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 by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Monday, June 14, 2021

Nevis - Bud's Big Blue

A selection of Medical Springs stamps
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Jim suggested that world-wide collectors should acquire a few of Nevis’ famous Medicinal Springs stamps because of their unique design, even though they tend to be rather expensive (see Jim’s post here). So, to use a phrase common in my great grandmother’s time, I decided to “take the waters.” Not literally, of course, for I have no desire to swig hot mineral water or loll about in it regardless of any alleged curative benefits.

The stamps’ design tells a powerful story, though. A fainting, perhaps dying woman is supported by another while a third pours a therapeutic quaff. I hope it restored her vigor. Certainly, the stamps vigorously promote the spas. Scott lists 18 major numbers with this design.

The spas of Nevis were a 19th century luxury attraction. And they still exist.

Nevis spa. Photo credit: www.tripadvisor.com

As a start, I bought five of Medicinal Springs stamps (shown below), all reasonably priced -- two of the one cent and three of the four cent variety. Sometime after making the purchases, however, I learned that the Nevis spring waters had been muddied by forgers. Even the 14 stamps of Nevis’ Queen Victoria design have been extensively forged. My Medicinal Springs examples might test positive for the forgery virus, as do many of those offered by on-line auctions.

For genuine vs forgery comparisons, see:  http://stampforgeries.com/forged-stamps-of-nevis/. The forgeries, however, make an interesting collection in their own right, including those forged as recently as Nevis’ 1984 automobile series. Serious forgery collectors will want to consult a 1910 book by Fred J. Melville -- The Postage Stamps of Nevis & How to Detect the Forged Stamps of Nevis. A digital reprint recently became available.

Used Nevis stamps often bear the “A09”, the British designation for Charlestown, the capital of Nevis. The “A09” was used on British stamps before the colony had stamps of their own inscribed “Nevis.” In the 1880s, Nevis created an overprinted bisect -- the one cent purple Queen Victoria was split in half to create two ½ cent stamps. Scott catalog provides major numbers for these two, one for the black overprint and one for the violet. An example of the black overprint is showing on the supplement page.

The Medicinal Spring design achieved restored vigor of a sort when, in 1903, Nevis began issuing stamps conjointly with St Kitts, a nearby Caribbean island. The redrawn vignettes show the scene more clearly than do the originals.

St. Kitts and Nevis, Scott #s 5, 35, 87, and 14

I suspect that many collectors are glad that only four spaces, out of a possible 32, need to be filled to complete the Big Blue Nevis page. To make it even easier, three of the four can be filled with any Nevis stamp.

Census: four in BB spaces, eight on supplement page.

Jim's Observations

Nevis (named originally by the Spanish as "Nuestra Senora de las Nieves" -Our Lady of the Snows), was actually settled by British settlers, who migrated from Saint Christopher, in 1628. The sugar cane grown on the island, with the help of imported African slaves, was highly profitable, even outproducing Jamaica in the 17th century. But an invasion by the French d'Iberville in 1704 decimated the sugar industry, and Nevis never really recovered.

In 1883, St. Christopher, Nevis, and Anguilla were linked under one "Presidency", with the headquarters on St. Christopher (St. Kitts). Naturally. Nevis was not pleased, as they had their own "Presidency" prior to this new administrative arrangement.

In 1778, the Bath Hotel was built to take advantage of the hot springs in the area. This, interestingly, was the first attempt at "tourism" in the Caribbean. The "Medicinal Spring" theme was also featured on the first issues of Nevis 1861-1876, some 19 stamps. 


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Saturday, June 5, 2021

Cuba Alfonso XII 1882-88 Issues: Original; 1st retouch; 2nd retouch Differences

1882 Scott 101 2c lake "Alfonso XII"
Original State
Into the Deep Blue

Issued under Spanish Dominion, the typographed "Alfonso XII" stamps of Cuba 1882-1888 do not have a year date in their (Scott A17) design, as do the earlier 1880 & 1881 "Alfonso XII" issue stamps. But they have something more - "retouches" of their design found with certain stamp denominations.

