Thursday, May 28, 2009

International Blue-per #1: Syria 106a

I thought it might be interesting to report periodically on bloopers in the "Blue" International as I come across them. By bloopers, I mean stamps that don't belong in the album because they fall outside its scope, stamps in the album but no longer in the Scott catalog, incorrect descriptions that don't match any stamps, and other curiosities that a collector will encounter.

I have found three bloopers so far but as I am still researching two of these, lets start with one already mentioned in this blog: Syria 106a, reputedly the scarcest stamp in volume 1. As I've already talked about why this stamp doesn't belong in the International (, I won't repeat these comments. But I would like to mention a few facts about the error and how it came to be. Most of the specialized information below is from Alexander Kaczmarczyk's book, The Postal Issues of Syria, Lebanon and the Alaouites 1919-1945.

As a younger collector, I found overprints and surcharges boring, but now recognize how often these additions are illustrative of interesting historical conditions. In the case of Syria, previous to 1918, this country used Turkish stamps. After World War 1, France assumed responsibility for the occupied territory and rather than create stamps specifically for Syria, instead overprinted existing French stamps. These overprints changed over time to reflect various revisions in the administration of Syria. For example:

  • The 1919 French stamps to be used in Syria were overprinted T.E.O. for "Occupied Enemy Territory."
  • In 1920, this changed to O.M.F. for "French Military Occupation."
  • For a few months in 1920/21, the Aleppo Province used Egyptian piastres rather than centimes, requiring the addition to the overprint of the word piastre and a "dingbat" rosette to cover up the original letter c following the denomination.
  • In 1923 following a mandate from the League of Nations to change from military to civilian administration, the O.M.F. overprint was replaced by "Syrie Grand Liban."

The First Civilian Mandate issues, valid between September 1923 and 15 February 1924, were overprinted on the then current French designs:
Scott 104/Yvert 88 10C overprinted on 2c violet French Blanc type: Liberty-Egality-Fraternity
Scott 105/Yvert 90 25C on 5c orange Sower
Scott 106/Yvert 91 50C on 10c green Sower
Scott 107/Yvert 92 75C on 15c olive-green Sower
Scott 108/Yvert 93 1P on 20c brown Sower
Scott 109/Yvert 93 1,25P on 25c blue Sower
Scott 110/Yvert 94 1,50P on 30c orange Sower
Scott 111/Yvert 95 1,50P on 30c red Sower
Scott 112/Yvert 96 2,50P on 50c blue/dark blue Sower

(In addition there were similar overprints on the Merson and Pasteur designs.)

There overprints offer collectors numerous varieties. You'll find examples where the overprint was double printed, printed off-center or inverted (sometimes just a single letter, in other cases the entire overprint). In other cases, there are noticeable variations in spacing (leading/kerning), e.g. Sy rie. There are overprints with missing commas (2 50 instead of 2,50) and, in at least one case, a missing denomination. There are misspellings (cnetiemes for centiemes). And there are a few "albino" lettering--i.e., outlines only. Here are some typical examples:
In addition, there are two examples of an overprint being applied to the wrong stamp. One is the 50C overprint which should be on the 10c green Sower but which was erroneously applied to the 5c orange. This error is listed in Kaczmarczyk but not found in the International album or Scott or Yvert catalogs. The other is the 25C overprint which should be on the 5c orange instead being erroneously applied to the 10c green. This is the infamous Scott 106a/Yvert 90a that somehow found its way into the Scott International Junior and subsequently into the "Blue" International.

One might reasonably wonder about the lack of quality control at the printers who applied these overprints but the reason for the inconsistencies is rather surprising. The overprinting was performed by the Imprimerie Jeanne-d'Arc press operated by Capuchin monks in Beruit. According to Kaczmarczyk, "a good portion of the press employees were orphans raised by the monks which may explain the number of varieties and errors that this press produced." (A picture post card survives of the press operations--see So I guess we should cut them some slack?

