Covers at Raritan – some first thoughts

No 77 of the Raritan auction lists some interesting items. Here are my thoughts to each one.

1. The picture postcard with the early date

The picture postcard looks quite clean but I do not like the framed Z. They look very untypical. The tariff could be ok – 30 Kopeck for postcard just matches with the 30 Kop overprint on the postcards that were made in November. However, the framed Z overprinting started in November-December 1919 with first the small types (E.1) and also at the beginning in violet ink. While it is not too hard to find a postcard with framed Zs in early 1920, finding them from December 1919 is not that easy and a November PC would be really difficult. And then at the start of November… Extremely unlikely. Another (bad) sign is the first stop after the day of the date which is not on any other Erivan “d” cancels I have seen.

2. The Erivan to Batum cover

The next one is a cover with a franking of 8 Rubles. The tariff for letter was 5 Rubles in March 1920. Registered is most likely twice as much so this is a bit in between. The Erivan “d” cancel (most likely “d”) shows the correct stop after the month and no stop after the day which is correct. The overprints on the stamp are looking good. The Batum cancel also shows the correct (typical) gap and ink .

3. The Alexandropol cover with the combined overprints

The next cover was sent from Alexandropol on the 29.8.2?. This should be a “0” since the inland letter rate was 10 Rubles from October 1920 and went to 25 Rubles in November 1920. I would expect this to be higher at the end of October but we have no exact dates here. Kars fell to the Turks at the 30th of October and Alexandropol a week later.

The cancel on the frontside looks a bit uneven (6 o’clock) but the resolution is really bad.

The backside shows another cancellation and two stamps with combined overprints. Again the resolution is really bad, but I do not like the looks of the framed Z and the 5.

4. The newspaper item

The last item shows the notorious newsletter item with the added stamp and the forged cancellation. The shape of the serial character is the easiest to spot give away.

A much better analysis could be mad with a better scan, for a solid check I would need the items in my hands.

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One of the rare stamps of the Ruble overprint Issue

Recently I got a hold off quite a rare stamp. But let us zoom in from the outside, starting with the Dashnak overprints. During the first Republic, when the Dashnak government ruled the newly independent country, the overprinting process started – with the exception of the 30 and 60 Kopeck overprints – with the so called HP overprints monograms with no face value. They served two purposes:

  1. Make a stamp an Armenian stamp so it could be distinguished from other Zsarist stamps – this was necessary to prevent loss of revenue when stamps from outside were brought into the country (same like with the Ukraine tridents)
  2. Change the value of the stamp. A 1 Kopeck stamp now as a 1 Ruble stamp, a 50 Kopeck stamp a 50 Ruble stamp etc. – this was necessary  to cope with the high inflation

A bit later the inflation asked for even higher values and the answer were the Ruble overprints – also called HH overprints. The new thing was  the added value to the Monogram. Now a 3.5 Ruble stamp could be a 100 Ruble stamp.

The process of the development of these overprints was quite fast and went through several iterations. “T and A” and Ceresa describe seven different “sub-issues” of the HH overprints. One of the iterations is the so called “Emergency 10 Ruble Surcharges” issue – also the Fourth Issue.

The historical background is given through the invasion of Armenia by the Turks. Kars had fallen and the inflation accelerated again. The inland letter rate doubled from 5 to 10 Rubles in October 1920. In comparison, Georgia and Azerbaijan waited with this step til February 1921. Suddenly a lot of 10 Ruble stamps were needed. In order to address this need the Postal Administration did two things:

  1. use additional values (15, 20 and 70 Kopeck stamps) for surcharging with 10r
    (the lower values were mostly used up at this point)
  2. use a new second 10 Ruble handstamp (type 2) to speed up the overprinting process.

In a first stage the 10r overprint was added to stamps which already had a HP monogram – framed of unframed Z. A second stage followed where in a “two stage process” on fresh unoverprinted stamps (remains from other post offices that arrived in Erivan) were used. In the second stage only the new type 2 handstamp was used.

In stage one the following Kopeck values were used: 15, 20, 25, 35, 50, 70 and the 4 Kopeck Romanov stamp. In stage two the same stamps and also some quantities of 4, 5 and 20/14 Kopeck stamps came into use. All stamps only the perforated type.

The interesting fact here is that just one type of the Romanov stamps was used. The Emergency issue is most likely not philatelic inspired and this proofs that the 4 Kopeck Romanov stamp was part of the stock of the Armenian post offices.

All the stamps of the Emergency issue are quite rare. The two stage (stage two) 10r type 2 overprint on the 4 Kopeck Romanov stamps is one of the rarest stamps of them.

