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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index


Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 1, pp7-10 (Jan 1975).

Copyright notice

Spanish Andorra - The Provisional Issue of 1928 (Part 1)

by W.A.Jacques

The provisional set of overprints went on sale on 28th March, 1928. However, it must be remembered that the Spanish Post Office in Andorra opened on lst January 1928 with Andorra la Vieja as the head office, and agencies at Encamp, Canillo, La Massana, Les Escaldes, Ordino and San Julian de Loria. Two more agencies, Santa Coloma and Soldeu, were opened later in the year, The stamps used in Andorra during the period 1st Jan - 28th March were the contemporary issues of Spain. These were as follows:- 1922/32 side and full face portraits of Alfonso XIII, engraved by Enrique Vacquer; the imperforate 1c yellow green newspaper stamp of 1922, engraved by J. E. Gisbert; and the 1925 Express Letter stamps printed by litho and designed by B. Maura. Examples of stamps used in Andorra during this three month period are rare and the two values most likely to be encountered are the 15c and 25c - these being to prepay the postcard and letter rates to Spain. First day covers are known dated lst January but backstamped at Seo de Urgel with an appropriate date. Although these covers appear to be genuine it is now accepted that most, if not all, covers were "arranged" some months later by a Spanish dealer with the help of some accomodating agency employee. The agency datestamps were obligingly "turned back" for a few minutes work - no doubt the staff were well compensated for their trouble!

On the surface it may seem strange that the Spanish Post Office could not manage to have Andorran stamps ready for use when the agencies opened on the 1st January. However the creation of the Spanish Post Office in Andorra was precipitated by various events both inside and outside Andorra. In 1878 at a Congress in Paris, the U.P.U. allocated Spain to provide the Postal Administration of Andorra. This was ratified at later conventions but the Spanish authorities did nothing. Many years later in Andorra, the General Council had been persuaded by a man called Weilenmann to try and obtain from the Co-Princes (the Bishop of Seo de Urgel and the President of France) the right to manage Andorras own postal affairs. Friedrich Weilenmann, a German-Swiss, first visited Andorra in 1925/6 and immediately became attached to the Principality. The General Council recognised him as a man of great ability and integrity and gave him their full backing for his efforts to obtain a postal monopoly for Andorra herself. In brief, Weilenmann had the idea to contract to the General Council as its technical adviser and he envisaged Post Offices, regular issues of stamps, which included charity surcharges. The funds raised from the charity issues were to help provide schools for the Andorrans and the whole scheme was initially to be supervised by Swiss advisers to train the Andorran staff. Weilenmann consulted the U.P.U. at Berne and also obtained Swiss diplomatic introductions for his intended meetings with French and Spanish officials. He then approached the Bishop of Seo de Urgel and the relevant French and Spanish Authorities with regard to his proposals. His ideas caused much excitement and consternation in both countries. France realised that the U.P.U. had originally given Spain the postal administration of Andorra and talks with Weilenmann in the summer of 1927 were inconclusive - the French being careful not to get too involved - and more talks were proposed to take place later in the Autumn. As far as the Spanish Authorities were concerned these proposals were the deciding factor that finally pushed them into complying with the wishes of the U.P.U. The Spanish Authorities feared continued and endless complications with France, and there is little doubt that they did not fancy Swiss advisers in Andorra either. As a result, by a Ministerial Decree (dated 31st October 1927) the Spanish Postal Administration of Andorra was created. Weilenmann and the General Council continued to press for their own proposals and to have the U.P.U. stipulations declared void, but to no avail. (Fuller details of Weilenmann's ideas, beliefs and work will be included in a later instalment of the postal history of Andorra by D.W. Tanner).

Thus, it will be seen that the formation of the Spanish Post Office in Andorra was a hurried and unplanned operation. Coupled with the fact that the Fabrica Nacional de Moneda Y Timbre, Madrid (F.N.M.T.) - printers to the Spanish Government - were not renowned for their speed or security, it is rather remarkable that the provisional overprints appeared as early as March 28th. The provisionals comprised thirteen stamps, one of which was an Express value. The twelve normal values were the contempary Spanish Alfonso portraits overprinted "CORREOS ANDORRA" in two lines. The 2c, 10c, 15c, 20c, 30c, 40c and lptas values are overprinted in red and the 5c, 25c, 50c, 4pta. and l0pta. values in black. Some of the former can be found with different shades of the red overprint and it is believed that these are genuine shade differences of ink and are not shades that have been climatically produced, - i.e. exposure to strong light. The larger 20c Express stamp was similarly overprinted "CORREOS ANDORRA" in large black type. It must be noted here that this express stamp is in red and does not have control number on the reverse (except for specimens, which are numbered A000,000). This Express value had a printing of 10,000 stamps and these were soon sold out. It was replaced in the Autumn of 1928 by a similar design which was pale rose in colour with control number on reverse.

The 2c value does not have controls on the reverse - this is in common with other Spanish and Andorran 2c stamps. Control numbers indicate the sheet from which the stamp originated and every stamp from the sheet should bear the same number. Control numbers had been applied in Spain since the turn of the century. There are two possible reasons for this, neither of which could really have justified the extra time and expense involved. The obvious reason was as a precaution against forgeries or as a deterrent to forgers. The other reason is that the controls served as a check for the Authorities when searching for stolen stocks sold or held by dishonest kiosk keepers - the security at the F.N.M.T. being very poor.

The stamps used for the overprints were apparently pulled from existing stocks and these had been printed by plates with 100 impressions (10 x 10) with the exception of the 25c value. This value was the new redrawn type and was printed in sheets of 200. The sheets had top marginal inscriptions followed by the plate number, the latter occurring above the last stamp in the top row. A typical inscription reads:- 100 SELLOS DE 5 CENTIMOS * CORREOS * No. 12, and the sheet number is in black in the top right hand corner of the sheet. As the sheets were from stock and were not specially printed for the Andorra overprints it seems likely that sheets from a number of different plates may have been used. However, only the following plates have been recorded so far:- 2c, plates 13, 14 and 17, 5c, plates 2, 5 and 12: 10c plates 5 and 11: 15c plates 3 and 11, 50c plate 4: lpta. plates 1 and 6: 4pta. plates 1 and 2: l0ptas plates 1 and 2.

These provisionals, and especially the two Express stamps, are often found with heavy gum creasing. This creasing takes the form of large rectangles and is usually diagonal in relation to the printed stamp. Horizontal ribbing of the gum is also common.

Collectors of Spanish Andorra will already know how difficult it is to obtain well centred stamps of this country. This 1928 series was atrociously perforated and a large proportion of the stamps are most unsightly. It was recorded not long after issue, that only 20% of the entire printing was "reasonably centred"; and from experience it is very evident that this description refers to any stamp design not cut by the perforations, as the number of well centred stamps available is minute. In particular, the two top values are very difficult to find with design intact.

The stamps are to be found with three different perforation measurements, comb 12x11½, comb 13xl2½ and line 14. Contrary to what some catalogues infer, some values do not exist in each of the three perforations. Excluding specimen stamps (with control A000,000) the following values/perfs are NOT known:- 2c perf 12x11½, 25c perf 13xl2½ and 14, 40c perf 13x12½, lpta perf 12x11½ and l0pta perf 13xl2½. Some values are rare in a particular perf., i.e. 5c perf 14 (only one sheet so far recorded), 30c and 50c perf 13xl2½, lpta perf 14 - only two sheets of each of these are known. It is difficult to imagine just what method or procedure was used at the F.N.M.T. in connection with the perforating of this issue, In some instances where only one sheet, in say 50 or 100 sheets, is in a different perforation to the remainder a possible explanation is that a sheet had been damaged in some way whilst perforating and was therefore rejected. Another imperforate sheet would then have to be numbered (to correspond to the damaged sheet), gummed, and then perforated on any machine not in use at the time. The line 14 machine seems to have been used most on these occasions. However, there really is no way to explain why the 15c, 30c and 4pta values each have all three perforations in a range as small as ten consecutively numbered sheets per value.

The line perf 14 is frequently very ragged due, not only to broken and very worn pins, but because of inefficient workmanship. Some of these perforations are best measured from the back of the stamp where the "beat" of the pins is sometimes more apparent.

It would seem the entire 1928 production, from conception to completion, was a real "rush job". This is not only borne out by the perforation peculiarities and vagaries, but by two additional facts. It is recorded that the overprinting involved two separate printings. The first printing produced the full print of all values above and including the 20c and also a small portion of the lower values, 2c to 15c. The second printing comprised a further large printing of these latter four values. (The writer has a tentative theory that the 20c value was also involved in both printings). Also, when the stamps were sent to Andorra for sale one hundred sheets of the lpta. value were apparently not to hand. This became apparent because the sheets of stamps were sold in numerical order and complete sets were purchased all with control A000,001, with the exception of the lpta whose control was A000,101. It was not until some thirty or more sheets of this value had been sold (i.e. just over A000,130) that the La Vieja Post Office began to sell from A000,001.

First day covers exist, but similar to those already mentioned previously, these are suspect. These are believed to have been "serviced" in April of 1928, together with the 1st. Jan. 28 F.D.Cs. (The editor of "ANDORRA PHILATELIST" - Senor Ernesto Fink of Mexico City - had an interview with the well known Spanish dealer, Carlos Lenze, in 1966. Lenze said that he had not arrived in Andorra until two weeks after the provisionals were issued and admitted making up numerous covers and having these appropriately datestamped and backstamped to his wishes.)

