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Monday 26 December 2016
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It's an unfortunate fact that many early stamps were pen-cancelled and another fact that some postal clerks either pre-cancelled stamps or else were very cautious about letting their pen cross extend from the stamp to the envelope. Pre-cancelling was a good idea because it meant you were less likely to smudge or spill ink onto a letter and the cancel was completely dry by the time you came to stick a stamp on a cover. If you did not pre-cancel, there may still have been a motive for not spreading your cross onto the cover - the kind of steel or even quill pen you were using may have easily snagged at the point where the stamp and cover meet, easily creating an unsightly ink blob
But in auctions, it is obvious that if a cancel does not tie a stamp to a cover, the price someone pays will always be lower. When I bought the entire letter ( a printed death notice) shown above recently, no one else bid for it. I can see three reasons: it is not particularly attractive - the ink address has faded, there are creases; there is a brown smudge on the stamp; and the stamp is not tied to the letter sheet. The Finnish expert Rolf Gummessson thought the stamp belongs to the cover and gave a certificate in 1990, pointing out that the style of the cancel is that found on stamps used from Lovisa. And if the stamp had been added, there would surely be some indication on the cover itself of postal charges paid or due on reception but there aren't. There is just a receiver boxed ANK on the back and a typical Finnish distribution mark "1" in the top right of the cover.
In the case of this cover, I can't really see any collateral evidence to persuade anyone that the stamp belongs. The little brown stain bottom right of the stamp seems to extend onto the letter sheet but that does not really help - the stain could have been created in many ways. Looking at the stamp from the back of the sheet does not offer any insight. And so on.
In the end, what you have here is a judgement call - Gummesson thought it OK no doubt in part because he had seen many Finnish covers like this franked with a stamp which is itself quite rare.
Tuesday 6 December 2016
I have just finished working through a heap of Imperial Russian Money letters. I am left with one which puzzles me:
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This letter contains money intended for the Russian Andreevski monastery at Mont Athos, but instead of being routed to Odessa, it is routed to Rostov on Don - the only example of this routing that I have. My assumption is that there was a collection point in Rostov like the one in Odessa.
It definitely started out in Kherson. There are four small private seals and then a large central seal which is that of the Kherson post office - it's readable. Around the seal are three strikes of Kherson cancellations dated 25, 26 and 28 November - the cancellations in two different styles: just look at the base fleurons. Calculations at the left of the seal (upside down on the scan) show an addition of 90 kop + 6 roubles + 5 kop = 6 roubles 95 kop so not exactly a big money letter. [But seee Howard Weinert's Comments posted below]
Finally, the letter was on its way and there at the bottom is a cancellation reading ROSTOV ON DON / 2 DEKA 74. But this cancellation is simply not in any recognisable Imperial post office style. So what is it? Could it be a cachet used by the receiving ecclesiastical organisation in Rostov?
Then at the top in a different blue - grey ink is a mark of some control office KONTROLNAYAR PALATA and a date IX 74. It is unclear whether this control mark is under the post office seal or over it. The date is deeply unhelpful. Maybe the IX is an inverted XI, in which case this mark was applied before the Kherson post office seal in November. But where was the Control Office which applied this mark? [See Arno's Comments published below]
All contributions gratefully received ...