Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Syria 106A On eBay

A copy of SYRIA #106a NH CAT $170.00, Item number 250451789564 is listed on eBay with a minimum opening bid of $40.00. End time is Wed, Jul-01 at 7:25:19 pm EST. This is reputedly the most difficult to find stamp in the "Blue," but I'm beginning to have my doubts. I found one last year on StampWants and now here's another.

Update 7-12-09: The stamp sold for US $155.63.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder, Indian State Style

A stamp collecting forum I haven't mentioned before is A thread I particularly enjoyed had the great title "Banging the drum for the Uglies" and refers to the stamps of the various Indian States.

According to tonymacg who started the thread: "I don't know who coined the term 'the Uglies' for the Indian States, but it goes back a long way. Probably a Penny Black fancier. Anyway, it refers to the group of Indian princely states that, at different times between 1864 and 1953, ran their own post offices, and issued their own stamps - in most cases, valid only for postage within the borders of the particular State."

There are a number of photos of appallingly ugly stamps and information about them. Unfortunately, many of these can't be found in the "Blue" International but that doesn't make them any less interesting to the Classic Era Stamp Collector.

Jal Cooper in his Stamps of India book gives a good explanation of the difference between Convention States and Feudatory States which can be summarized as: Convention states overprinted the stamps of British India while the Feudatory States came up with their own distinctive designs. As I've commented before, Scott provides spaces for some of the Feudatory States but only a compilation page for the Convention State overprints.

The Convention states were comprised of Chamba, Faridkot, Gwalior, Jind, Nabha and Patiala and all were signatories of postal conventions with the British Government of India. According to Cooper, "these stamps were mostly used for internal postal services in the States, but they had a franking value of carrying letters outside the State limits to any part of British India."

Cooper provides a handy list of Indian States with the years they issued stamps. Two of these don't fall chronologically into the time period of the Blue: Idar and Jasdan. These full list is:

Bahawalpur (not in Pakistan)
Faridkot (both Convention and Feudatory)
Idar (1941-1950, not in the "Blue")
Jasdan (1942-1950, not in the "Blue")
Jind (both Convention and Feudatory)
Las Bela (now in Pakistan)

Friday, June 5, 2009

International Blue-per #2: Angola 129,130

I'm penciling in Scott catalog numbers for Angola and get to the 1914-26 Portuguese Colonial Ceres key-type series: 1/2c olive brown, Scott 118--check, 1/2c black, 119--check...5c deep blue--nope. What's going on? I'm staring at two spaces in the album for the 5c value, one deep blue, the other bright blue. The 2007 Scott Classic Catalogue lists only one 5c stamp and it is described simply as blue.

My 1941 Scott catalog, however, matches the album. It assigns the number 129 to the 5c deep blue from 1913. The number 130 is assigned to the 5c bright blue from 1922.

In its single listing in the 2007 catalog, confusingly, Scott has dropped #129 entirely and changes #130 from the 1922 issue to 1913.

All of this presents the "Blue" collector with a problem. Regardless of the catalog, the album has two spaces. Does the revised listing in the 2007 Catalog mean that there never were two different colors actually in circulation? That's going to be a problem if the collector wants to fill every space in the album.

My next step was to search for the stamp(s) through the usual sources (the APS Stamp Store, StampWants, et al). Guess what, it didn't take long to find the 5c stamps in two obviously different shades of blue:

As to sources other than Scott, the Yvert&Tellier Catalogue assigns numbers 148 and 207 to these stamps. Len Thompson's article, "Starred Ceres" (PPSB #111 May 1990) gives a detailed listing for 6 Portuguese colonies, but not Angola which fell out of the scope of the article. Nevertheless, these listings tend to confirm multiple colors for similar issues. His listings are based on the Simoes Ferreira catalogue.

Several collectors on the always helpful rec.collecting.stamps.discuss responded to my question about these issues.Tony Vella says that his "Eládio de Santos lists the 1914 Angola 5c as azul-escuro (dark blue) and the 1922 issue as both azul-claro (light blue) and azul-esverdeado (greenish-blue). Chris kindly provided a list from his Stanley Gibbons 1996 Part 9 catalog:

1914: blue, chalk-surfaced paper, p15x14 (SG 211)
1915-21: deep blue, unsurfaced wove paper, p15x14 (SG 284)
1918: pale blue, ditto (SG 284a)
1924: deep blue, unsurfaced paper, p12x11.5 (SG 306)
1921-26: pale blue, ditto (SG 306a)

(For an interesting thread on Ceres issues of the Portuguese Colonies click here.)

By way of background, the following colonies used the Colonial Ceres key-type: in Africa, these were Angola, Portuguese *Congo*, Cape Verde, *Guiné*, Moçambique, Inhambane, Lourenço Marques, Quelimane, *Tete*, St. Thomas & Prince. In Asia, Portuguese *India*, *Macao*, *Timor*. (Colonies are from John Cross in his article "1913-14 Colonial Ceres: Plate Varieties" (Portu-Info #112 1994).

I checked each of these colonies that used the Ceres key-type and found several still in the 2007 Scott Catalog that have the same color pairing:

Cape Verde

Scott 155 5c deep blue ('14)
Scott 156 5c brt blue ('22)

Scott 221 10a deep blue ('13')
Scott 222 10a pale blue ('23)

Thompson lists both a 10a dark blue and 10a blue from November 1913 and a 10a ultramarine and 10a blue from 1922.

Portuguese Guinea
Scott 151 5c deep blue ('14)
Scott 152 5c brt blue ('22)

Thompson lists both a 5c blue and pale blue from 1914 and a 5c greenish blue from 1921-22.

St. Thomas and Prince Islands
Scott 205 5c deep blue ('14)
Scott 206 5c brt blue ('22)

Scott 31 5c deep blue ('14)

Thompson lists a 5c blue and 5c light blue from 1914.

Why did Scott reduce the Angola 5c to a single shade? One possibility is that the colors were felt to be a consequence of the type of paper used and not the use of two different inks. Scott notes that "Two kinds of paper, chalky-surfaced paper and ordinary, were used..." Additionally, Cross states that "the values of especially the first issuance were reprinted many times to replenish depleted stocks. This resulted in a while host of paper, perforation and (where applicable) star varieties for primarily the major colonies."

Why did Scott drop the Angola pair but not the multiple colors for Cape Verde, Macao, Portuguese Guinea or St. Thomas and Prince Islands? My bet is that Scott at some point decided to simplify the Ceres listings for Angola but never got around to doing the same for the other colonies listed above. If so, the "Blue-per" is in the catalog, not the album! IMO the two shades are sufficiently distinctive and available that Scott should restore #129 to the catalog.

In any event, I now own the 5c in both shades so I can remove that roadblock in my quest to complete the "Blue" International.