found top left of the same page - same date on the cancellation and traces of pink card on one of the stamps (the other has been washed)

Forgeries are pathetic - the mint copies (which are never found for genuine stamps) have a New Issue Collector neatness. The used copies have postmarks which include MINSK in 1912 and KIEV in 1917 ... You don't need to pay an Expert to tell you these are fakes!

There are some "difficult" cases. It does seem that some kopeck value stamps not listed in Michel were overprinted with Type 5 - the 1 kopeck perforated and imperforate and the 15 kopeck imperforate. But the copies I have show 1921 postmarks - not impossible but later than the vast majority of Kustanai cancellations. They also show Type 5 in a worn state - consistent with there being a second round of overprinting in 1921. But to make further progress I need a fragment of a Formular card with a clear 1921 cancellation and preferably several overprinted stamps. Any offers?

As usual, Click on the Images to Magnify.

Monday 17 November 2014

Russia 1920 Stamp Revaluations - the example of Spassk

In Spring 1920, the Soviet People's Commissariat for Posts and Telegraphs (Sovnarkompochtel) told the post offices under its control to revalue all their kopeck stamps denominated between 1 and 20 kopecks into equivalent rouble stamps: in other words, a one hundred times revaluation. This was a cheap and efficient way of conserving stamps at a time of inflation by making better use of low value stamps - in fact, 100 times better use!

Most post offices revalued their stamps "silently" - there is nothing to show the stamps are now rouble stamps. A few post offices produced cachets to apply to Money Transfer forms and Parcel Cards indicating that the stamps had been revalued. Some post offices overprinted their kopeck stamps with something - either a "p" or a "pyb" - to indicate that these were now rouble value stamps.

All of this was done without any philatelic inspiration or manipulation, which is a main reason why for most surcharged revaluations mint copies are unknown or virtually unknown - a fact which forgers have generally ignored. Only in a few cases were mint remainder stocks returned at a later date to Moscow and passed to the Soviet Philatelic Association. What was passed to the SPhA in massive quantities were bundles of used Money Transfer Forms and Parcel Cards on which most of the revalued stamps had been used. Of course, maybe ninety nine percent of formulars in the bundles had no Postmaster Provisional overprints, so that a very large job of sorting out had to be done.But despite the labour-intensive work, it was from these bundles from the archives that the SPhA made early catalogue listings of which post offices had produced what surcharges.Very few Postmaster Provisionals were used on letters or postcards since in 1920 these could be sent free, unless Registered or overweight.

Many Postmaster Provisional overprints appear to have been used by a single post office but some were distributed from a main office to local or dependent offices. This was true in the case of Spassk in Kazan guberniya, where maybe a dozen offices made use of the stamps produced in the Spassk office. The images below show my holding for these Provisionals - and the images probably indicate that collecting such things is not for the faint-hearted or for those with a desire for the beautiful. As usual, Click on the Images to magnify them.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

A Good Time to Buy - and Where

It's just like Back to School : La Rentrée Philatélique is now. There are Auctions all over Europe and America. Just go to for a sample! It's frustrating that they all do it at the same time - so many catalogues to study - but it also means it's a good time to buy. There is just too much Stuff in all these auctions and probably not enough buyers ...

But where to buy?

There is a big difference between auction houses who mainly sell material they own and auction houses which receive consignments. The former are not going to give away their stock. The latter have a strong interest in making sure they sell everything they put in the catalogue.

Consider. An auction house charges 10% or 12% commission to a seller - but the seller only pays on material which is actually sold. So if the auction house does not sell an item it has lost money because it has paid out for the material to be prepared for auction and entered in the catalogue. Most important, the unsold Lot has taken up time in the auction room - and auction room time is very precious.

This has become very clear to auction houses since they introduced Live Internet Bidding. This slows down the number of Lots you can sell in one hour - maybe from 250 to 150 or even 100. As much as that. So an unsold Lot is twice as big a waste of time as it was before.

The result is that the auction houses who are really selling other's people's stuff want Start prices on auction Lots which more or less guarantee they will sell. Sometimes I look at those Start prices and think, Yeah, at that price I don't even have to look at the Lot. I'll buy it! (And sometimes I do).

In the past, auction houses might be content if they sold 65% of Lots in an auction. Now I know of auction houses who really hope to sell 90%. Some of them make increasing use of After Auction Sales (Nachverkaufe) perhaps reducing the price or even reducing their Commission - the aim being to clear their offices of all this stuff so that it does not have to be returned to sender or recycled in the next auction. The aim is to cut in-house costs not to get rid of rubbish - very often, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the unsold material. There just wasn't enough money around on the day of the auction, that's all.

In contrast, auction houses selling their own stuff seem content to offer it again and again, sometimes reducing the price, sometimes not.

I won't tell you where I am going to Buy next, but since we went Back to School I have bought at Köhler Wiesbaden and Kaj Hellman Finland. I have my eyes now on three more auctions ...