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...

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 Like political maps, albums are out of date before they leave the printing presses.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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Comments appreciated!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Papua New Guinea: The Laktois 1901-10 - a closer look


Into the Deep Blue

Jim's Comment: Alan (hy-brasil) has penned another fascinating post. He is a longtime worldwide collector and a former employee of the philatelic auction business. He also contributed the article on the 1922 pictorial Issue of Armenia on April 15, 2021. Jim's Note: My original Papua post is here.

A lakatoi (or lagatoi, closer to the usual pronunciation) was the iconic multihulled craft of  Papua New Guinea . It was made up of two or more large canoes lashed together with a platform and housing added, and was used to carry trade goods packed in the canoe hulls.

Papua Map

It was used by the Motu people that lived around the Port Moresby region, (see map) in the Hiri trade cycle. They would create pottery and items made from seashells to trade with people north along the Gulf of Papua , a voyage of up to 200 miles or so. Since when is a very good question. Sources say the practice was traditional and it could date back to more than 2500 years ago. It continued until the 1950s.

The trade winds would take lakatois northwest in October/November as far as the Purari River delta area (bright green on the map above) west of Kerema. The Motu would mostly trade for sago, the slow-growing palm-like tree that you might find in gardens in warmer spots elsewhere in the world.  Its spongy center is made into a starchy flour, a staple in short supply back in the Motu homelands.

The trading would be done quickly enough, but traders had to wait until the monsoon winds changed around January to take their sago home. During this time, they rebuilt their boats larger, since sago was a much bulkier cargo. So they would also trade for  more canoes, with up to 14 hulls reported used for one lakatoi, though more often it was four to six total for the return trip.

Out of the Blue: Beginnings

The Gibbons catalog tells us that the stamps of Queensland were used from about 1885 onwards until the first issues were produced. These can be recognized by the killer cancels “N.G.” or “B.N.G.” in a heavy oval of bars, as well as other markings. These are quite scarce to rare.

Halfpenny British New Guinea 

1901 British New Guinea Issue

This is a beautiful and colorful engraved set (eight stamps), making  it is quite striking for the era.

Big Blue only provides two spots so you will be safe from harm with that. But curiosity killed the cat. and armed with a Gibbons catalog, we might (will?) descend into watermark variety and paper madness.

Multiple Rosette Watermark 

The watermark comes horizontal  (shown above) or vertical. We can assume that because the full printing sheet was square, the printers didn’t really care how the sheet went into the press. The paper is listed by Gibbons as thin or thick, with the thin paper (with or without gum), feeling close to the thickness of a sheet of modern typing paper.

These were issued in sheets of 30 (5 stamps wide x 6 tall) with just crosses to align the two color prints. In the margins of positions 5 and 16, there are pinholes used to align the sheets for printing. So if you get a left or top margin copy with a marginal pinhole, your stamp is probably plated for you and it should not be counted as a flaw.

 On this and later issues, you should be rather reluctant to pay any kind of premium for used with a socked-on-the nose Port Moresby cds, as most of those are favor-cancelled at best. Port Moresby is by far the most commonly seen cancel, with other towns scarce to rare.

Loose Ship Letter Cancel

Maritime/paquebot cancels and Australian markings show up also, like the partial LOOSE SHIP LETTER cancel shown above, handed over on board ship or at the departure dock and so not carried inside the normal mailbags.

If you have the “B.N.G.” killer cancel mentioned earlier, it’s very likely genuinely used but may not be very attractive. 

That is, except in one important case.

The scarce 2/6 value (CV $700) was forged by Sperati, along with the BNG cancel. The forgery is excellent, so anyone buying this stamp should have it certified. The Sperati forgery is worth some money by itself.

Collectors should note that the usual conditions for stamps from tropical regions apply to early 20th century issues, ranging from bright white paper with bright clear gum to having slightly toned paper and browned gum. The latter should not be heavily downgraded if at all. The 1/-  and 2/6 frame colors will often be oxidized to varying degrees. Centering is generally quite good in most cases.

2d Papua Overprints

1906 Large Papua & 1907 Small Papua Overprint Issues

Control of the territory was given to Australia and the region was renamed Papua.

The large (1906-eight stamp issue- at top) and small (1907- eight stamp issue) overprints are shown above for comparison. Individual type letters can vary; this is fairly usual. See the raised "a" and period/stop on the small overprint above.

