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The stamps of the Vienna Issue were lithographed from zinc plates on sheets of 500 subjects, arranged in panes of 100 or 50. Figure 27 shows a typical six-pane arrangement: four of 100 stamps and two of 50. The 10-, 20-, and 40-hryven values were designated as the rates most needed and 20 million copies of each were printed. Stamp sizes for values up to 50-hryven were generally about 27.5 x 31.5mm (plus or minus 0.5mm; sometimes plus or minus 1mm), while the stamp vignettes were normally 22.5 x 26mm (plus or minus 0.5mm). For the four high-value stamps the sizes are mostly 36.5 x 28.5mm (plus or minus 0.5mm); the vignettes are 33mm wide by 24 or 24.5mm high. Table 1 summarizes data gleaned from dozens of imperforate stamp panes where measurements could be made from printer’s perforation guidelines.
Stamp sheets were line perforated 11½ (a 10½ variety mentioned in the literature has never been
verified). Surprisingly, a single 40-hryven stamp has been reported and illustrated perforated 12½ (Figure 28). There are no noticeable differences between this stamp and typical 40-hryven stamps, either in vignette details, color, paper, or gum.
Two distinct sizes of perforation holes exist for these stamps. A small-hole variety is the norm for about 80% of all Vienna Issue stamps. The cut is smooth and clean (Figure 29A). A larger-hole variety is rough, with occasional paper residue (Figure 29B). Single large-hole stamps have sharp perforations that resemble spikes. The size of the perforation hole, however, does not affect the perforation gauge, since such measurement is determined by the number of perforations within a specified 2 cm unit.
Three different misperforations – a row of perforations missing, either vertically or horizontally – have been noted on two different Vienna Issue values. Figure 30 shows an example with missing perforations along the left of a gutter between the 100- and 50-unit panes on a 150-stamp sheet of the 3-hrvni value. Figure 31 displays another 3-hryvni gutter sheet, this time, however, the imperf. variety occurs at the top where the row of margin perforations is missing. The third example of missing perforations was recorded on a 2-hryvni 150-stamp vertical gutter sheet where a missing column of perforations occurs between stamps 5 and 6 (i.e., in the
exact middle of the sheet).
The Vienna Issue also exists imperforate; printers waste has yielded trial printings on various papers including geographic maps (Figure 32). For the 10 mono-color values, versions are known with stamps printed on both sides of the paper (the same design or with different designs), with offset (mirror-image) designs on the reverse, and with doubled images of the same design or of another design, frequently with the images inverted in relationship to each other. On the four high-value, bicolor stamps, the center vignettes are known inverted, omitted, doubled, misaligned, and even with the wrong frame (see Figure 33 for examples). These trial varieties are relatively scarce compared to normal stamps and are eagerly sought by collectors. Delivery of the completed stamp issue to the now-exiled Ukrainian government took place in late December of 1920; the plates were destroyed on 31 May 1921.
Color varieties have been noted among the 3-, 5-, 10-, 50-, 60-, and 100-hryven values; they are summarized on the following table:
Five of the six varieties – the 3-, 5-, 10-, 60-, and 100-hryven values – are almost certainly color trials since only imperforate (printer’s waste) examples are known (Figure 34). The 50-hryven turquoiseblue may also be a color trial but why it was perforated (11½, the same as the normal olive-green) remains unclear.
Various minor printing defects crop up on stamp panes in random positions. These imperfections include flyspecks, white dots, flecks, and thin irregular lines. Three consistent flaws, however, have been noted and are summarized in Table 3.
On 100-stamp panes of the 1-hryvnia value a distinct horizontal line through the center of the “П” of РЕСПУБЛІКА makes that letter appear as “Н” in two positions; this flaw also appears in one position on 50-stamp panes (Figure 35). On two of the 100 stamps on a pane of the 5-hryven, the right wing of the right trident is conspicuously and completely broken. Other tridents on such panes may show partial breaks in different areas, but in positions 8 and 37 the break is distinct and always on the right wing (Figure 36). Finally, on the 200-hryven stamp pane, a burgundy blemish in the center of the “В” in
ГРИВЕНЬ turns that letter into an “E” (Figure 37).
