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...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Azerbaijan & Forgeries: A closer look

1919 Scott 1 10k multicolored
"Standard Bearer", white paper
Into the Deep Blue
Azerbaijan stamps have a definite attraction for WW collectors.

But the attraction is more like a "Moth to a flame" attraction, because collectors often get burned.

One word: Forgeries!

The issues only lasted from 1919 to 1924.  The National Republic of Azerbaijan was quickly overtaken by the Soviet forces in 1921, the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic was formed by 1922, and the territory was then soon absorbed into the Transcaucasian SSR (with Armenia and Georgia).

The original post and Big Blue checklist is here.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Kopecks = 1 Ruble

Soviet 1921 Reissue (on grayish or brownish paper) of Azerbaijan 1919 Issue
The October, 1919 ten stamp issue by the National Republic of Azerbaijan  was crudely lithographically printed, but in multicolors. They featured four designs.

CV ranges from <$1-$4+. (These CVs are for the 1921 re-issue.)

1919 Scott 8 10r "Baku"
First printing October 1919 - thinner white paper
National Republic of Azerbaijan
The first printing by the National Republic of Azerbaijan in October, 1919 was on thinner white paper.

The later printing in April 1921 (re-issue) by the Soviets is on grayish or brownish paper. In my experience, the Soviet re-issue far outnumbers the first printing in collections by a factor of at least  10:1.

1919 Azerbaijan Issue - on  thin white paper
Scott values the white paper first printing @ 5X the CV for the Soviet reissue printing. One has to look for them. As one can see, I have seven of the ten stamps of the first printing 1919 issue. With the 2018 Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue, Scott now splits the issue, and gives major numbers to both the 1919 thin white paper variety (Scott 1-10), and the 1921 Soviet re-issue grayish or brownish paper variety (Scott 1A-10A).

The Soviet re-issue, other than paper, is identical to the first issue - it was apparently printed from the same plates in Baku as the first printing- EXCEPT there is a difference between the side ornament orientation for the 5r and 10r "Baku" design stamps.

Note on this 10r first printing above, the side ornament columns are oriented in the same direction.

Scott 8A 10r "Baku"
Reissued by Soviet Government April, 1921
On thicker brownish paper
Now, here is an example of the same 10r "Baku" stamp, but a Soviet re-issue.

Note the grayish or brownish paper, a characteristic of the Soviet re-issue.

But, remember, for the 5r and 10r "baku" stamps, the Soviet re-issue also have a different orientation for the side columns. The left ornament column is inverted.

1919 Scott 2A 20k multicolored (actually 1921 Soviet re-issue)
Genuine: "Standard Bearer"
Now begins the story of forgeries.

The forgeries for the 1919 (and 1921 Soviet re-issue) stamps showed up shortly after the Soviet re-issue, and are on a tan to an off-white paper. I find the supposed differences in paper color for forgeries to not be all that helpful. One has to look for the specific forgery markers.

For this post, I relied heavily on the forgery discussion for Azerbaijan in Varro Tyler's "Focus on Forgeries", c2000. One can assume, that if forgeries are discussed, then the source is Tyler.

The lowest denominations, the 10k and 20k stamp issue, have the same design: the "Standard Bearer".

Curiously, Tyler only names the 20k as one that has a forgery. The 10k is not specifically cited.  All the rest of the "1919 issue" denominations have forgeries, according to Tyler.

However, Bee See of the Stamp Community Forum shows a 10k forgery, so it is out there. Good work Bee See!

1919 Scott 2A 20k multicolored Close-up
Genuine: Star and Crescent
So, how does one tell a genuine/forgery for the 20k?

The points of the star inside the crescent moon are clear and sharp for the genuine, while blunt or absent in the forgery.

1919 Scott 2A 20k multicolored Close-up
Genuine: The base of the "A" & "Z" and "D" & "J"
do NOT touch each other
For the forgery in the 20k, the base of the AZ and the DJ touch at the bottom!

Now, let's look at a 20k forgery...

"1919 Scott 2 20k multicolored"
Forgery: "Standard Bearer"
Note this forgery example is on an off-white paper. 