The overprint is a combination of the large monogram from the 1r HH handstamp and the 10 (r) type 2 (HH) handstamp.

A question still unsolved is which of the overprints in the two stage process was applied first.

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Repairs – forger or plastic surgeon?

Sometimes stamps or covers and postcards are damaged. Stamps can get tears, lose dents or even larger parts of their paper. Often parts of the gum are missing, disturbed or even all gum is lost. Postcards (also covers etc.) often find themselves with stamps detached when collectors decided they wanted to collect just the stamp. This was quite common at the beginning times of stamp collecting.

There are people who want to remedy this situation. Some just want to have a nice looking stamp in their album. Others want to obtain higher prices when selling a nice postcard.

Either way, it is important to check the items you buy. Here are two examples. A stamp I bought myself on Delcampe. The scan of the dealer was so bad, the repair was not visible. Confronted with a good scan, the dealer refunded the full price. The other example is a postcard where a fellow collector provided me with the scans.

Here is the stamp.


A very nice example of the 10r type 2 overprint – the so-called emergency “sub-issue” – completed with a small HH monogram. You can see a part of the cancel frame of the handstamp on the upper left corner of the stamp. The backside got a hinge remainder as well as some pencil drawings. The overprint is genuine.

At some point the stamp lost a larger part of the lower right corner. At the front side a part of another stamp was applied on top. At the backside the repair was concealed by a hinge fragment completely glued to the stamp. This is a rather crude repair and if you check the stamp carefully quite obvious. Since the market value of uncertified single stamps is not so high, I guess this was a beauty operation of a collector. Definitely not professional work.

And the postcard.

The postcard shows a 30 Kop overprint combined with a large framed Z. A 50 Kopeck stamp with a lilac large framed Z is added. There is an Aleksandropol cancel – serial character probably “sh” – and two Erivan d cancels. The dates are 16. or 26.3.1920 for the Aleksandropol cancel and 24.3.1920 for the Erivan cancel. Furthermore the following points are remarkable:

  1. Some kind of cancel or text was there and someone tried to remove it. Reminds me a bit of the war censor markings but this makes no sense at 1920.
  2. The first line reads “Aleksandropol” and this is the destination of the card. This suggests the date on the Aleksandropol should be later then 24.3.
  3. Some script: 700 and 2940?
  4. A very wrong looking “20” – shape and ink vary in comparison to the cancel on the postcard

I have marked the two most striking faults.

  1. The inner circle does not close – there is a gap. (See Arrow)
  2. The two marked “2” digits look totally different (Circles)


The two Erivan cancels on the postcard suggest that there was a stamp on the postcard. The tariff was 50 Kopecks at this time – so it was most likely a 20 Kopeck stamp. This stamp was lost and the forger added a new stamp. The missing part of the Erivan cancel was then artificially added to the stamp. It is possible that a part of the Erivan cancel was already on the stamp and only the date (“20”) was added. This would explain why the forger used the 50 Kopeck stamp which is too much than what was needed at this time. The item looks not philatelically inspired – there is a lot of text on the backside.

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The postal stationary of Armenia

Together with the first overprints on stamps the Armenian postal office also overprinted postal stationary. While the stamps, starting with the k60k overprints are well known, the stationary are not. It even took a couple of years before the stationary reached the the western collectors. As a result they avoided the first years of the massive forging efforts and so far not much forgeries are known. The stationary itself are also not available in abundance and you need to search for them.

At the end of 1919 the base Armenian postal stationary was produced by applying a “30. kop” overprint. This matches the postal rate for postcards and correspondents well to the 60 Kopeck postal rate for letters that were addressed by the k60k overprinted stamps. Not much later the stationary received an addition overprint, a framed Z. Apparently not all were used up and the remaining items got a 5r HH rubles overprint. This leaves us with three types:

  1. plain “30. kop” overprint
  2. combined “30. kop” and framed Z (type E6)
  3. combined “30. kop” and HH monogram (5r HH)

Here two pictures of #2 used and unused.

The used postal stationary is from the Bob Taylor collection. So far I have seen about 10 used type 2 and all of them were Serebrakian made.

Right now I am in contact with the Michel catalog guys so these items will be listed in the postal staionary catalog (Michael Ganzsachen Katalog).

I still need scans and data about the other types or none Serebrakian type 2. If you can provide scans I would be deeply grateful.

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Forgeries at Raritan #74

There are some forgeries among the items presented in the current auction.

The first two items got fake overprints. The Jemchouchin signature is probably faked too.

Both stamps were not available at the time in the post office stocks. They can only exist as so called “over the counter” productions.  If genuine, a very rare stamp. In this case both overprints are crude forgeries. You can find posts on my blog with details about the genuine overprint.

