Monday, May 23, 2022

Sample without value

A few years back I purchased an item that had black cloth on it. I was told that I could use it whenever I wanted to use something black. This week I decided I wanted to use it and I thought it would be good for something like, Black September or Jews had to wear special cloth or during mourning we wear torn material or even, we were looked on without value, the sky’s the limit.

I didn't understand the philatelic explanation and wanted to learn more. This sparked me to go on on a philatelic research endeavor.

The black cloth here is what is known as a “sample without value” or in French “échantillon sans valeur” in essence a merchant could send a sample through the mail system at a special rate, a kind of precursor to today’s parcel mail.

In France and French territories, meaning those that Napoleon conquered, in Article 16 of the law of 22nd August 1791, "samples without value" were charged at 1/3rd of the single letter rate. This was again confirmed by the “Instructions Générale” of 28th April 1808, article 18. Of course this was under certain conditions, the main condition being that the sample must be mailed under a wrapper or in any manner that it was very visible that this was a sample; if not full postage would be required to be paid.

As of the first postal convention between France and the German Empire, dated 14th December 1801 (article 14), this was also implemented in international mail exchange.

After the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the Congress of Vienna created a kingdom for the House of Orange-Nassau, which combined the United Provinces of the Netherlands which included Belgium. When the Dutch took over the postal administration, it suspended the Napoleonic special rate for “samples without value”.

Belgium gained her independence in 1830, and kept some of the Dutch postal instructions, including the suspension of this special rate.

This letter was sent within Belgium from Brussels to Verviers in 1843, a distance of 116km. From 1st January 1836, new rates were in implemented, so the postage rate was 5 décimes (50 centimes) for a distance between 100km and 150Km. It was sent in the countryside, SR or service rural to Francomont and this required additional cost, an extra 1 décime making the postal rate of 6 décimes = 60 centimes.

New rates were implemented in Belgium on 14th September 1864 and cheaper rates for samples under were re-enacted. So in Belgium from 1830 to 1864, samples without value were sent at the regular postage rate.

I would like to thank my friends Michaël Smorowski and Mr. Paul Wijnants for there help here. It was invaluable.

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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Go F**K yourself says Ukraine

On February 24, a Russian guided-missile cruiser, the Moskva, asked Ukrainian border guards on Snake Island, south of the port of Odesa, to surrender. Instead of surrendering, the 13 soldiers told the enemy warship "go f*** yourself." The island was hit by Russian missile strikes afterwards but the soldiers survived. This small act of defiance went global.

A Russian missile cruiser "Moskva" anchored near Mumbai, India, May 21, 2003. 

The Moskva was subsequently sunk with Ukraine's Operational Command claiming that it was hit by Neptune anti-ship missiles. Russia claimed a fire broke out causing ammunition aboard to explode, inflicting serious damage to the vessel and forcing its crew to be evacuated. The Moskva was a very large ship (over 13,000 tons), 186 meters long, capable of coordinating operations and commanding several other ships at the same time. Hence its name of "flagship." It was commissioned in the Soviet Union in 1983 and was apparently built in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv!

Ukrainian post wanted to take advantage of this and world sympathy and commissioned a stamp issue. A shortlist of 50 designs were put to a vote and the winning stamp was designed by Lviv-based artist Boris Groh and was issued in two values:
F = Registered Letter within Ukraine and W = Overseas letter up to 50 grams.

The stamps show a Ukrainian soldier giving the finger to the Russian cruiser Moskva. On the sheet’s selvedge is the phrase that has become a rallying slogan for Ukrainians in their underdog battle against Moscow: “Russian warship, go …!” Roman Grybov, who apparently uttered the phrase attended the dedication ceremony. He received a medal for his defiance.

Initially only a million stamps were issued and there was a huge buying frenzy, sometimes the stamp going for as high as thousands of dollars on eBay. Ukraine post then limited sales to a sheet per person. One person reported: "I ordered 3 (last 3 he had listed) on eBay from a small dealer in Ukraine. Says profits will go to local hospital." I wonder...

I have seen a single stamp available for only $29 on eBay, if anyone wants to buy.