"1919 Scott 2 20k multicolored" Close-up
Forgery: Star and Crescent
The points of the star inside the crescent moon are blunt or absent.

"1919 Scott 2 20k multicolored" Close-up
For the forgery in the 20k, the base of the AZ and the DJ touch at the bottom.

1919 Scott 4 60k "Farmer at Sunset"
The three middle 1919 (and 1921 re-issue) denominations - 40k, 60k, 1r - show a "Farmer at Sunset"

1919 Scott 4 60k  Close-up
The genuine has star points that are sharp, and sometimes (not here - but will show with next example) there is a black dot in the middle of the star. The forgery has rather blunt star points, and the forgery never shows a black dot in the middle of the star.

The genuine has a sun ray (dash) that is near the nose of the farmer, while, in the forgery, the dash next to the nose is absent, or there is just a dot. Also, the forgery tends to have sun rays that are thicker and shorter.

Dot in the middle of the sun on a 40k Genuine
About 50% of my "Farmer at Sunset" genuine stamps show a dot in the middle of the sun. According to Tyler, that is a sure sign of authenticity.

Now, let's look at the "Farmer at Sunset" forgery....

"1919 Scott 4 40k"
Forgery: "Farmer at Sunset"
This forgery is on off-white to tan paper.

Note the thick short sun rays.
"1919 Scott 4 40k" close-up
Forgery: "Farmer at Sunset"
The forgery shows blunted star points. And there is no center black dot in the sun (Although genuines don't necessarily have a center black dot either).

More importantly, there is no dash in front of the nose of the farmer. There is only a very tiny black dot.
1919 Scott 7A 5r "Baku"
Soviet reprint; Genuine
The "Baku" design is found for the 2r, 5r, & 10r denominations, and forgeries are found for them too.

This is a genuine 5r "Baku", but a Soviet reprint, as the left side column is inverted.

1919 Scott 7A 5r "Baku" Close-up
For the genuine, the star is centered between the horns of the moon.

The black frameline is intact all around the upper right box with the Turkish numeral 5.

"1919 Scott 7 5r Baku"
This is a forgery, and note the side columns are oriented the same way, like the 1919 first printing, but unlike the Soviet re-issue.

"1919 Scott 7 5r Baku" Close-up
How can one tell this is a forgery?

The star between the crescent moon touches or almost touches the lower horn.

There is a break in the black frameline at the bottom right side of the box with the Turkish 5 (The Turkish 5 looks like an inverted heart).

1919 Scott 10A 50r - Genuine
"Temple of Eternal Fires"
The "Temple of External Fires" design is found for the 25r and 50r denominations.

1919 Scott 10A 50r  Close-up
The genuine has the five oil derricks with their lines intact (specifically the first one at left, and the second one from right).

The star between the crescent moon has sharp points. There is no break in the line forming the upper point.
"1919 Scott 10 50r" - Forgery
"Temple of Eternal Fires"
This is a forgery. Why?

"1919 Scott 10 50r" - Close-up 
The first derrick from the left has a line break on the left side. The second derrick from the right has a line break on the left.

The points of the star are blunter, and there is an apparent break in the line for the upper point.

So ends the story on forgeries for the 1919 first Azerbaijan issue ( and 1921 Soviet re-issue).

I should mention that it is not unusual to spot a forgery or two when viewing Azerbaijan sets offered on the 'Bay. That is how I obtained these examples.

1922-23 Surcharges on 1919 issue
In 1922-23, there were surcharges applied with handstamped metal dies to several issues, including eight stamps from the 1919 issue (actually the 1921 Soviet reissue).

CV is <$1-$4+.

1922-23 Surcharges on 1919 Issue "Baku"
Scott 62 300,000r on 2r red, bister, & black
The problem is all of these metal die surcharge issues can be found with surcharge overprint forgeries.

This particular stamp has a CV of $1+. Without specialized knowledge about the characteristics of the surcharged forgeries, I have no way of telling if this specimen - modest CV and all- is genuine or not.

1922 Issue (Some sources say 1921 Issue)
At the beginning of the Soviet Socialist Republic era, a 1922 15 stamp lithographic issue with nine designs was released. This stamp issue with the early "Soviet" designs is quite intriguing, and the five of the values are bi-colored.

