Bulgaria

I have recently found a selection of the stamps of Eastern Roumelia in an old and neglected Bulgarian collection. This area was carved out of the Turkish Empire as part of the settlement between the Russians and the Turks at San Stefano in 1878. It is about half of current area of Bulgaria, and was given local self-rule under a Turkish Governor. The name refers to the Turkish term for Balkan Europe. Stamps appeared in 1881. They were an international version of the Ottoman Empire design, inscribed in French, Greek, Bulgarian and of course Turkish, and soon appeared in the colours recommended by the Universal Postal Union, which Turkey had just joined.

A used copy with a datestamp and obliterator, in the original colours. The pink background, effectively a security underprint, is known to philatelists as ‘burelage’. 

Mint copies of the UPU colour scheme, red for letters, blue for registration.  


This is probably Type 1

 By 1885 local Bulgarians had taken control of the province and intended to unite it with the Bulgarian monarchy. A local engraver made four seals, modelled on the lion design seen on the Bulgarian stamps of the time, and the local posts used them  to overprint the Sultan’s seal on current stamps.  Bulgarian stamps were soon in use, and these makeshift, or provisional, stamps are now scarce.

There are warnings in the philatelic literature of the time against forgeries, and one must accept that handstamps have always tempted the greedy to supply collector demand. But I have no idea what the forgeries might look like. Here are two examples of the ‘Type 1’ handstamp, on the lowest 5 para value of the UPU colours issue of the Ottoman Empire design, perforated 13½. The blue-inked copy gave me some trouble, this stamp, perforated on the 13½ gauge machine, is not recorded by either Gibbons or Michel, and the handstamp seems to differ from the pictures in the catalogues of Type 1, specifically in the angle of the tail. I have worked up a scan of the handstamp, and now think that the handstamp is OK, and has been rotated slightly clockwise, so that the tail points upwards. 


Forged Type 1

The Type 1 in blue. Note the clear outer frame break at the right-hand end of the 'EMP OTTOMAN' tablet. 

type 1 doubled

My other copy of Type 1 shows a clear doubling of the handstamp. This isn’t really a printing error, because handstamping is hardly printing. But it looks good. 

type 3

A used copy with a faint blue handstamp, easily overlooked, of Type 3. It reads ‘ЮЖНА/БЪЛГАРИЯ’: ‘Suzhna’, or ‘South’, Bulgaria.