From time to time an exotic or rather uncommon item sells on eBay or another online auction platform. In this case the following “cover” caught my interest.
On the first view a cover with no address is presented featuring what seems to be a whole set of stamps. Since no address is on the cover it is clear this item never traveled and was not used postally. The next thing that comes to mind is, the stamps look like a set of the 3rd issue (Erivan Issue) but have “wrong” colors. Indeed it is a set of the so-called color proofs. Of course those items were not valid for postal use but it is thinkable that this sheet was prepared as kind of philatelic memorial. The last thing that caught my eye was the strange cancel, which I never met before, but more about this later.
Let’s check the facts of the purchase.
Apparently the item was sold for about 400 USD. This is not cheap, but postally used covers go between 1000 and 2000 USD, so it is not expensive either compared to real used covers. It is more or less in the range of used parcel sheets from the Transcaucasian time. Starting price was 1 GBP and 32 bids from 12 different bidders were made. This is not shabby. This item certainly inspired quite an interest. It is nice to see so many collectors of Armenian stamps are active.
Let’s check the bid history.
We see that – as most of the time – bidding in earnest goes on the last day. Also, we see that the high bids came from bidders with more than 1000 ratings. This means they are active and experienced eBay members and presumably also experienced collectors. Obviously at least two active eBay member were ready to pay a solid amount of money.
At this time we need to check the available literature for more insight. Let us start with the stamps. This set of color proofs belong to the stamps of the third pictorials issue which was made in Erivan. At this time the Bolshevist forces ruled and we can find Bolshevist signs (star, hammer and sickle) and slogans (in Armenian language) in the design of these stamps. The issue was ready for use at the 10th of October in 1922. This matches the date on the cancel 3rd of October 1922 for the proofs. What really strikes me as something out of the ordinary is the cancel. This type of cancel Erivan Sh is NOT listed in:
- Postage stamps of Armenia by Tchilinghirian/Ashford
- Imperial Russian stamps used in Transcauscasia by Ashford
- Postage stamps of Armenia by Sakiyan/Saltikoff 1988
- Poststamps, Fiscal Stamps, Postage cancels by Sakiyan 2003
The cancel itself seems to be evenly shaped (round circle) with clean imprint and straight letters. So far the good signs. But especially the grating with the narrow lines make my “forgery” senses tingle. The usage of such fine lines is extremely rare if not unseen at this time. There is a known forgery of the Batum cancel from 1920 which features the same gratings.
In favor of the Erivan cancel: the size of the date is not as unreasonable small as with the Batum one.
A very nice item with a rare variation of the 3rd pictorial issue set and a cancellation which has to be considered as highly doubtful.