True overprint errors/varieties exist: sideways, double, diagonal, inverted d used instead of a lower case p (positions 10 and 16), dropped “pua” (position 17), all rare.

 Since these overprints were done on existing stamps, there are the same paper and watermark varieties. 

Halfpenny large and small PAPUA

1907 Lithographed Issue, small PAPUA

Large and small PAPUA: these can be quite confusing without several in hand and even then… There are slight variants in the tablet inscriptions besides(!) Here, the large is at top, the small at bottom. While the large generally has taller lettering than the other, I suggest using the width of the ending "A", which is clearly wider in the large PAPUA.

Crown and Double-lined A (Scott Wmk 13)
Can be upright or sideways

Here again we have two orientations of watermark (upright & sideways), now the standard Crown over A. This is also found reversed on occasion. There is perf 11, perf 12 ½ and a rare compound perf of the two.

4d rift in clouds
Note slightly curved mostly horizontal white thick line above white puffy clouds

The issue is eminently plateable with possibly every value in a sheet being distinct from another and with 3 printing stones involved besides. There are characteristics found in both in the vignette and frame. The “Rift in clouds” (pos. 23 of every value) is the most prominent and so gets a mention in Scott.

2,5d white leaves

The “White leaves” at lower left variety adjacent to the 2d or 2 ½d. They are both popular and thus rate some premium but are really just distinct plate positions.

1910 Lithographed Issue, large PAPUA

New transfers were made, with all values now with upright Crown over A watermark and perf 12 ½. The 1/2d and the 2/6 values are distinguishable by perf; the 1907 stamps are perf 11.

 The rift in Clouds variety no longer existed but the white leaves variety still carried on.

2d OS perfin


OS perfins exist beginning with the 2/6 large Papua overprint. These have been ignored by most collectors for the longest time since they have not gotten catalog recognition until fairly recently. Again, we have perf, paper and watermark varieties as on the basic stamps.

The perfins of the lithographed issues (large and small PAPUA) are sometimes perfed 11 1/2

1d stamp duty

Out of the Blue again, revenue style

The Lithographed stamps were overprinted STAMP DUTY,  reported by the 1915 Forbin revenue catalog to be the ½, 1 and 6d small PAPUA values and the 2/6 large PAPUA.



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Netherlands - Bud's Big Blue

Van Gogh's favorite postman: Joseph Roulin
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Dutch stamps abound in feeder albums, so filling the Netherlands spaces in Big Blue isn’t difficult except, perhaps, for a few of the postage dues. Nevertheless, I always check the Netherlands pages for interesting cancels when I get a new feeder album. Like its neighbors, Belgium and Luxembourg, the Netherlands excelled in SON (socked on nose) cancels during the pre-World War I era, and I’ve always liked them.

At first, I traded my ordinary cancels for any with clear dates and places of origin. Some of these linger on the first pages of the scans shown below, also on the supplement pages. Then, as duplicate SONs amassed, I limited my replacements to stamps cancelled in the towns I visited in pre-covid days. These also, in part, linger.

More recently I’ve been scanning the feeders for town-cancels where medieval, renaissance, and impressionist Dutch artists were born -- Hertogenbosch for Hieronymus Bosch (b. circa 1450), for instance, or Leiden for Rembrandt (b. 1606). These make for a somewhat more difficult search. I haven’t gotten very far but they, too, are plentiful. Dutch towns have long histories of supporting the arts. If, however, I end up finding too many of these, I’ll try birthtown cancels pinked on the artists’ birthdays. So far, I’ve found none of these. I might someday find and keep, say, a 17 June 1898 Leeuwarden cancel, M. C. Escher’s birth date and town. Who can guess what surprises feeder albums may hold?

For instance, take the Scott #84 (shown below). Cancelled in Bosch’s hometown, it’s supposed to be brown lilac, but gray lilac describes it better. An anomaly? Chemically faded? A rarity? I like it simply for its Hertogenbosch cancel. Peeking from behind it is a normal brown lilac #84, also rescued from a feeder album.

