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Philately's Ugliest Ducklings (1960.)

Tannu Tuva Collectors' Society, Inc.   Tannu Tuva Collectors' Society, Inc.
          APS Affiliate #235

PHILATELY'S UGLIEST DUCKLINGS:
Rehabilitating the 1934-36 Issues
of Tannu Tuva

by James Negus.
We hope our readers will not be too shocked by this article. Its author, James Negus, has a facility for obtaining new information, and examining it critically. He believes in his family motto, "Nullus fumus sine igne" (No smoke without fire) as this article shows. (Originally published in The Philatelic Journal, July-September 1960.)

    For many years – until I persuaded them otherwise – Gibbons concluded their listing of Tannu Tuva with the chilly footnote: "We do not list the pictorial stamps inscribed 'Postage', 'Air Mail', and 'Registered' which appeared in 1934–36 as we are unable to obtain evidence that they saw postal service."

    For the 1960 edition, however, I was able to obtain recognition of two important points:
(a) The stamps certainly "saw postal service": what was in doubt was service from where? Moscow or Tuva?
(b) That, very slowly, scraps of information were being assembled to demonstrate that the stamps even had a genuine but rare usage from Tannu Tuva itself.

    Gibbons now say in their footnote that "we nevertheless do not list these stamps" and, of course, they have a perfect right to exclude whatever they wish from their own catalogue. In these notes I am advocating that the stamps should be listed in Gibbons and Scott (they have already made the grade in Yvert, Michel, Sanabria, and Whitfield King) and I imagine that readers will be interested to know why.

 

Why should the ugliest ducklings of philately now be rehabilitated? The short answer is that the evidence now accumulating seems to leave no alternative.

Postal Service
    Let us clear out of the way first of all the assertion that the stamps "never saw postal service". There are large quantities of covers extant which easily disprove this. Apart from those covers manufactured in bulk as part of the scheme for promoting these issues (see examples at figs. 1 and 2), fair numbers of prepared

Fig. 1. Cover to a dealer from Turan.
Fig. 1

covers still turn up. These are the type where a philatelist makes up envelopes bearing the stamps, posts them off to "The Postmaster, Kizil, Tannu Tuva," and some time later the envelopes are returned duly cancelled by that long-suffering

 

 

incumbent of Tuva's main Post Office.

    A favourite pre-war pastime also seemed to be to forward money to Kizil and ask for a cover to be posted in return. This was frequently successful. Mr C. Whitfield King, for example, quoted in the Philatelic Magazine of 2nd April 1937 (vol. 39, p. 285) the case of "a lady who addressed a remittance to the postmaster at Kizil, with the request that a cover should be posted to her franked with the requisite stamps." In due course such a cover arrived – it is illustrated in the article mentioned – and bore two single 20 kop. stamps of the 1936 Jubilee series (Yvert 74, Mirr 88) neatly cancelled "Kizil c, 3.7.36."

    An international reply coupon seemed to suffice also. Mr. Stuart Liebman, of California, told how the Kizil Postmaster obliged him with a cover, postmarked Kizil c, 29.6.37, on receipt of a coupon (Western Stamp Collector, 12th June 1954). The cover in question is illustrated at Fig. 3.

    Parallel with the efforts of individual collectors, some dealers prepared envelopes in larger quantities as a means of obtaining Tuvan issues cancelled

 

        Large cover to Lucerne, 1937.
Fig. 2

on cover. The enterprise of a Dutch dealer is illustrated at Fig. 4, with one cover from an identical batch bearing complete sets of the 1935 Zoological series. The cancellation is Kizil a, 21.3.39.

Fig. 3.  Cover to Stuart Liebman from Kyzyl, 1937.
Fig. 3

    Albert H. Harris, who conducted a pioneer investigation into Tuvan postal affairs before the war (see Stamp Collectors' Annual for 1938 and 1939), also displays covers received

Fig. 4. Cover from Kyzyl, 1939, to a dealer with the set of 1935 Animals.
Fig. 4

by his firm and an American P.O. receipt for 40 registered letters from Kizil to New York. Bob Richardson (Linn's, vol. 11, 8th July 1939, pp.571-572) mentions that Bela Sekula "wholesaled Touvan issues and had 6,000 to 8,000 covers sent him from Touva. Each cover bears a number of stamps and is registered from either Kizil or Turan and all are backstamped either in Switzerland or the U.S."

 


    "Postal service" as such is surely not in the least doubt. These various sorts of philatelic cover turn up all over the world, many are clearly backstamped at destination, and postage due was never charged. Impartial contemporary investigators, like Harris, clearly demonstrated that carriage through the mails certainly took place and that these flamboyant stamps were in practice tacitly recognized by postal administrations.

But Service from Where?
    The real point is the one that somehow became obscured: postal service from where? Stanley Phillips put the matter in his customary forthright way in the Philatelic Magazine for 5th March 1937
(vol. 39, p.197):
"These stamps, as far as can be ascertained, were made in Russia for sale to customers of the Soviet Philatelic Association. They have never been on sale in their supposed country of issue, and the covers on which some dealers rely as proof of postal status were, in our opinion, and that of other good judges, made in Moscow and postmarked there."

    Some covers, in fact, are clearly rubber-stamped "Soviet Philatelic Association, USSR - Moskow 50, Nastaslinskj per. 3" and although Richardson (loc. cit.) valiantly attempted to explain that this was a kind of transit marking applied by Moscow on covers making the journey from Tuva to the wholesalers, it seems easier to assume that the Russians had

 

manufactured the whole thing, covers, stamps and cancellations. It does not seem to me improbable, either, that the Soviet Philatelic Association could maintain a special department to intercept all those hopeful letters addressed to the "Postmaster of Kizil" by foreign philatelists and dealers. It would not be too difficult to fulfil the orders and the recipient would be in no position to judge whether his covers had reached him from Kizil or Moscow.

    In the first significant post-war study of Tuvan philately – and which led to the current revival of interest – A. Cronin drew attention to the importance of transit times in this connection. (New South Wales Philatelic Annual, 1954, pp. 13 - 19). Judging from covers of the 1927-33 period, before Tuva unleashed its pictorials, mail from Kizil to Moscow or Manchuria took somewhere about 25 – 35 days in transit; this is not an unreasonable time in view of the distances involved and the disturbed conditions of the Far East in those days. When, therefore, during the pictorials period the covers required only 24 - 26 days to get from "Kizil" to New York, this suggests that they never needed to waste a month in travelling up from Kizil to Moscow, there to be forwarded to New York. They more than likely started life in Moscow and never saw Tuva at all, irrespective of what the cancellation said.

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