These "retouches" are somewhat confusing, and I thought a blog post dedicated to a close look at them would be helpful for collectors of classical era Cuba. 

It doesn't help that the black & white (small) fuzzy illustrations for the differences in the Scott catalogue has only been recently upgraded (my 2020 Classic 1840-1940 Scott has it) to small (but better!) color illustrations. 

For background, my original Cuba post is here...


I should mention that the Spanish Dominion "Alfonso XII" issues of the Philippines and Puerto Rico have similar "retouches", and so I will briefly cover those stamp examples as well.

1882 Issue: A closer look
100 Centavos = 1 Peso

1882 Scott 101b 2c rose "Alfonso XII"
Original State
The 1882 issue of six stamps (Scott 100-105) share the same medallion portrait of "Alfonso XII" as the
preceding 1880 (six stamps) and 1881 (six stamps) issues. But, as mentioned, the 1882 issue does not
have the year issue date (1880 or 1881) included as part of the design of the stamp. CV, overall, for the
1882 issue ranges from <$1 to $50.

Medallion 1882 2c Original State
"Alfonso XII"
As said,  the medallion portrait of "Alfonso XII" is the same for the 1880, 1881, and 1882 issues. This medallion portrait is called the "Original State". Let's take a look at some of the 1882 stamps to learn the characteristics of the "Original State" portrait....

1882 Scott 102 2 1/2c dark brown "Alfonso XII"
Original State
The 2 1/2c 1882 Scott 102 is "dark brown" for the major number. Color is one of the properties that distinguish this 1882 stamp. The 1883-86 Scott 122  2 1/2c is "olive bister", the 1883-86 Scott 124 2 1/2c is "violet", while the 1888 Scott 129 2 1/2c is "red brown". All of these (major number) stamps have the "Original State" portrait.

Medallion 1882 2 1/2c  Original State
"Alfonso XII"
So what are the characteristics of the "Original State"?

According to Scott: "The medallion is surrounded by a heavy line of color of nearly even thickness"

Comment: This is important as the 1st retouch & the 2nd retouch are decidedly not surrounded by a line of color of even thickness. 

1882 Scott 103 5c gray blue "Alfonso XII"
Original State
Another characteristic of the "Original State" type, according to Scott: "The heavy oval line of color surrounding the medallion touches the horizontal line above" - part the "Cuba" tablet. (Also the "Philippines" tablet and the "Puerto Rico" tablet respectively for those stamps.)

Comment: The 1st retouch & the 2nd retouch type stamps do not have the oval line of color touch the horizontal line above.

Also, the 5c gray blue for the 1882 issue is "original state", while the 1883-86 5c gray blue stamps are found as 1st retouch (Scott 125) and 2nd retouch (Scott 126). Therefore, for a 5c "gray blue" stamp, one will need to determine what type it is to determine what issue and Scott number it is.

1882 Scott 104 10c olive bister "Alfonso XII"
Original State
The last characteristic of the "Original State": "The opening of the hair above the temple is narrow and pointed"

Comment: Important! Neither 1st retouch or 2nd retouch have this sign as we shall see.

1882 Scott 104 10c olive bister on Cover
Folded Envelope, Havana, Cuba to Vera Cruz, Mexico 2-14-1882
As a change in pace, here is a cover from Cuba to Mexico in 1882. It has the 1882 issue 10c olive bister "Alfonso XII" stamp with the "original state" type. CV(cover) is $25.

1882 Scott 105 20c red brown "Alfonso XII"
Original State
Let's take a look at the "Original State" characteristics for the 1882 20c red brown..

Medallion 1882 20c  Original State
"Alfonso XII"
Medallion surrounded by oval thick line of color of more or less even thickness...Check.

Thick oval line at top attaches to horizontal line....Check.

Hair opening above temple narrow and pointed....Check.

1883-86 Issue: "Types of 1882" (seven major number stamps)

1883-86 Scott 121 1c green "Alfonso XII"
2nd retouch
We start off with a bang, as the 1883-86 issue 1c green shows a 2nd retouch. (The 1882 1c green stamp, on the other hand, is original state.)  BTW, the CV for the 1c green 2nd state is $40.

