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Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 9 pp3-7 (Mar 1979).
The ANDORRE overprints were applied by flat press and, with the exception of the 1c double overprint and the odd sheet or two with badly misplaced overprint, there seem to have been no major disasters. The Merson types were overprinted in large seriffed capitals whilst all the other values of the series were overprinted in smaller capitals without serifs.
Although sheets of different formats, i.e. 50x2, 25x6, received the smaller type there is some evidence that some of the same type was used for both the rotary typo and flat plate sheets, as some varieties are comon to both. There is a marked variation in the appearance of the overprints on the small format values. A number of values are known with noticeably thicker and rather blurred overprints. This is believed to have been caused by a build up of excess ink on the press due to inadequate cleansing. The two recouvrements values, issued later in 1932 (1f and 2f) have very clean neat overprints. These are rather a dull black when compared with the original release, and lack the intensity of the earlier printings.
The left leg of "A" is rather short at the base on R1/3 right pane (stamp No 8) of the postage values. This stamp also shows a more marked variety in that the "N" is usually broken at the top of the left upright. These varieties have been seen on the majority of the postage values.
The left leg of "A" is also known severely damaged with only a short stub remaining below the horizontal bar. This variety is to be found on R6/2 left pane (stamp No 52) of the postage values and has only been recorded on the 40c, 50c, 45c and 1f50 values. Postage dues have also been noted (5c, lOc and lf) with the same variety, position unknown, and it is believed that the remaining dues to the 2f also exist thus. Forged overprints are known showing the above variety.
The left leg of "N" is short at the base on Rl/2 right pane (stamp No 7) and is to be found on all the postage values. It also occurs on the postage dues and has been seen on the 2f value, last pane of the sheet R4/5 (stamp No 140).
One of the more popular varieties is the joined "DO" variety of which there are basically two different types. These types differ in the thickness of the bar joining the two letters. Type X has a medium to thick bar joining the letters, whilst a thin bar joins the letters on type Y. Each type can be divided into sub-types. Type Xa is to be found on Rl/l, RlO/l left pane (stamp Nos 1 and 91) and on Rl/6 right pane (stamp No 6). Type Xb with the bar towards the bottom of the letters is only to be found on RlO/3 (stamp No 98) of the right pane. The thin bar type Ya is found on Rl/3 left pane (stamp No 3) although sometimes this is to be seen much thicker and rather similar to type Xa. Yb occurs on R2/3, and Yc on R2/4, both in the left pane (stamp Nos l3 and 14). The joined "DO" varieties above all relate to the postage values but this variety - type Xa - is also known on the recouvrements. The joined "DO" variety is of a semi-constant nature.
Another variety appears only to be found on the postage due values. The "O" is broken at right and resembles a "C". This occurs on the final pane of the sheet on R5/2 (stamp No 147) and is known on the 5c, lOc, 60c and 2f values, and most likely exists on the remaining values too (except the 3f). A 10c value has been seen with the top right segment completely missing, but whether this is an extension of this flaw or an accidental flaw is not known. However, it would appear to be in the latter category.
The second "R" is to be found badly broken resembling a "P" - thus ANDORPE. This variety is only known on the ½c surcharge value and occupies R9/5 left pane (stamp No 85).
Two postage values, 30c and 45c are known with damaged "E". The base line is broken short at right and is shorter than the central arm. An early stage of this flaw has also been seen. The tip at the bottom extremity is just visible and is tilted upwards. The sheet position has not yet been recorded.
By far the best known of all the varieties on this issue is the double overprint on the 1c value. Only one sheet is believed to exist and this is from plate A of cylinder A + C. The basic stamp is in a deep blackish-grey shade and the overprints are on the same level. There would seem to be more forgeries than genuine originals on the philatelic market!
