World Stamps

Donna Houseman

A newly discovered Swiss rarity solves one of philately’s mysteries

March 04, 2017 07:00 PM

  • This recent discovery, the Zurich 6-rappen stamp from position 98 at left showing a flaw before the plate was retouched, or repaired, is the missing piece to a puzzle that has stumped collectors of Switzerland stamps for almost 175 years. (Image courtesy of Gottfried Honegger.)

Editor’s Insights — By Donna Houseman

In his recent Unveiling Classic Stamps column, Sergio Sismondo reports the discovery of an important rarity in Swiss philately. The stamp is the missing piece in a philatelic puzzle that has perplexed stamp collectors for many years.

This month, Sismondo continues his ongoing series presenting the history of classic first-issue stamps of the world. This time he lifts the veil on the stamps of the Swiss canton of Zurich and reveals the missing piece of the puzzle surrounding the 6-rappen black.

The backgrounds of the stamps of Zurich have a series of crisscrossed lines, and the stamps have fine red lines that can be either vertically oriented (Scott 1L1-1L2) or horizontally oriented (1L3-1L4). The 6r stamps have been successfully plated, which means that collectors have identified the positions of each stamp on the printing stone. 

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Sismondo reports that 1,650 6r stamps of position 98 were printed, and until now, each of the known examples from this position exhibit a retouch of the crisscross background under the ZU of ZURICH. As Sismondo explains, collectors of Swiss philately have assumed that the plate was repaired because of a “gap” or “tear” in the background. What perplexed collectors was why no position 98 stamps exist showing the background before the repairs were made. 

That is, until recently. Sismondo reveals that Swiss expert and dealer Gottfried Honegger, of Schmerikon, Switzerland, has discovered a stamp from position 98 exhibiting the fault before it was repaired. Sismondo credits Honegger’s research skills with bringing to light this Swiss rarity and with solving one of the puzzles that has mystified collectors for almost 175 years.

We salute Honegger for recognizing this discovery and Sismondo for sharing the story.

Scott New Listings Update

Scott new issues editor Martin J. Frankevicz recently described the process of assigning Scott catalog numbers to new-issue stamps of the world and how these listings come to be included in the New Listings Update in Linn’s Stamp News monthly and the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.

We revisit this subject from time to time to help collectors understand not only the enormity of this process but also the thinking that goes behind the creation of the listings.

We frequently receive mail, emails, and phone calls inquiring why certain issues are assigned numbers more quickly than others or why stamps of some countries are listed in the update more frequently than others.

Frankevicz answers these questions and explains some of the obstacles he faces in listing stamps of certain countries. It is an arduous task.