A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Friday, August 31, 2012


1866 Scott 24 1 1/4S violet Rouletted 10
"Value Numeral on Arms"
Quick History
The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg joined the German-Austrian Postal Union in 1852, and had their own stamp issues from 1859-1867. Then the Free City joined the North German Confederation, and stamp production ceased.

The city had a population of 450,000 in 1880.

Location of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg
On the River Elbe, Hamburg is the most important German Port City
Of interest, there were many "post offices" in the city during the 19th century. The Turn und Taxis Post delivered mail to France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The Prussian Central Post Office delivered the post to Poland, Russia, and Turkey via Austria. The Danish Post and the Swedish-Norwegian Post naturally delivered mail to those areas. The mail to England or overseas was handled by the Hamburg City post.

The City of Hamburg in 1811
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic specialized catalogue , from 1859-1867, has 22 major number descriptions for the stamps of Hamburg. BTW, the coverage for Hamburg is found under the German States category.

Of those, four have a CV of $5+-$10, Five are valued between $10+-$30, and nine more are between $30+-$85. A small representative selection could be acquired by the frugal classic era collector.

A fly in the ointment are the reprints, which will need to be distinguished from the originals.

A closer look at the stamps and issues

1865-65 Scott 13 1/2S black
The first issues in 1859 were imperforate, but had a design similar to the one shown here. They were watermarked with a wavy line (wmk 128), as were all the stamps through 1865.

The 1859 issue (seven stamps) and the 1864 issue (two stamps), all have a rather high catalogue value ($70+-$170+), and I don't have any. ;-)

The Perforated 13 1/2 ten stamp issue of 1864-65 has seven stamps with CV $5+-$30.

The design shows the "Arms" of Hamburg.

Coat of Arms of Hamburg
Of interest, the city takes its name from a castle built by the Emperor Charlemagne in 808, called Hammaburg.

1864-65 Scott 23 2 1/2s yellow green, blurred printing
Almost certainly a reprint
Shown here is the 2 1/2s yellow green, where even the original can be found with a blurred printing, noted especially in the corners. But this example is most certainly a reprint, as it is unwatermarked, and has a perforation of 12 X 11/2.

1866 Scott 24 1 1/4S violet Rouletted 10
In 1866, a two stamp issue was produced, as shown, rouletted 10, and unwatermarked. CV $5+-$30+. These stamps were also reprinted. Scott gives an extensive written description of the differences, and the Serrane Guide has illustrations. (More about that later.)

How to tell the difference?
• The original printing for the 1 1/4 has the rosettes between the words of the inscription with an open circle in the center.

• The upper left corner triangle has the two lower lines of unequal thickness.

"1866 Scott 24 1 1/4S violet Rouletted 10"
A reprint
I have another example of the 1 1/4, and it is definitely a reprint.

• The rosettes have an infilled circle in the center.

• The upper left corner triangle has the two lower lines of more equal thickness.

"1866 Scott 25 1 1/2s rose Rouletted 10"
A reprint
The 1 1/2 rose also has differences between the original and the reprint.

• The original is printed on thinner paper, and the design will show through from the back. Interestingly, that characteristic is found with my example.

• The stroke through the upper part of the "g" is very short in the originals, while with the reprint, it almost reaches the center of the "g". My example here shows a long stroke.

• In the original, the lower part of the "g" barely touches the inner thin frame line, while with the reprint, the "g" clearly is attached to the inner frame line. The latter is true here.

Verdict: A reprint.  :-(

But I have one more 1 1/2s to show....

1 1/2 s :What is it?
Include in my collection was this sample. It clearly is not rouletted, and appears "Imperforate" with wide margins. What? It finally dawned on me that this is a cut square from an envelope. ;-) "Covert" is a clue, as it is french for "cover".

The problem is Scott makes no mention of Hamburg's postal stationary.

Well, this short review of Hamburg's stamp issues was nice, but what is with all the reprints?

And a  HUGE problem for classical era collectors is the classical era was also the golden age of outright forgeries.

Sure, if one is a specialist concentrating on one country, one can become reasonably competent in a short time in the reprint/forgeries thicket.

But what about us poor "mile wide, foot deep" WW collectors: are we going to let ourselves be "swindle bait"?  ;-)

That is where the "Serrane Guide" comes in.

The Serrane Guide
Fernand Serrane, a native Belgian, published his two volume book in French on forgeries in 1927 and 1929. Although the book concentrates on the earlier stamps of the classical world, it includes issues up to approximately 1924. 

