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Collect Russian Stamps!

It goes without saying that there are few countries that exerted more influence over the last Century or so than Russia. As a child I proudly owned many of those cancelled– to– order stamps depicting gymnasts, soldiers, rockets & cosmonauts, playwrights & Lenin, happily mounting them in my album without concerning myself with wider political issues or the deeper message that the stamps conveyed, that Russia was a modern, peaceable, scientifically advanced, energetic country. They were colourful and easy to obtain and that was good enough for me!

As an older philatelist I’ve learned to appreciate so much more about the stamps of this huge, diverse country and perhaps the first stamps of Russia tell her 19th Century story best. Relatively isolated with very low rates of literacy there was something ignominious to the start of her stamp- issuing when in 1851 an official was sent abroad to study the experience of using postage stamps in England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. Having gathered a lot of information he eventually filed his report in 1855 with a recommendation that the new Russian postage stamps had to be perforated… and circular… to avoid the edges catching on mail boxes or other stamps. Essays were unsuccessfully produced.

In 1857 it was eventually decided that three different rectangular perforated stamps would be issued so printing of the 10-kopeck value began in November using two different printing presses, one for the blue central oval and the other for the brown frame. At this time the perforating machine arrived from Vienna in a state of disrepair and the somewhat embarrassing decision was made to issue the 10k stamp imperforate, so it could be brought into service as promised on 1 January 1858. The paper was also somewhat unusual having the watermark in relief rather than thinner like pretty much all other stamps then in issue!

So Russia’s first stamp was not supposed to be imperforate and I’ve always felt that adds to its charm!

Colourful but rather staid designs followed using the same basic formula showing an embossed Russian coat of arms and emblem of the Post Office. A pictorial Orphans Fund set was issued in 1904 and in 1913, just a few years before the end of it all, a set commemorating the Tercentenary of the Romanov Dynasty its top value depicting a stately Nicholas II.

WWI and internal turmoil has bequeathed us philatelists a myriad of interesting stamps. From the fascinating Civil War issues of 1918-20 to the first stamps of the Russian Socialist Federal Republic (or to its friends, the RSFSR) which were issued during 1918 whilst regional conflicts still raged. Those earliest stamps depicted Swords cutting chains, a worker on the chest of a defeated dragon, and symbols of Agriculture and Industry. Internationally there was a great interest in what was happening in Russia and that included the many thousands of philatelists who craved these unusual new stamps. The authorities understood this and raised money chiefly from overseas by issuing special stamps in aid of famine relief and other causes. One set in 1922 overprinted for “Philately for the Children” was sold to the public for 5 million times its face value!

Perhaps my favourite period of Russian stamp- issuing stretches from the 1920’s through the 1950’s with many beautiful and grandiose pictorial issues including Airship construction, the rescue of polar explorers, the opening of the Moscow Underground, young Pioneers, Industrial and Agricultural Production Records, War Orders and Medals plus so much else. They are full of hope and grand designs, the grand history of Socialism was being written in stamp albums everywhere.

Russia’s rarest item from this period would be the 1932 All-Soviet Philatelic Exhibition miniature sheet with an additional overprint giving details of the exhibition venue which was sent along with the actual invitations to the opening event. Almost all the collectors who received the sheet fell afoul of Russia’s challenging internal politics and only one such block has survived, last changing hands for the equivalent of over half a million pounds!

From the time of the Soviet revolution it would be many years before the true nature of this great experiment would be understood and Russia’s amazing stamps played just a small part in her propaganda not just with collectors across the world but at home where stamp collecting was seen as a largely benign activity enjoyed by millions of citizens.

In this sale we are delighted to offer you a particularly impressive range of lots including many of the scarcer and more desirable stamps and sets offered individually. Please let us know if we can help your collecting in anyway.

Vincent Green

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Lot Number: 7578
Closing: 18 December 2018

  • Guide price (GBP): 120 - 130
  • Currency guide (USD): 152 - 165
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Lot Number: 7581
Closing: 18 December 2018

  • Guide price (GBP): 100 - 120
  • Currency guide (USD): 127 - 152
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Lot Number: 7582
Closing: 18 December 2018

  • Guide price (GBP): 1500 - 1600
  • Currency guide (USD): 1905 - 2032
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