What else do we know via Kaczmarczyk about 106a? Approximately 630,000 10c greens with the correct 50C overprint were released beginning in October 1923 but we have no idea how many additional of these are the 25C error. The errors were applied to existing French stamps in sheets of 100 (four 5x5 panes) with a central gutter, "millésime" 3 in row 2. Here is an example of a "millésime": According to Kaczmarcyzk, "in the great majority of cases" the sheets "were overprinted in one operation by the use of 50-cliché printing plates." This suggests that at least fifty (one hundred?) of the errors were printed in 1923 and at least one stamp with the gutter and number "3" attached brought itself to the attention of a stamp collector. The stamp apparently exists in both unused and used condition. It would be interesting to learn if multiples of 106a have survived or if there are examples on cover. If anyone has any additional information, please let me know.

The 2009 Scott catalog values 106a at $170 in unused condition only, same as 2008 but up from $125 in 2007. Yvert & Tellier in 2008 valued 90a at 250 Euros in both unused and used condition. As indicated in another blog post, the error is not in Stanley Gibbons.

But regardless of how interesting, the bottom line is that this Syrian error is out of place in a volume that focuses on "the varieties ordinarily found in most collections...."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Missing countries in the 1969 edition of the "Blue" International

As threatened a few days ago, I have compared the contents of the 1969 edition of the "Blue" with the 1943/47 versions. As a reminder, I believe the 43/47 editions were the most complete of the "Blue" Internationals. While I am not certain, I believe the 1969 edition was the last single volume edition. Because of editorial changes, it is not identical with the 1943/47 versions. In fact, the 1969 album is missing 68 countries or other political entities that are in the 43/47 version, specifically:

China Offices Abroad (1911, i.e. Tibet)
China Offices Abroad (1915-20, 1929, i.e., Sinkiang)
China Offices Abroad (1925, i.e. Yunnan Province)
China Offices Abroad (1929, i.e., Manchuria)
Eastern Rumelia
Eastern Silesia
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Bamra*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Barwani*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Bhopal*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Bhore*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Bijawar*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Bundi*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Bussahir*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Dhar*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Duttia*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Faridkot*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Jammu and Kashmir*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Jhalawar*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Jhind*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Las Bela*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Morvi*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Nandgaon*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Nowanuggur*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Orchha*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Poonch*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Rajpeepla*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire...--Wadhwan*
India--Feudatory States of the British Empire....--Alwar*
Ionian Islands
Italy--Offices in Turkish Empire--Albania*
Italy--Offices in Turkish Empire--Constantinople*
Italy--Offices in Turkish Empire--Durazzo*
Italy--Offices in Turkish Empire--Janina*
Italy--Offices in Turkish Empire--Jerusalem*
Italy--Offices in Turkish Empire--Salonika*
Italy--Offices in Turkish Empire--Scutari*
Italy--Offices in Turkish Empire--Smyrna*
Italy--Offices in Turkish Empire--Valona*
Mecklenburg Schwerin
Mecklenburg Strelitz
Nicaragua--Cabo Gracias a Dios
Nicaragua--Province of Zelaya
Pitcairn Islands
Turkey--Offices in Thessaly
Two Sicilies
White Russia

So is there any pattern? To begin with, White Russia is no doubt missing because Scott by the 1940s had removed these stamps from the catalog after determining they were never officially issued. (Remember that the album on which the "Blue" International is based, the Scott Junior, began in 1917 so there were a number of changes in the catalog in the intervening decades.)

The states or offices marked with an asterisk were all on three "compilation" pages which Scott dropped. Many of the remaining that were deleted were also on a single page with several other countries. For example, one deleted page eliminated the spaces for Baden, Bergedorf, Bremen, and Brunswick; another took care of Hamburg, Hanover and Heligoland.

