Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Canada schooner Bluenose

In January 1929 Canada issued what some people believe to be the most beautifully designed stamp ever, the 50c Bluenose (Scott 158).  

The image shows the famous Nova Scotia fishing schooner Bluenose, which also appears on Canada's 10c coin  Bilingualism had become important in Canada by 1929, and the Bluenose stamp is also bilingual, in English and French.  The engraving was done by the American Bank Note Company.

Bluenose was wrecked in 1946.  The speed and power of this wind-driven craft can be well judged from the 1938 photo below.

Fifty cents was a lot more money in 1929 than it is today, so the stamp was never cheap.  There is still a strong demand for the Bluenose, especially from collectors in Canada and the United States, and an unused copy in fine condition can go for $200 or more.  Used copies in reasonable condition can be purchased for $15 or so on Ebay. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

1934 Soviet fictitious airships

Scott C57: Putative Soviet airship Lenin.  Attrib: Wiki Commons
The Soviet Union made exceptional use of propaganda in all media, and stamps were no exception.  

Scott C53: Soviet airship Pravda and airship hanger.
The early 1930s were the age of the dirigible, an airship with an aluminum skeleton in which lifting cells filled with hydrogen or, for the United States only, helium, were installed.  

Scott C56: Soviet airship V.I. Lenin.
The expense of building and an operating a dirigible was so great that only the wealthiest nations could afford them, and so they became, briefly, a symbol of a country's economic success and technical achievement.

With this in mind, in 1934, the Soviet Union released a series of five airmail stamps.  Soviet stamp design was often innovative and dramatic, this issue in particular. 

The 20k, Scott C56, showed the side and driving engines of a large airship, apparently the Lenin.  The engines are mounted in "nacelles" with crewmen shown riding in each nacelle to control the engines.  (This was the practice in certain airships.)
Scott C55: Soviet airship Voroshilov

The 15k depicted Voroshilov, named after Stalin's toady, Klimenti Voroshilov, who was soon to prove to be an incompetent general and a war criminal.

These stamps seem to show real airships.  They appear to have been based on photographs.  Look at the 30k at the top of this article.  It actually shows a route map running from Moscow to Kazan, and presumably points east.

Scott 54: Soviet airship.

None of these airships ever existed.  There appears to be no record of any program to build them.  The stamps were designed to trick the Soviet peoples into the belief that their country was economically and technologically capable of building and operating several airships simultaneously.   

1933 Falkland Islands and forgeries

Stamps of the Falkland Islands have been popular for long time.  The islands are remote, but still part of the once mighty British Empire, which has always been popular with collectors.  The permanent British occupation of the Falklands began in 1833, an anniversary which would have been largely forgotten to history but for the issuance of the 1933 set of Falklands commemorative stamps to mark the occasion.

The stamps were well-designed, based on the work of amateur photographer George Roberts and printed by the London firm of Bradbury Wilkinson.  Each had a black center image set in a colored frame.  In 1933 this required two runs through the printing press, and so was a more expensive type of stamp to produce than single color.  (There is a rarer variety with a more orange-yellow frame.)

All the designs are well done, but the best is the 5 shilling, (Scott 74; SG 136) with a yellow frame  around a vertical image of a king penguin.  (Aptenodytes patagonicus).  

Attrib: Stanley Gibbons (Genuine stamp)              
Fewer than 6,000 stamps were actually issued,  and with Falklands being popular among stamp collectors, the price can be high. 

Used copies are worth more than mint, because the used stamp must make the journey from London to the other side of the earth and in 1933, that was by steamship, and even sailing vessels were still in service at the time.

I saw a mint copy on sale for $1,100 recently on eBay, and based on what I can tell, that would be a reasonable price to pay for the stamp ... assuming it is genuine.

Attrib: ??? (Forgery)                        
With such high prices, forgers will be attracted to the issue, and the 1933 is by no means immune.   Stamp forgery has been going on for about as long as there have been stamps, sometimes to fool the post office, but more often now to deceive collectors. 

In 2002 the so-called Maryland Forgeries of various classic stamps started showing up.  The stamp at left is a Maryland forgery, from an Ebay listing.  

The Ebay seller was doing nothing wrong.  The stamp was clearly identified as a forgery and it's perfectly legal to sell it with that important disclosure. Some people even collect forgeries.

It's hard to tell forgeries based on electronic scans alone.  Color is not a good guide in this instance, as there was an orange-yellow genuine stamp.  The forgery looks wrong; it is not well-centered between the perforations and the paper looks much too white.

Physical inspection of the actual stamp in question would readily reveal the forgery.  Stamps printed from engravings will leave small raised lines of ink above the paper, which is very difficult to forge.

The paper used for the 1933 issue was watermarked, in this case with multiple crowns and the initials CA, for Crown Agents.  While clever forgers have been able to overcome these two obstacles, most will not.

Hungary 1916 Houses of Parliament

From 1916 to 1918, Hungary released a series of stamps showing the Houses of Parliament, in Budapest on the Danube River.  The design was simple but elegant.  The stamps were bi-colored, with bolder hues in the frame.  

Hungarian currency was 100 filler = 1 korona (Hungarian for "crown).   Magyar Kir. Posta (Magyar Királyi) means Hungarian Royal Post.  

Below is the 75f (Scott #120) with a good clear postmark, dated May 2, 1918, showing it was placed on an item mailed from the resort town of  Balatonederics, on Lake Balaton, the largest lake in central Europe.

Source: Wiki Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0.  Attrib: W. Brandmayer                        

The 1k (Scott #122) is shown below.  This stamp appears to have a postmark dated November 12, 1918, one day after the armistice that ended World War One, with Hungary sustaining a catastrophic defeat.

The 1916-1918 stamps of Hungary are very common, for no more than a few dollars one could collect all of them.  The value of stamps as collector's items has to do with rarity, not their intrinsic attractiveness or historical interest.