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...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Stamps of 1919-22 Armenia - what the collector needs to know

1922 Scott 300 50r green & red
"Mt Ararat and Soviet Star"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Armenia 1919-1920, 210 descriptions for the National Republic Russian Stamps of 1902-19 handstamped, and an alert note (and no Scott numbers) regarding the 10 stamp Chassepot pictorials, for a total of 220 stamps.

The coverage continues with the Soviet Socialist Republic issues of 1921-1922 with 98 descriptions.

Grand total is 318 descriptions (includes the Chassepot issue).

The National Republic stamps have 81 @ CV $1-$4+., or 37%.

Many of the overprinted Russian Imperial stamps are not bad CV wise (although note I raised the bar to $4+). I suspect the price is artificially low because of the many overprint counterfeits - 80% of supply is thought to be that..

The Soviet Socialist Republic issues have 25 @ CV <$1-$1+, or 26%.

This is the tale of two stamp populations during the soviet era.

The 1921 Scott 278-294 pictorials and the 1922 Scott 300-309 pictorials are cheap.

Everything else is fairly expensive, including the handstamped surcharges of 1922.

For the purposes of the blog post, I will look at the rather depressing situation with the forged overprints of the 1919-20 Russian Imperial stamps.  Next, a review of the 1920 Chassepot issue and their reprints/forgeries will be done. Finally, I will look at a few reprints and frank forgeries of the 1921-22 pictorials during the Soviet era.

The original Armenia blog post and checklist is here.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Kopecks = 1 Ruble
1919 Scott 64 4k carmine, Perforated
Handstamped in Violet
Unframed Z Monogram Overprint probably counterfeited
The first issue of the National Republic in 1919 used handstamped Russian stamps of 1902-19.

The "Z" monogram was used, and actually is formed from the Armenian H and P, referring to the Haykakan Post (Armenian Post). The "Z" monogram is also referred to as the "HP" monogram.

First the bad news.

The overprinted Imperial Russian stamps for 1919-20 Armenia (some 210 Scott numbers) were forged from the beginning. Why not? Make a single handstamp, apply to cheap Russian Imperial stamps, sell to the packet trade, and repeat.

1919 Scott 31-40
Handstamped in Black, Perforated
The genuine handstamps came as a framed Z monogram (rubber handstamp), as an unframed Z monogram (rubber handstamp), and as Ruble surcharges (metal handstamp).  

In addition, there were many genuine variations to the shape of the Z. Scott states there are at least thirteen types that exist for both the unframed Z and framed Z. ( But Scott gives no guidance or illustrations regarding the variations.)

1919 Scott 99-103
Handstamped in Black, Perforated
No wonder confusion reigned regarding which overprints were genuine, and which overprints were forgeries.

And then the catalogues, those knowledgeable bulwarks that we collectors cling to. -failed.

My reading indicates that Yvert & Tellier was particularly egregious, featuring, with their drawings, the fake overprints!

1920 Scott 135-37, 141-42
Black Surcharge, Type f or g
Well, what's the good news?

Why not collect fake overprints because...

....you already have a lot of them! ;-)

Seriously, the overprinted Imperial Russian 1919-20 Armenian stamps are a challenge, even for the Armenian specialist.

The information is there for the assiduous collector, but it tends to reside in specialty enclaves.

* General catalogue - Michel (Recommended by Trevor Pateman)

* The five published volumes of the Russian sphere (Volume I Armenia)  by  Dr R. J. Cersea. The major philatelic libraries would have them. (I came to know of them when I was doing research on Batum. They are superb, the gold standard.)

* Join the Rossica Society of Russian Philately and get their journal and access to experts.

* Web resources
Trevor Pateman's Philately Blog
Stamps of Armenia (Stefan Berger's blog)
Unframed Z monogram thread by Vasia on Stampboards

There is also very good recent information being published on The Stamp Forum about Armenia and forgeries. To view the full information on Armenia, one needs to become a member (which I recommend!).