There is a profusion of shades in this issue, partly due, no doubt, to being taken from stock. The 20c value in particular has a vast range of shades, (at least six), closely followed by the 10c (five) and 15c (four). Care must be taken with the 20c values, however, as this colour seems rather susceptable to bright sunlight and as a consequence very pale shades should be ignored. Also there is little doubt that the printers mixed their ink in rather small quantities and little effort was made to match the colours of previous printings. The 5c value exists in an aniline state, the colour showing through clearly to the back of the stamp. This variety is usually to be found in the batch of sheets numbered from A000,060 to A000,150, but some sheets do not show this state and others show it only to a slight degree. The aniline variety is generally confined to stamps perforated l3xl2½ but by a strange twist of fate the rare sheet perf 14 (A000,068) is also slightly aniline too. All sheets of the 25c value have a tendency towards an aniline nature. There are many really fine shades in the provisionals, the best of which perhaps is the 10c in a superb shade of bright deep green from sheet A000,635 perforated 13xl2½. This is not to be confused with the dark green shade perf 14 listed by many catalogues.

With due regard to the haste in which this series was prepared it is quite remarkable how well the overprint setting stood up to its work. There are, however, some good varieties and most of these are due to wear of the printing type. On row 1 Nos. 6 and 7 the word "CORREOS" often appears to be in thicker letters, the whole word has a blurred appearance and the letters "RR" very noticeable in this respect. The majority of the letters of "ANDORRA" are broken to a smaller or greater extent on row 6 No. 3 and this flaw also extends to the adjoining stamp, row 6 No. 4, on which the letters "AND" are damaged at the top. These varieties have been seen on all values up to and including the 20c. On row 10, No. 5 the first "R" of "ANDORRA" became broken at some stage of the printing and "ANDOFRA" resulted. Constant varieties affecting the "dots" in the "dots-dash" motif to the left of "CORREOS" have also been noted, again on all values to the 20c. On row 3 No. 6 and Row 4. No. 6 the top left (north west) dot is missing. A similar variety occurs on row 5 No. 1 and row 6 No. l but in these two positions it is the bottom left (south west) dot that is missing. The rule below "ANDORRA" is broken in several positions. The most extensive of these breaks is to be found on row 5. No, 3, below the first "R" of "ANDORRA". Other breaks on the same rule are to be found as follows:- row 2, No. 7 (broken below "O"), row 5, No. 1 (broken below "N" and row 5 No. 2 (broken below first "A"). All of these are to be found on the majority of sheets of values 2c to 20c inclusive (perf 13xl2½). The Express stamps have a number of varieties affecting the basic stamp as these were printed by litho. These varieties are mainly broken frame-lines but there are other good examples too. In particular, the first "C" of "CORRESPONDENCIA" is partially blocked out by colour and looks like an "L". There is also a white line through Pegasus (stated to occur on row 3 No, 1) and a white line through "20" has been recorded also. Broken letters also occur in the overprints on the Express values but, at the moment, these would not appear to be of a constant nature.

The control numbers on the reverse of the stamps have a variety section too. These take the form of double controls. The stamps were numbered by machine in vertical rows of ten held in a slotted frame, and sometimes, because of a fault by the operator or the machines a columm would be numbered twice. Because the sheets were numbered vertically it is possible to have a vertical pair of stamps with both having the double controls or a horizontal pair with one double control and one normal. The following double controls have been recorded:- 10c A000,121 (perf 14), 15c A000,151 and A000,232 (perf 13x12½) and 4pta A000,001 (perf 14). It is also possible for a row of controls to appear in the sheet margin and also for a vertical row of stamps to be completely without controls at all. However, the only record of any 1928 issue of genuine status without control is of a used copy of the 5c value. This does not include the 2c and the original 20c Express of course!

Specimen stamps have previously been mentioned and these were stamps used for deposit at the U.P.U, in Berne and for circulation among delegates at the various conferences held by the U.P.U. The specimens always have the control A000,000 (except 2c values which are not numbered) and in this issue are usually in a slightly different shade to any of the issued values. Both dies of the 25c exist with specimen control and, similar to the normal issue, many values have specimens in different perforations. The 5c and 10pta. are known only perf 14, the 30c, 40c and lpta. are known only perf 13xl2½, the 10c, 15c, 20c, 50c and 4pta. are known both perf 13xl2½ and 14, whilst the 25c is known in all three perfs - with Die I being perf 13xl2½. Specimen stamps are sometimes found with the gum rather badly disturbed. These are from special presentation sheets circulated among delegates to the U.P.U. The sheets were divided into roughly printed squares, the black lines of which may also be found adhering to the stamps. The sheets had top marginal inscription of "TIMBRES DE COMMICACIONES" and at the bottom "CORREOS ANDORRA" was underlined with an irregular wavy line.

Part 2

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Updated 16 Feb 1998