From the Stacks
Swedish Royal Mail Cover with an Atypical Postmark
The following report is another example of “limited research” I attempt to perform for SCC members who inquire about various subjects. The SCC Library (SCCL) is a veritable treasure trove of information that is accessible to all members, and I will do my best to steer members toward the information available to help them in their quests. As I have mentioned previously on several occasions, SCCL’s Exhibits and Collections (E&C) section contains many particularly useful holdings to help answer difficult questions.
For a case in point, Warren Grosjean sent me a scan of an 1857 cover posted by Crown Princess Louise of Sweden to Queen Sophia of the Netherlands that he purchased at auction from Björn Jarlvik Filateli, Stockholm, Sweden. This cover is illustrated below as Figure 1, and the caption is an excerpt of Jarlvik’s auction lot description that was kindly translated from Swedish to English by Peter Bergh.
Warren inquired about the Stockholm postmarks on this cover, indicating he has never seen this “type” before and wondered if perhaps the Royal Palace in Stockholm had its own post office with a distinctive cancelling device. The postmarks are a typical Antiqua Stockholm circular datestamp (c.d.s.) type, but with two differing characteristics from normal ? a missing arc at the bottom of the circle and a missing year date (a split “18” and “57” that ordinarily would appear, respectively, to the left and right of the “21/10” (October 21) date. Warren indicated that he checked the standard references listing Swedish postmarks of the period but could not find this “type” listed, and asked for help. I searched through the numerous Swedish postmark handbooks and catalogues SCCL possesses and could not find this one listed either! Consequently, it was time for me to do some “limited research” in the SCCL E&C section.
(Figure 1 and 2 are not available)
Figure 1. Fantastic letter 60sk to La Haye, Holland double postage, franked with 2x 24 skilling Banco and 2 x 6, skilling Banco, cancelled Stockholm 21-10-1857. The letter is from the so-called Queen correspondence. HOW Certificate, very good item. Rare high skilling franking; very few known! Exquisite exhibition item. (Note the two anomalies on the Stockholm postmarks: incomplete circle at bottom and no or partial year date.)
After perusing numerous auction catalogues and exhibits containing skilling stamps and covers from this period, I found several items (including another cover from the “Queen’s correspondence”) with this Stockholm c.d.s. postmark that had the same two aforementioned characteristics (incomplete circle at the bottom and no or partial year date), none of which were described as being a specific type c.d.s. All of these were from 1857 and had “10” (October) strikes at the bottom, identical to Warren’s cover. Several of these with earlier October dates (Figure 2) showed faint year dates, usually partial strikes of the “1” and “7” but the later October dates were marked by a complete disappearance of the “18” and “57”!
Figure 2. October 16, 1857 cover (cert. Obermüller-Wilén) with incomplete Stockholm datestamp from Postiljonen Auction #162, March 21-22, 1997. Traces of the year date to the right and left of the “10”.are barely visible, and both postmarks show the missing arc at the bottom. I attributed these characteristics to a worn or defective handstamp, but Warren suggests that they were caused by an improper seating of the “10” month insert, which was corrected when new month “11” was inserted for November. I found many examples of this “incomplete” Stockholm postmark on stamps and covers, all dated October 1857, in my search through SCCL’s E&C holdings of exhibits, collections, and auction catalogues of classic Sweden.
What I think is a logical (“Occam’s razor”) explanation is that one of the ordinary Stockholm c.d.s. cancelling devices ? I presume for a large city like Stockholm several cancellers were in service at any given time ? experienced damage or deterioration or wear and was in use for some time during that month before being discovered as “faulty” and removed from service. So, in conclusion, not any kind of a special type of previously unreported cancelling device for the Royal Palace, but simply “wear and tear” of one of the normal Stockholm c.d.s. cancellers. I have not found any previous mention of this phenomenon in the literature, but perhaps it has been reported in the past?
When Warren read my explanation and reviewed the scans of the similar postmarks I had sent him, he responded favorably and offered this explanation:
A defective dated handstamp in use only for the month of October. Actually, it is likely that the handstamp itself was not defective, but when the date/month inserts were changed on October 1, the month insert was not properly seated. The “10” was set too high blocking the ink depositing on the part of the handstamp where the year and lower ring were supposed to do their jobs. When a new month was inserted into the stamper, this error was corrected. Gee, I thought I had discovered a new postmark!
Finland’s 1865-66 Rouletted Revenue Stamps
Ed Fraser had contacted me in the past that he is aiding a group of foreign revenue stamp specialists in California who are undertaking research on the serpentine-roulette types on Finland’s documentary revenue stamps of 1865-66. Much about the subject is recorded in the philatelic literature and SCCL has several useful references that summarize what is presently known. By way of introduction, the printed sheets of these revenue stamps were serpentine rouletted using the same rouletting discs I, II, and III used for the Finnish postage stamps of that period, the 1860-67 “large tooth” type M/60 coat-of-arms issues. Since the revenues were in a larger rectangular format (~32 mm x ~66 mm) than the postage stamps, their rouletting devices were larger than those used for the postage stamps. In addition, an extra-large disc IV was made especially for the revenues.
