Cherrystone is one of the larger auction houses in the stamps business and specialized in material from Russia including former territories. This includes Armenia and often nice lots are offered.
The March 2014 auction includes lot number 196. The first thing that attracts attention is the high price tag of 24.000 USD. The item offered is a cover which apparently traveled from Allaverdi to Erevan. The cancel used is Allaverdi-Tiflis, which alone is already quite rare, but does not explain the high price tag. Indeed it is the stamp which makes the cover a real rarity. The stamps of the First Constantinople Issue were not used without an overprint. With just one exception, the 25 ruble stamp. Still this issue is a little bit doubtful, no cover exists and there are no documents in the archives which describe this action was taken.
Which means: if this cover is genuine, it would be a real rarity.
The first impression: very clean, perfect cancel impression. The practiced eye sees more, but lets do this step by step.
I browsed my collection and reference items for this cancellation and found the following items.
And a cover with cancel bearing the date 16.10.1924.This cover is very useful because it is from the Soviet times. There are no forgeries of items of this time known – probably because there is and was no market for such things. Also, the cancel impression is perfect. Which made this item a candidate for my collection of reference items.
When comparing the reference impression with the item in question, there can be no doubt, the cancel is forged.
A few of the most obvious differences.
- 1 through 4
The characters are distorted. There is a dent in the “P” character.
- 5 and 6
The first digit is to small, you can check the “1” on the stamp cancel and while the real first “1” is distorted it has a different shape. The “2” is too thick and also distorted.
The dot is too large.
The horizontal line is not thick enough and the inner circle way to thick.
If you check the cancels from this time you will find the ink, while sometimes more watered down and sometimes oily, always has a certain impression on the paper which can be seen quite good if you enlarge a high resolution scan. With time you can see this with good light just with the eyes. I know that auction houses employ specialist who are checking stamps for years. I would expect an experienced dealer to at least be able to see that this cancel is fishy and need in detail check. You can do better Cherrystone. I know it.
This looks exactly like the cover in the auction and is probably the same item. If you take a closer look you can see the remains of red or lilac writing. Just like with the scan from Cherrystone. This is one of the few errors in the book from Zakyian. He still is one of the serous source and generally a very good expert. To this day the work of Tchilinghirian stands out as one of the most trustworthy and solid sources and I still admire the effort and diligence he took to only present as genuine what he really could prove.