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Have You Ever Considered Collecting X? Early Spain Part I

Quite some time ago, I did an article on the Queen Isabella II issues of Cuba. In this series of articles, I want to return to some stamps featuring the same queen but focus on ways to collect the stamps of early Spain that might not occur to a general collector. I have always liked these stamps because they offer lots of collectible varieties that can be easily overlooked by dealers and collectors.

We all know that our hobby provides the opportunity for us to periodically take a step back from our albums and look a bit deeper into the geography or history of the area we are about to work on and, personally, I get a great deal of pleasure in these diversions. Whenever I see a stamp with a picture of Queen Isabella II of Spain, I can’t help thinking of Columbus and the discovery of America in 1492. Of course, I know that Columbus was helped financially by Queen Isabella I, some 350 years before stamps were used but until recently I had never taken the time to dig a bit into the relationship between these two queens.

As far as I can determine there is no direct, simple relationship between the two Queen Isabellas. My guess is that if DNA testing were done, there could well be some common ancestors as the inbreeding of European royalty was so widespread. Isabella I not only is famous for her connection to Columbus but also is infamous for her connection to the Inquisition and all the religious persecution and barbaric behavior associated with that blight on world history. At her death in 1504, the western world shed a sigh of relief as all her direct heirs had predeceased her with the exception of one, known as Mad Joan, and her branch of royalty’s family tree ended.

Queen Isabella II was a member of quite a significant part of European royalty. She was the daughter of King Ferdinand VII, the grand daughter of King Charles IV, the great granddaughter of King Charles III and the great, great granddaughter of King Philip V, all of Spain. Perhaps most interestingly, Queen Isabella II was also the great, great, great granddaughter of King Louis XIV of France!

Once I became aware of the relationship between Isabella II and Louis XIV through Philip V, the eldest son of Louis XIV, I had to better understand the history that brought the royal line of France to the throne of Spain. Since I’m retired, I have the time to cater to intriguing aspects of history that I’d never been exposed to throughout my formative years!

To fully understand this would take a treatise, but I think I can provide a simple way to follow it. It starts with the death of King Charles II of Spain the son of King Philip IV. He was a very sick man from childhood and had no heirs. There were three potential pretenders to the Spanish throne. First was the son of Louis XIV whose mother, Marie Therese, was a daughter of King Philip IV of Spain. Second was Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria, a great grandson of King Philip IV. Lastly, was Roman Emperor Leopold I, whose mother was a sister of King Philip IV.

At stake was more than the throne of Spain. The entire balance of power in Europe hung in the balance and a decision was not easy to come by. Without going into all the details, and there are many, let’s jump to 1697 and the Treaty of The Hague also known as the First Partition Treaty. That treaty named the least offensive candidate, Bavarian Prince Ferdinand to the Spanish Throne.

Some things are just not meant to be, and in a year the new Spanish monarch died of smallpox. The resulting chaos set into motion the War of Spanish Succession spanning 1701-1714. The war wound down in 1713 and the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht set the stage for the resolution of the matter. Although some fighting continued for over a year Philip V, Isabella’s great, great grandfather was recognized as the King of Spain under the condition that he renounce his place in the line of French succession.

I hope you enjoyed this digression. I did. I apologize to anyone that didn’t like the detail and I also apologize if I got any of the details a bit off. Just like I frequently say in my column, I am sure there are those out there that know far more about things than I do, but since this is my column, I do the best I can with my limited ability.

Let’s get to the stamps. As always I will be referring to my 2002 Scott Classic Specialized catalog. I will also refer to other catalogs as I point out details not covered by Scott.

Spain number 1a is shown in Figure 1.   With a catalog of only $16.00, it is quite easily added to most general collections. The stamp pictured in Figure 1 is far from perfect, and as such, could have been obtained at a significant discount from catalog even if bought as a single stamp from a dealer’s price list or at a show. I got it through an auction lot and probably paid somewhere around $1.00 for it. I like this stamp not only because it fills a space but because it also provides information that makes my collecting easier.

If you look at Scott, it mentions that there are two types of this stamp. Type I has the T and O of Cuartos separated and Type II has these letters joined. Scott also tells us that both types come in thick and thin paper and in black and intense black color. Scott does not tell us if the intense black color is on thick or thin paper or is available on both paper types. When that happens, I look a bit deeper by opening my 1998 copy of the Edifil Specialized catalog of Spain. Interestingly, the answer is not available there, at least not where my limited knowledge of Spanish can find it. Perhaps a knowledgeable collector out there can provide the answer.

The stamp in Figure 1 is the only copy that I have but, nevertheless, I can conclude that it is on thick paper and is Type II as the connecting of the letters is quite clear. I’m fairly certain that it is not intense black, so it is in my album as number 1a. Should I be lucky enough to acquire additional copies of this stamp, I may find I have it miscataloged.

One really great feature of Edifil is that they show you what to look for instead of just telling you. Look at Figure 2, taken from Edifil–there is no doubt about how to spot the connection of the letters.