The overprints were generally accurately positioned but occasional sheets have been seen with the overprints misplaced, either to the left or right of the stamps; so much so that one of the letters, the A or the E, encroaches upon the adjoining stamp. Two values noted in this respect are the ½c postage and 50c postage due. Rather more spectacular are examples of where the sheet has not been straight when overprinted. The ½c (sheet No 23899, coin-daté 28/3/31) is known with the overprint tilted to the right and downwards. As a result the last three stamps in the top row at the top right corner of the sheet are completely without surcharge, and part surcharges also fall in the top half of the central gutter and in the bottom right margin near the coin-daté. A similar variety but not quite so pronounced has been noted on sheet No 43109 of the 50c value. The overprint is positioned well to the bottom on this sheet and, again, is tilted downwards to the right, although it is believed that all stamps on the sheet carry some part of the overprint. The 1c and 30c values have also been recorded with misplaced overprints.
Overprints in particularly thick type occur, and are noted especially on lc and 50c postage, 3f postage due, lc and lOc recouvrements.
The 50c postage is known with the "E" completely missing, and the last two vertical rows of a right pane of the 5c postage value have been seen with clear set-off impressions of the overprint. There are a number of other occasional varieties which have been noted and these include:- "AN" joined; "ND" joined and long bottom bar to "E".
This provisional series was on sale for exactly one year, being replaced by an attractive pictorial series on 16th June, 1932. All values are much scarcer used (with contemporary cancellations) than mint. There was no real postal use for the high values and although a number of them were philatelically used by tourists and philatelists on picture postcards and covers, very few fine used copies are available. The same comments apply to the postage dues and recouvrements issues. Covers command a high premium.
The varieties on the basic stamps and overprints make this an ideal issue to study, and the existence of a large number of forgeries creates even more scope for the dedicated student.
The 1931 provisionals are very similar to their Spanish 1928 counterparts, in that the overprints have been extensively forged. All the forgeries are of the same category in that they were prepared to deceive collectors, and were not intended for use to defraud the relevant postal authorities.
There are numerous different types of forged overprints and these vary in quality from good to crude. Most of them are crude and should not deceive anybody other than the casual collector. The vast majority of forgeries are to be found on cancelled French stamps, and collectors should immediately be suspicious of any overprinted stamp that does not have a clear circular or hexagonal cancellation of Andorran origin. There was little commercial mail carried in Andorra at this time, and much of the mail that was posted was philatelic and, consequently, was carefully handstamped. Therefore, it is fair to say that any provisional with a French cancellation, or an indistinct cancellation, or with a wavy line cancellation, is immediately suspect. The first machine cancellation was not brought into use in Andorra until 11th June, 1953.
The forgers seem to have had little philatelic knowledge and they overprinted stamps that were never issued for Andorra, i.e. Sower 25c blue, and other differences such as type, shade etc. have all been noted. An abundance of common cheap stamps on which they could add their forged overprints seems to have been their first choice. However, in more recent years more unused stamps with forged overprints have been noted, and this is perhaps a reflection on the increasing premium the Andorran overprints command over the contemporary basic French series.
Another important point for the collector to note is the position of the genuine overprint on the stamps. The Blanc types usually have the overprint placed on a line with the wings of the Cherub at the left hand side of the stamp; the exception, of course, being the ½c surcharge, and on this value the overprint above the red colour normally shows a variance in position. On the Sower types the overprint invariably falls below the Sower's left hand and above the value. On the Merson types the overprint should be centrally placed and to the right of the value tablet. The overprints do vary slightly in position but, in general, the above guides can safely be relied upon.
The genuine overprints measure 14m in length (from extreme left base of "A" to extreme right of "E") and 2mm high. The letters are bold and clearly defined. The "A" is rather narrow with a neat apex which, due to wear, sometimes appears to be rather smaller than normal and also partially distorted. The "O" is round and tends to look out of character with the remaining letters, especially the "D" and "R" which are square, the "D" being slightly dropped in relation to the other letters in some settings. The top and bottow horizontals of the "E" are noticeably longer than the central arm. The overprint is clear black, without haze, and should be parallel to the top end base of stamp. Occasionally some values have a very thick overprint due to poor cleansing of the flat plate.
