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

August 31, 2012

Postal Fraud in the Kingdom of Poland

Postal Fraud in Poland - September 1872
10 kopecks Arms (1866 issue) washed and re-used by the postal clerk to defraud the post
Very rare usage (unique?) from Wloclawek (Vlotslavsk) 
[ SOLD ]

Postal fraud in Imperial Russia and the Kingdom of Poland has always been present, right from the launching of the first adhesive stamp in january 1858.

Two mains categories of frauders can be distinguished: some merchants dealing with huge amount of correspondance, trying to reduce their costs by re-using some cancelled stamps, and postal clerks, sometimes acting in concordance with each others, trying to raise up their very low income.

In the XIXth century, postal fraud consisted of re-using cancelled stamps. They were soaked off the covers, cleaned more or less carefully, then re-used on other correspondances. Sometimes stamps were half-folded on the edge of the cover, in an attempt to hide the half part of the stamp still bearing the initial cancellation. When the fraud was made by postal clerks, they usually struck the stamp(s) in order to cover the initial cancellation (see scan below). Several exemples with three (!) usages of the same stamp are known; among the most impressive items is a letter (ex. Mikulski) franked with a Russia #1 used thrice (!), first from Byalistok ("104") then Dudushi ("214") and finally Ostroleka ("47").

In the begining of the XXth century, some forged stamps were produced to defraud the post, especially (but not only) in Poland. We know several values: the 7 kopecks (mainly used in Russia: Vilno and St Petersburg), the 70 kopecks (used in Lodz in 1905 and Byalistok in 1908, Poland) and the 3.50 rubles (produced and used in Lodz 1904-1905, Byalistok and Warsaw 1907-1908, Poland). Those postal forgeries are all very scarce to rare, especially used on letters or parcel cards. They are an integrant part of Russian and Polish postal history, and in my opinion highly desirable as well.

The Kingdom of Poland has been a major playground for frauders, and the majority of the material available today with re-use of cancelled stamps is coming from Polish companies or postal clerks. I wouldn't be surprised if besides the economic reason this strong activity also involved sometimes a patriotic feeling of opposition to the Imperial domination.

close-up of the stamp
note the trace of a ring cancel on the left and the washed background on the upper part: 
no postal clerk could miss the fraud, unless being involved in it!

The small enveloppe illustrated above is a nice example of a XIXth century fraud attempted by a postal clerk. It was sent from Wlaclowek (this city felt under Russian control in 1831) to Thorn and is franked with a 10 kopecks adhesive. Amazing is the fact that the stamp clearly shows traces of cleaning as well as part of a ring cancel on the side! The postmark has been evidently applied in order to cover the washed area, unsuccessfully though, but just note how the clerk twisted the handstamp 45° to the right (in comparison to the first strike on the left of the enveloppe), hoping that the letters would cover the washed zone. He probably decided to apply the 'Franco' handstamp as well to give more credibility to the franking, just in case...

Recording the various locations where postal fraud was active is an interesting 'sport'. Many cities in the Kingdom of Poland have been noted for their postal thief activities. But I suspect that some of them are much scarcer than others. Warsaw, Byalistok and Kibarty were important business centers and many used-twice stamps are coming from there. On the other side of the spectrum, I have never seen another fraud cover from Wloclawek besides the one illustrated here (readers: new input is welcome!).

I have spent some time collecting information about Polish cities and villages involved in postal fraud (re-using Russian stamps or Poland #1). Below is a list of 59 localities, probably incomplete, that I hope would be useful for any reader interested. Whenever possible I have added the numbers allocated to the post office, and found on the numerical handstamps (usually the famous "four rings" cancels used in Poland) :

Kingdom of Poland - List of Localities Involved in Postal Fraud

Warsaw (1)  |  Jablonna (2)  |  Wola Gozowska (16)  |  Stawiski (38)  |  Pultusk (45)  |  Ostroleka  (47)  |  Ostrow (50)  |  Biala (55)  |  Terespol (57)  |  Siedlce (60)  |  Lublin (73)  |  Kurow (75)  |  Dryszczow (82)  |  Zamosc (97)  |  Chomeciska (98)  |  Tomaszow Lubelski (100)  |  Bialystok (104)  |  Iwaniska (110)  |  Proszowice (117)  |  Kielce (120)  |  Nowe Miasto Korczyn (127)  |  Gniewoszow (144)  |  Brody (148)  |  Przysucha (153)  |  Czestochwa (158)  |  Koniecpol (166)  |  Myszkow (168)  |  Pradla (169)  |  Granica (175)  |  Piotrkow (179)  |  Lodz (182)  |  Baby (185)  |  Gorzkowice (189)  |  Kalisz (191)  |  Wielun (205)  |      Sochaczew (210)  |  Brzeziny (214)  |  Konin (221)  |  Kutno (232)  |  Gombina (234)  |  Ciechocinek (240)  |  Izbica (244)  |  Plock (253)  |  Lelice (255)  |  Raciaz (258)  |  Sosnowiec (278)  |  Warki (283)  |  Krzeszow (284)  |  Przytyk (299)  |  Nowa Praga (329)  |  Konstantynow (342)  |  Koszyce (1106)  |  Kibarty  |  Wierzhbolow  |  Zagorze  |  Dworzec Praga  |  Myszkow   |  Wloclawek (Vlotslavsk)  |  Droga Terespolska

The readers are most welcome to update this list with their own material, please reply or contact me. 

Maxime Citerne