“Cancels” and “Overprints”
Some sources maintain that the 10-, 20-, and 40-hryven values underwent earlier printings, and that they entered circulation in three post offices in the Kamianets-Podilsk area. “Used” copies, however, have a bogus “ВОЛОЧИСЬК ДВІРЕЦЬ” (Volochysk Railway Station) cancel and impossible dates (e.g. some cancels give the year as 1919, one year too early!).
Other puzzling cancels found include: a forged double-ring postmark of “P.O.П.и Т. / КОНСТАНТИНОПОЛЬ” (R.O.P.i T. Constantinople) with a three-line date slug “17 / 19-13 / IV” (found on all values), a forged round “EРИВАНЬ” (Yerevan [Armenia]) postmark without date in the central bridge that appears on several values, a forged round “COФИЯ” (Sophia [Bulgaria]) marking, and a double-ring “??AHA” (Praha? [Czechoslovakia]) postmark. Other bogus cancels exist, but are invariably corner strikes with minimal legible text; line, dot, or circle marks without text; or under-inked or blurry strikes that are completely illegible (Figure 38).
On 21 November 1920, the retreating Ukrainian Government and troops of the Ukrainian National Army crossed the Zbruch River into Poland where they were interned. By the terms of the Treaty of Riga (18 March 1921) between Poland and Soviet Russia, the Poles broke off diplomatic relations with the Ukrainian National Republic. Some elements of the Ukrainian army continued the struggle, however, and a number of raids were made into the Soviet border areas by a force of about 1,500 men in two groups. The first, under Col. M. Palii, crossed over into the Ukraine on 25 October 1921; a second, under Gen. Yu. Tiutiunnyk, began its foray on 4 November 1921.
During the raids, about 2,000 sets of the Vienna Issue stamps were supposedly issued with a carefully applied handstamped black or violet overprint “ВІЛЬНА УКРАIНА / 1921” (Free Ukraine / 1921). In addition, the 2-, 5-, 10-, 20-, 40-, and 80-hryven values were diagonally hand-stamped “ДОПЛATA” (Postage Due) in black (Figure 39). In all likelihood, these overprints were created by Ukrainian exiles living in Poland or other countries. Accounts of the military raids show that the two groups were constantly on the move and had little time to issue stamps, let alone carry out postage due procedures.
Anticipating a military advance into Ukraine in 1923, the Ukrainian government-in-exile residing in Warsaw, ordered a stamp set of eleven values issued with the Cyrillic overprint “У.П.П.”, which stood for Ukrainian Field Post. The surcharged values ranged as follows: 1000, 1500, and 2000 on the 10-hryven; 2500, 4000, and 5000 on the 20-hryven; and 8000, 10000, 15000, 20000, and 25000 on the 40-hryven (Figure 40). The higher hryven values reflected the devalued currency in Ukraine under the Soviets. Although about 300,000 complete sets were prepared using black ink, no military operations took place and the stamps were never postally used. Their subsequent sale on the philatelic market helped raise funds for the exiled Ukrainian Government.
“Forgeries” and Printer’s Proofs
Since 1990, a few articles have made mention of possible forgeries of the Vienna Issue. Although one would not expect an unissued stamp set to have been forged, the five lowest values of the Vienna Issue (1-, 2-, 3-, 5-, and 10-hryven) are sometimes found with differences suggesting possible forgery. The “forged” stamps are perforated 11 and are found on creamy white (instead of plain white) paper. Overall, they are rather blurry, lacking sharpness and clarity in lettering and details. The size of the image is usually about ½ mm smaller - in height and/or width - than that found on regular stamps (Figure 41).