My guess is that many of these were deleted in Scott's initial editorial attempts to 1) have as many countries as possible begin on their own pages while 2) wanting to get a better alphabetical order BUT 3) trying not to increase costs or size of the album by adding additional pages. If this is accurate, we lost Carinthia, for example, because it was out of sequence (it originally came before Cape of Good Hope). As Carinthia only occupied half a page, including it in the proper alphabetical sequence would have added an additional sheet to the album.

I think all of this is important for two reasons. First, if you are starting an International collection, you need to decide whether you are willing to sacrifice completeness for the current 1997 version's better paper and correct sort order (not only getting the countries in alphabetical order but allowing for integration with later volumes by separating out regular/commemorative issues, airmails, etc.). Unfortunately, not only is the 1997 version missing most of the countries above, it is also missing hundreds of stamps that were in earlier versions (again a victim to alphabetization which dropped "left over" stamps). Of course, you can always use the numerous blank pages in the 1997 four part edition or add your own pages to house the missing stamps/countries. Or you can pick up a used 1943/47 version (sorry, I don't have a clue about the coverage of the 1955 edition) which will give you as complete a "Blue" as was ever produced but at the cost of thinner paper and a vexing alphabetical sequence which also makes it more difficult to add blank pages or integrate with later volumes.

The other reason is that if you are like me, you are initially building your collection through the purchase of "Blues" on eBay, removing what you need as you go through the albums page by page. Knowing the differences between editions could help identify which stamps you might be sorry you didn't remove even if there aren't illustrated in your version.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Win a copy of the 2010 Scott classic catalog

Scott is sponsoring a contest where you can vote on the stamp that will be shown on the cover of the 2010 Scott classic specialized catalog and be automatically entered into a drawing to win a copy of the catalog when published. The two choices are the 1933 Falkland Islands (Scott 74a) King Penguin stamp or the 1931 Indian Native Feudatory State of Jaipur (28) Blue Peafowl. If you are wondering, the Falkland Islands stamp isn't in the "Blue" but the Jaipur issue is.

The voting period ends August 31. For more information or to vote, go to

A Rose is a Rose...

I've uploaded a pdf listing the countries in the 1943/47 editions of the "Blue" International keyed to the names used in the Scott Classics Catalogue. Most of the 500+ political entities are the same, but the following list highlights the main differences. So, by way of example, the stamps listed under Belgian Congo in the catalog are found under Congo in the 1943/47 "Blue." As you may know, while the Scott Catalogue is in alphabetical order, the same can't be said for earlier editions of the album. These "out of sorts" are indicated in parentheses. Again, by way of example, you'll find the album pages for Bavaria before those for Batum. Scott modernized some country names in later editions as well as got the alphabetizing correct starting in the 1970s. Unfortunately, a number of countries that had been in the International were dropped at that time, including many of the ones with only a few issues that had previously been combined on a single page.

