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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The First Six Postal History Items For My Exhibit..

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I wanted to depart a bit from my practice of writing about definitive sets, and take you through the process by which I am actually approaching my study of Nigerian stamps and postal history. I had decided that since I would be presenting an Exhibit at the November 2013 meeting of the West Africa Study Circle in London, that I would devote the next several posts to showing you the covers and postcards that I have selected for my exhibit. Each item has been selected either because I feel that the frankings are especially spectacular, the covers have been to unusual destinations, or there is some other feature of the cover that makes it especially interesting. When one collects postal history from this country for a while one becomes aware of how common covers to the USA or the UK are after about 1930. Prior to that, all covers are scarce. So without further ado, I present the first 6 items that I have selected, all from Lagos, during the reigns of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII:

The first of these is a one and a half penny postcard, sent from Lagos on February 2, 1886 to Hamburg, Germany. This is an early date, as most of the postcards like this that I have in my collections are used between 1889-1893. Another point of interest is the Lagos postmark, showing the time code "A" and" FE 2", but no year date. This is a variation of the commonly seen CDS cancellation for this period (type D6 in Proud), which always has a year date. This one does not, which makes it unusual. 

Here is an interesting and early business reply envelope with what appears to be a stamp dealer's advertisement at the top. Upon reading it, the advertisement tells the sender that they should use halfpenny stamps only and that they will be paid for the stamps on the letter. Presumably they wanted halfpenny stamps because they would have been easier to to use as packet material and they would have been more popular among collectors at the time. The red "Liverpool Packet" handstamp at the left indicates that the cover reached the UK on December 3, 1896, although the Lagos CDS on the back of the envelope is only partially complete, and the portion that would have shown the date is missing. The envelope has been franked with a 2d mauve and blue, and a single halfpenny stamp, paying the two and a half  penny rate to the UK, and the stamps have been tied to the cover by two strikes of the Proud type K5 oval obliterator. 

Here is a cover sent to Germany on November 30, 1901. This is after the death of Queen Victoria, so technically this is a KEVII cover. Franked with the same combination of stamps as the cover above, which shows that the rate probably applied to all of Europe. The stamps are tied to the cover with strikes of the Proud type D13 Lagos CDS cancellations. 

This cover was sent from Lagos on what was probably March 18, 1891 aboard the S.S. Niger, to Berne, Switzerland. The cover reached the UK on April 16, 1891 and Berne on April 18, 1891, judging from the backstamp date on the cover. I particularly love the penmanship displayed by the sender. The Lagos CDS is  Proud type D7, which was first used in 1873.The cover is franked with a lovely copy of the 4d bicolour, showing much deeper lilac colour than is normally seen on this stamp. I'd be interested to know exactly what the nature is of the red "3" marking at the top of the cover.i.e where was it applied, and what was it meant to indicate?

An early registered cover sent from Lagos in February 1903 to the Mead Cycle Company in Chicago Ill. Again, although the stamps on the cover are Queen Victoria, the cover is technically from the reign of King Edward VII. The cover bears an oval "R" registration mark (Proud type R5). The Lagos CDS is unclear, but appears to be Proud type D13, as on the third cover above. This was in fact the most common cancel of this period. The registration rate was 2d, which when added to the 2.5d postage rate, gave a total rate of 4.5d and this was paid with a strip of 4 1d carmine rose stamps and one halfpenny stamp. 

My research indicates that Mead was a very prominent Chicago manufacutrer of bicycles. Below is an example of a US postcard from 1914 showing an advertisement for their bicycles:

Mead Cycle Company Chicago Illinois Bicycles Advertising

This is an example of the 1890's Lagos postcard, which is not that uncommon. However, what makes this one interesting is that it was re-directed. It was sent from Lagos on December 7, 1896, and was addressed to Lieutenant Abel in Berlin. The card arrived in Berlin on what appears to be January 2, 1897. It was re-directed to Blankenburg, arriving there on January 3, 1897.

I would very much appreciate any comments that you can offer about the above six covers.

Here They Are: The Two Rarest Stamps of Lagos...

As promised, I am posting the pictures of the used 5/- blue and 10/- brown stamps of Lagos that arrived last week:

I have read in several sources that there were no more than 480 or so of each of these two stamps printed. Given that these were printed in panes of 60, that means there were no more than eight sheets issued. They were issued in October 1886 and were in use for less than 6 months, before being replaced by the bi-coloured stamps in March 1887. How many of these have survived since then is anyone's guess. However, I will note that the vast majority of the stamps that I have seen offered for sale are mint. Used copies seem to be very rare, and when they are found, they generally are heavily cancelled - much more so than the 10 shilling value shown above. While it may not score top marks for eye appeal, it is a very sound and presentable example of this very rare stamp. 

