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Monday 12 August 2019

Ukraine Trident Overprints: Inverted Varieties

Most 1918 Ukraine Trident overprints were applied by hand. Machine printed Tridents were applied to make Kiev/Kyiv type 3 and Odessa/Odesa types 1, 2 and 3. Since Ukraine was a big country even in 1918 (population between 25 and 30 million) dozens of clerks were kept busy overprinting sheets of Imperial stamps. It must have been very boring, the boredom perhaps relieved by alcohol when it could be obtained or at least tea and tobacco.

But inverted overprints from handstamps are really very uncommon. This is surprising. I think there may be three explanations:

1.      If a clerk started overprinting with the handstamp held upside down, he (always he, I suspect) would probably notice and correct the error. It would require real carelessness to work through a whole sheet using the handstamp upside down. It’s true that in poor light, some stamps don’t obviously self-identify as the right way up, so if the sheet , not the handstamp, was upside down this might be missed. The pale yellow of 1 kopek is the most obvious example of a stamp which does not shout out when it is the wrong way up and it’s true that inverted overprints on the 1 kopek are generally more common than on other values.

2.      The work of individual clerks was supervised and checked. This may explain the use of “correcting handstamps” applied over poor examples of a trident overprint or onto stamps which had somehow missed an overprint. Correcting handstamps are found, for example, on stamps of Poltava.

3.      Dealers and speculators of the time no doubt wanted to have inverted overprints to sell at a premium. Asked for such varieties, postal officials may not have been as co-operative as they sometimes are. The Trident was a symbol of new independence and national pride. To apply it upside down at this early stage of a political revolution may have been thought disloyal or, at least, lacking in seriousness. In contrast, varying the colour of the ink may have been more acceptable. So-called Svenson varieties on things like Kiev 2gg are ink varieties; inverted overprints are still not common on these varieties. Only for Odessa/Odesa ( a very Russian city) do you get lots of inverted overprints, clearly made to order. In addition, it may be that handstamps were taken away from post office premises and used by dealers like Trachtenberg who did their own work and created their own varieties.

Catalogue listings of the inverted overprints are not systematic. Dr Seichter tends to give a general guide, suggesting premiums on the normal valuation. Bulat lists some inverts but not others, as I was reminded when I looked up this little group of Kharkov/Kharkiv I. Bulat lists several values with inverted overprints but not this one, even though these postally-used stamps (ex the Schmidt collection) have very old UPV guarantee marks. It seems likely that they are all from the same sheet and with cancellations of what I read as BOGODUKHOV KHARK - now the small Ukrainian town of Bohodukhiv. 

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