Search This Blog

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Stamps Expertisation: Past and Present

In the past, dealers and experts guaranteed stamps by signing them on the reverse, sometimes by hand and sometimes with a handstamp. 
This method had a number of disadvantages.
 First, it was unclear what the signature was meant to claim. 
Second, it was open to abuse: you could get an expert to sign a relatively common stamp and then you could later add a rare overprint and point to the signature as a guarantee. To try to stop this abuse, experts sometimes signed twice when given an overprinted stamp - once for the stamp, once for the overprint. 
Third, handstamp ink often penetrated to the front of the stamp, causing an immediate reduction in value. 
Fourth, over time collectors forgot who the experts were especially when they signed with initials or a symbol. 
Fifth, when someone got it wrong, the mark on the back either had to be crossed out or otherwise commented upon. I have several stamps in my stock where an expert has written FAKE or FORGERY or FALSCH and has later changed their mind and crossed it out and signed again. These stamps are not saleable.

Modern photographic, scanning and computer print technology allows a much better way of doing things. At no great cost, an expert can now link a stamp to a printed document and not sign the stamp at all. This is now standard procedure for most experts, including anyone who is a Verbandspruefer of the German Bund Philatelisticher Pruefer e. V. Here’s an example. 

Note how both the back and front of the stamp are photographed, in high resolution, and how the “Attest” format allows for comment and explanation. Even twenty years ago, to produce a document to this standard would have been quite expensive; nowadays, a desktop computer and scanner are all that is needed apart from the security-printed “Attest” formular.

Click on Images to Magnify

Monday 28 January 2019

New Catalog: Joseph Geyfman, Specialized Catalog Local Stamps, Provisionals, 1918 -1922; 1931

This is a very impressive catalog. With 450 high-gloss full-colour pages it makes full use of the possibilities provided by modern print technologies to organise a reasoned listing of very difficult stamps, clear and detailed enough to make it possible for even non--specialists to see what they should be looking for in Russian local stamps, by which is most often meant the Postmaster Provisionals of 1920 - 22. Cross-listings at the end make it possible for the user to start from the stamp rather than an overprint, from the ink colour of the overprint, as well as from the precise form of the overprint, for example p 1 p (which, incidentally, yields a unique result). The author is cautious in his assessments and if he is not convinced that a supposed local type  is genuine, even though others have listed it, then he indicates this with a ? or ??

What more can one ask for? I think there would be little point in illustrating the numerous forgeries produced with a child’s printing outfit, mostly on mint stamps - which simply don’t exist for the majority of provisional issues. The important thing is to study what the genuine items look like and what kinds of cancellations they should show. The catalog allows us to do both those things. I did think that the author could have mentioned the small number of signatures which are reliable on 1920 provisionals. My own list would include Dr Jem, Krynine, Mikulski, Pohl, Vinner. But “reliable” here does not mean 100% reliable. 

The only provisional I don’t find here but would have included is the use of the 20 / 14 kop Romanov in Tomsk guberniya, revalued x 100 in 1920 and put into use on Money Transfers and Parcel Cards well after the invalidation of Romanov stamps. I believe that this use would have required local authorisation; a counter clerk would not have taken the initiative to use an invalid Romanov at this late date.

I have blogged several times about the 1920 provisionals - 9 December 2010, 10 Feb 2011, 8 March 2011, 18 August 2014, 17 November 2014, 18 November 2014, 4 June 2017.

My main belief is that we only have Postmaster Provisionals / Local postmaster stamps to collect because the early Soviet Philatelic Association was alert enough and powerful enough to obtain the relevant post office archived money transfers and parcel cards for 1920. I think they started with many thousands of items and studied them fairly carefully. It would be interesting to know exactly who was involved in the work (Krynine? Vinner? …) and how the material was then marketed. Apart from Michel Lipschutz, who else before, say, the 1950s, formed large collections of this material?

Monday 14 January 2019

New Book: Tobie Mathew, Greetings from the Barricades

Click on Image to Magnify

This extraordinary hardback book has 478 pages which include several hundred full-colour illustrations as well as a long, detailed text. The focus is on the years 1905 - 1906.

The UK publisher, Four Corners Books, has given it a cover price of £20 which looks like a mistake for £200 but isn't. It really is £20. Buy it while stocks last (ISBN 978 1 909829 12 1). It's available  direct from the publisher  which may be the cheapest and most reliable method of obtaining it:

The author is a UK-based writer who was previously an Associated Press correspondent in Moscow. Much of the archival work for this project was undertaken in Russia.

Review to follow ...