Austria Lombardy-Venetia ==> Lombardy-Venetia
Belarus [not in Classic Catalog] ==> White Russia
Belgian Congo ==> Congo
China--Offices in Tibet ==> China Offices Abroad (1911)
China--Provinces--Manchuria ==> China Offices Abroad (1929)
China--Provinces--Sinkiang ==> China Offices Abroad (1915-20, 1929)
China--Provinces--Yunnan ==> China Offices Abroad (1925)
China--Shanghai ==> Shanghai
East Africa and Uganda Protectorates ==> East Africa and Uganda (after Cuba)
Ethiopia ==> Abyssinia
French Morocco ==> France--Offices in Morocco (after Offices in Zanzibar)
German States--Baden ==> Baden
German States--Bavaria ==> Bavaria (before Batum)
German States--Bergedorf ==> Bergedorf (on same page as Baden)
German States--Bremen ==> Bremen (on same page as Baden)
German States--Brunswick ==> Brunswick (on same page as Baden)
German States--Hamburg ==> Hamburg
German States--Hanover ==> Hanover (on same page as Hamburg)
German States--Lubeck ==> Lubeck
German States--Mecklenburg-Schwerin ==> Mecklenburg Schwerin (after Memel)
German States--Mecklenburg-Strelitz ==> Mecklenburg Strelitz (before Mexico)
German States--Oldenburg ==> Oldenburg (after Oltre Giuba)
German States--Prussia ==> Prussia (before Penrhyn Island)
German States--Saxony ==> Saxony
German States--Schleswig-Holstein ==> Schleswig (before Saxony)
German States--Thurn and Taxis--North German Confederation ==> Germany--Postal Service of Princes of Thurn and Taxis--North German Postal District
German States--Thurn and Taxis--Northern District ==> Germany--Postal Service of Princes of Thurn and Taxis--Northern States
German States--Thurn and Taxis--Southern District ==> Germany--Postal Service of Princes of Thurn and Taxis--Southern States
German States--Thurn and Taxis--Wurttemberg ==> Wurttemberg
Iran ==> Persia
Ireland ==> Irish Free State (before Iraq)
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands (Dodecanese) ==> Italy--Aegean Islands
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Calchi ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Karki
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Calino ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Calino
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Caso ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Caso
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Coo ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Coo
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Lero ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Lero
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Nisiro ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Nisiro
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Patmo ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Patmos
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Piscopi ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Piscopi
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Rhodes ==> Italy--Rhodes
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Scarpanto ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Scarpanto**
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Simi ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Simi**
Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Stampalia ==> Italy--Occupation Stamps--Stampalia**
Italian States--Modena ==> Modena (after Mexico)
Italian States--Parma ==> Parma
Italian States--Romagna ==> Romagna (before Queensland)
Italian States--Roman States ==> Roman States
Italian States--Sardinia ==> Sardinia
Italian States--Tuscany ==> Tuscany
Italian States--Two Sicilies ==> Two Sicilies
Jordan ==> Trans-Jordan
Korea ==> Corea
Malaya ==> Straits Settlements--Protected States--Federated Malay States
Malaya--Johore ==> Straits Settlements--Johore
Malaya--Kedah ==> Straits Settlements--Kedah
Malaya--Kelantan ==> Straits Settlements--Kelantan
Malaya--Negri Sembilan ==> Straits Settlements--Negri Sembilan
Malaya--Pahang ==> Straits Settlements--Pahang
Malaya--Perak ==> Straits Settlements--Perak
Malaya--Selangor ==> Straits Settlements--Selangor
Malaya--Sungei Ujong ==> Straits Settlements--Sungei Ujong
Malaya--Trengganu ==> Straits Settlements--Trengganu
Netherlands Antilles ==> Curacao
Netherlands Indies ==> Dutch Indies
Portuguese Guinea ==> Guinea
Puerto Rico ==> Porto Rico
Ruanda-Urundi ==> Belgian East Africa
Saudi Arabia ==> Hejaz
Saudi Arabia--Nejdi Administration of Hejaz ==> Nejd
Slovakia SEE ALSO Czech 255-256 ==> Czechoslovakia--Slovakia--German Protectorate
Solomon Islands ==> British Solomon Islands (after British East Africa)
South Africa ==> Union of South Africa
Spanish Morocco ==> Spain--Offices in Morocco
Spanish Morocco--Tangier ==> Spain--Offices in Morocco--…Tangier (after Spanish Guinea)
Spanish Sahara ==> Spanish Western Sahara
Thailand ==> Siam
Turkey--Military Stamps--For the Army in Thessaly ==> Turkey--Offices in Thessaly
Ubangi-Shari ==> Ubangi
Yugoslavia--Croatia-Slavonia ==> Jugoslavia--Slovenia-Carniola

My next task will be to prepare a similar list for the 1969 edition which is the only other complete "Blue" that I own.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Countries Missing from the 1943/47 Album

Although I've mentioned in several posts that there are countries in the earlier editions of the International that got lost in later revisions, particularly when Scott split volume one into two parts. But that doesn't mean the original "Blue" was complete. I count 21 political entities in the Scott Classics Catalogue that are not in the "Blue" International. This post will look at each of these and try to determine whether the editors of the album made a wise decision to omit. And while I'm at it, I'll report whether the countries are in the Minkus Master Global (I don't have access to any of the Supreme Globals).

