May 11, 2012

Red Cross

Some roller coaster week I've just had!

It started off quite innocently with me eagerly awaiting the end of an internet auction. There was one lot in which I was rather interested and so I kept track on whether a starting bid was placed or not. By the hour. I even kept informing my Stamp Magazine colleagues, although that was probably not the wisest of moves for when I started doing that, the bids started flowing in. Not that there was a link between the two, just a matter of 'commentator's curse' I suppose!

But at last, the final hours of the auction drew near and I put in my ridiculously high bid. I didn't want to be outbid in the final throws but couldn't stay with it until the end of the auction so I had to gamble and hope others wouldn't drive the price up too high.

They did of course but, guess what: no-one beat me to it. Yes! I won! Don't you just love that feeling?! Sent my payment straightaway, for it had suddenly become impossible to breathe one more single breath until I had that wonderful item (which I had lived without ever so happily for decades) on my desk. And here it is: the unaccepted proof of a 1927 Dutch Red Cross stamp.

So why the roller coaster feeling? Well, when the envelope arrived, I opened it and felt my heart sink into my shoes (or wherever it sinks to in English): it was merely a photograph of the proof. Had I been had? Did I really pay that much money for a photograph? Dark skies, thunderclaps, downpours, I need to sit down kinda situation. Panic mode!

Queen Emma, Wilhelmina's mother.
Okay, tell your heart to stop racing, and think! Take your Dutch handbook on all things postal and read the 1927 Red Cross entry. Ah, there it is. And there's my unaccepted proof. Not just a photograph, but an actual proof. Engraved. By the artist. So that didn't help much.

Another hour passes. Take a closer look at the handbook. You see?! There are proofs from which only the photographically reduced versions exist. Could mine then be a contemporary photograph? Quick check: Yes, the original engraving was large, as in several inches by several inches. My photograph was a reduced-to-stamp-size illustration.

Prince Hendrik, Wilhelmina's husband
Okay, quick email to the editor of that handbook who confirmed that engravings were often reduced in size photographically, as a guide for the engraver of the actual stamp or to better be able to add designs for lettering etcetera. So my photograph was probably one of those and therefore very much a part of the design process and therefore unusual if not plain rare, and worth the price I paid for it!

The sun's coming out again! Smile back on my face! Phew!

So why did I so desperately wanted to have this item? Well, the original idea for the set was to have all portraits of the royal family on engraved stamps and a top value of symbolic design in photogravure (see various images above and below). The essays for Queen Wilhelmina (yes, it's her) and King William III were rejected however, leaving hardly any time to come up with new designs, engravings and what have you. 

King William III, Wilhelmina's father
So in the end it was decided to do those two portrait stamps in photogravure as well, which would be so much quicker to print. And that is also why those two stamps can be found with two perforation types, because two perforating machines were used simultaneously to speed up the production process. So you see, this unaccepted proof is a vital link in my Wilhelmina collection!

Queen Wilhelmina

See yous later

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