Saturday 27 October 2007

How to deal with faulty stamps! Point of view

Hand in old faulty stamps to your club or society, put them up on stiff sheets with a plastic cover and lend them to members who want to learn about early editions.

Surprisingly often I see faulty old Danish stamps, especially from the “skilling" denomination period of 1851 – 1875, offered for sale at horrendous prices. I wonder what happens to these stamps in the end, since they are rarely sold for the price that the seller asks? I have however noticed that some of these faulty stamps reemerge in collections put up for sale. Suppose the seller is thinking, if I bury them among other stamps, which are in a better shape, buyers will not notice or not mind? May even increase the total price of the lot?

What do I mean when I say faulty? I mean missing perforation, cut into or cut off all perforation, smaller or bigger creases, corners missing, thins aso. They really look and are clearly faulty bad quality stamps. What do I mean when I say horrendous prices? I mean the full or close to full catalog price. Their real value if any is a small fraction only of the catalog price.

My advice to sellers of old faulty Danish stamps is the following. Describe them for what they are, faulty. Put them up for sale at auction at the lowest possible selling price. Put them up in lots of 10 or 20 and I am sure the sellers will see that these stamps have after all a value as study material. Many a collector’s question about type, colour, variety, print aso could be answered by the collector him- or herself, if only they were owners of a sample.

Another idea would be for the stamp collectors clubs or societies to encourage their members to hand in these faulty stamps, put them up on stiff sheets with a plastic cover and lend them to members who want to learn about early editions.

No need to say, that the above pieces of advice is valid for all countries as far as old or classic stamps are concerned. It is only because I am Danish and a collector of Danish stamps that I make my comments on the background of my knowledge of classic Danish stamps.

Saturday 20 October 2007

A Danish letter card for North Schleswig, probably unique. Why?

I want to show you the front and back of a letter-card sent from Kolding, a town close to the Danish border with Germany, as defined as a result of the war with Prussia in 1864 (changed again in 1920), to my town of birth, Haderslev, a few kilometers south of the same border.

The card looks a bit worn, but never mind. I consider it very rare if not unique, and if this holds true, a stain here or there and a bit of rust do not matter. Very probably it is the only card of this kind in existence.

Since the card does in itself not provide too much information I have had to dig it out from various sources, and only thanks to good friends in the philatelic world, I succeeded.

Its destination, Haderslev, is clear from the front. Equally so is the fact that it was transported by railway all the way to Haderslev. I know this is so from the postmark which says "FYEN.JB.P.B. 27.3. 3. TOG". This particular postmark was, according to "The Railway Post Offices of Denmark 1847-1972" from 1979 written by Anthony M. Goodbody, used by the railway post bureau created in 1865 in the island of Funen. The bureau covered the line between Nyborg and Middelfart.

In 1866 this line, however, was extended to Vamdrup in Jutland, which is important for the postal history behind our letter-card. Vamdrup, between 1864 and 1920 the very busy railway borderstation between Denmark and Germany, lies a few kilometers south of Kolding on the railway that would take the card to Haderslev. By the way, it was not until 1872 that the actual train wagons themselves were transferred from Funen to Jutland across the Sound of Lillebaelt since ferries made for the carrying of train wagons simply were not in use in Denmark prior to that year.

The reason why the route is important is the fact that the card bears no mention of the town of departure. However the knowledge we have on the name of the sender in combination with the message carried by the letter-card and the special rate used reveals that the town of departure is most certainly Kolding.

The senders name is Roose and the message concerns the deliveries of carriages with bran, a byproduct of grain processing. Roose was an important dealer in grain and feeding stuff in Kolding during the period 1870 – 1880.

The stamp used (2nd print of 4 øre bicolored) in combination with the 2 sk. stationery letter-card narrows the year of the sending of the card to 1875 more precisely 27th March 1875 according to the postmark. January 1st Denmark due to a monetary reform changed from Rigsdaler/Skilling to Kroner/Øre. 2 sk was converted to 4 øre. It follows that altogether the postage used was 8 øre.