Because the revenues were first rouletted horizontally with the aid of a ruler, then separated and the strips rouletted vertically, mixed roulettes on a stamp are common, even to the extent that they are more common than a single roulette on a stamp. However, certain combinations of irregular rouletting ? for example, stamps having one side different or with three different roulette types ? are rare with only about 40 examples recorded. Disc III roulettes on revenues are uncommon to rare. The rouletting discs continuously wore down through use and had to be sharpened and re-sharpened, and through this process, the shape and length of the serpentine roulettes did not remain constant. Also complicating the process, on occasion the revenues were rouletted using the devices intended for the postage stamps.
The inaugural issue (1/1950) of Libertas Philateliae, a short-lived (1950-56) periodical dealing the so-called fringe areas of philately edited by E. A. Hellman and soon followed by Björn-Eric Saarinen, contained a 14-page article titled “The Serpentine Rouletted Stamps of Finland.” Alas, SCCL does not have any copies of this journal. Jussi Touri wrote an article in Finnish on the rouletted revenues in Tabellarius 5 (2003), which SCCL has (FIN B133-2003FE). Fortunately, an English translation by Carita Parker (edited by Sheldon Tobin and Kauko Åro), which contains the same numerous illustrations as the Finnish-text article, appeared in The Finnish Philatelist, Vol. 10, No. 4, November 2005, pages 3-13. Color photocopies of the Parker translation are available from the SCCL.
Touri’s article is an excellent introduction to the collecting field and details the golden age of Finnish revenue collecting in the 1940s and early 1950s. Three good exhibits in the Helsinki Stamp Exhibition of 1948 that included significant amounts of new research fared poorly in the judging. This situation offended Finnish revenue collectors who pressed the issue with the newly founded Philatelic Federation of Finland (PFF). When the issue came up on ballot, the majority of PFF members voted unfavorably concerning revenue-stamp collecting, and the PFF went so far as to no longer accept revenue exhibits in PFF-sponsored shows. These actions were the impetus to publish Libertas Philateliae, made possible by the generous financial support of distinguished Swedish collector Hans Lagerlöf. Finland’s internal ban on revenue exhibiting became moot in 1991 when the Fédération Internationale de Philatélie, the world federation for philately based in Zurich, Switzerland, established a revenue stamp class and a commission to oversee this branch of philately.
Interest in Finnish revenue stamps in Finland has reemerged in large part thanks to Björn-Eric Saarinen’s excellent hardbound catalogue titled Finland and Åland Revenue Stamp and Revenue Stamped Paper Catalog 1998, edited by Jay Smith and published by Jay Smith & Associates. It is bilingual in English and Finnish and available for loan from SCCL (FIN B95FE) or for purchase from Jay at $39.50 + p&p (http://www.jaysmith.com/Literature/lit050-fin.html). This catalogue devotes 17 pages to the rouletted documentary issues and illustrates, in addition to the stamps themselves, one of the rouletting devices and the four roulette types. Detailed information on the roulette types, such as how many per 2 cm and the length of roulette teeth are included.
In my opinion, the best reference to date on the subject is a book titled Finland – Rouletted Revenue Stamps – The Jussi Tuori Collectionthat reproduces in color 123 pages from Tuori’s Large Gold Award exhibit that was actively shown internationally during 2005-08. This book, published by Corinphila Auctions in 2009 as issue XV of its “Edition D’Or” publication series, contains much of Tuori’s original research on the rouletted revenue stamps and serves well as a specialized handbook on the 1865-66 issues. It is available for loan from SCCL (FIN B96E) or for purchase from Corinphila at CHF69 (~$70) + p&p (https://corinphila.ch/en/_ptshop/?action=show_item&id=15#).
Additionally, SCCL has available for loan two earlier revenue catalogues that include information and (now badly outdated) pricing on the rouletted revenues. The pioneering work by E. A. Hellman, titled Suomen Leimamerkit / Finnish Revenue Stamps (FIN B92F) and published in 1944, is entirely in Finnish and has seven pages on the subject. A priced catalogue by Harald Olander entirely in English, titled The Revenue Stamps of Finland (FIN B94F), was edited and published in 1969 in Pittsburg, PA by William Ittel. Olander’s catalog appears more useful than Hellman’s earlier catalog in that it contains seven pages of introductory material, listings, and prices in U.S. dollars (albeit outdated) on the rouletted revenue issues. However, I do not recommend either of these two catalogs since the information therein has been superseded by the substantial research done after their publication, much of which is included in the aforementioned Saarinen and Tuori books. Hellman’s and Olander’s catalogs are retained by SCCL as historical references primarily for an indication of the “catalog values” of these revenues at the time of their respective publication dates.
I encourage your comments about the content of this column and questions you have about the SCCL and its operations. Also, your suggestions for future column topics are always welcome. Please do not hesitate to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, USPS mail at Roger Cichorz, 3925 Longwood Ave., Boulder, CO 80305-7233, U.S.A., or telephone (303) 494-8361.