Whether slightly flawed or torn or simply too common, the stamps which find their way into my collages are primarily from the philatelists’ reject pile –
“They are not the rarities of the stamp album. Some are even regarded as weeds in the philatelic garden.” – ‘Stamp Collecting as a Pastime’ by Edward J. Nankivell, 1902
I’ve never had anything against weeds myself, always loved dandelions and daises. The colours of ‘common’ stamps are beautifully blendable. Who cares if the perforations may not be perfect or a postmark slightly smudged? Even small tears or creases are soon rendered unnoticeable once artfully arranged.
There is a slight problem with this, although the analogy holds up. I love my garden and watching things grow, but I’m not a gardener, and if I were to do a spot of weeding it’s not beyond the realms of probability that I would pull up a plain green plant but leave a clump of pretty flowering weeds to flourish. Likewise, I’m not a philatelist, and – aside from the Penny Black – I really have no idea what has value and what doesn’t. I work on the assumption that the clearance packets I buy have already been sifted thoroughly by those in the know, and that anything potentially collectible has been removed long before coming into contact with me and my glue pen…
Which brings me to yesterday… A productive morning at my desk led to – amongst other things – this addition to my collaged notebook series. This particular collage was led by the central stamp of bathing hippos from Gabon, which blended nicely into an underwater lionfish stamp from Tanzania. Much rummaging provided the necessary greens and teals to finish off the design. I thought no more of it until I started writing my description for the new notebook, where I also usually list the countries of origin for the stamps used. I noticed one that I didn’t recognise, and wasn’t immediately identifiable.
A quick google search later, I was slightly alarmed when the first result I clicked on advised me that the stamp was from 1850s Tuscany (when it was an independent Italian state – who knew?!), and that the area “produced two postage stamp issues which are among the most prized classic stamp issues of the world, and include the most valuable Italian stamp.” Uh oh…
So above is a detail from my collage and this (right) is an 1851 Tuscan stamp as illustrated on Wikipedia. It was with relief that I read this final entry on the Wikipedia page: “Tuscany’s postage stamps have been forged numerous times for the philatelic market. Fernand Serrane stated in 1927 that “a small book would be needed to describe in detail the more than 100 or so counterfeits of the first two Tuscany issues.”
I’m very glad that Google is my friend. I discovered an amazing website entirely devoted to ‘Forgeries of the Italian States‘! After using the handy cross-referencing tool, I’m now almost completely convinced that I have collaged a forgery rather than the Italian equivalent of a Penny Black. I’m sure it’s a fake. Very nearly positive.
…but what do you think? If you think I’m wrong & the stamp is genuine, snap up this notebook now – you could bag yourself a real bargain! 😉 (Although if genuine, I’m pretty sure that any value this stamp may have had is now null and void…)
Hmm, this does all make me feel just the slightest bit queasy. So I’m going to end on a different note entirely. Here’s a pic of an A1-sized commission I completed earlier this month – lots and lots of stamps in this one but (this time slightly more certain…) none of value: