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The Postage Stamps of Turkey, 1863-1864

(A paper read before the Royal Philatelic Society, London on 24 January 1974)


The first postage stamps of Turkey that is those showing the Toughra, despite being of the same design, are really three separate issues. The 2 and 5 Kurus were the first stamps to be printed, being lithographed at the end of 1862, although they were not issued until 1864. Both values were transferred to the lithographic stone in horizontal rows, and all the rows are upright, there being no tête-bêche rows in this printing. What may be called the second issue consisted of four values: 20 Para, 1, 2 and 5 Kurus postage stamps and the same four values as postage due stamps. These stamps were issued on 1 January 1863, and the feature of the issue is that each alternate row of stamps in the sheets was inverted, thus producing vertical tête-bêche pairs. The two values of the third issue, 20 Para and 1 Kurus, were printed and issued in 1864, and sheets of these 2 stamps also had each alternate row inverted. The first and second issues were lithographed in black on thin (pelure) white paper, and there are vertical and horizontal dividing lines between the stamps. The third issue was lithographed in black on thick white paper colored on the surface, but the stamps do not have vertical dividing lines.

All these stamps are similar in design to each other, their main characteristic being the Toughra over a crescent. The Toughra is kind of monogram, and was the signature of the Sultan. Differences in the designs of the stamps are in the ornamentation, and the value which is below the crescent and the Toughra. In Turkey, because of the presence of the Toughra, these stamps are especially referred to as Stamps with Toughra. After printing, the paper of the different values was dyed in various colors, and the stamps were then delivered to the Ministry of Finance. There the control band was applied, being hand-printed on the first issue. The control band is a repetition of the words “Devlet-i aliyye Nezaret-i Maliye, which is translated as “Finance Ministry of the Greates (Sublime) State. Stamps without the control band are incomplete stamps, and they had no franking power. Each value of the postage stamps has a different colored control band, but those on the postage dues stamps are all the same color, brown.

Collecting the material

I had the good fortune to be able to acquire the three largest collections of the first stamps of Turkey. The first was that of the late Mr. Arthur Linz, then came the collection of the late Mr. Colin, and finally that of Mr. Orhan Brandt. In addition to these I bought many smaller collections, and acquired all the interesting items I found on the market, until eventually I had in my possession 10,000 stamps.

Method and Progress of My Study

The first collection which I bought was especially strong in the 20 para of 1863, and this persuaded me to study this value. It also showed me that this stamp was the commonest of all the “Stamps with Toughra”, and eventually I examined more than 2,500 of these stamps. By so doing my eyes became accustomed to the design, and I continued my study by working on the 20 Para of the third issue the other value of the second issue, the 1 Kurus of the third issue, and the two values of the first issue. Before explaining my findings, however, I should like to express my indebtedness, and to offer my thanks, to all those philatelists who have preceded me in the study of these stamps. Without the aid of the results of their researchers and studies I could not have attempted the overall study of the “Stamps with Toughra”.

The 20 Para of 1863

The 20 Para postage stamp and the 20 Para postage dues stamp were printed from the same stone. I discovered that a second stone was used for the 20 Para postage due, but stamps printed from it were never issued, and I will deal with them later in this paper.

My collection contains 749 postage stamps and postage dues stamps of the 20 Para of this issue, and these have been divided into the following shades and colors:
Postage stamps: pale yellow, yellow and dark yellow;
Postage Due stamps: brown and brick-red, the shades of the brown stamps being pale brown, dark brown, red brown and dark red brown, and those of the brick-red stamps, light brick-red, brick-red, and dark brick-red. All the other values of the postage due stamps have the same color and shade variations.

In my opinion, the reason for the variations in color of the postage due stamps is because the original brown dye used to color the paper ran short and a reddish dye was mixed with it until finally the brown color practically disappeared.

The control bands are red on the postage stamps and blue on the postage due stamps. A blue band instead of a red or a red band instead of a blue is a fake. The bands were always added in the space reserved for them at the foot of the stamps between the tête-bêche rows, and any stamp with the band at the top is a fake. Some stamps are known with the control band on the reverse of the stamp, while postage stamps without the control band are scarce. Some postage stamps without a printed control band are known with an embossed band, and Mr. Adolph Passer in his book “The Stamps of Turkey”* considered that two sheets being printed together produced this variety through the under sheet receiving merely an uncolored impression. I do not agree with his theory, because if it were correct traces of embossing would show on the back of the stamps normally printed. Postage due stamps without the control band are uncommon and are always in the red-brown shade. The printing in this shade is very fine and it is casy to classify.

The largest multiple of the 20 Para postage stamp known to me is a block of sixteen now in my collection. Vertically strips are rare, and their absence makes plating difficult. Blocks of the 20 Para postage due stamp are rarities and I have only one used block.

The commonest obliteration found on this stamp is “Battal” (meaning “canceled”) in the middle of a rectangle of dots. I have one example with a town name instead of “Battal”, which seems to be rare, but another obliteration consisting of a dumb rectangle formed of horizontal lines and dots is common and is always struck in black. On the other hand the “Battal” obliteration comes in black blue, and indigo. Occasionally stamps are found with both these obliterations, the dumb one being applied at the place of destination Covers and entries bearing these stamps are quite scarce, and the only one example is known on cover canceled with a pre-stamp postmark. There are a lot of faked covers in existence.