Medallion 1883-86 1c  2nd retouch
"Alfonso XII"
The "2nd retouch" shows a semi-circle opening at the hair temple, and the lock above the forehead is nearly straight, having only a slight wave.

And look at the colored line around the medallion oval: It is thinner except along the upper right. And the top of the colored oval line does not touch the horizontal line above. !! And notice, as the colored oval line is thinner, the white oval line is therefore broader.

1883-86 Scott 122 2 1/2c olive bister "Alfonso XII"
Original State
Bur not all of the 1883-86 issue stamps show 1st or 2nd retouch characteristics: the 2 1/2c olive bister is "original state".  Therefore, the Scott 122 is determined by the color ("olive bister"). (Recall that the 1882 2 1.2c is "dark brown", also "original state".)

1883-86 Scott 124 2 1/2c violet "Alfonso XII"
Original State
There was also a 2 1/2c "violet" (major number) stamp issued during the 1883-86 period in the original state. Of interest, there are two minor number color variations. The "red lilac" color has a similar CV as the major number color (CV <$1). But Scott 124 b 2 1/2c "ultramarine" is CV $125!

Medallion 1883-86 2 1/2c violet  Original State
"Alfonso XII"
Take a good look at the close-up as it shows clearly the "original state" characteristics: thick even oval color line which is attached to the horizontal line above, and the narrow hair line at the temple.

1883-86 Scott 126 5c gray blue "Alfonso XII"
2nd retouch
Contrast that with the 5c 2nd retouch stamp shown above. (Obviously, the "gray-blue" color here is faded.)

Medallion 1883-86 5c  2nd retouch
"Alfonso XII"
2nd retouch: a semi-circle opening at the hair temple; the lock above the forehead nearly straight; colored oval line thinner except upper right. 

1883-86 Scott 127 10c brown "Alfonso XII"
1st retouch
OK, our first example of a 1st retouch! The 1883-86 10c stamp is "brown" (major number), or "reddish brown (minor number). Both are 1st touch in the catalogue. Even if one is not aware of 1st touch characteristics, the brown or reddish brown colors will help with identification versus "olive bister" (1882-original state) or "blue" ( 1888-also 1st touch, but much different color).

Medallion 1883-86 10c brown 1st retouch
"Alfonso XII"
1st touch characteristics...

The temple hair wedge is neither narrow (original state) or semi-circular (2nd touch), but between. ;-)

The lock of hair above the forehead is a "wide V" shape and ends in a (soft) point.*

There is a faint white line below the lock of hair.*

(*Note: "Owing to wear of the plate, the shape of the lock of the hair and the width of the white line below can vary".)

And, found for both 1st touch and 2nd touch: the color oval line around the medallion is thin, except for the upper right. And the oval line does not touch the horizontal line above it. Comment: I find this feature useful to first separate out "Original State" from "1st/2nd touches".

1883-86 Scott 127b 10c reddish brown "Alfonso XII" on Cover
Cover, Havana, Cuba to Leeds, England 3-27-1884; Back cancelled 4-12-1884
Now this is an interesting story. The seller on the APS Stamp store website labeled the stamp as Cuba 1882 Scott 104. Clearly, he/she may have been a postal historian, but was not aware of the fine points of the 1882-88 "Alfonso XII" issues: specifically the "original", "1st touch", and "2nd touch" types. The stamp turns out to be a "1st touch" type, and it is a minor number color:  Scott 127b "reddish brown". CV (cover) is $42+, about twice what the seller thought it was worth. Yes, it pays to know something about stamp issues. !!

1883-86 Scott 128 20c olive bister "Alfonso XII"
Original State
The 1883-86 20c "Olive bister" is only found in the original state. The other 20c stamps (same A17 design) are also "original state", and separated by color (1882 "red brown", 1888 "brownish gray").

