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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 15, pp7-9 (March 1982)

Copyright notice

The 1932 "Semi-official" Airmails (Part 1)

By Carlos Romo

A private, non-controlled issue.

30 years or so ago I had seen a set of stamps listed in the Sanabria Air-post catalogue, which I had never seen previously listed in any other catalogue I knew. These stamps were supposed to be an air mail series for Andorra. In later years when my interest for stamps had been reduced to a few countries - Andorra being foremost among them - I began to run into more mentions of this issue which was supposed to have been a "Semi-0fficial" - never issued series. I became quite curious about their status, since after more than 40 years of being practically unknown "Cinderellas" of marginal interest even for collectors specializing in Andorra, more and more they started to appear in dealer's lists being offered at quite handsome prices; this curiosity led me to a series of fortunate contacts with several very knowledgeable gentlemen of Andorra Philately. The first one was Mr. Ramón Jové Llavaneras of Lérida, Spain, and from him I received the following impressions concerning the series;

Muestra overprint "It was another one of the numerous attempts to profit from Andorra Philately. A South American Gentleman sought a concession for the transportation by air of Andorran correspondence.... The stamps are very aptly inscribed "sobre-taxa", that is to say that a letter bearing normal franking had no need of any further stamps, and that the "airmail stamps" were only a sort of receipt from a private party to show payment of air transportation for a given item.... I don't think these stamps have any real value - other than historic-. Franquicia del Consell double overprint They exist with 'Franquicia del Consell' and 'MUESTRA' overprints, with double overprint, imperforate, double perforation, etc Nothing is genuine - although with the passing of time the least suspected items come to have value - for lack of the real thing...... I wouldn't ignore them completely, but neither would I place an exceeding worth upon them."

Along with this information Mr. Jové also enclosed for my examination a sample of a - to me - previously unknown cancelling device, similar to the one illustrated here.

Bogus first flight cachet
The bogus "first flight" cachet with forged CORREUS ANDORRA cachet.

Further, Mr. Jové suggested that I should contact Mr. D. W. Tanner for further information, which I succesfully attempted, and from Mr. Tanner I received the following opinions about the items in question:-

"I'm quite sure that Sr. Jové is right that no mail was ever carried, despite what Galvez said (in an article in "Madrid Filatélico" of 1934). I have seen blocks of four of this series (all with their full gum!) cancelled with the cachet which you illustrate. That might have been done many years after 1932. I think the printing equipment was sold, as well as the original stock of stamps, and that many thousands have been reprinted during the years".
(Mr. S. Nathan of Barcelona, who also assisted in the investigation states that he had seen the stocks of these stamps "It lay in two very large cupboards at the shop of Francisco Tarré in Calle Layetana in Barcelona. He showed me kilos of sheets.... literally tons of errors, etc.").

From Mr. Parke, one of the deans of Andorra Philately I obtained another opinion which read thus:

"I have always felt that the promotor printed these wholly on his own, as the airline was to be wholly in Spain. At that time I was watching foreign first flights closely, and there was nothing in the press about the service which was supposed to have been started, and I am sure that no mail was carried, as it would have been reported in the largest French Stamp Paper, L'Echo de la Timbrologie, to which I subscribed. The stamps could have been printed in just as large numbers as the promotor and his heirs desired; at one time a US dealer was offering these at $1.00 as an approval premium. It is a shame for these now to be promoted as real philatelic property. The length of the set also indicates that these were entirely for sale to collectors. They are interesting Andorra items, but at a moderate price as novelties, just as with the 19th Century 'stamps' which were printed for dealers."

Thanks to Mr. Bishop who provided me with copies of relevant pages of "L'Echo de la Timbrologie" we find that it is in the "Echo" where we find the most convincing proof of the final status of this issue. A mention of the stamps is given for the first time in the March 31st 1932 issue, page 301:

"The 'Champion Bulletin' gives details of the imminent organization of an air postal service between Barcelona and Andorra, and it also announces that the stamps for franking the mail transported through this service have already been printed. The series consists of 12 values with a total cost of 24 pesetas."

There was apparently another reference about the series in a later issue of "L'Echo" because on page 814 of the August 3lst, 1934 issue we find the following "clincher" about their status;
CORRECTION
This is the first time that we have had the pleasure to receive a communication from the Minister of Posts, therefore it is with great pleasure that we reproduce the letter below, signed by the hand of M. Mallarmé himself, Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones of the French Republic.
Paris, 30 August,1934
Sir,
    In your issue of April 15th, No.919 of L'Echo de la Timbrologie, under the feature column "Chronique", you give indications concerning a series of airmail stamps, issued by the Spanish Office in the Valleys of Andorra which you also mention had been overprinted "Franquicia del Consell".
  I am pleased to be able to inform you that the Spanish Administration has been consulted through my offices, and they have stated that they never issued these items; moreover, the General Council of the Valleys of Andorra, to whom one of this series have been shown, has denied the authenticity of the issue.
  I would be most thankful if you would be so kind as to bring to the attention of your readers the fraudulent character of the labels in question.
Yours very truly,
Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones,
A. Mallarme.

The Story Unravels

The following step came about through certain remarks in one of Mr. Tanner's letters which brought about a series of fortunate developments. Mr. Tanner stated: "In 1953, when I was in Andorra, Sr. Estanislau Sangrà, (currently Andorra's First Sindic - Attorney General), owner of the hotel Balneary Muntany, Les Escaldes, told me that he knew the Pilot of the 'plane used in 1932 for the experimental flights. From memory, Sr. Sangrà told me that the pilot had told him that the real profits would be made from the stamps rather than from carrying freight. (This puzzled Sr. Sangrà, as he knew nothing of philately or stamps). As far as I can recall, Sr. Sangrà told me that the pilot later flew for the losing side in the Civil War, and that he finally settled in Canada (or possibly USA). He visited Europe some times, but did not dare enter Spain, so he stayed in Andorra at Sr. Sangrà's hotel." Mr. Tanner went on to suggest that perhaps I should attempt contacting Sr. Sangrà myself for further information about the pilot's whereabouts; I did, and fortunately I received a prompt response with the information that the aviator had indeed been a resident of the US, but had passed away in Switzerland four years before. Sr. Sangrà also provided me with the address of the pilot's widow, in case I wished to get in contact with her for further information. Lucky once more, I was able to acquire another fountain of very accurate information.

The Pilot - Josep Canudas Busquets.

Through my communications with this gentleman's widow I was able to put together the following story:

Sr. Canudas Busquets was a civil aviation pilot in Lérida, still fondly remembered by people of the days when he performed aerial acrobatics from the primitive air fields of the time. Before his death Sr. Canudas had been preparing a book about civil aviation in Catalonia (Spain) between the years 1916 to 1936 for publication, and from his manuscript we extracted the information concerning the "experimental flights of 1931-32 which pertain to our study.

"On January 7th, 1932 the first experimental flights, which would last 12 weeks, took place. And on April 29th the last flight was taken in order to satisfy the requirements for the aquisition of the Spanish Government's Concession, according to the conditions stipulated. The aeroplane used for the first flights was a two-seater Moth Cirrus; afterwards a bigger plane - a six-seater Farman with Hispano motor - was acquired. Several newsmen; Sr. Jaume Aguadé, Mayor of Barcelona; José Galán, Civil Aereonautic Lines Inspector, and councillors of the Generalitat (Provincial Government of Catalonia) went along on the experimental flights."

Group photograph
"Els Inferns Aerodrome - La Seo de Urgel 1932"
Canudas Busquets, 6th from the right; Jaume Aguadé, 8th from the right; José Galán, 2nd from right.

Part 2 | Part 3

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