Saturday, December 31, 2005

Brazil perforation varieties, part 1.

A great many Brazil stamps issued since 1890 can be found with perforation varieties not listed in general catalogs such as Scott, and many of these are not specifically listed even in specialized catalogs or in monographs. In several of these notes I'll mention what I know about perforation varieties, even though there's a great deal I don't know and don't know how to find out. In this particular note I'll discuss just the stamps printed on paper with the Watermark numbered by Scott as Wmk. 236 (coat of arms in sheet). Only some stamps in a sheet show part of the coat of arms, but all stamps produced on this paper are easily recognized, because the paper is thick and rather stiff, and stamps without any portion of the coat of arms show pronounced vertical or horizontal ribbing. This paper was first used for postage stamps in 1933, and last used for these in 1937. All stamps printed on this paper were engraved (intaglio). Unlike the low-denomination definitives of that period, these stamps were all perforated on line perforators, rather than on the single-row comb perforators used for low-denomination defins, and several different line perforators were available in the Mint (where these stamps were printed and perforated) at that time, so numerous perforation varieties are possible.

The stamps in question are Scott Brazil numbers 381-383 (and, unlisted by Scott, 380 on paper wmk 236 unused only), 386, 394-397, 404-406 (plus the recently discovered stamp like 406 with the country name spelled 'Brasil' mentioned in a previous note), 407-410, 418-425, 429-430, B1-B4, C37, and the Money order stamps (not listed by Scott) cataloged by RHM as D72-D79 plus minor varieties.

At least three different line perforators were used for these stamps, and I do not know all the permutations and combinations of these; in particular, I don't know what partial perfs may exist. But here's what I do know.

First off, imperforates are known to exist of Scott 381-383, 404-406 (plus the above-mentioned newly discovered stamp), 407-410, 418-425, and B1-B4; B1-B4 exist only imperforate. All these imperforates were valid for postage, but I know of none actually used for prepayment of postage except B1-B4. Whether imperforates of the money order stamps exist I have no idea.

Scott lists 381-383 as perf 11 and 11 1/2. I have 381 perf.11, 12 and 11x11x11x12; 382 perf 11, 383 perf 11 and perf 12. Scott 386 is stated by Scott to be perf. 12, and that's the only perf I've seen, but RHM says it exists perf. 11, 12 and compound of 11 and 12. Scott lists 394-397 perf. 11, 12. I have 394 perf 11, 12 and 12x11; 395 perf. 12x11; 396 perf 12x11; 397 perf. 12. Scott lists 404-406 perf 9 1/2, 11, 12; I believe the '9 1/2' is a typo. I have 404 perf. 11 to 11 1/2, 12, 12x11 and 12x11x11x11; 405 perf 11-11 1/2, 12x11-11 1/2, 12x11x11x11 and 11x11x12x11; 406 perf 11 to 11 1/2, 12, 12x11 and 12x11x11x11. Scott lists 407-410 perf 11, 12. I have 407 perf 11, 12 and 12x12x11x12; 408 perf 11 and perf 12; 409 perf 11 and perf 12; 410 perf. 11 and 11x12x12x11. Scott lists 418 perf 11, 12x11. I have it perf 11, 12x11, and 11x11x12x11. Scott lists 419-420 perf. 11, 12. I have 419 perf 12, 11x12, 12x11x12x12; 420 11, 11x12, 12x11. Scott lists 421 perf 11; I have it perf 11 and 12x11. Scott lists 422-425 perf 11, 11x12. I have 422-425 all perf. 11, 423-425 perf 12, 422 and 423 perf 11x12, 422 perf 11x11x12x11 and 423 perf 12x11x11x11. Scott lists 429-430 perf 11. I have both perf 11 and both perf 12.