1888 Issue

1888 Scott 129 2 1/2c red brown "Alfonso XII"
Original State
The 1888 2 1/2c "red brown" (major number) is "original state" (above). But be aware that the 1888 Scott 129a 2 1/2c "pale brown" is found as a "1st retouch". !! The Scott 129a is the only 2 1/2c stamp of the A17 design that is found with a "1st retouch": the others (Scott 102, 102b, 122, 124, 124a, 124b, 129) are all "original state".

Note the "dark spot" plate flaw? on the cheek of this example. 

1888 Scott 130 10c blue "Alfonso XII"
1st retouch
Another "1st touch" example...

Medallion 1888 10c blue 1st retouch
"Alfonso XII"
The temple hair wedge is neither narrow (original state) or semi-circular (2nd touch), but between. 

The lock of hair above the forehead is a "wide V" shape and ends in a (soft) point.

There is a faint white line below the lock of hair.

And, found for both 1st touch and 2nd touch: the color oval line around the medallion is thin, except for the upper right. And the oval line does not touch the horizontal line above it.

I should mention that any difficulties I have with separating out the types is between 1st touch and 2nd touch types. (The "original state" is usually obvious.) It is a bit of a judgement call, although I am usually more confident then that. And, what really helps, is that often the catalogue only lists one type as a possibility. ;-)

1888 Scott 128 20c brownish gray "Alfonso XII"
Original State
And finally, the 1888 three stamp set ends with a 20c "brownish gray" original state. This stamp is determined by the color, compared to the other A17 1882-88 20c stamps - all of which are also original state.

Now, there are similar examples of "original state", "1st retouch", "2nd retouch" found with the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Let's take a look....

Philippines 1880-86 "Alfonso XII" Issue

Philippines 1882 Scott 78 2 4/8 c ultramarine "Alfonso XII"
Original State
The Philippines typographic 1880-86 "Alfonso XII" issue (thirteen stamps) shares the same "Medallion" design as the 1882-88 Cuba stamps.

But all of the stamps in the Philippines issue are "Original State", except for the 2 4/8 c ultramarine denomination, which can be found with Original State/1st retouch/2nd retouch types respectively (Scott 78, 79, 80). CV for these 2 4/8 ultramarine stamps is $1+, <$1, $4+ respectively.

The example above is "Original State", and has the narrow temple hair wedge, the more or less even thickness of the oval color line surrounding the medallion, and the oval line attached to the horizontal line above.

Philippines 1883 Scott 79 2 4/8 c ultramarine "Alfonso XII"
1st retouch
This is the "1st retouch" example (Scott 79), and shows an oval color line surrounding the medallion that is thinner, except the upper right portion. Close examination of the oval color line with the horizontal line above shows it is NOT attached. The opening of the temple hair wedge is wider (compared to the original state), and the lock of hair is shaped like a broad "V" that comes to a (soft) point. There is a faint white line below the lock of hair.

Philippines 1886 Scott 80 2 4/8 c ultramarine "Alfonso XII"
2nd retouch
The "2nd retouch" (above) shows the temple hair space to be very wide (almost 90 degrees), and the lock of hair is flatter and much less pointed. The color line oval around the medallion is thin and not attached to the horizontal line above. The white line on the forehead below the hair line appears broader.

Comment: The cancel mark, I believe, is fiscal. Although the signs here point to "2nd retouch", I am not absolutely certain. Scott does point out that the shape of the hair and the width of the white line can vary owing to wear of the plate.

Puerto Rico 1882-86 "Alfonso XII" Issue

Puerto Rico 1882 Scott 67 5c gray blue "Alfonso XII"
Original State
Likewise, Puerto Rico, with the 1882-86 "Alfonso XII" issue (twenty stamps), can show original state/ 1st retouch/2nd retouch types with the 5c gray blue (Scott 67-69, CV $1+-$5+).

Here, this stamp is "original state", with the narrow temple hair wedge, the even thickness of the oval color line, and the fact that the color line is attached to the horizontal line above.

Puerto Rico 1884 Scott 68 5c gray blue "Alfonso XII"
1st retouch
The "1st retouch" shows a wider temple hair wedge, and a broad "V" hair lock that comes to a (soft) point. Note the color line oval around the medallion is thin (except the upper right portion) and not attached to the horizontal line above. There is a quite thin faint white line below the hair line on the forehead.