In contemporary Ukrainian catalogs, these five variant stamps are listed as 10¾ perforation varieties. A thorough vetting of such stamps available to me has convinced me that 11 is the correct perforation size for these “forgeries.” It is these five variants that are likely responsible for the 10½ perforation stamps once reported in the literature, but which have never been confirmed.
In earlier discussions with fellow collectors I had put forth the possibility that these “forged” stamps might be early printer’s proofs made on poor quality paper before a final image size was determined. It turns out that apparently this was the case. A small quantity of 150-stamp sheets – composed of a 100- and a 50-stamp pane – have turned up with vignettes ½ mm smaller than those of regular stamps and with images somewhat indistinct compared with usual stamps. Only five values of these stamp sheets are known (1-, 2-, 3-, 5-, and 10-hryven; i.e., the same as the “forged” stamps). Table 4 summarizes the dimensions of these sheets.
Certificate of Authenticity
A document was prepared in early 1921 attesting to the legitimacy of the Vienna Issue and verifying its date. The item is a large-format envelope, roughly 26 by 19 cm in size, to which is affixed a complete set of the stamps. The credential bears two declarations: one written in longhand, the other printed on a typewriter (Figure 42). The handwritten text reads: “A[ct No.] 109 Attached here are 14 values of postage stamps of the Ukrainian National Republic [ranging] from 1 to 200 hryven, [that were produced] on the basis of the law of the UNR dated 27 August 1920, ordered by the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs for printing in Vienna as the last printing for 1920, which this [act] certifies. Vienna, 8 March 1921.
Head of the Commission for Stamp Preparation: P. Soroka Member-Secretary: I. Shmatko”
The typewritten text translates as: [Document] No. 594 The identity signatures of the representatives of the Stamp Commission of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs of the UNR in Vienna in the persons of Head of the Commission, Mr. Peter SOROKA, and Member-Secretary of this Commission, Mr. I. SHMATKO, is certified by the Consular Section of the Embassy of the UNR in Austria. Vienna, 11 March 1921.
Chief of the Consular Section, Embassy Secretary: O. Semeniv
The distinct, round seal on the lower left is that of the Vienna Consular Section; its wording is in Ukrainian
and French. The less distinct Ukrainian-language “cancels” appearing over the affixed stamps read:
Commission of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs in Vienna.
The fact that the document specifically states that these stamps were “the last printing for 1920” is the third bit of information that would seem to show that these stamps were still completed before the end of that year. Other indications are the latest approval date on stamp designs being 2 December 1920 (on the 30-, 50-, and 80-hryven stamps mentioned previously) and the date of the Volia article (1 January 1921; cited under the 10-hryven stamp narrative), which describes the printing of the stamp set as being virtually concluded.
Hiatus and Rediscovery
For the next 65 years there is not much that can be added to the story of the Vienna Issue. From 1920 to about 1985 the stamps were fairly well known, readily available, and easily collected. Complete sets usually went for a couple of dollars. The Scott Catalogue, the most widely used philatelic reference in North America, never listed or numbered the stamps because they never entered postal circulation. However, the catalog did make mention of the Vienna Issue at the back of its Ukraine stamp entry. Currently Scott gives the stamps the nominal value of $5.
It was in the mid-1980s that the late Ukrainian philatelic researcher Lubomyr Hugel “discovered” and purchased the artwork for the Vienna Issue from a Vienna stamp dealer (name unknown). Amazingly, the renderings had somehow survived for over six decades in the Austrian capital – through the Great
Depression, the Anschluss (German annexation of Austria), World War II, and the subsequent postwar reconstruction. After holding on to the materials for several years, Mr. Hugel expressed a desire to sell off the designs piecemeal. Not wishing the works of art to be broken up, I was able to convince him to sell the entire body of work to me.
