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

December 23, 2012

Kingdom of Poland: 1859 First Stationary Envelopes

In 1858 the postal department of the Kingdom of Poland, under the control of the Russian administration, decided to issue a set of two Postal Stationaries to be used within the area of Warsaw. This issue was first notified by the postal regulation N°26098 of December 18th, 1858. Two values were prepared in red color (1.50 kop. & 3 kop.) and delivered; they were valid for postage from January 1859 until the 16th of September, 1861.

Second Type: No Inscription Under The Postal Horns

Two types have been recorded (with or without inscriptions under the postal horns). Furthermore, those envelopes are known in several sizes: the small envelope (1.50 kop) measures 98x57mm, while the big envelope (3 kop) measures 141x38mm. A very interesting feature is that two postal officials of Warsaw, Kurmanowicz and A. Bobinski, apparantly have been required to sign then countersigned the backflap of each envelope to officialize their validity. That speaks for their limited printed run (the envelopes, not the officials), as I doubt these postmasters would have signed, one by one, say 10.000 copies.

The Famous Postmasters Signatures On The Back Flap

Those 1859 local postal stationaries are rare unused. Due to the very short time of their validity, combined with their very limited usage to the sole Warsaw area (and don't forget the massive destruction of Warsaw during WWII, which led to the probable destruction of the few remaining copies in the local archives), genuine used copies are rarities (around 10 copies recorded to date). In my previous post I have illustrated one of those used envelopes (ex Kossoy).

Actually, many collectors are unaware that the 1859 stationary envelopes are the FIRST (and rare!) printed pre-paid postal material issued in and for Poland: the famous first Polish stamp will be issued only a year later, in 1860. Hence, they are essential items not only for the Russia, but the Poland collector as well.

The item above just arrived in my stock today. It is a fine unused example of the 1.50 kopecks red, of the second type (no inscription under the postal horns), size 98x57mm. As mentioned above, the postmasters Kurmanowicz and A. Bobinski have signed it on the interior. There are a couple of light vertical folds (well clear of the indicium), and other small imperfections, totally insignificant regarding the scarcity of that piece.

Those items are indeed rarely offered. The last unused copy was sold at Cherrystone during the Kossoy sale this year, and fetched the cosy price of 1380$. My copy is for sale and, good news, at a much lesser price. After all, I am writing this post just two days before Christmas    :-)    Just contact me if you are interested.

Maxime Citerne

December 19, 2012

2012: Some Philatelic Thoughts

The year 2012 is coming to an end and you are probably up to take some good resolutions for 2013.

Personally, I took a few resolutions regarding philately. First, to get a nice microscope for my expertizing 'department', since I am recently getting more and more sensitive material. Second, expanding my general knowledge by selecting a field that has nothing to do with Russian philately, and start reading and researching on it (Indian states, Bolivia classics or Vietnam postal history are on the list - the selection will be hard!). Third, to build a small holding of Zemstvo postmarks and cancellations, on and off covers, as a reference file.

Taking resolutions is certainly an effective way of 'keeping the ball rolling', avoiding a kind of lethargy that can come with a lack of life movement. Defining (realistic) objectives is an excellent way of improving everything in and around, as long as a fine balance between focus and relaxation is maintained.

Russian Post in Mongolia - Kobdo cover (Ex. Dr Casey, David Feldman auctions): Realized 384000€

Speaking of fine balance, I have been surprised by the unbelievable records fetched by the Dr Casey auction recently. Let's take for example the Kobdo cover illustrated above (lot 10157 - one of four covers known): my personal sensitivity (yes, nothing objective here) sees no point in paying 384.000 € (500.000$ !) for a single Mongolian cover ... and not even the earliest Mongolian known ... and not even unique. As an investment, it will probably take a looooong time before such a price could be doubled, if ever reached again. So where is the point? Anyhow those 'asian areas' records certainly highlight the current power of the Chinese market, and we can contrast them with the many unsold Russian mainland rarities from the Fabergé Spink auction last year.

This year has definitely been a breathtaking year for Russian philately: besides the fabulous items from the Raymond Casey collection, many other magnificent Russian holdings have been offered. Three exceptional Zemstvo sales (two by Cherrystone, one by David Feldman) have been held, offering a large array of superb and scarce material. It is very seldom that so much significant Zemstvo material is thrown on the open in one single year (last time it happened was in 1999). The prices reached for the covers - especially the rarest ones - confirm the strength of the postal history market; for instance the famous Akthyrka cover (one of two known from this Zemstvo district, ex Fabergé), fetched 62.500$, a record price for any kind of Zemstvo material. I notice a weaker appeal for stamps as singles, multiples or sheets: they were selling at higher prices a couple of years ago (this might change when the effect of the international crisis will fade away, letting the medium income class with more confidence in buying). In other words, it is a good time to complete your list of rare Zemstvo 'wanted'.