1920 "Scott 268" 1r light brown "Short-Toed Eagle"
Unissued Chassepot Pictorials
In Paris, the Chassepot Printing Works was responsible for a ten stamp lovely pictorial set produced in 1920 for the new National Republic of Armenia. But alas, the nascent government was driven out by the Bolshevicks, and only a few of the stamps (1r, 5r,10r, 15r) were later used for revenue purposes in 1922.

The rest of the issue denominations were never sent or never arrived. They were sold off in Paris to the stamp trade, and later reprints were ordered by the Dashnak government in exile. A large quantity of unauthorized reprints (counterfeits) - including inverts- also made their way into the trade.

What we are left with is a confusing mess.

The so called "Chassepot  Issue" never actually saw postal use, but did exist in the Scott catalogue (my 1947 has it with Scott 268-277 numbers assigned). With plenty of stamps in the market, stamp albums gave space for this intriguing issue - including Big Blue.

The issue did get delisted by Scott at a later date (My 1974 Scott just has a note about the issue, with no numbers assigned).

CV currently is $40 for the ten stamp set.

Reprint/Forgery: 1r "Short-Toed Eagle"
How can one detect the reprint/forgeries?

Reprint/Forgery closeup 1r
* For the "Short-Toed Eagle" 1r, 5r, 10r, and 15r lower denominations, the left outer frame line is thin in the forgeries, almost as thin as the left inner frameline. (Tyler, "Focus on Forgeries - c2000)

* The numerals (for all denominations) in the forgeries are incompletely printed, with uninked areas. (Tyler)

Original  closeup 1r
Note, for the original 1r, the outer left frameline is much thicker, and the numeral is well filled in.

1920 "Scott 269" 3r green"Short-Toed Eagle"
Unissued Chassepot Pictorials
The 3 ruble green "Short-Toed Eagle"stamp never made it to Erevan, the Armenian capital, although the like illustrated 1r, 5r, 10r,15r denominations did in November, 1920, according to Trevor Pateman. (As mentioned, the National Republic had already fallen, so none of the Chassepot stamps were ever postally used.)

Reprint/Forgery: 3r "Short-Toed Eagle", Imperforate
The originals can be found imperforate, as well as the forgeries.

* Having said that, in my experience, an imperforate Chassepot issue stamp in a collection has a much higher likelihood of bring a reprint/forgery.

Reprint/Forgery closeup 3r
The 3r forgeries do have a thicker left outer frameline, similar to the 3r genuines. Therefore that characteristic, good for distinguishing the 1r, 5r,10r,15r denominations, cannot be used for the 3r.

But the numerals are poorly printed/ not filled in the 3r forgeries.

1920 "Scott 271" 3r blue "Short-Toed Eagle"
Unissued Chassepot Pictorials
* The originals are printed finely. while the forgeries are cruder.

* The shades seem brighter and more garish for the forgeries. (The originals, though, can come in shades, so this is only a "soft" sign.)

Reprint/Forgery: 10r blue "Eagle", Imperforate
* The reprints/forgeries have wide margins, compared to the originals. The reprints had a wider spacing between stamps because of a re-set plate, according to Trevor Pateman. I note that my collection of reprint/forgery stamps are taller/wider compared to the originals.

* The paper for the reprints/forgeries is very white- a "bleached" white, compared to the originals.

This ends the distinguishing features that differentiate an original from a reprint/forgery.

But let's take a look at some of the higher denomination Chassepot stamps.

1920 "Scott 273" 25r green & brown "Mt. Ararat"
Unissued Chassepot Pictorials
For the 25r, 50r, and 100r denominations, a lovely pictorial of "Mt. Ararat" was used.

Reprint/Forgery: 25r
Note the reprint/forgery is poorly printed, shows gaps in the numerals, is a brighter shade, has larger margins, and is on a very white paper.

1920 "Scott 274" 40r red orange and brown "Woman Spinning"
Unissued Chassepot Pictorials
The 40r and 70r denominations depict a "Woman Spinning". The central portrait is delicately drawn.