The Stone and the Twelve Types of the 20 Para

The pioneer students of Turkish stamp Hugo Griebert, Colonel C.E. Wilson, and Colonel O.K. Tancockfound that there were twelve types of the 20 Para, laid down on the stone in two tête-bêche rows and they described the characteristics of each type. For easy identification of the types I will number those in the upper row I
to IV and those in the inverted row VII to XII, always from left to right. (Figure 1).

It is not known how many transfers of the twelve types were made to complete the printing stone, and only tentative suggestions can be offered. Mr. Passer insisted that twelve transfers were made and that the printing stones of the second issue stamps were 12 multiplied by 12 equals 144. In his book he stated: “There must have been several stones at various times, judging from corner and side pieces, which sometimes show dividing lines and sometimes are without them. Further, there must have been some stones without dividing lines on the margins.

Let us examine this. First, there is only one stamp which shows dividing lines on the side pieces, and that is 20 Para. When I started to study the types of the 20 Para on the marginal block of sixteen (ex collection Arthur Linz) I could not understand why this block without dividing lines had misplaced types. On the other blocks with dividing lines, for example, the block of six illustrated in Mr. Passer’ s book, the types were not misplaced. I classified all the side pieces without outer dividing lines and also those with dividing lines.

One of the greatest difficulties in plating Turkish tête-bêche stamps is that one does not know which is the top of the sheet and which is the bottom. The dividing line on the margin was a great help in deciding this, and I accepted that the margin with dividing line was the right side of the sheet and that without the dividing line was the left side. With the type numbers decided I found that the stamps with the dividing line in the margin were Types V and XI, and that those with inverted transfers were Types VIII and II (Figure 2).

This indicated that one vertical row of transfers was erased from the printing stone. On some right-hand side pieces with dividing line traces of the erased transfers can be seen, especially the corner ornamentation. Even in the illustration of the block of six in Passer’s book these traces can be seen. Why was one vertical row of transfers erased from the printing stone? In my opinion it was because the width of the design of the 20 Para was greater than that of other values. I have in my collection a block of forty six of the 1 Kurus of 1863, without control band. This block has both left and right sheet margins, and from it one can measure the width of the sheet which is 274 mm. The width of a strip of six of the 20 Para, from dividing line to dividing line, is 139 mm, therefore 139 mm multiplied by 2 equals 278 mm, which is wider than the sheets of paper used for the stamps. Allowing 23 mm for the erased transfer, the width of eleven stamps is 255 mm (278 mm minus 23 mm equals 255 mm, leaving about 115 mm margin on either side of the sheet if it is well centered.

The printing Stone of the 20 Para

For the second of my study I classified each type separately, and it was then easy to identify several subtypes. I accepted as sub-types any flaws and abnormalities that repeated themselves, and discovered that the four corners were sub-types. I did not find any different corner pieces. That proves with mathematical certainty that only one printing stone was used for the issued 20 Para postage stamps and also the postage due stamps.

I then found that by superimposing the sub-types I could partially reconstruct the top and bottom parts of the sheet, and with the help of other sub-types I could also partially reconstruct two different parts of the left side of the sheet (Figures 17 and 18). If the two left side reconstructions are placed as close as possible between the top and bottom of the sheet (Figure 19) that gives us nine rows of transfers. From this evidence, I suggest that the printing stone had ten rows of transfers (that is twenty rows of twelve for the whole stone, similar to the make-up of sheets of British stamps). Earlier in this paper I showed that one vertical row was erased from the stone, and therefore the sheets of the 20 Para contained 220 stamps (240 minus 20 equals 220).

The Second Stone of the 20 Para

In the course of this paper I have stated that only one stone was used to print the issued stamps, but early on I also made a brief reference to the existence of stamps from a second printing stone. When I had classified all my 20 Para stamps I noticed that some of the postage due stamps looked different from the rest. These stamps were all unused; a few had the control band, but most were without it. The main characteristics of these stamps are as follows:

a. Printing is coarser.
b. The dividing lines are generally coarser, and sometimes the impression is weak.
c. The types are the same as those of the issued stamps, but there are different flaws, and none of the sub-types are repeated.
d. All these stamps have the same red-brown shade, which is slightly different from the red brown of the issued stamps.
e. There is no vertical dividing line at the right margin, as occurs on issued stamps from the other stone, despite the erased transfers. Traces of the erased transfers can be seen on two of my marginal blocks.
f. These stamps are always unused. I have never seen a used example.

I have identified two interesting varieties on these stamps: the first is a retouch on a Type I stamp, and the second has a broken Toughra.

One block of twelve, one block of six, and several tête-bêche pairs have blue control bands, which appear to be original but are hand printed. I have not seen a postage stamp printed from this stone. I suggest that this stone was made some time after the one used to print the issued stamps, and although a few sheets were printed from it, they were not approved by the administration, and were not issued. Later these sheets came on the market.