For none of these stamps have i done a systematic search for what perfs occur; the ones I've mentioned are just what has come my way in old accumulations. My conclusion is that Scott (and every other catalog, including RHM) is either incomplete or vague or both about the perfs on these stamps, and that it would be an interesting investigation to find out what perfs occur on which of them. I suspect, without knowing, that for most of them almost any combination of 11, 11 1/2 and 12 could be found by sufficiently diligent search. Anybody feel like trying to get this sorted out?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Brazil: Little known stamps

Because general catalogs cannot cover everything, there are a number of stamps issued and sold in Brazil that were officially valid for one or another service but which are not listed in Scott. This note mentions a few.

1) Telegraph stamps were used in two eras, separated by more than two decades. First were the "Kieffer" telegraph stamps of 1869-1873, issued by a private telegraph company but authorized by an official governement decree. Ignoring color shades, there are 16 different Kieffer telegraph stamps, all quite pricey. They more or less correspond to the US telegraph stamps listed in Scott's US Psecialized catalog. Kieffer's company abandoned the use of telegraph stamps after 1873, and no more were issued intil the two government-issued telegraph stamps of 1899, issued as an experiment for what was by then the government-owned telegraph system in the state of Rio de Janiero. These come in 200 and 500 reis denominations, of which the 200 is quite common unused, the 500 reis is scarce, and both are scarce used. If you collect Brazil, you will run across unused copies of the 200 reis sooner or later, green stamps in vertical format, larger than definitves, with the word "Telegraphos" at top. These stamps were not a success and their use was soon abandoned.

2) A semipostal stamp you may never see, but which is worth noting. All the general catalogs show Brazil's first semipostals being the semipostal issue of 1934, but in fact one semipostal stamp was issued by the Government in 1931, the so-called "Civic Contribution" stamp. The idea behind it was simple but misguided. 1931 was a year during the worst of the Great Depression, and the government was broke. So, at a time when postage for a single-weight first-class domestic letter was 200 reis, the governement issued a stamp that sold for 5000 reis, large and with an ornate design, inscribed with a message that in English translation says: "Reduction of the Public Debt -- Civic Contribution". This, when stuck on a domestic letter, paid the postage. Of course, in 1931 most Brazilians were even more broke than the governement, so hardly anybody except a few stamp collectors bought or used a stamp that cost 25 times the normal postal rate, and the great majority of these stamps were officially destroyed. However, they are known mint, used and on cover, although scarce in any condition.

3) Airmail stamps of ETA, Condor, Varig and Luftshiffbau Zeppelin Gmbh. From 1927 through 1930, because Brazil is a huge country with lots of small towns scattered in wilderness, many with airstrips, Brazil went through a period of semi-official air mail service, much as Canada did for a while, and for the same reason. Just like Canada, the airlines issued their own stamps to pay the fees they charged above and beyond normal government postal rates, and these stamps were officially recognized and approved by the government. Some of these are inexpensive and easy to find; some are pricey, especially used; some were printed but never put into use; and one set of Varig's semi-official airmail stamps was forged by an enterprising German forger. It's a bit difficult to decide how many different stamps of these airmail companies were issued, because of the ones that were printed but not used and because of the existence of error varieties, but by my own definition, Condor issued 15 different stamps that were used, Varig issued 73, ETA issued 5, and the Zeppelin company issued 9. All of these can be found rather easily and are relatively inexpensive at such sources as eBay, except used copies of the ETA stamps; ETA had few routes, and was able to use its stamps on those for only 8 months, so used copies of the ETA stamps are rather expensive, on or off cover, and quite hard to find.

4) SCADTA. SCADTA was an airline that provided airmail service within Colomibia (and Ecuador), using its own stamps. Much of the mail handled by SCADTA came from overseas, and the sale of SCADTA stamps in the countries where mail originated was complicated both by accounting problems and by changing currency exchange rates.
So SCADTA decided to overprint its stamps with abbreviations of country names, for sale in those countries in the currency of the countries of sale. These are not well known to most collectors; for example, the 27 different SCADTA stamps overprinted E.U. and sold in the United States are relatively unknown to US collectors, and are not listed in Scott, although they are listed by Michel. 24 different overprints for sale in Brazil are known, and most collectors, even in Brazil, are unaware of them. Michel's 2005 catalog prices for these 24 stamps range from 40 Euros for the most common ones to 1000 Euros for the scarcest, and are the same for unused and used copies, but there's a complication. Almost all the "used" copies of these that I've ever seen offered for sale had either faked overprints or faked cancels, so they should be bought with great caution. It may be significant that the only used copy of one of these Brazil overprints on SCADTA stamps I've ever seen that had an unquestionably genuine overprint and cancel sold for well over twice its Michel catalog value.

