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Monday 25 July 2016

Unusual Cancellations on Ukraine Trident stamps 1918

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The Ukrainian National Republic declared in 1918 claimed more territory than it ever controlled. As soon as German military protection was removed, the territory it did control contracted rapidly. 

Very occasionally, you see General Issue or trident overprinted stamps used in 1918 outside "core" Ukrainian guberniyas, most often Minsk and occasionally Kursk. The stamp shown above is the first I have noticed with a Voronezh guberniya cancel.

The small town of Valuyki is now in Russia, 15 km outside the modern Ukraine - Russia border, so it's possible that it was briefly under UNR control in 1918. The cancellation is dated 21 10 1918, so shortly before the German collapse. It could be CTO but I rather doubt it - the cancel is characteristic of use on a Money Transfer or Parcel Card. The stamp itself with Kharkiv III overprint is scarce but not rare (Bulat # 758, $65). The cancellation, of course, makes it much more interesting. The stamp is signed both UPV and Philip Schmidt in whose collection I found it. I will send it to Filateliapalvelu in Finland for auction.

Added 12 August 2016: Roman Procyk has kindly contributed the following scans  showing Kharkiv trident use on Telegraphic Money Orders at at Valuyki. They provide additional evidence of the little-known use of Trident stamps in Voronezh guberniya. Note the dates, late in the period of German Occupation of Ukraine, and the destination - a bank in Kyiv (written in Russian).

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Added February 2020: Most of my Ukraine-related Blog posts are now available in full colour book form. To find out more follow the link:

Russian Levant Obrazets overprints

Sometimes you notice things, sometimes you don't. Here are two Levant surcharges on Imperial stamps. In the background you can see some kind of blue diagonal inscription, very weak and unreadable unless you know what it says. It says OBRAZETS and these are Specimens, even though this is not the usual form of Russian OBRAZETS overprints which are big,bold, unmistakeable and much forged on computers. But if I had not seen these almost invisible blue oveprints before, I would have missed them.

I Googled to check that I was right and within the usual 45 seconds had located an interesting Auction lot from Cherrystone where the blue OBRAZETS is combined with a UPU administration's own SPECIMEN overprint. The lot sold for $500.

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Lot #2358


1903-05 surcharged 35pi and 70pi on 3.50r and 7r respectively, each overprinted "Obrazets" (specimen) in blue cyrilic letters, affixed on piece and further handstamped "Specimen" in violet (Samuel ty. NA2), as applied bythe Natal Post Office on receipt from the UPU, fine and possibly unique combination of Specimen overprints, with BPA cert.

A Very Obscure Item from Soviet Armenia

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Sometimes you notice things, sometimes you don't. Above is a relatively common (and nicely designed) fiscal stamp of the Transcaucasian Federation. First issued in August 1923 with a face value of 60 000 Transcaucasian roubles, it was then overprinted in the new Gold currency - the Chernovets - and becomes a 10 kopeck stamp. This stamp seems to be used in 1924, I think in May - have a look at the line of red-violet writing, in the same ink as the cross cancellation.

At the bottom there is part of a seal in black and bottom right you can see an upside down hammer and sickle, so it's a Soviet seal. Under the seal and in the cartouche - the tablet - there is a number in a different violet ink which looks like 1 450 000 p. In other words, another re-valuation.

I head to Christopher Zakiyan's Armenia: Postage Stamps, Fiscal Stamps, Postage Cancels (2003) and from that I conclude that I am looking at a local re-valuation done at Goris - the place also known as Giryusy in Elisavetpol guberniya and in the same region as the famous Katar copper mines [Katarsky Zavod ].

Zakian does not list a 1 450 000 revalution on this stamp but all those he does list for Goris have high numbers which suggest Gold currency was not in use there when these stamps were available. The figure in the tablet probably just indicates the amount actually paid in tax using this stamp. That may have something to do with the anomalous location of Goris - part of Armenia but formerly part of the Elisavetpol guberniya. That may have put it in a different currency zone.

In the same way, one known consequence of the anomalous administrative position of Goris is that the 1923 Star overprints on Imperial postage stamps, normally found used only in Azerbaijan, are occasionally found used in Armenia at Giryusy and Dyg - the obvious explanation for this is that these places were still receiving stamps supplied from Baku or Elisavetpol.

What would be nice, of course, is to find some document which shows the black seal in full and in a way which allows it to be linked to Goris.

Friday 8 July 2016

An Important Item of RSFSR Mail Abroad 1920

IN June 1920, The RSFSR re-introduced foreign mail services which had been suspended in January 1919. Unregistered cards and letters could be sent post free. The card shown below is the earliest item of such 1920 mail that I have been able to find. It was posted in Petrograd on 9 June 1920 and though the Kerensky 20 kopeck is cancelled, the card is in fact used as a blank.Perhaps because of the rather confused address, it did a tour of Petrograd with further cancels of 10 and 12 June before finding its way to the Censor's office where a violet three triangle mark was applied on 14 June (see the bottom of the card)

The card is addressed to the largest Russian Orthodox community on Mont Athos, the Andreevsky (St Andrews) Sekte - in reality, a monastery but called a "Sekte" because it was created too late to qualify for monastery status. Before 1914, several hundred monks lived there, and the large buildings still exist. 

The card would have travelled up to Archangel / Murmansk and then across the White Sea to Vardo in northern Norway, then down through Norway for onward transmission. This was the only route out of Bolshevik Russia available in June 1920. This is no doubt a main reason why it took until 11 February 1921 for this card to arrive at St Andrews, an arrival indicated by the violet cachet at the top of the card. The confused address has been clarified, probably on arrival in Greece, with a red annotation in Greek which abbreviates the Greek Agion Oros for "Holy Mountain" in order to indicate the destination.

Mail from Bolshevik Russia going abroad in the second half of 1920 is rare. This early item is particularly nice. Added 9 July: Alexander Epstein has posted a Comment below which adds further information.

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British readers (in particular) might like to know that Mount Athos though part of Greece and therefore part of the European Union is exempt from the EU's "Free Movement" requirements - this is written in to Greece's accession treaty. A visa is required to visit and you must be male and preferably Orthodox to get one.


Alexander Epstein has kindly provided scans of the May 1920 Luga item to which he refers in his Comment. Here they are. You can see that the item has gone from Luga to Petrograd and been delayed there until 26 June before being sent on to Estonia, but with no markings to indicate the route. This items would also have qualified for Free Post and the Kerensky 20 kop card is again used as a blank:

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Vasilis Opsimos has submitted an interesting item from June 1920, a Registered letter from Petrograd with multiple cancellations of 12 June, arriving three months later in Koenigsberg with a typical boxed violet M.P.k  Koenigsberg Censor mark and an arrival cancellation. BUT the franking is a mystery. The new Foreign Tariff specified 10 roubles for a Registered letter. Since 5 kopeck stamps were revalued x 100 in the Spring of 1920, this cover is franked at 50 roubles. Suppose the clerk forgot the revaluation, then 50 kopecks is not a Tariff either. The only explanation I can think of is that the sender put the stamps on before going to the post office, thought they added to 50 kopecks and remembered that this was the Internal Registered letter rate in 1919 .... But I am not convinced by my own story.

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