But the rate at the time for letter cards to Germany was 10 øre? No postage due markings are found on the card. 8 øre, however, corresponds with the special border rate for Schleswig. This rate though was only valid for letters not for letter-cards except for the fact that until 30th June 1875, the day before Denmark joins the uniform rates of the UPU, lettercards were de facto treated like letters and among the very few Post Offices covered by the special border rate at the time were Kolding and Haderslev.

To sum up: This lettercard is characterized by 1) its mixed postage of sk. and øre, 2) its special border rate and 3) the fact that letter-cards were accepted de facto for this rate only between January, 1st and July, 1st 1875. Together these three characteristics make the letter-card rare, if not unique.

I want to thank Lars Engelbrecht and Jørgen Kluge, the latter being the author of an e-book on
Danish Border Mail, for their invaluable help in confirming my belief that the letter-card was and is a border-letter.

Sunday 7 October 2007

French Balloon Post for Denmark - A Rarity

At the Internet pages of the French auction house Lugdunum Philatélie I noticed the above fantastic letter. The letter was posted in Paris on October 7th, 1870 its destination being Denmark: Mrs. R. Valentin, Amagertorv 27, København. It was posted by the son of the addressee. I presume that at the time he was attached to the family business in Paris, Valintin & Frankfurter, 4 Passage Violet, Paris. Anyhow, that is how the return address, which can be seen on the front of the letter, reads. The letter is franked with two Napoleon III stamps (with a laurel wreath), the 20c blue and the 30c brown, in all 50c which sufficed as postage for Denmark according to the red box mark PD on the front, " Payé à Destination".

What makes this letter very special is, however, that it left Paris in a pile of letters placed in a balloon. This fact emerges clearly from the letter front: "par Ballon libre". I am not a collector of French postal history and therefore it is with a certain reservation that I reproduce the following information (in other words do consult my source of information): As I understand it there were two kinds of balloons, manned balloons and un-manned balloons. Whether a letter was sent by the one or the other, can in certain cases be determined by the front of the pre-printed correspondence cards, which were very quickly put on the marked by private firms. If it said "par Ballon libre" the balloon was un-manned, if it said "par Ballon monté" it was a manned balloon. Out of the in all 67 balloons 55 were manned. The postage, the weight and size permitted, varied according to the type of balloon employed. That the manned type was soon preferred to the un-manned is self-evident.

Our letter was sent by an un-manned balloon on October 7th, 1870. In all three balloons were despatched that very day, out of which at least one was manned namely the balloon with the name of the famous George Sand. Another was called Armand Barbe and the third either had no name or was called Piper No 1. They landed in the non occupied areas of France and the letters were handed in by the finder at a near by Post Office for further attention. Of course the finder received a neat compensation for the trouble caused and a reward.

The contents of the letter sound the following:

My dear Mother
I confirm my letters from last week. We are still under siege, but have the best of hopes; the Prussians die outside Paris! I am in good health and I hope the same is the case for you, my dear Mother, and that all the family is in good health. My very best wishes to all of you, your affectionate son
J Valentin.

If we did not already know here is the explanation why the mail leaving Paris was shipped by balloons. The French-Prussian war rages and Paris is under siege. The war was declared by France on July 19th, 1870 and ended by the signing of an armistice agreement on January 28th, 1871.

To those collectors who look for more information about this period or about the postal history of France dating 1848 – 1878 I would recommend to turn to a beautifully illustrated book published this year by Michéle Chauvet and Jean-Francois Brun.

Mr. Brun informs that an estimated two to three million letters were shipped out of Paris by balloon during the siege most of them to destinations in France itself. How many balloon mail letters exist with Denmark as their final destination I do not know? I have been told about the existence of one other letter so maybe there are indeed two of them.