5) The Bridge stamp of 1945. This stamp, noted but not listed by Scott after Scott Brazil 640, did in fact get postal use in late October and the first half of December, 1945. The story of how and why is too complicated to explain here, but covers franked with this stamp before November 15, 1945, accepted fpr postage without any quibbles, can be found, and make a nice addition to a collection of Brazil. (Cancelled Bridge stamps off cover are common, but not really collectible, because almost all of those were created in 1946 when the stamps had been demonetized, by collectors who stuck them right next to valid postage stamps so that they received part of the cancel.)

6) For some reason Scott does not list the undemoninated registration stamps of Brazil issued 1990 to 1994; perhaps this is because they don't look like postage stamps, but they are, and were used to pay the registration fee for domestic letters. Whether there is one of these, or two, or three, depends on how one considers the varieties; Michel lists one, and RHM lists 3. They are very inexpensive, if one can find them, but quite hard to find.

Then there are the locals that actually got used for postage, and various other obscure things used to prepay postage, but those will have to wait for another note; this one is long enough for now.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Scarce Brazil stamps you might find

Many scarce Brazil stamps are not well known, so if you get an old collection or accumulation, look for them; you might find an unnoticed scarce variety, perhaps even a valuable one. This note provides a short partial list of these, selected because they require no special knowledge to recognize; with each description is an estimate of what a dealer in Brazil would charge for one at discounted retail if one was available to sell.

First, two recently discovered definitive rarities, one from the 1920s, one from the 1930s. The 80 reis greenish blue definitive of 1922, Scott design type A79, was only known unwatermarked until a few years ago. Then a few years ago copies were noticed watermarked with Scott Wmk. 100; these have been found both unused and used. It it almost a certainty that other watermarked copies exist out there somewhere, unrecognized. If a dealer in Brazil had one for sale, either unused or used, it would be priced at roughly US$3000.00. You just might find one lurking in a collection or accumulation you buy or already have; it's worth looking. The other, discovered even more recently, is a new major variety of the 10,000 reis of the same definitive series. This was first issued in 1928, with the country name spelled "Brasil", on paper with Scott Wmk. 101; then subsequent printings with the country name spelled "Brazil" were produced in about 1934 on paper with Scott Wmk. 236 and in 1938 with Scott wmk. 249. These three are Scott numbers 285, 404 and 460, respectively. In the early 1990s a stamp looking just like Scott 404, Wmk. 236, but with the country name spelled "Brasil" was discovered. I don't know of any used copies, although they may well exist, but both perforated and imperforate unused copies have been found. No imperforate copies have been sold that I know of, but a dealer in Brazil who had a perforated unused copy for sale would price it at about US$2500.00. Again, there are almost certain to be other copies unrecognized out there somewhere; keep your eyes peeled.

The typographed 100 reis of 1890 Scott 102, is fairly common, but it comes with three different perforations; the commonest is perf. 13 or close to that; almost as common are copies perf. a compound of 13 and 11. Copies perf. 11 are quite scarce, and sell in Brazil for about US$150.00 used, much more unused. Most collectors outside Brazil don't know this, so it's worth checking the perfs of every copy of Brazil Scott 102 you run across. Conversely, whenever you see a copy of Scott 155, 156, 157 or 158, check the perfs. These exist with perfs. a compound of 13 and 11, but are scarce with these compound perfs, and are priced at US$100.00 or more per copy by Brazilian dealers.

