When dealing with stamps often the question about rarity arises. Normally you can use a catalog and you will get an answer. Perhaps you have a second catalog (e.g. a local one) or you need to use a factor to get market prices (like with the Michel) but you end with a more or less good starting point. It is a bit more complicated with the stamps of Armenia. While there are a lot of catalogs and listings (Kohl, Ceresa and Tchilinghirian/Ashford list prices, Liapin, Michel, Scott, Gibbons and Yvert are current catalogs) none does the job with a satisfying result. There is a reason for this. Due to the number of factors that contribute to the amount different stamps the field is simply too large. Let us take a look at the case of the stamps with framed Z overprint.
The stamps overprinted with framed Zs can be categorized by the following means:
- Size of the overprint: small, medium, large
- Color of the overprint: black or violet
- perforated or unperforated
- base stamp from different issues (varnish lines, perforation variations, color tones)
While I can make true statements about each of the characteristics, there is always one or more exceptions. Let us check each characteristic in detail.
Size of the Overprint
The current catalogs do not distinguish between the different sizes. T+A tried to find out how many different devices were used. They did an excellent job and found 8 different ones. I did not count the “x” variations since this is the same device with more wear.
The simplified rule is: the small overprints are much rarer than the medium and large ones. The large ones, perhaps a bit more common than the medium ones. This is most likely because they started with the small ones. After long years of foreign Russian rule, and being dependent on a strong country to protect them from their hostile neighbors and invaders attention was given to not overprint the imperial signs on the Tsarist stamps, so when the Tsar came back, no chastisement was dealt. A further problem was that the rubber cancels were not suitable for doing small detailed imprints. Larger stamps were made (the medium ones) and even more larger ones (the large ones). As a result the stamps with a small framed Z overprint are much scarcer then the larger ones. A special case are the overprints on the 1 Kop stamps since a lot were used for the k60k overprint.
When you see a genuine small framed Z on a stamp forget what Michel etc. say, it is most certainly quite rare and worth much more than what the catalog says.
Color of the overprint
The basic rule is: violet (or lilac) is scarcer than the black overprints. While I got a stamp with each of the Liapin/Zakyian listed black framed Zs I could not find an example of all listed lilac overprints. I miss the following lilac framed Zs on:
- framed Z lilac on 5 Kop imperforated
- framed Z lilac on k.60.k on 1 Kop imperforated
- framed Z lilac on 25 Kop perforated
Of the examples I got many are Serebrakian style and as such on the verge to be OTC (over the counter product type). Zakiyan thinks OTC products are worthless because there are illegitimate. I do not agree since the OTC products were officially produced (it was not illegal to do so, the postal authority approved of this and made the overprint in question) and postal items were successfully sent and received. Serebrakian was an employee of the postal agency and produced a lot of variations which in turn were official products. Zakiyan has one argument: he had access to the archives and reports to be able to decide on what was OTC and what not on base of that. I still strongly doubt some of the listings in his book (also Liapin). In Liapin he gives prices to all non OTC issues. A lot of the prices are correct and sometimes better than other catalogs but some issues are quite rare – I did not see examples for years – while other issues with the same price tag are quite common. It would be interesting to discuss this with him directly and perhaps see what material he used.
An exception to the rule: violet > black is the 5 Ruble imperforate stamp. While I got six examples with violet overprint only two (the E.6 is not in T+A) with black found its way into my collection. T+A rates the violet as much scarcer then the black one, which should be not uncommon, but I can’t find more of them.
Here the violet overprints. First row E.5, second row E.5x last row E.6x.
And the black ones. Upper stamp E.4 inverted as listed in T+A and an E.6x below which is not listed in T+A.
Of course that are not enough samples for the real statistical analysis. What is in your collection?
Perforated vs. Unperforated
The rule is unperforated is scarcer. I think this is more or less true. There is one big exception: the 2 Kop stamp. Pretty common with large overprint on unperforated stamps but really rare on perforated stamps. T+A gives a value (higher is more rare) of 6 vs. 480. The large framed Z on 2 Kop perforated is a really rare stamp! Michel gives 19 Euro for perf and 5 for imperf which is correct in reference to perf > unperf but much too low for such a scare stamp (the perforated one). How many perforated stamps with framed Z on 2 Kop do you get in your collections? Liapin lists the perf. stamp with 70 Euro and the unperf. stamp with 300 Euro which is totally wrong (for ** condition). And the unperf. stamp used with 10 Euro. I got a full page with unperf. 2 Kop stamps and only 20% are used. This makes no sense at all. Over the time I more and more admire the T+A team for their excellent work. This is unsurpassed til today.
The overprints are E.6x, E.5 and E.6x.
Base stamp from different issues
The last characteristic is the base stamp used for overprinting. Several catalogs give a reference to the underlying stamp. Sometimes a separate price is given, but this is more or less an exception and not the rule. My guess is, since the field is already quite large and complex a lot of specialties can be found that are not yet reported or listed.