Scott # 84 (vars), Hertogenbosch, 18 October 1904 cancel 

I’ve had more luck finding cancels for Hertogenbosch than for any other artist’s birthtown.  Here are three more:

Scott #s 17 red brown, 37 violet, and 50 gray violet

Roughly contemporary with Bosch is the master engraver known only as IAM of Zwolle, the town of Zwolle presumably being where he was born and worked. While little is known about Bosch personally, even less can be said about IAM. His surviving works, only 24 in all, feature swarming crowds, have fine tonal nuances and, like Bosch’s paintings, tend toward the grotesque.

Scott # 1a, light blue, Zwolle cancel, 19 (?) June 1860

The Zwolle postmark is “type 75” according to O. M. Vellinga’s Postmarks of the Netherlands 1676-1915, a comprehensive on-line resource: https://jdlkremer.angelfire.com/VELLINGA.1676-1915.KNBF.pdf.

 Leiden postmarks (Rembrandt’s place of birth) are also rather easy to come by. Rembrandt, of course, is not only the greatest Dutch artist, but the world’s greatest. I’m struck by the similarity of Queen Wilhelmina’s profile on the two stamps shown below and that of Rembrandt’s Bathsheba, except Bathsheba, having received King David’s letter demanding an illicit tryst, carries a mien of deep sadness. 

Scott #s 67 and 68, gray lilac and blue

Bathsheba contemplating King David’s letter,
Rembrandt, 1654

Coded postal obliterators (CPOs; puntstempels in Dutch) provide another way to identify artists’ hometowns although place names are not spelled out. A number, surrounded by 26 variously-shaped dots, designates the post office of origin (5 = Amsterdam, 91 = Rotterdam, and so forth). It’s unusual for all 26 dots to print and, even more rare, for all 26 to be found on a single stamp. And, of course, there’s no cancellation date. The Netherlands used CPOs from 1 April 1869 until 15 June 1893. An index of CPO numbers can be found at: https://poststempelverzamelaar.jouwweb.nl/puntstempel.

Scott #26, gray, Rotterdam CPO 91

Rotterdam is the birthtown of Willem Pieterszoon Buytewech (b. 1581/2), a painter noted for his group portraitures of ribald parties, only few of which have survived.

Although not Dutch by birth, Claude Monet lived with his family in Zaandam, a town near Amsterdam, in 1871. He painted 25 views of his temporary home town. The river front scene, shown below, may include the post office (or maybe 😉 it’s just to the right and out of view).

Claude Monet, 1871, evening at Zaandam dike 

The Zaandam cover (below), likely a death notice, bears a clearer “type 75” cancel than the Zwolle example shown above. It was struck about a decade before Monet painted Zaandam.

Scott #2 on cover, lake, Zaandam cancel

Vincent Van Gogh used his drinking buddy, postman Joseph Roulin, as the model for many paintings. I particularly like the one hanging in Philadelphia’s Barnes Museum (shown at top). It would be the perfect illustration for this post on the Netherlands’ stamps except for the fact that Van Gogh was in Arles when he painted it, and Roulin was French. The “postes” on Roulin’s cap is the giveaway. Nevertheless, the Netherlands rightfully claims Van Gogh as its own, for he was born in the village of Zundert. Zundert cancels are few, so I borrowed this one and will need to give it back. I’m hoping for a Zundert cancel on Van Gogh’s birthdate, 30 March 1853, about a year after the first Dutch stamps were issued. I’m preparing for a long wait.

Scott # 37, violet

At first glance, early Dutch stamps seem rather drab, as the scans for Big Blue pages one through three (below) amply demonstrate. But, if you follow where the cancels lead, WOW!

Census: 307 in BB spaces, six tip-ins, 168 on supplement pages

Jim's Observations

For the Netherlands, Big Blue "69, on 10 pages ( Five for the semi-postals), has 140 spaces for regular, 7 air post, 35 postage due, and 125 semi-postal spaces. Of interest, BB only misses 8 semi-postal spaces.

BB Total = 307
BB Overall coverage = 61%.

Of the expensive stamps in BB, there is one (1891 Scott 50 1g gray violet ($77+) ) that crosses the $35 threshold, and 21 between $10-$30+.  Of those, eleven are semi-postals. 

The Netherlands classical issues, unlike some other European nations, are quite reasonable in price- considering they are indeed classics. And, although mono-color, i.e. "drab", as Bud says,  they are, to my eye, quite attractive indeed.

And, the Netherlands also issued many quite attractive semi-postals. Have a look at them with the second blog post below.

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Comments appreciated!