Unnoted by Scott, the 50 reis green of 1906, Scott #175, exists wth papermaker's watermark. It's rare with wmk., worth a few hundred dollars unused or used; exactly how much depends on which papermaker's watermark and how much of that shows on the stamp.

The 5000 reis of Scott type A89 with Wmk. 221 is not listed by Scott, because the editors of Scott's catalog decided some years ago that it wasn't "regularly issued." But it exists not only unused but postally used, and a lucky US collector found a postally used copy a few years ago. Keep your eyes open for this one; it retails for about US$2000.00 in Brazil. For the same reason, Scott doesn't list the 1941 airmail overprint C47 with wmk. 249, but that also exists both unused and postally used, and is worth perhaps US$1500.00 at retail in Brazil, either used or unused.

The definitive issues of 1941 to 1953 include many "sleeper" varieties; I'll just mention one group of these. Scott notes that this issue occurs with and without three vertical green lines on the back of the stamp. What Scott doesn't mention is that almost all copies of Scott 541-553, wmk. 245, have the three green lines on the back, except for the 20 reis, Scott 541, which is reasonably common without the lines. But at least the 100, 200, 5000, 10000 and 20000 reis with this wmk, Scott 543, 544 and 550-552, are also known to exist without the green lines on the back, and (depending on which of them it is) retail for US$100.00 to US$2500.00 in Brazil. These can show up even in "junk" mixtures because they're so little known, even though they are exceedingly scarce. It's worth looking for them.

There are literally hundreds of varieties of Brazil's stamps that are not listed in Scott (although if they were US stamps they would be listed), including a few that are face-different from any listed stamp. Most are not nearly as valuable as those mentioned above, athough some are worth significant money. Many are known to specialists, but new discoveries crop up fairly regularly. The more one learns about the stamps of Brazil, the more likely one is to spot something scarce that hadn't been recognized by previous owners, or something previously unknown. It's great fun. In a future note in this series, I'll offer a few anecdotes to make this point.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Brazil Philatelic Association

The Brazil Philatelic Association (BPA) was formed in 1968 by a few US collectors with a special interest in the stamps and philately of Brazil. Since then it has grown gradually but steadily; it still numbers only between 100 and 200 members, but by now it is Unit 32 of the American Philatelic Society (although one need not join the APS to join the BPA). The largest fraction of its members are in the USA, but it also has a significant number of members in Latin America (mostly in Brazil, as you might expect), as well as a scattering of members as far from Brazil as Japan. The only real requirements for becoming a member are an interest in stamps or philately of Brazil, and willingness to pay the dues. Dues for members in the USA and Canada are $15 for 1 year, $25 for 2 years, $35 for 3 years; for members in other countries the dues are $5 a year higher, to cover the extra costs of mailing.

Members include recognized experts, other specialists, serious collectors who study the philately of Brazil, and, more than all others put together, ordinary collectors like me who are just interested in forming or enlarging or understanding their collections of Brazil philatelic material. Dealers as well as collectors are welcome, and members include not only dealers, but even the publisher of a specialized catalog of Brazil's stamps and philately. Our membership list is held confidential, so you can join without worrying about becoming widely known unless you wish to be.

The BPA publishes a quarterly journal, "Bull's Eyes" (now up through whole number 143) carrying articles, news notes, classified ads, occasional letters, and the listings for BPA auctions (which are open to BPA members only); the articles range from serious new research studies to casual short items to tutorial material, just depending on who happens to write what. All members are encouraged to write for Bull's Eyes about any aspect of collecting Brazil that interests them, although only a fraction of the members actually do write for Bull's Eyes, because writing for publication takes time that most members cannot devote to it. The auctions provide a wide range of scarce material at what usually turn out to be very reasonable prices. But perhaps the most valuable result of joining the BPA (at least for me) is that gradually it brings one into contact with others who share one's special interests, including people from whom one can learn, and with whom one can exchange information, literature, stamps, covers, ..., whatever, on an informal basis that benefits everyone. (We need a Web site, but for reasons I won't bore you with, we don't have one yet, although we hope to some time soon.)