A Project Proposal
Examining the artwork in subsequent years, I came to appreciate even more the amazing effort made by Mykola Ivasiuk in preparing these beautiful designs in such a short period of time. I repeatedly wished they could be reused to prepare a modernday philatelic release. To that end I approached the well-known graphic artist John Jaciw of Windsor, Ontario with a proposal for a souvenir sheet project. I wished to include not only all 14 original designs in such a sheet, but two more to allow for a 4 x 4 stamp arrangement.
My idea was to add two additional portraits to the set to honor the two personages who had led Ukraine during the three-year period of independence, but who did not appear on any of the stamps: Mykhailo Hrushevsky (President 1917-18) and Pavlo Skoropadsky (Hetman, 1918). A stamp of Symon Petliura, who headed the UNR Directory in 1918-20, already appeared on the 40-hryven value of the set.
Mr. Jaciw masterfully created two beautiful designs (re)using the same basic frame layout utilized in the 40-hryven value, but inserting portraits that employed the same shading and stippling technique as Mykola Ivasiuk originally applied (Figures 43 and 44). Some modification was made to the frame for the Skoropadsky portrait, however, since his government called itself the Ukrainian State (Ukrainska Derzhava) and that is the title inserted into the oval legend. Additionally, the trident emblem in use during Skoropadsky’s tenure in office included a cross in the central prong. Mr. Jaciw duly added this detail to the two tridents (one in the frame, the other in the portrait) that appear on this design (Figure 44).
Once the design work was completed, Mr. Jaciw reduced colored copies to stamp size and inserted them into a mocked up souvenir sheet (Figure 45). In the selvage area of the proposed sheet he also included a lovely color illustration of a wooden windmill on the Ukrainian steppe, which echoed the structure depicted on the 200-hryven value from the original set.
An Overture to Marka Ukrainy
It was during the huge Washington 2006 World Philatelic Exhibition that I (as then-President of the Ukrainian Philatelic and Numismatic Society, UPNS) got to know several representatives of
Marka Ukrainy – Ukraine’s stamp production firm – including its director, Valentyna Khudoliy. Visits back and forth between the booths of our two organizations occurred throughout the course of the exhibition. It was during the evening of day six of the eight-day event that UPNS Western Hemisphere Liaison Don Wynnyczok hosted a dinner at his residence for society members, representatives of Marka Ukrainy, and even some officials from the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, DC. Following the meal, I unveiled the original Ivasiuk artwork to all present. The drawings drew a great deal of interest as did my proposed souvenir sheet project. I also threw out the idea of Marka Ukrainy printing a special book in which the story of the Vienna Issue could be detailed and the original design work reproduced7. I went even further and suggested that packets of the original Vienna Issue stamps could be included with such a book since these stamps are relatively inexpensive.
Mrs. Khudoliy reacted quite favorably to everything I proposed and promised to see what could be done. Then-UPNS Executive Vice President Andrew Martyniuk volunteered to provide detailed scans of all the originals for Marka Ukrainy to aid them in preparing stamps of the highest possible clarity. He was able to submit these scans in December of 2006. Three months later, he received a letter from Mrs. Khudoliy informing the society that the proposal to reuse the Mykola Ivasiuk artwork was approved and that the project would be included in Ukraine’s 2009-2010 plan of stamp releases.
7.Marka Ukrainy had by then already printed several special publications dealing with certain modern-day stamp releases.
When I ran into Mrs. Khodoliy at the WIPA 2008 international stamp exhibition in Vienna, Austria in September of that year, I inquired how the project was proceeding. She let me know that reproducing the Ivasiuk stamps was still being planned, but she could not provide details. Indeed, she was pessimistic about the future of Marka Ukrainy in general. Her worst fears came to pass in subsequent months as the agency was disbanded and replaced with an organization using the absurd name of Postage Prepayment Impressions Development Directorate (a remarkable example of holdover Soviet-style bureaucratese). This new name did not make much sense to me until I realized that “postage prepayment impressions” was a verbose way of saying “stamps,” so the new entity is really the Stamp Development Directorate.