Great Britain issued 22 stamps for the capital of Siam between 1877 and 1885. The least expensive is $75, the most expensive is $40,000. Scott made a good call; these stamps are too costly to be included in the "Blue." Not in Minkus.

British Bechuanaland is different from the Bechuanaland Protectorate that is included in the "Blue." Scott lists 42 stamps for Bechuanaland of which a number catalog between 75c and $10. I believe the inexpensive issues of Bechuanaland should be in the "Blue." Both British Bechuanaland and the Bechunaland Protectorate are under Bechuanaland in Minkus.

British Columbia & Vancouver Island
Before this colony became part of Canada, it issued 18 stamps. The stamps catalog between $80 and $1250. Scott rightly omitted these issues. Not in Minkus.

An Iranian port which according to the Classics Catalogue was occupied by British troops in 1915. These 29 stamps catalog between $32.50 and $6250: too expensive for the "Blue." Not in Minkus.

China Treaty Ports
According to Wikipedia, "Treaty ports were port cities in China, Japan and Korea opened to foreign trade by the Unequal Treaties." The catalog lists issues from Amoy, Chefoo, Chinkiang, Chungking, Foochow, Hankow, Ichang, Kewkiang, Nanking, Wei Hai Wei, and Wuhu. Scott differentiates these from the British settlement of Shanghai which is in the "Blue." While few of these stamps are terribly expensive, as a group they would probably best be served by a "compilation page," i.e., a page with the names of the treaty ports at the top but no specific illustrations or descriptions. Of course, it would be great if Scott replaced all of its "compilation pages" with regular album pages with specific spaces, but until that happens... Not in Minkus.

Columbia SCADTA-Consular Overprints
These Consular Overprints were related to airmail and the Scott Classics Catalogue devotes 4 pages to them but they are missing from the "Blue." The majority catalog more than $10 each so Scott was right to omit these pricey if interesting issues. Not in Minkus.

The Columbian states of Antioquia, Bolivar, Cundinamarca, Santander, and Tolima are in the "Blue," but not Boyaca. Most of its 34 issues from 1870-1886 catalog for under one dollar so this state belongs in the "Blue" with the others. Not in Minkus.

Costa Rica--Guanacaste
There are 67 issues for this province which are all overprints of Costa Rican stamps. Some are very expensive, but there are enough issues under $3 that at least a handful should have been included in the "Blue." Not in Minkus.

Faroe Islands
These Danish islands have only 6 stamps in Scott, the least expensive of which is $20. Scott is right to have left these overprints out of the "Blue." Not in Minkus.

Griqualand West
Originally part of the Cape of good Hope, it later became a British Crown Colony. Griqualand West issued 102 overprints of Cape of Good Hope stamps between 1877 and 1878. While several are under $10, most are more expensive and thus the territorial division doesn't belong in the "Blue." (There is a Griqualand East but apparently it didn't have any stamps.) In Minkus under Cape of Good Hope.

India--Native Feudatory States--Idar
Idar didn't start issuing stamps until 1939 and has only one stamp in the time period covered by the "Blue." Even though it only catalogs a few dollars, the stamp appears to be difficult to find. On the other hand, similar issues are relegated to a "compilation page," so it wouldn't be a big deal to add. Not in Minkus.

Italian Offices Abroad--Offices in Africa--Bengasi
The other Office in Africa, Tripoli, is in the "Blue" but with only 2 surcharges cataloging in the $20's, Bengasi doesn't belong. Not in Minkus.