Commissioned by the APS, Dr Corland Eyer translated the book into English during 1971-74, where it appeared as segments in the American Philatelist. It was then published as a book by the APS in 1998.

What it DOESN'T cover are all the forged overprints and surcharges on classic stamps.

But what I like particularly about the Serrane is it highlights the difference between a genuine and forged/reprinted stamp by specific illustrations. This is in contrast to "Album Weeds", a comprehensive book on forgeries published in 1907 (third edition) by Rev. Mr. Earée, which relies on long written descriptions of the differences. An "illustrative" picture is worth a thousand words. ;-)

So for collectors of classical era stamps, especially if one would really like a better idea of what one has in the collection, obtaining a copy of the Serrane Guide is recommended.

One caveat: The illustration panels use Yvert & Tellier circa 1925-26 catalogue numbers. Picking up an old Y&T catalogue would be a good idea.

Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) covers Hamburg on two pages, and is certainly satisfactory for Scott catalogue followers.

The '41/'47 Big Blue page for Hamburg
No coverage in the '69 and '47 editions
Big Blue
Unfortunately, the coverage for Hamburg (along with Hanover and Heligoland on the same page) was removed in the '69 Big Blue, and did not return for the '97 edition.

So Hamburg is a missing 'H" country. :-(

Big Blue '47, on one line of one page, has seven spaces for the years 1859-66. Coverage is 32%.

• No stamps reach the $35 threshold, although five stamps are valued between $10-$30+.

• The '47 BB provides spaces for either the imperforate or perforate varieties of 1 or 13, 9 or 22, and 12 or 23: although in each case the perforated variety is the least expensive.

• Other Hamburg stamps that are fairly inexpensive that could be added to BB include 1864-65 Scott 2s red ($10+), and Scott 18 4s green ($5+).

Checklist ('41/'47 editions)

1 or 13, 9 or 22, (14), (18),

12 or 23


A) Most expensive stamps ($10) threshold:
1864-65 Scott 13 1/2S black ($10+)
1864-65 Scott 22 1 1/2s lilac ($10+)
1864-65 (Scott 14) 1s brown ($10+)
1864 Scott 23 2 1/2s yellow green ($20+)
1866 Scott 24 1 1/4s violet ($30+)

B) (  ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.

Hamburg and Deep Blue
Out of the Blue
I like early classical stamps. I feel uneasy, though, as a general WW collector, knowing I am only semi-competent in detecting the early forgeries or reprints. Ah, for the safe harbor of specialty collecting. ;-)

Note: Map, City of Hamburg pic appears to be in the public domain.

Would love to see your comments!


  1. I'm simply drooling over the pic of "The Serrane Guide"... Wish specialized philatelic literature wasn't so damn expensive :(

  2. So true.

    Fortunately, it only has to be bought once. ;-)

  3. I agree with Keijo, and I wonder why there's no reprint of such classic works at reasonable prices? Paying around U.S. $150 -- even once -- is pretty difficult. I'd even pay for an (illicit) xeroxed copy! I wonder who holds the copyright, and if no copyright still exists why isn't it reprinted? Most specialist stamp organizations reprint classic works, and I have a few, but I typically pay much, much less for them. Not good for the hobby to keep such works unavailable. Could it be digitized?

  4. Philatelic literature is difficult to find, either because of cost, or the information is only available at philatelic research libraries.

    The translated Serrane was published in the APS journal in the 1970s, so if one can get ahold of those journals, the information would be there.

    I'm pretty sure the APS still has copyright, as the book was published in 1998.

  5. I agree with Jim - APS has copyright for the translation. However, the original is likely in public domain, as it was published in 1920s (why did not I think of this before, I'm heading to Google now in search of French original text...)

    (And few minutes later)...

    Bingo. Found a free view/download copy of from French National Library website: http://gallica.bnf.fr (just search for author Fernand Serrane). Please do notice that the original works was published in two volumes (and thus there are 2 different downloads).

    Now I just have to start polishing my French skills to read this through. But what a wonderful winter project it will be ;)

  6. Nice! Score one for the advantages of multi- lingual education. :-)

    Old APS journals would be the best possibility if one's French isn't up to ltranslation.

    I remember back in the 1970s when I received the journal then of ignoring the Serrane segments as I was just collecting United States. ;-) Unfortunately, the APS journals are long gone, :-(