The Final Result
With these bizarre developments, I must admit that I was not sanguine at the prospects for the Ivasiuk artwork ever being used. However, the new stampproducing entity did end up following – for the most part – the stamp issuing plan originally set forth by Marka Ukrainy. (Why the original, well-functioning firm had to be broken up and replaced with a new one has never been made clear to me.)
Nonetheless, I was delighted to learn, that on 22 April 2010 two souvenir sheets featuring eight of the Ivasiuk drawings (four per sheet) were produced. The style of these sheets somewhat mimicked those released in 2008 that honored the 90th Anniversary of Ukraine’s First Stamps – the Shahiv Issue (Figure 46). The two new sheets commemorated the 90th Anniversary of the Postage Stamps of the Ukrainian National Republic (Figure 47)8 and were 105 x 85mm in size.
8. In Ukrainian “Ukrainska Narodna Respublika.” The Ukrainian word narod can be translated as people or nation. The English inscription on the souvenir sheet described the stamps as being those of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. In the West, however, Ukrainian National Republic is the preferred translation.
The two sheets reproduced the eight vertical-format stamps from the Vienna Issue set – four per sheet – and revalued two on each sheet to 1.50 hryvni and two to 2 hryvni (i.e., each sheet was worth 7 hryven). The original values incorporated by Mykola Ivasiuk into the frame designs on each of the stamps were crossed with a single black diagonal line (from lower left to upper right) to indicate that the denomination was no longer valid.
While the right side of each souvenir sheet displayed the four reproduced stamps in a reduced 17 x 20mm size, the left side presented one of the four designs enlarged to 40.5 x 47.5mm. The two magnified images are of the lowest value (1 hryvnia) on the first sheet and the highest value (50 hryven) on the second sheet. The four stamp-on-stamps on each souvenir sheet measured 22.5 x 28mm in size and were comb perforated 11½.
There is no doubt that the scans of the original drawings sent to Ukraine in 2006 were used in creating the souvenir sheets since some changes that affected the artwork over time are evident on the enlargements. Particularly noticeable is the blotchiness in the cross-hatching behind the trident on the 1-hryvnia value. In the 1920 printing, this background was much more uniform.
My feelings about the two sheets were mixed. Overall, I was happy and relieved that Ivasiuk’s artwork had finally been used on circulating stamps as originally intended. However, I was disappointed that only eight of the images were used. My dissatisfaction was greatly mollified when another souvenir sheet was released 17 months later on 12 September 2011, this time including all six of the horizontal-format stamps of the Vienna Issue. The inscription on the sheet again stated that what was being commemorated was the 90th Anniversary of the Postage Stamps of the Ukrainian National Republic. Despite this caption, however, the sheet was printed in 2011 (as indicated by the inscribed date), undoubtedly to allow the new Stamp Development Directorate to release it as a special philatelic product for collectors that year (Figure 48).
This third Vienna Issue souvenir sheet was slightly larger than the previous two, measuring 110 x 92mm. Once again two of the stamps were revalued to 1.50 hryvni and two to 2 hryvni, but the two original high-value stamps of 100- and 200-hryven were revalued to 6- and 7-hryven respectively, making the total value of the sheet 20 hryven. Once more also the original values were crossed through with single diagonal lines, but in this case all of the lines were red except for those devaluing the original 200-hryven stamp, which were black.
The reproduced stamp sizes on the third souvenir sheet stamps were 15 x 13mm for the 1.50 hryven stamps and 17 x 12mm for the others. All six stampon- stamps on this sheet measured 22.5 x 21mm in size and were comb perforated 11½. Because six stamps were squeezed onto this sheet, the end result was that each of the original stamp designs was reduced to an even greater degree than what had occurred on the first two sheets. Nonetheless, the reduced stamp images on the sheets held up remarkably well. This result was certainly due to the Stamp Development Directorate using the high-resolution scans made available by the UPNS in 2006.
Enlarged prominently on the third sheet was the 200-hryven windmill design, but the original two-color combination was altered to a monochrome brown, probably to better match the tans and golds of the souvenir sheet background.