This is one of the typical “I got old paper from a worthless cover, lets add some stamp paint some cancels and see how much we can get for it”. The Erivan cancel is such a crude forgery, no professional auction house should have a problem seeing this.

Another of the “lets us some old paper I found” forgery. This time the 1K manuscript overprint is forged as well as the cancel. I would expect a professional stamp dealer to be able to spot this.

In the description you can read “reprints”. This is correct. This also means, those stamps are forgeries. They are worthless and should not appear in an auction. Same story with the sheets in the lot before.

Collections are always dangerous. In this case, and there are three more pages almost all overprints are forged. Perhaps 5 to 10 stamps are genuine.

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Dr. R. J. Ceresa

Ray Ceresa passed away on the 10th of June. He was a great philatelist, author of the Handbooks about Transcaucasia, Ukraine, Russia and the regions of civil war 1917-23. I had the opportunity to met him and still remember this day vividly. I learned a lot with the help of his books and papers. He also commented a lot on this blog.

I will remember him always as a fellow collector, researcher and friend. He truly was one of the greatest in the area of Armenian philately.

My heartfelt condolences go out to his wife and family.

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Fake cover again

On November the 6th I wrote an article about a fake cover offered at David Feldman auction house. It is listed again. Please meet Lot 20385 at the current Russia auction.

There is something new also. We got a scan of the Holcombe certificate. Looks genuine. Peter Holcombe seems not to be a reliable source for certificates regarding Armenia.

PS: Mistakes happen. I got a very fast answer from the auction house, the lot has been withdrawn and marked as “bad” so no new listing should happen.

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Talking signatures

Sometimes the back-side of a stamp is almost as interesting as the front-side. Here is an example of a stamp with 5 signatures:

  1. A fancy sign that is often present on stamps with genuine overprints.
  2. The signature of Philipp Kosack (* 17.5.1869; † 16.5.1938) a German dealer located in Berlin.
  3. Dr. R. J. Ceresa, a well known expert for Armenia and other areas.
  4. Emil Louis Richard Senf (* 02.08.1855; † 17.01.1941) and
    Wilhelm August Louis Senf (* 02.08.1852; † 12.02.1940)
    – the famous Senf Brothers – dealers in Leipzig
  5. Oscar Riep, dealer in Berlin – around the same time as Senf brothers.

I guess there is still place for some more. But seriously, in the stamp trade of the first half of the 20th century you will often stumble over just the same names again and again.

A made a page on the blog where I list the signatures that you can find on stamps of Armenia together with some background information. See here.

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Unframed large Z on one Ruble unperforated

The latest addition to my collection is this quarter sheet of overprinted stamps.

This is a high quality scan so you can zoom in a bit and check all the details. The stamp itself is quite common but getting large multiples is certainly not. Since the overprints are made using hand devices there is a lot of variation. This often makes checking the overprints difficult because it is necessary to distinguish between variations resulting of the so called “human factor” (including changes in the ink, pressure and angle used when applying the hand stamp and how often the clerk used the hand stamp before he used fresh ink) and variations that mean the overprint is forged. With time and training and a lot of material for comparison most forgeries can be detected by checking distinctive regions of interest.

Here some examples of the variations. Some of them are useful for forgery detection.

Example 1: The serif is quite prominent and in the shape of a diamond. 

Example 2: The serif now looks like a triangular hook.

Example 3: The diagonal line is broken. Not a distinctive characteristic of a genuine overprint but it shows how far the variation can go. For forgery detection the shape of the “handles” in the middle is quite important.

Example 4: A left over of the frame. The unframed Z overprint are the successors of the framed Zs when the frame was removed due to wear.

Example 5: A very prominent leftover of the frame at the bottom of the overprint.

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Tashkent or Tiflis?

Again a cover is being offered in an auction. This time the auction house is Hadersbeck Auktionen in Berlin, Germany. 

The description (translated from German) reads:

“1920, 1R, horizontal pair and 5 on 20 K., vertical pair on registered cover, St. “Yerevan 10. 10. 20″ to Tashkent (arrival postmark)”.

Makes me wonder. Tashkent! Where? It is obviously sent to the company “Fortuna” located in Tiflis. The arrival cancel reads Tiflis too. Not much effort was put into checking this item.

The resolution of the scan is too low for a real check, but the unframed Z overprint could be OK while the 5r HH overprint looks fake.

The easy giveaway for this forgery are the cancels. The serial character seems to be a “d”.

The large Erivan characters are a good effort but the date figures are totally wrong. They look nothing like the genuine ones. Even spotting serifs. They remind me of the Goldkopeck overprints though. The arrival cancel of Tiflis is fake too.


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