Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Three new Brazil stamp discoveries

As I mentioned in a previous item, knowledge of the philately of Brazil is still far less complete than for many other countries, so new discoveries, even of older stamps, continue to be made. I know of three such in 2005, interesting primarily to specialists, but striking enough so that if they had been US items they would get Scott catalog entries and be reported in Linn's Stamp News.

First of these was an imperforate single of the issued stamp Scott Brazil 78. Scott has had a note mentioning that this exists, but neither I nor some other specialists had ever seen or heard of imperforates of the issued stamp, although two types of imperforates from proof sheets have been known for quite a few years, and are listed in specialized catalogs of Brazil. When I first heard of this item, I was skeptical, but the owner got it expertised by the American Philatelic Association's expertization service, and it came back with a "Genuine" opinion. It has recently been sold at auction.

The next one to appear was an imperforate unwatermarked block of Scott 669; this needs a bit of explanation. This 20 Cruzeiro stamp is one of the set of 16 denominations of definitives that were used from 1947 to 1954, all of them with the watermark numbered Wmk. 267 by Scott. For quite a few years, watermarked imperforate pairs and blocks of 7 of the 16 denominations have been known; they are scarce, but not unduly so. Also known were unwatermarked imperforate pairs and blocks of 3 of the 4 top denominations; not proofs, but stamps intentionally or accientally printed and sold. These three, the 5, 10 and 50 Cruzeiro denominations, are also scarce, but not as scarce as the watermarked imperforates. At a recent auction, these latter three *plus* an unwatermarked imperforate block of the 20 Cruzeiros, were offered as one lot; they came from the collection of a collector now deceased. He had recognized what he had, but seemingly never publicized it. It happens that I own pairs of the other 3 imperforate unwatermarked ones, so I compared those as carefully as I know how with the group that came up for auction, and from details of paper and printing, concluded that the three in the auction lot that had already been known are genuine, not proofs, and that the 20 Cruzeiros is also a genuine stamp block, not a proof or an essay. This will be worth a major number listing in a future Brazil specialized catalog.

Most recently, within the last few weeks, a copy of Scott 460 with watermark 249 vertical instead of horizontal, appeared on the market. This is a real surprise. Brazil Scott 458-460, the 2000, 5000 and 10000 reis definitives of the 1930s, were originally produced in 1938 from plates of 100 subjects, and this produced stamps on which the watermark is horizontal; all are common. The following year new plates of 458 and 459 were put into use, with 150 subjects, and the orientation of the cliches on these later plates was rotated 90 degrees from the orientation of the cliches n the previous plates, so the watermark appears vertical instead of horizontal. But no such change in the plate of the 10000 reis is mentioned in any of the literature I have. Evidently, though, a 150 subject plate of the 10000 reis must have been prepared and stamps printed from it; the only copy I know of at the moment is unused, so I can't guess whether the stamps from the 150-subject plate of the 10000 reis ever saw postal use. This will, of course, trigger an intensive search among specialists for more such vertically watermarked copies of Scott 460, unused or used.

The point of this discussion is that if you have (or start, or acquire) a collection of Brazil stamps, it's worth examining every stamp carefully, no matter how ordinary it may seem. The three new discoveries in one year discussed in this item indicate to me that there are more unreported varieties of Brazil's stamps sitting "out there", just waiting to be discovered by collectors who examine them carefully.

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