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Fifteen-thousand different worldwide stamps for 40€ – a deal too good to be true?

Fifteen-thousand different worldwide stamps for 40€ – a deal too good to be true?

If you are not familiar with major auction house listings, the usual sales talk of worldwide collections/lots goes something like this: ‘{Spectacular BIG adjective} A to Z worldwide collection covering from {startyear} to {endyear}. {Some inaccurate way to describe that there can be anything from few hundred to tens of thousands of stamps} from all parts of the world housed in {some storage method}. Mostly of modest value, but a quick browse reveals there are {insert a list of baits here}. Fine to very fine condition {like always}. Estimate: some three to five-digit sum plus auction fee‘. Stamp auction listings like these make worldwide collectors crazy because they rarely give away anything truly specific (which really does not make any sense in this era of online listings), but the vague description and high estimate lets you anticipate it will be worth the money. I confess that I too drool for lots like these, but because of the high cost never bid or buy.

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Heaven and Hell – a stamp soaking experience

Heaven and Hell – a stamp soaking experience

As I placed three-hundred-and-something stamps to my soak tub and poured some hot tap water on top of the stamps, I knew I was undertaking a challenge too big for a late night project.  When I finally reached the end of the soak and rinse operation, about two-and-half hours later (and way beyond my usual bed time), my brains felt lobotomized, my shoulders and neck were stiff, and I was hugely exhausted from repeating same movements non-stop for the past few hours.   However, at the same time I felt extremely happy and peaceful. Does this experience of heaven and hell at the same time feel familiar to you? And how did I end up to this state first place?

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Indore stamps of 1904/08 – engraved, litho, or both?

Indore stamps of 1904/08 – engraved, litho, or both?

I’m not the easiest kind of collector to get confused but the below Indore stamps with portrait of young Maharaja Tukojirao Holkar III have got me perplexed. In 1904 Perkins Bacon won the contract for printing of Indore stamps from Waterlow, and from there onwards all Indore stamps were printed in recess by Perkins Bacon until 1940. Simple and sweet, except when going through my recent acquisition I noted that a couple of these stamps did not feel engraved to tweezer tip, but they had the appearance of genuine stamp. This marked the beginning of another trip down the rabbit hole.

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Charkhari pictorials of 1931

Charkhari pictorials of 1931

The 1931 pictorial stamps of Charkhari make an interesting set of stamps. They are among the most common stamps of Indian native states, and the fact that I found 50+ specimens (over one tenth of the total) from my recent Indian states purchase says a great deal on the easy availability of the stamps. The stamps are so common because the Charkhari State administration lost (or gave away) control on the distribution of the series, and the stamps were dumped on philatelic markets in large quantities of mint and CTO specimens at much below face value; thus they are very cheap even nowadays. Genuine postally used  copies, especially on cover are extremely difficult to find and totally different topic.  Another characteristic of the series is that it contains a range of high values from 1 to 5 rupees (equal to 1-5 days wage at State service) that likely saw little to no real postal needs. So in number of ways this series is a forefather of modern day philatelic wallpaper.

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Charkhari stamps

Charkhari stamps

Recently I’ve been bugging my head with a lot job of 300+ stamps of  various Indian feudatory states.  The stamps were ripped down from a number of vintage Big Blue remainders and other ‘junior’ stamp albums of the yesteryear, so I don’t have huge expectations to find any rarities or as such, but who knows what lurks in an oddball lot like this.  Needless to say the challenges of this lot are numerous. Some stamps of Indian native states are simply difficult to identify because they lack any comprehensible western characters.  Few stamps are in condition far worse than what I wish/desire to include into my collection, but as I’ve got no clue on what’s the ‘average condition’ for these is, I  don’t like to throw them out neither (at least yet). And then there’s the question of forgeries – for many Indian native states the forgeries are said to outnumber the genuine, especially with mint/unused. So all in all I’m having one fun summer project that will hopefully educate me a lot about this complex area in weeks to come.  As my first stop I’ve chosen Charkhari, a small (population ~120,000) princely state in Central India.

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Special speck of dust

Special speck of dust

Lately I’ve been entertaining myself by reading stories and interviews of other (mostly non-stamp) collectors; how they view and live the life of a collector. What I’ve come to realize is that all the collectors, despite what they collect (be it Barbie dolls, motorbikes, Nightwish memorabilia, video games or our precious stamps/postal history) share similar lifestyle and challenges.

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Nabha fake overprint – a possible Hialeah forgery?

Nabha fake overprint – a possible Hialeah forgery?

Many worldwide collectors are wary with overprints, and maybe for good reasons. I was adding some stamps of Indian states to my collection, when I noted the overprint on one of the Nabha stamps looked very different from the crowd. Needless to say I had stumbled upon a crude fake that had sat on my collection for few years.  If I had not received several duplicates to compare, I guess it would have gone unnoticed.

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Soviet 50th anniv. of October revolution EFO

Soviet 50th anniv. of October revolution EFO

Below is an interesting Soviet EFO (error-freak-oddity) that I believe is a result of poor quality control during sheet cutting.  These two minisheets are of identical size, and the only real difference between the sheets is the shifted location of background (which leads to different inscription visible) and the location of stamp itself.

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The anatomy of 100,000 stamp stamp collection (or Is a completing a world collection possible, take 2)

The anatomy of 100,000 stamp stamp collection (or Is a completing a world collection possible, take 2)

As I have now officially reached the 100,000 stamp landmark with my collection, I believe now is a good time to have a proper look of what a collection of this scale contains; and maybe more importantly what is missing and how it has grown since last indepth look. You can (and should) consider this entry as an independent sequel to Is a complete all-era worldwide stamp collection possible entry that I wrote way back in summer of 2009. Possibly the most important lesson I learned from doing this analysis is never to throw away old backups of anything, as I painfully realized that I no longer have accurate details of what my collection was alike in 50K stamps. Instead I had to use the landmark of 60K stamps as my comparison point.  But even with this minor beauty error, I think the results of this analysis do provide very interesting and unique perspective into anatomy of a stamp collection of this size.

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Postal forgeries of modern Chinese stamps

Postal forgeries of modern Chinese stamps

Not so long ago I was adding some modern Chinese stamps to my collection, when I observed one of the newcomers having a different perforation than the one already in my collection. I quickly double-checked all my catalogs and came up with nothing special: the stamp should have no varieties.  Followed by a bit of frustration I got in touch with a Chinese collector who I knew was into fakes, and learned that I had found of one of the many postal forgeries of modern Chinese stamps.

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