CV is <$1 for all values.

Tyler states that, shortly after release, all values were forged in Vienna. There are small differences in design. 

BTW, Scott has a note that Azerbaijan forgeries for this set tend to sell for more than the genuines!

1922 Scott 22 150r blue "Blacksmiths"
Tyler only shows one example of the genuine'forgery difference for the 1922 issue: the 150r blue "Blacksmiths".

1922 Scott 22 150r blue Close-up
In the upper right panel, the second Arabic letter from the right resembles a backward "C".  the genuine has a small dot on top ( as this one does). The forgery does not have the dot.

On the forehead, there is a matrix of dots (or short wavy lines) seen with the genuine. The forgery has a small forelock extending from under his hat to over his eyebrow.

This would be an interesting issue to do a study on more genuines/forgeries, but alas I do not have the material.

Check out stampforgeries.com for their 1922 (or 1921?) Azerbaijan genuine/forgery comparisons.

1923 Bogus Issue
Now this is interesting.

In 1923, a six stamp issue was found in the stamp trade purporting to be from Azerbaijan.

This issue was actually bogus, and from a firm in Udine, Italy.

Scott does not even mention the bogus issue in the their catalogue, although, interestingly, Steiner has spaces for it.

Well, then the story becomes more bizarre.

Forgeries of the bogus issue were prepared, according to Tyler, possibly in Belgium. They can be found perforated (11, 11 1/2) or imperforate. Likewise, the original bogus issue is perforate (11) or imperforate.

1923 Bogus Issue 500r "Portrait of Old Man"
"Genuine" Bogus
Tyler shows one example of the genuine/forgery: the 500r.

1923 "Genuine" Bogus 500r Close-up
The genuine 500r has two colon like dots to the left of the 500 vertical frameline, and no dot touches the frameline.

The dot to the right of RUB does not touch a frameline either.

1923 Bogus Issue 500r
"Forgery" Bogus
The forgery is somewhat cruder than the original bogus issue.

1923 "Forgery" Bogus 500r Close-up
A dot to the lower left of the 500 vertical frameline (nearly) touches it. And the dot to the right of RUB touches a frameline.

For additional information on the 1923 issue bogus/forgery comparisons, go to Falschung's Forgery site linked with this sentence.

Note: Falschung (Nelson) has given me general permission to link directly to his country forgery topics.  His  homepage is:  http://stampforgeries.ca/

Thanks Falschung!

1922-23 Surcharges on 1919 Issue "Standard Bearer"
Scott 58 50,000r on 20k multicolored
Out of the Blue
You can see that we have just scratched the surface of what is interesting with the classic stamps of Azerbaijan.  There are definitely avenues for further investigation.

Update note: Falschung (Nelson) of Stampforgeries.Ca fame has released an evaluation of the Azerbaijan 1919-1920 (Muscavat) issue. Very specific and detailed. Thanks Falschung!

Azerbaijan - Bud's Big Blue

Comments appreciated!


  1. Both interesting & mysterious subject! I wrote about one of these postage stamps on my blog (https://blogdetimbrofil.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/un-bogus-din-colectia-mea/), and when I documented the subject, I found out that the philatelic 'bogus' issue (consisting of 6 perf & imperf stamps), was listed into the ‘Phantom Stamps’ catalogue by brothers Norman & Maurice Williams, at the beginning of the last century. Regards! Cătălin

    1. Thanks for the link Cătălin. Nice write-up! I somehow missed that blog post of yours.

  2. What a fabulous post - I love it that you have such exceptional pictures of both genuine and forgeries to easily make a determination. I will be checking out my Azerbaijan album with excitement and trepidation.


    1. Michael- I'm glad you find the scans useful. That is exactly what I am attempting to do - have large (1200 dpi) and detailed scans that clearly show the differences.

  3. Hi Jim, there are several books on this topic, which one do you suggest? i want to find out which one is genuine in my collection and more background info on Musavat issue especially on the cindrella issues in 1923

    1. Yes, there are books, but I'm not sure which one to suggest. R.C. Ceresa is the scholar in this area. His books can be borrowed (scanned) from the APS library.