I find it interesting that there is no space for Spain number 1 in my International album, and I am fairly sure that unless you are using a specialized album you will not have a space for it either. What I have decided to do is add a blank page and provide spaces for examples of all the paper, color and types of number 1. All are moderately valued, and I should be able to fill the spaces over time.

The other stamps issued in 1850, Scott 2-5, are a different story. Although they have some varieties they also have quite large catalog values with some over $1000. So, I ‘ve decided to provide space for and only seek out a single example of numbers 2-5, most likely through the purchase of a large auction lot.

I recommend the exact same approach for the next group of early Spanish stamps, 6-11. Number 6 is quite inexpensive and is available in both thick (6a) and thin paper and in three shades: black (6), gray black (6b) intense black (6c). The same question raised earlier applies here, that is whether the shades exist on stamps of both paper thicknesses? Edifil provides an answer here in that only the black is listed in thick paper. Fig. 3 shows number 6 a thin paper stamp.

Edifil also tells us about a variety not mentioned by Scott called the "Deformed S". This variety, shown in the picture in Figure 4, can be found on both thin and thick paper and is quite uncommon with a value about five times the standard stamp. The difference in the lower portion of the first "S" should be quite easy to see. Look for it at stamp shows. Finding it could very well make your day.

You should have no difficulty telling the thick and thin paper stamps apart. They are quite different. If you have a stamp that does not have a hinge remnant on it, simply hold it in your tongs and gently flex the side. If your brain says thin, it is thin. It’s not quite like the pelure papers used in some countries, but it is quite thin.

In 1852 a group of five stamps, 12-16, were issued mainly on thick paper that once again can be approached the same way. By concentrating on the inexpensive low value of the set, you can build a very interesting specialized collection. Number 12 is available in rose (12), deep rose (12b), carmine lake (12c) and on thick paper (12a). Figure 5 shows what I believe are examples of 12 and 12b. Both are on thin paper, which if I am reading my Edifil correctly, is also referred to as oily paper.

Quite a few varieties not listed by Scott exist on Spain 12. The first is very easy to identify. In the lower tablet, the date is preceded and followed by a period. The variety, listed as Edifil 12it, has no period before the date. The second variety, Edifil 12ita, has a shortened "A" in FRANCO as shown in Figure 6. Edifil 12itb has a deformed 5 in the date as shown in Figure 7. The five is lacking the end dot at the bottom of the number, and the entire number is slightly slanted.

Take another look at Figure 5. If the scans came out, you should be able to see that the two fives are not the same. One looks like it could be 12itb, but I must admit I can’t be sure. Could it be a variety that is not listed in Edifil? At some point, I may have the time to look deeper into this stamp. I would imagine that there are numerous subtle differences that specialists could tell us about. Hint, hint!

A fourth variety listed by Edifil is 12itc, which has a deformed 2 in the date as can be seen in Figure 8. Each of these varieties are valued about ten times the normal stamp, and I have decided to look for examples of all of them.

The stamps of 1853, Scott 17-23, allow us to follow the same collecting pattern, that is, concentrating on the least expensive stamp, number 19. Figure 9 shows copies of what I believe are 19 (carmine rose) and 19c (rose red). Both are on thin paper. There are two thick paper varieties 19a (white thick paper) & 19b (blue thick paper).

The 1855 Queen Isabella stamps, Scott #36-39 are on blue paper with watermark #104, called "loops", shown in Figure 10. Two of the three color varieties, 37a (carmine) and 37 b (lake) are in Figure 11. I have the feeling that there very well may be additional varieties based on the deepness and shade of the paper color as the twelve copies that I have are quite different.

Figure 12 shows the backs of two examples. Perhaps the paper color fades over the years depending on exposure to light or there might be some other reason. Again, I look to a specialist to help us out. Edifil does list a white paper variety but my examples are clearly blue paper. A similar group of stamps, 40-43, were issued in 1856 on yellowish paper with watermark 105 shown in Figure 13. The 1857 stamps, 44-47, of the same design were on un-watermarked, white paper.

Before I end this month’s article, I want to show you two more figures. The first is a stamp that, at first glance, appears to be a real rarity. Figure 14 is a 2-Reales value in what looks like a greenish-blue shade. Scott doesn’t list such a stamp, but Edifil and Michel do list an extremely rare color error of the 2-Reales stamp with watermark "loops" in greenish blue. Unfortunately, my stamp has watermark #105. Is it a fake? Is it a chemically changed stamp? Or is it an unlisted rarity? I really don’t have any idea! It was in an auction lot I got several years ago.

The last figure is a group of four copies of number 45 that I have presented because of their cancellations, Figure 15. It really is to set the stage for Part II of this topic. There are many ways to expand a collection of early Spanish Isabella stamps. How each of us decides to move ahead is a personal choice. After all, as I have said many times, "X" is a variable. n

Contact's: Fred Wexler