Reprint/Forgery: 40r, Imperforate
This 40r reprint/forgery exhibit many of the forgery faults: crudely printed, lacunae in the numerals, large margins, whiter paper. 

1920 "Scott 275" 50r blue & brown "Mt. Ararat"
Unissued Chassepot Pictorials
Note the solid numerals in the original.

Reprint/ Forgery: 50r 
Poorly printed, large white margins, a bright blue color frame while the mountain is an odd grey shade, and the numerals have holes.

1920 "Scott 276" 70r violet & brown "Woman Spinning"
Unissued Chassepot Pictorials
More delicate print. 

Reprint/Forgery: 70r
Holes in the numerals, crude print, garish color, large white margins.

1920 "Scott 277" 100r dark red & brown "Mt. Ararat"
Unissued Chassepot Pictorials
As a reminder, the Scott number in quotes (here "Scott 277") is a delisted number. It is helpful for identification purposes. I think the determined classical era WW collector would also want to have a classical era Scott catalogue for reference.

Reprint/Forgery: 100r
Although this example does not exhibit the usual holes in the numerals, it has all the other characteristics: large white margins, imperforate, bright color, and crude printing.

I hope you found this rather redundant review useful to drive home the points regarding the characteristics of the original vs reprint/forgery for the Chassepot pictorials. !!

1921 Scott 291 15,000r slate blue
"Lake Sevan and Sevan Monastery"
Caution: See my update note below
We are turning now to the Soviet Socialist Republic era.

A large seventeen stamp pictorial issue (Scott 278-294) , with both Perf 11 1/2 and imperforate varieties, was produced in 1921. Alas, this issue too was not regularly issued or used. Only the 25r gray can be found legitimately used. There are, however, surcharges applied to these stamps (See Scott 347-390) in 1922. The surcharged stamps are all rather expensive, specialist's territory, and, as one can imagine, there are plenty of counterfeits. I will say no more about the surcharged examples here.

A scan of the issue is located in the "Deep Blue" section.

Now Scott states, for the issue "Counterfeits exist". Unfortunately, I could fine very little about these counterfeits. They are probably somewhat cruder reprints/forgeries.

I do have an example of the Scott 291 15,000r slate blue (illustrated above).
December, 2018 Update note: For those interested in the seventeen stamp pictorial (Scott 278-294) and the Scott 291 15,000 in particular, I refer you to...


There, hy-brasil, an expert on this issue, provides a great resource on genuines/counterfeits. It turns out I got the evaluation presented here on the 15,000 slate blue wrong! Please ignore. ;-)
Let's take a look at the lake and monastery building....

Close-up original (Type I): 15,000 r
Caution: See my update note above
The lake and buildings are rather nicely drawn. I imagine a moonlit night.

1921 15,000r slate blue
Probable Type II?
Caution: See my update note above
I also have an imperforate example that appears cruder.

Close-up probable Type II: 15,000 r
Caution: See my update note above
The shade is more slate than the original (this still might be within normal parameters, though).

However, the printing is clearly cruder. Note the vertical hatched marks, where the hills meet the lake on the far shore, in the first example  is missing or obscured in this example. I thought perhaps this second example (or possibly the first example?) was a forgery, but apparently there are two lithographic types of this stamp, and I have both types. Still, I cannot rule out that one or the other of my examples are forgeries.

1922 Scott 300 50r green & red
Now we come to the 1922 ten stamp (Scott 300-309) pictorial allegorical issue. This issue actually was not released for postal use without surcharge, But once again, the unsurcharged stamps were readily available to the stamp trade, and are part of the Scott catalogue- although only priced as "unused".

And here we find two clear forgeries for the Scott 300 50r and Scott 301 300r (nothing "reprinty" about these!). Both of them are found described in Tyler's "Focus on Forgeries" - c2000.

Genuine 50r green & red
Star is top-heavy, but not "fat"
The genuine star is not well shaped, but is not fat or misshapen in the lower portion.