Puerto Rico 1886 Scott 69 5c gray blue "Alfonso XII"
2nd retouch
The "2nd retouch" shows a semi-circle opening of the temple hair line (quite wide), and the lock of hair is flatter and less pointed. The color line oval around the medallion is thin (except for the upper right portion) and not attached to the horizontal line above. The white line on the forehead below the hair line appears broader.

1883-86 Scott 121 1c green "Alfonso XII"
2nd retouch
Out of the Blue
Well, I hope this exercise of reviewing the "Alfonso XII" original state/1st retouch/2nd retouch signs with specific examples for Cuba (mostly), the Philippines, and Puerto Rico has been helpful. I'm glad I did this post, as I am more confidant and sure now about the "types" differences, and how to tell one from another.  !!

Comments appreciated!

Friday, May 28, 2021

Netherlands Antilles (Curaçao) - Bud's Big Blue

Scott #s 164-169, 1942
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Stamp albums generally, and Big Blue in particular, never quite keep up with fitful national boundaries and identities. Like political maps, albums are out of date before they leave the printing presses. To make things even more complicated, poor editorial judgements and outright mistakes are commonplace.

The Netherlands Antilles provides a case in point. Early editions of Big Blue have a section titled “Curaçao”, short for Curaçao and Dependencies, a group of islands widely spread across the Caribbean Sea comprising Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, and Saba. All six islands are featured in the 1942 pictorial series (see above). For all stamps in Part I of Big Blue, the name Curaçao applies to the six islands collectively and to the island Curaçao individually.

The same stamps were moved in the 1969 edition of Big Blue (the BB album that both Jim and I use) to a new heading titled “Netherlands Antilles” -- a change consistent with the 1948/1954 decisions about the islands’ connection with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Those decisions, however, came well after the closing date for Big Blue Part I (1940). So, I think the stamps shown on the page scans below would fit more appropriately under the heading Curaçao than under Netherlands Antilles.

After filling BB’s spaces for “Netherlands Antilles” I thought I would replace the existing stamps with cancellations from all six islands on the stamps inscribed Curaçao -- a kind of weak-kneed protest intended to show how things actually were when the stamps were issued. That goal is proving to be difficult because, while interesting cancellations do exist for all six islands, they’re scarce and usually expensive. I’ve found several Aruba cancels on airmail stamps -- probably the most plentiful except for Curaçao island itself. 

Scott #s c8, j17, c6, Aruba cancels

A Saba cover recently sold on eBay for a reasonable price, but I missed it. Cancels struck in Saba, a hurricane-swept dot at the outer rim of the Caribbean, are elusive; those struck in Bonaire, even more so.

Scott # 98, Saba cancel on cover. Source: eBay.

Island cancels on the marine insurance stamps are yet more difficult to find. The marine insurance stamps are overprinted “Frankeer Zegel” (postage stamp) and intended for regular use, not for insurance. The three-cent example shown below has an indistinct island cancel, possibly Sint Eustatius, and is dated 1929, a year before these stamps became invalid for postage.

The Netherlands created marine insurance stamps in 1921 in response to the maritime disasters of World War I. Letters with such a stamp affixed were placed in a “floating safe” located on the ship decks. In the event a ship sank, the bobbing safe would be reclaimed by rescue ships or, eventually, float ashore. I know of no instance of this safekeeping precaution being put into action. Marine insurance stamps were issued for several Dutch colonies as well as the homeland, but they found little usage. 

Scott #s 87-90

Census: 73 in BB spaces, two tip-ins, 49 on supplement pages.

Jim's Observations

Big Blue '69, on two pages, has 73 spaces for the stamps of Curacao. No coverage of the Postal Due stamps is included. Total coverage is 39%.

• Coverage is "reasonable" for a two page allotment, but I did find an additional 37 stamps (15 postage due) that were CV <$1-$1+,and not in Big Blue.
• Expensive stamps ($10+) are only in two spaces.


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