So, after 90 years the 14 designs crafted by one artist over a three-month period were finally put to the postal use for which they were intended. Figure 49 shows an impressive overseas usage: a registered first day of issue cover sent from Ukraine to Australia on 12 September 2011 carrying a complete souvenir sheet of the horizontal-format Vienna Issue stamps as well as five additional definitives to make up the 27.50-hryven overseas postage rate.
Overall, I am pleased with how the three souvenir sheets were produced and I am delighted that three of the Ivasiuk designs were so prominently highlighted. It is understandable why the Stamp Development Directorate ignored the two additional designs that I had proposed. The intention was to make the sheets part of the ongoing 90th Anniversary Series of historic Ukrainian stamps and so only stamps that had actually been printed could be featured – not some modern variants.
1. Bylen, Peter. “The 1920 Vienna Issue: Some Observations.” The Southern Collector No. 9 (1997)
34-35. (About large- and small-hole perforation varieties.)
2. Epstein, Alexander. “More Ukrainica Miscellany: Classical Issues.” Ukrainian Philatelist No. 84
(2001): 44-48. (About the 12½ perforation variety.)
3. Hugel, Lubomyr M. “Ukraine - The Vienna Issue of 1920.” Ukrainian Philatelist No. 49 (1986):
10-14. (First report of “Design A” and “Design B” versions for the 30-, 100-, and 200-hryven
4. Hugel, Lubomyr M. “Possible Forgeries of the 1920 ‘Vienna Issue’.” Ukrainian Philatelist No. 58
5. Kuzych, Ingert. “A Serendipitous Discovery.” Ukrainian Philatelist No. 53/54 (1988): 60.
(Discovery of the photo used in designing the 200-hryven vignette.)
6. Kuzych, Ingert. “More Serendipitous Discoveries.” Ukrainian Philatelist No. 57 (1990): 23-27.
(Tracking down the sources for the 10-, 15-, 20-, and 60-hryven vignettes.)
7. Kuzych, Ingert. “Ukraine’s Pictorial Set of 1920: The Vienna Issue.” Ukrainian Philatelist No. 58
8. Kuzych, Ingert and Val Zabijaka. “The Postal Issues of 1920: New Information.” Ukrainian
Philatelist No. 82 (2000): 14-18. (Details about the Vienna Issue authenticity certificate.)
9. Kuzych, Ingert. “Vienna Issue Redux: A Ninety Year Journey to Acceptance.” Ukrainian Philatelist
No. 104 (2010): 58-65.
10. MacGregor, Alexander. “From Vienna to Kiev: Artistic Influences on the 1920 Ukrainian Pictorials.”
Ukrainian Philatelist No. 57 (1990): 9-22.
11. Muggeridge, Donald W. “More on the 200 Hryven Windmill Stamp.” Ukrainian Philatelist
No. 51 (1987): 2.
12. Muggeridge, Donald W. “The Windmill Stamp of the 1920 Vienna Issue.” Ukrainian Philatelist
No. 53/54 (1988): 54-59.
13. “Novi Poshtovi Marky U.N.R.” (New Postage Stamps of the U.N.R.). Volia Vol. 1 No. 1 (1 January 1921):
13-14. Reprinted in Ukrainian Philatelist No. 37-38 (1975): 41-42. (The first announcement of
the completion of the Vienna Issue.)
14. Semeniuk, Roman and John Semeniuk. “Money Drama Has Stamp Connections.” Ukrainian
Philatelist No. 60A (1991): 60-61. (About Pavlo Polubotok and the 30-hryven stamp.)
15. Turyn, Ivan. “Ukrainske Narodnie Mystetstvo na Poshtovykh Markakh” (Ukrainian National
Artistry on Postage Stamps). Ukrainian Philatelist Vol. 1 No. 4 (April 1925): 3-4. (About the folk
designs incorporated into each stamp of the Vienna Issue.)