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Russian Stamps

Issues of 1889 - 1912


Inverted Center
Definitive Stamp issued in 1889


The definitive Russian stamps of 1889 to 1912 went through some significant changes.  All of the Imperial Arms definitive stamps, beginning with the issues of 1889, have thunderbolts across the post horns.  A new security measure to prevent the soaking and re-use of postage stamps was implemented in 1909, and it worked so well that the Austrian Empire copied the process for their contemporary definitive postage stamps.  There were also many production errors during this period that many of them are actually well within the financial means of most serious collectors.

WMK 168
Cyrillic Letters & Wavy Lines Across the Sheet
1866-1906


The sheet-watermark shown above, was used for Russian stamps between 1866 and 1906.  WMK 168 goes across the sheet, so an individual postage stamp will show only a portion of the watermark, usually a section of one of the wavy lines.



The fourteen major denomination-type Imperial Arms Russian stamps shown above were issued between 1889 and 1905.  The stamps all have thunderbolts across the post horns, and they are perforated 14 to 15 and compound.

The catalog attributes, for stamps that are printed on horizontally laid paper with WMK 168, are as follows:

  • 01 K.  (1889 - Sc. #46) - Orange.
  • 02 K.  (1889 - Sc. #47) - Green.
  • 03 K.  (1889 - Sc. #48) - Carmine.
  • 04 K.  (1889 - Sc. #41) - Rose.
  • 05 K.  (1889 - Sc. #49) - Red Violet.
  • 07 K.  (1889 - Sc. #50) - Dark Blue.
  • 10 K.  (1889 - Sc. #42) - Dark Blue.
  • 14 K.  (1889 - Sc. #51) - Blue & Rose.
  • 20 K.  (1889 - Sc. #43) - Blue & Carmine.
  • 35 K.  (1889 - Sc. #52) - Violet & Green.
  • 50 K.  (1889 - Sc. #44) - Violet & Green.

The catalog attributes, for stamps that are printed on vertically laid paper with WMK 168, are as follows:

  • 01 K.  (1902 - Sc. #55) - Orange.
  • 02 K.  (1902 - Sc. #56) - Yellow Green, Deep Green.
  • 03 K.  (1902 - Sc. #57) - Rose Red.
  • 04 K.  (1904 - Sc. #57C) - Rose Red.
  • 05 K.  (1902 - Sc. #58) - Red Violet, Dull Violet.
  • 07 K.  (1902 - Sc. #59) - Dark Blue.
  • 10 K.  (1904 - Sc. #60) - Dark Blue.
  • 14 K.  (1902 - Sc. #61) - Blue & Rose.
  • 15 K.  (1905 - Sc. #62) - Brown Violet & Blue.
  • 20 K.  (1904 - Sc. #63) - Blue & Carmine.
  • 25 K.  (1905 - Sc. #64) - Dull Green & Lilac.
  • 35 K.  (1902 - Sc. #65) - Dark Violet & Green.
  • 50 K.  (1905 - Sc. #66) - Violet & Green.
  • 70 K.  (1902 - Sc. #67) - Brown & Orange.



The five major high-denomination-type Imperial Arms Russian stamps shown above were issued between 1889 and 1906.  The stamps all have thunderbolts across the post horns, and they are perforated 13 1/2.

The catalog attributes, for stamps that are printed on horizontally laid paper with WMK 168, are as follows:

  • 01.00 R.  (1889 - Sc. #45) - Light Brown, Brown, & Orange.
  • 03.50 R.  (1889 - Sc. #53) - Black & Gray.
  • 07.00 R.  (1889 - Sc. #54) - Black & Orange.

The catalog attributes, for stamps that are printed on vertically laid paper with WMK 168, are as follows:

  • 01.00 R.  (1902 - Sc. #68) - Light Brown, Brown, & Orange.
  • 03.50 R.  (1902 - Sc. #69) - Black & Gray.
  • 05.00 R.  (1906 - Sc. #71) - Dark Blue, Green, & Pale Blue.
  • 07.00 R.  (1902 - Sc. #70) - Black & Orange.
  • 10.00 R.  (1906 - Sc. #72) - Carmine Rose, Yellow, & Gray.


Vertical Lozenges of Varnish
Marginal Definitive Postage Stamp issued in 1909


Beginning in 1909, the Russians experimented with varnish coating on definitive stamps, to prevent their cleaning and re-use.  For the philatelist, this resulted in the creation of many minor collectible varieties.  Additionally, the stamps of the Russian Empire were produced, in various forms, well into the Civil War period, which can yield even more philatelic varieties.

In some cases the lozenges of varnish are barely discernible.  In other cases, the varnish is so heavy that it distorts the appearance of the stamp.  A margin copy with very distinct lozenges is shown above.  The best detection method is to place the stamp in front of a bright light and then examine the stamp surface by looking across the surface of the stamp from one of the edges.  The lozenges should appear as irregular light discoloration spots against the surface of the stamp.



The fifteen Imperial Arms Russian stamps shown above were issued in 1909, with additional printings through 1912.  The stamps are printed on unwatermarked, wove paper, with vertical lozenges of varnish on the surface, and they are perforated 14 x 14 1/2, except for the 1 Ruble denomination, which is perforated 13 1/2 or 12 1/2.

The catalog attributes are as follows:

  • 01 K.  (1909 - Sc. #73) - Orange Yellow.
  • 02 K.  (1909 - Sc. #74) - Green.
  • 03 K.  (1909 - Sc. #75) - Carmine, Rose Red.
  • 04 K.  (1909 - Sc. #76) - Carmine, Carmine Rose.
  • 05 K.  (1909 - Sc. #77) - Claret, Lilac.
  • 07 K.  (1909 - Sc. #78) - Blue, Light Blue.
  • 10 K.  (1909 - Sc. #79) - Dark Blue, Light Blue, Pale Blue.
  • 14 K.  (1909 - Sc. #80) - Dark Blue & Carmine.
  • 15 K.  (1909 - Sc. #81) - Red Brown & Deep Blue, Dull Violet & Blue.
  • 20 K.  (1909 - Sc. #82) - Dull Blue & Dark Carmine, Blue & Carmine.
  • 25 K.  (1909 - Sc. #83) - Dull Green & Dark Violet.
  • 35 K.  (1909 - Sc. #84) - Red Brown & Green, Brown Violet & Yellow Green, and Violet & Green.
  • 50 K.  (1909 - Sc. #85) - Red Brown & Green, Violet & Green.
  • 70 K.  (1909 - Sc. #86) - Brown & Red Orange, Light Brown & Orange.
  • 01 R.  (1909 - Sc. #87) - Pale Brown, Dark Brown, & Orange.

There are a lot of errors and varieties on most of these Russian stamps.  Please see the standard catalogs for details.





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Return to Russian Stamps from
Issues of 1889-1912






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For anyone seriously considering specializing in the stamps of Russia or the Stamps of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a specialized catalog is required.


The Zagorsky catalog is the specialty catalog for Russian philately, and the more recent editions are published in English!  Click on the picture above for a link to ordering information on the Zagorsky website. 

These catalogs are also frequently available on eBay.  Here's a link to the proper eBay category.