June 15, 2012

Of Kreisler and Kolff

I sometimes find that the hunt for knowledge may be just as rewarding and/or frustrating as the hunt for stamps. So I was very happy to have some missing pieces of the Kolff jigsaw handed to me the other day. What am I on about? Well, you may have seen these, the 1930s Kreisler definitives (named after their designer) of the Dutch Indies:

Simple enough, all printed by Enschedé, just a few watermark varieties, a few overprints and that's it. Unless of course you delve into the world of Japanese Occupation overprints, but let's not. So I wasn't fazed at all when I managed to get hold of these:

I just thought they would be proof printings by Enschedé. So how wrong could I be?! Very, as it turned out! For as soon as I mentioned these 'facts' on my previous blog, I got a comment from a reader saying that these were actually proofs made by the printers Kolff & Co in Batavia in the Dutch Indies. Okay, slight readjustment, new thinking process, and new conclusion: Kolff started printing stamps in the early 1940s when supplies from occupied Holland ran dry. So these were probably proofs made in 1940 or 1941, which never progressed into proper stamps because a different design was chosen. Would have been a nice variation on a theme though, to have had these Kreisler stamps without the side borders included in the design.

Hmm, wrong again, as it now turns out! For only the other day I read a book by Giel Bessels on Kolff's stamp production. And in there it is stated that Kolff never planned to produce Kreisler stamps. When the Dutch overseas territories had to take over the production of their own stamps from Enschedé, they decided on a common design for all the territories, and that was not the Kreisler design.

No, these proof printings were made in the mid 1930s, when Kolff answered the call of independence which echoed throughout the Dutch Indies at the time. In order to prove the 'Powers That Be' that they had the skill and facilities to print stamps, these trial printings were made.

Okay, so that's cleared up. But as is often the case, the more you know, the more questions you have. Because there was still something funny about Kolff's work. You see, in the late 1930s, early 1940s Kolff made commemorative albums of their proof material, which were usually given to those who retired or left the company. I had seen one of these albums once, and noticed to my surprise that they included the following proofs:

Now these belong to the Veth issue for the overseas territories of the early 1900s, again printed by Enschedé:

These proofs were supposed to be from 1908 and in those days there wasn't yet much of a call for stamp production in the Dutch Indies. So what was the story here then? The book did mention the commemorative albums but not a word about these Veth proofs. So I contacted the author who told me that one of these albums (the one I had happened to see) had been taken apart in a time when it was thought that single proofs would sell better. When later the owner changed his mind and decided the album as a whole might be a better item to sell, he started to reassemble it, but through lack of knowledge added those Veth proofs. So these have nothing to do with Kolff whatsoever and are, as I originally assumed, Enschedé printings. Another piece of the jigsaw!

Now all I need to find out is why these were printed:

No, not by Kolff, but printed by another Dutch Indies printer: De Unie. I don't think I'll venture any more guesses, I'll just patiently wait for someone to come along and present me with the proper answer. You know where to find me!

See yous later,