Italian Offices Abroad--Aegean Islands--Lisso
Italy overprinted its stamps for 14 islands which Scott conflates on a single "compilation page" for all but Lisso. Lisso's overprints don't appear to be any more expensive than most of the other islands and should have been included by Scott. In Minkus with the Aegean Islands.

Lithuania--South Lithuania
South Lithuania, specifically, the Grodino District, has 8 overprints, all over $40 each. South Lithuania doesn't belong in the "Blue." Not in Minkus.

Mexico--Provisional Issues
These stamps from ten Mexican states were issued during times of political unrest. Almost all are too expensive for the "Blue" album so this was a good decision by Scott. Not in Minkus.

New Britain
Originally a part of German New Guinea under the name Neu-Pommern, New Britain has 45 surcharged stamps, all of which are too expensive for the "Blue." Surprisingly, these are in Minkus.

New Republic
The New Republic became part of the Union of South Africa, but between 1886 and 1887 issued 64 stamps. Almost all are more than $10 so the republic doesn't belong in the "Blue." Not in Minkus.

Peru--Provisional Issues
Various Peruvian cities issued overprints between 1879-1882. Some of these are under $10 but enough of them are more that these provisional issues probably don't belong in the "Blue." 64 stamps. Almost all are more than $10 so the republic doesn't belong in the "Blue." Not in Minkus.

Wenden was originally part of Livonia. Scott lists 12 stamps issued between 1863 and 1901. While four are under $10, it is a toss-up as to whether Wenden belongs in the "Blue." I found a few Wenden issues on, et al, but that suggests that these aren't that easy to acquire, so I'm going with the "Blue" editors on this one. 64 stamps. Almost all are more than $10 so the republic doesn't belong in the "Blue." Not in Minkus.


This was a republic created by the Boers that issued 6 stamps in 1884-5, all of which are expensive. It doesn't belong in the "Blue." Not in Minkus.

Venezuela--Local Stamps

The Port of Carupano and the State of Guayana issued local stamps between 1902 and 1903. They are too expensive for the "Blue." 64 stamps. Almost all are more than $10 so the republic doesn't belong in the "Blue." Not in Minkus.

As always, corrections or comments would be appreciated.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Album vs. The Catalogue

After 15 or so hours of comparing the 1943/47 editions of the Scott "Blue" with the Scott Classics Catalogue, I think I'm finally getting a handle on the coverage question. The next few posts will work through three areas: 1) countries/political entities in the album but not the catalog; 2) countries in the catalog but completely missing from the album; and 3) a key to the countries in both. The idea of the first two is to help the "Blue" International collector identify areas where the album might usefully be supplemented.

It is important to remember that the album being used for the comparison, the 1943/47 editions of the Scott International, is more complete than the 1997 four part version available today. But I thought it better to start with the most complete version of the album and then see how coverage changed in subsequent versions.

The easiest place to start is to ask whether there are any countries in the 1943/47 "Blue" International that aren't in the Scott Classics Catalogue. I would have thought the answer would be "no," but the correct answer is "one": White Russia. Making this a little more mysterious is that country is in the regular Scott catalog under its current name, Belaruss, just not the Classics volume. The reason is that the ten issues from 1920 in the "Blue" are no longer recognized. According to the catalog, these "five denominations, perf and imperf...were not put in use and were probably propaganda labels. They are common." However, Scott does recognize Belarus issues beginning in 1992 which is why these country is in the current annual catalog.
White Russia is unique in that it isn't anywhere in the catalog, including the index. However, there are countries that used to have their own entries and have since been subsumed. For example, the Carthinthia Plebiscite of Austria. In the album, Carintia has its own pages. In the Scott Classics Catalogue, it is split between Austria B11-B29 and Yugoslavia 4LB1-6.

In my next post I will look at the political entities in the Scott Classics Catalogue but not the "Blue" International.