Monday, April 20, 2009

El Salvador Transito Territorial Issue

About 30 years ago the following item was in a collection of mine of El Salvador. It, to the best of my knowledge, is unique. It is a block of 50 of the Transito Territorial issue showing the full setting of the overprint. I also had a block of 45 - the top row was missing. I suspect it had been removed because position 2 of the setting shows the third “r” in Territorial being italic (r). This is the only position in the setting with this variety.

There are other varieties as noted in the write-up on this page.

A comparison of the block of 45 with the block of 50 showed these varieties to be consistent and that the block of 50 illustrated the complete setting. It appears that the size of the setting was the largest that could be done by the press in use in El Salvador.

Covers bearing this issue are very scarce although a few are known to exist.

The Color Overprints

In addition to the black overprint, catalogs record the overprint in Violet, Red, Magenta and Yellow. With very, very few exceptions ALL of the color overprints I have seen did not plate into the setting so they must be counterfeits. Nor have I ever seen a convincing genuine postal cancellation on a copy and I do not know of any genuine covers bearing a colored overprint.

Thus, I suspect that at best, the color overprints are either trials to see what color best showed up on the stamp or they were produced for politically connected people as a special souvenir. Caveat Emptor!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How To Grade A Cover

There is a reasonable amount of information available on how to grade a stamp regardless whether one agrees with the information or not.. However, if you are a cover collector there seems to be precious little. I submit that the following can be used as a guide on how to grade a cover.

For each of the following points I assign a numerical value from one to ten, where one is extremely poor quality and ten is perfection.

Point 1) What is the condition of the cover? Is it torn or not; extraneous information written-upon it or not; or have a piece missing or whole? Does it have a stain or not; has it been folded or creased or not? All of these points would require a very low score.

Point 2) What is the size of the cover? Is it a standard personal size or an unusual size? Less desirable sizes are business, odd-shaped, and extremely large. In the U.S. an European size is considered less desirable generally. However, if you collect non-U.S. covers it should not be considered so.

Point 3) What is the condition of the stamps on the cover? Are they torn, have a piece missing or poorly centered?

Point 4) What is the condition of the postal markings? Are the faint, missing sections or smudged or are they clear, sharp and complete? Are all of the markings on one side of the envelope or both sides? Does it have all common postal markings or are there unusual ones? Note: Each postal marking must be judged separately and then the total points given are to be divided by the number of markings.

Here is an example of a cover that I have rated and my reason why I gave it the rating I did.


First Point

The cover is clean, whole and stain free but shows some signs of being rumbled at bottom left. Therefore I assign it 8 points.

Second Point

It is a U.S. standard sized envelope. So, it receives 10 points.

Third Point

Being a postal stationery items it has no added adhesive stamps. Therefore, the points made are not applicable.

Fourth Point

There are 2 postal markings and 2 private markings. Looking at each I would make the following rating:
Postal Markings
Santa Ana marking – very clear, very sharp and 95% complete - 9.5 points
San Salvador “cogwheel” – very clear, very sharp and complete - 10 points
Private Markings
Via Panama & New York – clear, somewhat faint & complete - 8 points
Merchant marking – clear, sharp and complete - 9 points


There are 3 postal markings and one merchant marking on the reverse
Postal Markings
2 Mannheim markings – very clear, very sharp and complete - 10 points each
Santa Ana marking in blue (between Mannheim markings) - clear, rather faint and complete - 7.5 points
Merchant marking
Clear, sharp and complete - 8 points

The total points for all markings – 72 points. Divided by number of markings – 9 points.

Thus, I would rate the cover with a total of 27 points, which I divide by 3 as the number of applicable points for a score of 9. Out of a possible score of 10 I would have to rate this as Extremely Fine.

What are your comments?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Philatelic Covers

Although not as common these days, I still hear people disparage an item in an exhibit as, “Oh, that’s just a philatelic cover.” I suspect this may just be sloppy use of language.

A case could be made that any cover in an exhibit is a philatelic cover (I know that is not what is meant.) since it is acquired by a philatelist.

Oftentimes the cover in question is one addressed to or from a stamp dealer. Does that automatically make the cover philatelic? In my opinion NO. Remember, stamp dealers are business people and so most of these covers are really business covers, especially if they use stamps currently available at the post office. Shown here is an example of currently available stamps in the minimum number necessary to pay the fees.

Say you have a cover going from one person to another. Is that always a non-philatelic cover? In my opinion, again NO. If they are old enough how do you know that one or both were not collectors? You probably don’t unless one was a famous collector and you recognize the name. Here is an example of a cover going to a collector although you may not recognize the name. (He wrote the classic article on the Old Postal Cancellations of Nicaragua that appeared in the magazine Die Post in 1935.)

To overcome the problem of sloppy use of language, I submit that we should always use the term “philatelically inspired cover.” So, how do you recognize a philatelically inspired cover? There are several ways. If it is an unaddressed cover it means it was created specifically for collectors so it is philatelic ally inspired. Another way is if the stamps were not regularly issued to the general public. Here is an example from El Salvador. Most of these stamps were not issued to the public but if you had the right political connection you could get examples and their usage was tolerated.

What is your opinion?