Forgery: 1922 50r green & red
The 50r green & red forgery, intended for the packet trade, shows multiple differences with the original, but the "fat" star is the most obvious.

Forgery 50r green & red
Star is bottom-heavy and "fat"
The star looks like it gorged itself for two weeks. ;-)

Tyler states there are at least two additional forgeries.

1922 Scott 301 300r slate blue & buff
"Mt. Ararat & Soviet Star"
What is interesting about these forgeries for the packet trade is the original stamp was never issued postally without surcharge! But the original unsurcharged 1922 issue soon was in the hands of dealers, demand went up, and the forgers were happy to oblige. 

Close-up: 1922 300r slate blue & buff
The genuine/original shows thick horizontal white lines on either side of the star. There are two "snow" white patches on the top of the mountains.

Forgery: 300r slate blue & buff
The forgery clearly has a different shade.

Forgery Close-up: 300r slate blue & buff
But more obviously, there are no thick white horizontal lines on either side of the star, only a mottled buff colored background. And there are no "snow" white patches on the tops of the mountains.

Note the lone single vertical shading line @ 12 o'clock above the star touching the thin frameline surrounding the central circle.

1922 Scott 304 1000r dull blue & pale blue
I found one other forgery possibility for the 1922 ten stamp issue, and this might be more in the reprint-forgery category, as the differences seem subtle. My original is on tan buff paper, although other originals might possibly be on whiter paper.

On the http://www.filatelia.fi/ site is a collection of stamp forgeries with genuine stamps for comparison.

Forgery: 1922 1000r dull blue & pale blue 
There they show a forgery, an example of which I also have in my collection. It is on whiter paper while my "genuine" is on tan buff paper. And they point out a blue dot located in the upper right portion of the lower horizontal script panel. Let's take a closer look...

Close-up Forgery: 1922 1000r dull blue & pale blue 
Note the blue dot located by itself near the upper right corner of the script panel?

So are the subtleties of forgery hunting! 

Deep Blue
1921 Scott 278-294, Imperforate
"Arms and other Scenes"
For Armenia 1919-22, Deep Blue (Steiner) has 18 pages for the 1919-20 handstamped issues, 2 pages for the 1920 Chassepot issue (perf and imperf), 2 pages for the 1921 issue (perf and imperf), and 11 additional pages. Every major Scott number has a space. Very through for a general WW collection. Perhaps too much so.

1920 "Scott 270" 5r red "Short-Toed Eagle"
Unissued Chassepot Pictorials
Out of the Blue
This has been fun!. I can take more time with a country (here Armenia), and explore a bit in more detail. This is the reward for finishing the A-Z countries, and the end of the BB checklist. 

Note: Classical Armenia is one of those countries where one does not get very far by oneself. Appreciate all the philatelists- past and current - that have contributed to unraveling Armenia over the years!

Note: The 1922 Scott 300,301, & 304 scans and discussion was first published by me in The Stamp Forum 2017 Volume 1, Issue 3: February-March Newsletter.

Armenia - Bud's Big Blue

Comments appreciated!


  1. What is the value of above stamp

    1. From my point of view ( world wide collector), I enjoy the details of the stamp, and actually don't think much about catalogue value.

    2. RE: the 1921 15000 ruble stamp.
      The first image is that of a forgery, and it is not a Type 1 nor a forgery of it. Type 1 has a large area of white across about a third of the water, plus lined dots of shading in the upper left corner of the sky. It is quite scarce. The third image is probably genuine, even though it's cruder. The key to the genuine is the spur on the bottom frameline below the fish's "necklace".

      You may or may not elect to provide this link to my forgery detector thread for this issue added to https://www.stampcommunity.org/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=48434

    3. Thanks! - I really appreciate the correction hy-brasil!

      Your thread on Stamp Community Forum on this issue is most illuminating. I have cautioned readers on my interpretation of the 15,000r stamp, and referred them to your thread.