If you think you might be interested in joining the BPA, write or email our membership chairman,
Phillip Pulsinelli
2946 Sunset Drive
Export, PA 15632
for an application form and answers to any questions you may have about BPA membership.

I'll just conclude this note by observing that although I'm a lifelong non-joiner, I have found membership in the BPA to be extremely rewarding, and intend to continue my membership more or less forever.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Brazil stamps and philately

This is the first entry in a blog for stamp collectors about various aspects of the stamps and philately of Brazil. It's intended to grow into a sequence of short and medium-length notes about aspects of the subject that many collectors interested in collecting Brazil may not be familiar with. My only qualification for doing this blog is that, although I'm not an expert, and could never afford pricey rarities, I've been hooked on collecting Brazil for 40+ years of the 65 years I've collected stamps, and have gradually acquired a fair amount of knowledge in the course of putting together my "study collection" of Brazil; I'm a member of the Brazil Philatelic Association, of which more in another entry. The fascination lies largely in how much is little known (or unknown) about various aspects of Brazil philately, and the number of unusual and scarce items that can be found by persistant searching. I intend to avoid discussing information readily available in such places as Scott catalogs and Linn's Stamp News, and focus instead on things that are harder to find out (including some questions for which I still have no answers). I hope to draw more people into the fascination of collecting and studying stamps and philatelic material from Brazil.

To conclude this initial entry, I'll mention a few important catalogs which, put together, provide a great deal of information.
1. Scott catalogs: 2006 Volume 1 and the 2006 1840-1940 Specialized. These have been steadily improving in recent years, with errata corrected, new information added, and good color illustrations. However, being a general catalog of the whole world, updated annually, Scott catalog listings of Brazil necessarily omit much that would be present in a more specialized catalog.
2. Michel Sudamerika 2005: Michel only updates catalog volumes every few years, so it can do a somewhat more thorough job than Scott, and in some respects it does, containing some information that Scott doesn't, and having fewer errata than Scott (although Michel Sudamerika 2005 does contain a few errata, and, being a general catalog, omits much of interest). The main drawback for US collectors is that this Michel catalog is in German, but it's very easy German, and even if, like me, you know essentially no German, it is still quite easy to understand almost all of the text information.
3. The RHM specialized catalogs of Brazil provide an enormous amount of information not in any general catalog. They are written in Brazilian Portuguese, which can be a drawback for most Americans, but the Portuguese is simple enough so that anyone who can grasp the essentials of a newspaper story in French, Italian, or especially Spanish, will have no trouble learning to read the RHM catalogs. Unfortunately, the information comes in several different volumes. The current "simplified" catalog published in 2004, called the 54th Edition, plus an update published in 2005,
are readily available, and provide a great deal more information (and more accurate pricing) than any general catalog could be expected to do. However, there are many hundreds of Brazil stamps and varieties not listed in the 54th Edition that are described, listed and priced in the 4-volume 49th Edition, published in 1993, 1994 and 1995. This can now be hard to come by, because it's out of print, but thevarious volumes do show up from time to time in Web offerings on sites such as eBay and/or in the stocks of philatelic literature dealers, and are not al that expensive. Finaly, Volume 1 of the 49th Edition was superseded in 1999 by the "Catalogo Enciclopedico" which covers in great detail all sorts of information about the philately and postal services of Brazil from the very earliest (pre-stamp) era through to the end of 1889.; this is somewhat pricey (about US $100.00), but is in print, and readily available both from the publisher and from several dealers.

In a future entry in this blog (but not the next one), I'll describe the other sources of information about Brazil philately that I've found helpful.

Oh, by the way, if you collect Brazil's stamps, even casually, and have a question or questions you would like answered, whether seemingly simple or seemingly sophisticated, send me your question or questions, and I'll do my best to get you accurate answers; if I don't know, I'll try to find out from friends who do.

Enough for now.