Russian stamps 10 kopecks imperforate, strip of five, largest multiple known. Ex Fabergé

Russian stamps 10 kopecks imperforate, strip of five, largest multiple known. Ex Fabergé

January 25, 2012

Is the description correct?

There is a sad practice among some dealers, including famous ones, which I will call the 'Deceptive Description'. 

Stamp (and cover) collecting is a fine art, where the most subtle detail can increase - or decrease - both the philatelic AND commercial value of any item. It is therefore essential for the potential buyer, who doesn't have the stamp or cover in front of the eyes, to have the most accurate description as possible.

This, of course, can represent a great disadvantage to any unscrupulous seller if the material is not first choice. As an unfortunate consequence, it is not a surprise that some sellers decide to manipulate the description of their lot ... in order to manipulate the buyer.

As an exemple, I bought recently on Ebay a copy of Russian Levant (Michel 1) sold in Germany as "Nachdruck/Falsch" (Reprint/Fake), as I wanted to add such item to my reference stock of fakes and forgeries.

What came in my letter box two days later was ... a poor quality color photocopy from the sold item!

I just checked the feedback from this seller and I was not the first victim; what amazed me was that this seller even got the nerve to defend himself with some comments in the vein of  "the lot was described as fake ... Cannot you read?". Human nature is unbelievable, isn't it?

In the philately world, you don't need to be an expert to know there is a (value) difference between a photocopy and a reprint, even a  fake one. But in the dictionary cannot a reprint be a photocopy as well? Not in philately. So here lies the 'gray zone', in which unscrupulous dealers enjoy themselves to the detriment of serious collectors.

There are plenty exemples out there for you to check. Last year I blogged about the unclear descriptions of Russia #1 pen cancelled (removed) but sold with the very ambiguous description 'Looks unused', in order to boost the emotions of the buyers.

Such practices are absolutely unethical. Philately is a knowledge-based hobby, where the meeting of precision and financial investment is making a happy marriage. Therefore, check the descriptions and do not hesitate to ask precisions.

It is better to have a good wedding than a bad divorce.

January 12, 2012

Spink Auctions - Fabergé Rarities Sale

Last November Spink Auctions offered a fabulous Russian rarities sale, including some of the most famous items from the Fabergé collection. 

Dozens of prestigious pieces were offered to the public, some of them lastly in the Bianchi sale (Guido Craveri, 2008). Despite their huge appeal, many lots were finally unsold; it is probably time to reflect that the rocket-speed rising prices for Russian rarities might have come to an end, at least for a short while.

The sale started with a short, but powerful section of prephilatelic covers among which I have noticed a May 1714 letter from the German-Russian St Petersburg post (created on 24 February 1714), the first official post to be run in Russia: a remarkably important Russian postal history masterpiece (sold for 1.100 €).

Some of the noticeable lots included a fabulous section of 1854 Mercury and Eagle essays, including the extremely rare black color Eagle (unsold) and the blue color Eagle affixed to envelope and cancelled with several strikes of the dotted postmark essay - a unique item and probably the most impressive of all the 1854 essays (unsold). A good selection of the 1857 Eagle essays followed (all unsold).

My favourite item is certainly the unique sketch prepared by Gottlieb Haas & Son of Pragua (graver: Franz Kepler), handpainted in white, blue and brown on a thick cardboard (34x43mm). This historically piece was a personal gift from the Tsar Nicolas II to Agathon Fabergé.

Sold for 156.000 € (excl. commission) in the 2008 Bianchi sale, it sold for 75.000 € (twice less!).

An extremely rare mint copy of the 10kop. imperforated, certified, fetched 55.000€, which is a reasonable price if we take into account that only two genuine mint copies are in private hands today (a fabulous mint pair is sleeping is the National Postal Museum of St Pertersburg).

The January issues (Mi 1-4) were of course very strongly represented, with mint, cancels (#1 on fragment cancelled 1 January - ex Liphschutz), multiples (a unique #2 bloc used in Poland) and a splendid choice of classic covers. Many unsold lots, nevertheless several lots reached the 6 digits: the '31 December 1857' Taurrogen letter fetched 180.000 €, the First Day cover from Kovno 150.000 € and the unique combination cover of 10kop. imperf and 20kop. sold for 250.000 €.

I really liked the cover franked with three copies of the first issue, cancelled with rectangular dotted postmark from Tcherepovetz (sold for 21.000 €), ex Liphschutz. Full of charm.

Whatever be the results of such sale, as philatelists we can't help but marvel in front of such magnificent items...