Sunday, 4 November 2007

A wrapper from the Kingdom of Samoa

So tempting to start a new collection of Samoa. At times Samoa was independent, at times under English, German, New Zealand and United States control. Since 1962 Samoa is again an independent nation. For philatelists and postal historians there is plenty to go for.

Collecting a cross-boundary item as I do – "Newspaper Wrappers Worldwide from Before 1900" – I sometimes touch on areas so fascinating that I get tempted to start up a new collection.

Looking for wrappers on the Internet in December 2006 I came across an unusual one at Ebay. The starting price was low. Having acquired some extra information from the seller I made what I thought was a fair bid 77 US $. You can imagine my surprise when I saw the price going steep upwards and ending at 1.981 US $. I am sure the seller was delighted and just as surprised as I was.

What is so special about this wrapper? According to the postmark dated August 16 (no year), it was sent from Apia on the Island of Upolo, which is part of the group of 14 islands that lies about 1600 miles north-east of New Zealand and bears the name of Samoa. The addressee is a Mr. Kusenach, in Lehe, which is a small town near Bremerhafen at the North West coast of Germany. The wrapper is directed to be sent via San Francisco in the United States.

The postage is made up of a 1 penny stamp from The Kingdom of Samoa (probably SG 35 issued in Mai 1890) plus a 1 cent stamp from the United States (Y&T 1931 no. 70 issued 1890 – 1893). This combination is unusual.

The reason behind this special rate is that the United States had joined the UPU in 1875. Samoa was however still not a party to the UPU cooperation, and therefore the question of the validity of Samoan stamps for oversees postage was raised. Mail from Samoa for e.g. Australia and New Zealand was accepted without surcharge by their postal authorities, but for delivery in the United States and onwards additional postage was needed. For a letter 5cent; for a printed matter 1 cent (at least according to our wrapper).

World History Stamp Atlas by Rossiter and Flower 1986/1991

Stanley Gibbons, British Commonwealth 2000 Edition

Yvert et Tellier Catalogue de Timbres Postes 1931

Saturday, 3 November 2007

A Jewel of Danish Philately: 48 sk. block of 4

At a recent auction held by Enger in Norway one of the jewels of Danish Philately was sold for a considerable sum: A block of four of 48 skilling bi-colored issued in 1870.

The block is special in two ways. All four stamps have the so-called "thick frame". All 48 sk. have that frame so the 48 sk. does not exist with the thinner frame that is the frame common to most bi-colored editions. As always there are exceptions and I shall revert to them in a later post.

The other reason why the block is special is because the stamp in the South East corner has the inverted frame. Yes you are right. A thick inverted frame. In one sheet of 100 of 48 sk. stamps only two stamps have the inverted frame. The two stamps with the inverted frame are called isolated inverted thick frames, which is natural since the other 98 stamps in the sheet have the normal thinner frame.

How does one recognize a thick frame? Yes! it is a bit larger than the normal frame. In fact if you measure the corner feather North East we are talking about 0.2 mm. A normal feather measures 2.6 mm. A thick feather 2.8 mm. But it is not just the feathers that are bigger. The whole frame is a little bit bigger.

If you face a real thick frame you cannot miss it, however – and there is always an however – the clichés of the normal frame do become worn and sometimes a stamp from a printing having been printed wholly or partly with worn cliché’s do look as if they have thick frames. They do not. I show you one of each. First a genuine thick normal frame followed by a stamp printed with a worn cliché of a normal thinner frame.

Enjoy the 4 block because you will probably not be able to see it live. The purple color very easily fades when exposed to natural bright light and therefore the block is not likely to be shown at public exhibitions and fairs.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Danish Bicoloured: The Elusive Frames

The Danish bi-colored stamps (1875 - 1905) are wonderful stamps. Pretty and full of unsolved mysteries. You can spend hours learning about how they were designed, produced and finally delivered by the printers to the Postal Authorities. If you have studied enough, which presupposes having enough material; If you have acces to the right literature and have acquired some experience in identifying the secreets, you may be able to determine a stamp by its printing and maybe even by its original position in the sheet.

The Danish bi-colored stamps are not rare stamps. Most of them were produced in millions. Some of the denominations you can even still buy by the hundreds for 15 - 20 $. Others will cost you more.

Their design consists of a frame and an oval. In order to determine their type according to the catalogues you need to understand at least the difference between a normal and an inverted frame. You will see the difference clearly from the old drawing shown above.

I will not dwell on the details of the differences between the two types in this posting. The point I want to make is, that you can only very rarely determine their number in the catalog and thereby their value by their type of frame alone. You need to combine the information of the type with more information to do that. Therefore never accept information given at auction or by a seller about the type of a stamp as the only and final proof of the identity of a stamp if the auctioneer or the seller claims that the stamp is rare and valuable because of its type of frame alone.

Some stamps with a normal frame can in facty be very rare; some stamps with an inverted frame can also in fact be very rare. It all depends, which denomination and which printing they belong to. And in order to determine that, you need a whole lot more information about this series and experience in dealing with this information as I have already stated above.Therefore if tempted by an offer of a bi-cored stamp with a rare frame always demand a certificate by an expert known to posses the necessary knowledge about the subject.

Here follows two samples. One stamp with an inverted frame and one stamp with a normal frame. Soon I'll come back to complicate matters telling about thick frames, which can also be devided into the to types mentioned.