TURKEY, Random Notes, 1926, G. A. Higlett, Harris Publications Limited

Section I

In considering the stamp issues of Turkey one must not expect to find the same strict adherence to official regulations that may prevail in this country. On innumerable occasions when there have been shortages of stamps of a particular value, use has been made of stamps of double that value cut in two and used for the half value. Such shortages have naturally occurred much more frequently there than in a country like our own, with its constant and rapid communications. I have specimens of the first issue of 1863 thus bi-sected and used for half value, and I have specimens of the current stamps similarly treated. This practice was particularly the case with the Postage Due stamps, as the values provided did not properly meet the requirements. Sometimes even the stamps were cut into quarters, and used for quarter values. I believe that the practice is now supposed to be unauthorised and irregular, but these bi-sected specimens still continue to pass through the post and properly pay postage.

These notes, however, are not concerned with stamps merely cut in two, whether with or without official sanction, is such have no special philatelic value, although they should not be entirely disregarded by collectors. There have been other issues of bi¬sected and surcharged stamps, properly authorised, and having an interesting history, which these notes propose to deal with.

In order to appreciate properly the story of the first bi-sected provisionals, it is desirable to consider first the use of stamps for printed matter.

Special Issues for Printed Matter.

If the Stanley Gibbons' catalogue be referred to, there will be found a list of special stamps for news-papers and printed matter, under a separate heading. These commenced in 1879, when the 10 paras pos¬tage stamp was issued overprinted with the word "IMPRIMES" in a scroll. It is listed as Nos. 701 and 701a.
The other values listed under Nos. 702 to 706 were never officially issued for use, although many speci¬mens are found with obliterations—of sorts. They should be either struck out of the catalogue, or described as stamps "prepared for use but not issued." Their high catalogue prices have led to many forged overprints. The 10 paras was the only value properly issued and in use for a time.

From June, 1891, onwards there were regular issues of several values, but in the interval preceding that date ordinary postage stamps had to serve both for letters and printed matter.

It was during this interval, about December, 1886, that there arose a shortage of 10 paras stamps at Constantinople, the value being specially required in quantities for postage on newspapers. This shortage led to the first bi-sected provisionals, surcharged with a new value, duly authorised by the authorities, and now to be described.
Dec., 1886. Bi-sected 20 paras stamps.

To meet the urgent need for 10 paras stamps above described, 20 paras stamps were cut in half diagon¬ally, and the figures "10" stamped on each half. This was done by a hand-stamp, and the surcharge was either in black or in blue, according to the par¬ticular ink-pad in use at the time. These provisionals are recorded in Stanley Gibbons' catalogue as Nos. 171, 171b, and 172.

These stamps were in use for a whole month, and a large number must have been made and used during this period, but as they were chiefly used on news¬papers going from Constantinople to the surrounding country, they were far more generally destroyed than if they had been used on letters. Used copies are seldom seen, and I have never seen one used on an entire letter cover.

In common with the stamps described under the next heading, they have been largely forged, especi-ally as sheets of the 20 paras stamps were easily obtainable. A large proportion of those on the market, and in collections, have false surcharges, and often false postmarks. I will attempt to give what I believe to be a correct account of the genuine surcharge.
The figure 1 of the hand-stamp made use of had originally been a figure with a double top sérif, something like a capital letter 1. By much use, the upper left serif had gone—either broken off or worn away, as well as a great part of the lower left sérif. In consequence of this, the figure shows at the top no left sérif, and a horizontal right sérif, just the opposite of what is found in a normally shaped figure 1. At the bottom there are the remains only of a left sérif, and a horizontal right sérif.

Towards the end of the period of use this hand-stamp became further worn away, and the last sur-charges made with it showed the figure almost without any sérifs, nearly worn away to it vertical stroke.

I estimate that more than nine-tenths of the speci¬mens I have seen have upper sérif to the left only, either horizontal or curved, as in the normal figure I, and are therefore, according to this history, imitations only.

I must admit that this account upset my own previous theories when I first received it ; but it came to me from such a trustworthy source, from one who was there at the time and in the closest touch with all local philatelic happenings, that I be¬lieve it to be quite reliable as a true history. It has, however, to be further considered in connection with other bi-sected stamps of about the same period, and next to be described.

Dec., 1886. Unauthorised bi-sected stamps.

The continued use for a month of the above de¬scribed provisional evidently gave the idea and the opportunity to a certain trio at Constantinople, by which they might reap considerable advantage to themselves. I know their names and the positions they held.

With the connivance and help of certain employees of the post office they produced large numbers of diagonally bi-sected stamps of several values, over¬printed on each half with a new value, and, for two or three days (only), a considerable number of these were passed through the post on covers and secured thus proper postmarks. Letters so franked were sent to dealers in many countries. There is one cover now in the possession of a London dealer, sent by one of this trio to a foreign stamp dealer, and franked with one of these half-stamps with a double surcharge. By having them thus sent through the post in numbers, they secured for them admission to the catalogues, where they still stand, and at high prices. These unauthorised and entirely speculative, or bogus, stamps were listed as

No.173. "2" on 5 piastres.
No.174. "10 Paras" on 20 para.
No.175. "20 Paras" on 1 piastres.
No.176-7. "1 Piastre" on 2 piastres.
No.178. "2 Piastres" on 5 piastres.

and their catalogue prices ranged from 15/- to 40/- each ! Following the appearance of these notes in serial form these were omitted from the English catalogue, but they still appear in others.

A natural consequence of these high catalogue prices is that they have been largely imitated, and the forgeries are found not obliterated, or with false postmarks. It is even possible that some of these imitations have secured genuine postmarks " par complaisance ".

While they were about it, the forgers also made imitations of the genuine bi-sected provisional pre-viously above described.

It will be seen therefore that these stamps may be divided into two classes :

  1. Originals, either unused, or smuggled through the post and with genuine postmarks.
  2. Forgeries of same, either without or with false obliterations. Many are found in the last state "on pieces".


It is to be regretted that these stamps ever acquired catalogue rank, and at such high prices, although they have interest as bogus stamps which have passed through the post. The post office was not defrauded of revenue by their use, as the stamps had to be first obtained and paid for, before overprinting and bi-secting.
1890-92. Baghdad bi-sected provisionals.

In 1890, and again in 1892, the supply of 1 piastre stamps ran out at Baghdad, and the local production of provisionals to meet the need was properly authorised by the Constantinople authorities.

Following the precedent set by the capital, the stamps of 2 piastres were bi-sected diagonally, and each half hand-stamped with the new value of 1 Piastre. They appear in the catalogue as Nos. 187b, 187c, and 207.

I have these provisionals used on entire covers, and in the case of No. 207, I have it thus on both the yellow and greenish-yellow issues of the 2 piastres.
These also being catalogued at high prices, they have been largely forged. The catalogue illustrations of the two 1890 types are fairly good, and that of the 1892 type is very different from the genuine overprint and also differs from most of the forgeries I have seen.

Knowledge of the conspiracy which brought about the bogus issues of Constantinople of Dec., 1886, having leaked out, and becoming known in an un¬certain form, it somehow became wrongly attributed to these genuine Baghdad provisionals, with a curious result. Collectors have sent specimens to experts for their opinion, and their stamps have been returned with a statement to the effect that "these issues are now believed to be bogus." I have seen such an expert's opinion recorded with some forged speci¬mens, and also with the genuine stamps. It should be known that these issues were official and genuine in every respect, and were only produced to meet an urgent need.