So there you have them: the 5/- blue and 10/- brown Vickies of Lagos. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Comments Settings Changed

I had kept wondering why no comments were appearing on my posts. My very astute girlfriend and I were discussing this the other day and she told me that my settings restrict people from posting comments, because she had tried on several occasions. I was surprised, because this was not my intention. So I have now changed my settings and you are all free to comment.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Total Shock - I did not Succeed in Purchasing the Mint 5/- and 10/- Lagos Stamps

The old adage, "don't count your chickens before they hatch" is such a tried, tested and true piece of wisdom, that I am amazed that I don't follow it more often. A few days ago, I proudly proclaimed that I had acquired both the mint and used examples of the 5/- and 10/- Lagos first issues. While it is true that I have actually bought the used stamps, I jumped the gun on the mint ones.

You see, a seller on e-bay had them listed for opening bids of $450 and $900 respectively. This is about 60% of their Scott value. Knowing their true rarity, I placed a bid of $1,000 on the 5/- and $2,000 on the 10/-. I was so sure that I would succeed in purchasing these at significantly less than these amounts, that I went ahead and announced that I had acquired them.

Up until an hour before closing I was indeed the high bidder. I went to the gym for my weekly workout, came back and to my shock, the 5/- sold for $1,025 and the 10/- for $2,025. Both stamps were purchased by a buyer, who up until an hour before had been the underbidder. He had out bid me by one increment - but who knows what his high bid was?

The moral of this story, apart from not jinxing your chances of success by jumping the gun, is that the market is beginning to wake up to the rarity of this material, and prices are rising accordingly. I have another chance to purchase a 10/- at retail, but I honestly don't know when I will see another 5/- blue in mint condition that was as fresh as the one I lost out on today. So when you see a rare item and you have an opportunity to buy it - bid boldly because chances are increasingly that you are not alone in your evaluation of an item.

I will still post the pics of the two stamps that I did acquire when they arrive.

Comments Please...

Before I publish my next post I would like to call upon all of you to comment on my posts. This is a vast and complicated area of philately. While there is a considerable body of knowledge that exists, much if it resides either between the ears of many established philatelists, or has been published in newsletters or journals that are either out of print, or not widely available. If you go to any seller of philatelic handbooks, you will find very few reference sources for Nigeria. Those publications that do exist tend to focus on pre-1914 issues. Except for articles written by King George VI specialists, articles dealing with the King George V Keyplates and articles written by my esteemed colleagues Rob May and Jeremy Martin dealing with modern definitives, there are very few sources dealing with the issues of post 1914 Nigeria.

Therefore in the interests of increasing the existing body of knowledge, I think it is important to share our knowledge with one another. Commenting is one of the best ways to facilitiate this exchange of ideas. Most of what I will present on this blog are my observations arising out of my study of Nigerian stamps and postal history. Very little will be undisputable fact. I am most interested in engaging all of you regarding the subjects that I am posting about.

So please, speak up. Don't be shy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Hiatus in Posts

I keep starting all my posts of late with the same apology, where I mention how few posts I have been writing along with a renewed commitment to post more often, one or two posts, and then nothing. This has weighed heavily on my mind since my last post. The truth is, I have been struggling with the issue of how to go about presenting the fascinating topic of Nigerian philately to all of you interested collectors. I have been trying to avoid going into the level of detail that excites me, largely because I am afraid that to do so, without first properly introducing my subject, would bore too many of you. So with that in mind I have tried to stick to introducing you to the many stamp issues that this fascinating country has to offer. There are still so many more though, and it will take me many posts to show them all to you.  I must point out that I am studying the stamps of this country one issue at a time, going into as much detail as I can before I get tired of it and move on to something else. So I think that I will be able to write more interesting posts and more frequent posts if I take you on the journey that I am on, as I go through it, sharing with you the knowledge that I acquire, as I discover it, or as I acquire it as the case may be.

As I had probably mentioned in an earlier post, I am a relatively new member of the West Africa Study Circle. They are meeting in London in November this year and I had signed up to give a presentation on one aspect of Nigerian Philately. Originally, I had committed to prepare a presentation on the 1973-1986 definitive issue. However, that has turned out to be a very complicated issue,I have not gotten very far in my research, and it is already July. So I have had to accept the fact that I am not going to be in a position to present on that topic by November. However, I will have enough time to present on a different topic – one with much less scope and rigour, and one that is more geared to fun.  A typical exhibit is between 60 and 120 pages. So, after much thought, I have decided to prepare a presentation on the postal history of the country, in which I select the 120 most interesting covers that are currently in my collection, and write a story about each one. With thousands of covers in my collection, clearly the most difficult part will be selecting the covers.

Over the coming months, I will be presenting one or two of the covers as often as time with my research permits. I may also post the occasional tidbit about some discovery I have made, but generally I expect that for the next several months, my posts will focus on the covers.

One exciting acquisition to my collection, that I will present, as soon as they arrive are the rare 5/- and 10/- first issues of Lagos. A few months ago, I had stated that my goal was to obtain these two stamps without the specimen overprint. I was fortunate a few weeks ago to acquire both stamps in used condition with certificates. Then a few weeks later, I was offered the same two stamps in mint condition! So my Lagos section is nearly complete, both mint and used, with only a few stamps missing.

I have noticed from my viewership statistics that many of my fellow West Africa Study Circle members have been visiting this blog. I welcome all of you and hope that you will offer comments on my posts and will enrich this blog with all of your collective knowledge on this fascinating subject.