                      Zemstvo - Akhtyrka cover  (Ex. Fabergé, Dr Nikitin sale, Cherrystone auctions): Realized 62500$

Regarding the regular Imperial and Soviet issues, a splendid Russia 1858 30 kopecks (Michel 4) on cover realized 46.000 euros at Feldman, a reasonnable price in comparison to a second similar cover, ex. Fabergé, offered at Cherrystone (but unsold at a starting price of 230.000$ - certainly too high for the current market). An unused copy of Russia #1, without gum but apparantly genuine (not one of those pen cancel removed) realized 650 euros, proof that some bargains are still possible (I was following the sale and I still don't understand why I didn't even try bid on that one...). Finally, and this is the bottom line of this post, 2012 confirms a high demand for quality items, or for anything that is 'special' on the postal history level. And my guess is that this strong tendancy will last long.

A picture being worth a thousand words, I let you enjoy below a personal selection of what the market offered us during this 2012 year. And I wish, albeit in advance, all of my readers a very Happy Christmas! May you all enjoy good health and happiness in 2013.

Soviet Union Postage Due 1925 - Scott J16A Major rarity of USSR: realized 18500$ (Cherrystone)

Poland Kingdom 1859 Postal Stationary issued for use in Warsaw between 1859-1861, 
one of only ten used copies recorded, Ex Dr Kossoy: realized 5500$ (Cherrystone)

Imperial Russia 1848 - 30 kopecks Postal Stationary, very rare used copy from Moscow to Odessa, ex. Fabergé. 
The 30 kopecks envelopes are great rarity when postally used: realized 10000€ (David Feldman)

Imperial Russia 1884 - 7 rubles Without Thunders used on the front part of an envelope from Warsaw to Berlin. 
Very rare on cover, as most copies have been soaked off: realized 12000€ (David Feldman)

Soviet Union 1924 - Lenin Mourning issue, complete sheet of the 6 kopecks, third printing.
A small rarity, as only a few sheets have survived: realized 260€ (David Feldman)

December 10, 2012

The British Society of Russian Philately Strikes Again

Recently I blogged about the last journal of the BJRP, which showed a great effort from the society's part. 

Yesterday, as a member of the Society, I received an email with my credential to the private (member) area of the society's website. So in a matter of seconds, prompted by the childish desire to 'look above the window', there I was.

I had an amazing surprise, to say the least: the complete run of the prestigious British Journal of Russian Philately, starting from 1946, available in scanned PDF format and ... for free!

More than 60 years of some of the greatest articles on Russian philately, just under the mouse. Just imagine, a researcher's dream!

It is heartwarming to see that the BJRP board has understood that one of the greatest strength of any philatelic society lies in its publications. Making it available to such extent to its members is certainly a great step forward. And the cherry on top is that other functions will be implemented in the near future for members on the website.

So, if you are not already member, make sure that you don't miss this opportunity and ask for membership in the prestigious and excellent British Society of Russian Philately. 

December 1, 2012

The Social & Educational Aspects of Philately

One of the great thing about philately is its social friendship component. Collecting stamps & postal history is a great way to meet new people sharing the same interest although, as we are all different, in various ways. Today with internet, fast communication has increased the network potential between philatelists. It is certainly a good thing in my opinion. I am always happy, when checking my emails, to have messages from around the world, and to learn a things or two (or more) about the American humour, the weather in London or the food in Russia.

Philately is also one of the very rare activities where social status doesn't mean so much in the first place. Firstly, when two collectors meet, their first thought is about stamp collecting, not about their jobs or their political inclinations (although, when becoming friends, they can eventually share those interests as well). I remember the story of a collector, of medium income class, astonished at the fact that during an international exhibition he became friend with a 'top class' collector who had 10 frames of the Penny Black. "Just imagine how much money you need to build such holding" was he thinking... and yet the two shared some nice discussions on the level of mutual respect and understanding.

Secondly, philately is a knowledge-based and fun hobby. It is a wrong conception, actually a serious mistake, to believe that you need 100.000$ to build a nice and powerful collection. With a minimum amount, provided that the subject is chosen wisely, any philatelist can build a splendid specialized collection for a few hundred bucks monthly. On the other hand, examples of very expensive holdings, poorly arranged and described, showing a lack of knowledge, research and dedication, are not unheard of. In other words, more than money (although it certainly helps), brain, patience and sensitivity are the pillars of our hobby.

Philatelists are usually well-educated people. Some of them very well educated. Others possess a great life experience. Because of the very matrix of our hobby, that is history and communication between various people and countries, a fascinating field of learning about history, geography, culture, techniques and psychology is opened.  

As a naive projection in the generally conflicting behaviour that characterizes human beings, I guess philately should be the hobby of many of our world leaders... Just imagine a political debate starting with 'how is your classical Ceylon going on?' and 'oh nice, and how is your Russian ship mail, dear opponent?'.

That would possibly make a positive change in the relationship, thus decision-makings, between rulers!

Maxime Citerne