Six different species of forgery have been isolated on the Blanc and Sower types (although others undoubtedly exist) and one basic species on the Merson types. These are described below.
|Type A -||This forgery is simple to recognise in that the letters are too small and squat and, consequently, wider spaced than the genuine type. The letters are frequently blurred to some extent and are of uneven thickness. The overprint is usually found applied higher than normal, usually through the Sower's left hand on the Sower types.|
|Type B -||The most dangerous forgery on the small format types; possibly photographically reproduced. The only apparent difference being a slightly wider space between the "A" and "N". Again this type is usually found with the overprints placed too high on the stamps - quite frequently much too high. One helpful characteristic is that this forgery has usually been applied at a slant, the whole overprint being tilted upwards.|
|Type C -||Measuring l4¼mm this forgery has a characteristic "A", easily recognisable in that the horizontal is almost at the bottom of the letter. The letters, generally, are badly aligned and indistinct and the overprint is always placed too high on the stamp. This type of forgery is also known on the 1931 postage due stamps.|
|Type D -||An interesting feature of this forgery is the faithful copying of a constant variety of the genuine type, the left leg of "A" is short at the base. The overprint tends to look rather squat when compared with the genuine. The "D" and "O" are too square and the "E" is completely wrong, in that all the horizontal arms are too short. This forgery is usually correctly positioned.|
|Type E -||Spidery thin, rather wide letters distinguish this type, the "A" being splayed and the final three letters much too widely spaced. The "E" shows a curious mixture of thick and thin lines. Similar to the other forgeries, it is placed too high - and this type is relatively uncomon.|
|Type F -||This forgery measures 15mm in length and has squat letters printed in very shiny ink. The right leg of "A" is short and the horizontal is too near the bottom. The "D" is much too narrow and the "O" is too small. The letters "R" are thicker at the bottom than at the top, and the horizontal arms of the "E" are too short. The overprint is often correctly placed but is also to be found well to the left with the "A" completely missing. Additional black spots under the "N" are common and the right upright of "N" is thin.|
|Type M -||(Merson High Values) This forgery is dangerous. It measures exactly the same as the genuine overprint (20.5m in length and 2.5mm in height), but usually appears in a rather dull black and tends to lack the solidarity of colour of the genuine. The genuine overprint never encroaches upon the value tablet but this forgery is often found with the "A" well inside the tablet. A sub type of this forgery exists and one point of interest noted with this type is that when the forgery is correctly placed, the serif on the central arm of "E" is slanted slightly downwards to the right, whereas the genuine "E" has a perpendicular serif. On both types the serif on the top upright of the two "RR"s is pointed too high, and the serif on the central arm of "E" is too large and heavy. The central arm of "E" on the sub-type is slightly too high. It is relevant to mention again, especially with these high values, that genuinely used Andorran stamps usually have clear and legible cancellations, and faded or unreadable postmarks should be treated with the utmost caution.|
The 1c value with double overprint has naturally attracted the forgers' attention and it is indeed unfortunate that a number of these forgeries bear famous signatures on the reverse as to their being genuine.
Two different categories of forgery exist, either a genuine 1c overprint with additional forged overprint, or a normal French stamp with two forged ANDORRE overprints. These forgeries, as is to be expected, vary from good to bad. The basic stamp on which the double overprint occurs is in a deepish shade of grey-black, and it is recorded that only one sheet (100 stamps) exists. This sheet is from plate A of cylinder A + C. The genuine double overprint has both overprints on the same level with the majority of letters superimposed upon each other, the second overprint beginning on the letter "N" of the first overprint. Most forgeries have the second overprint dropped too low and slanting down to the right. The stamps are also usually in the wrong shade.
It would seem that somebody had a strange sense of humour (we suppose forgers are human after all - just as we philatelists think we are!) as picture postcards are known bearing forged Sower types and cancelled with a postmark inscribed in Spanish! This round cancellation, apparently made of metal and not rubber, reads "ANDORRA LA VIEJA 1" and in the centre the date is "17/8-7/37".
Note: All aspects of the 1931 issue are covered in a booklet published by CIFA, available from W. A. Jacques
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