Marginalia: August 2010 “Bridge of Spies”

Article Number 12:  “Bridge of Spies” on a Map Stamp

New Submission August 2010,  Research, text and scans by Volker F. Woesner

With the recent spy exchange between the US and Russian governments, reminiscent of previous Cold War times, Volker introduces us to an interesting German map stamp. Read more to learn about this unique issue in the 12th Marginalia entry. –web admin

“ Bridge of Spies ” Germany , 1998, sc1988

I do not know much about bridges for spies only.  But I know that one of these bridges is featured on a map stamp. It is the “ GlienickeBridge ” near Berlin.

This bridge was one of the most famous bridges until 1989. It was the “ Bridge of Spies ” in times of the Cold War. The bridge crosses the Havel River/Iron Curtain between the former communist Potsdam and the free West Berlin .

Access to the bridge had only captured Russian or US spies. The bridge was built in 1907 and connected the city of Potsdam with the city of Berlin .

The Soviet Union on one side of the Iron Curtain and the US on the other side used this bridge to exchange captured spies during those times.

One of the most famous exchanges took place on February 10, 1962. The US exchanged the Russian spy Rudolf Abel for the pilot of the US reconnaissance plane U-2, Gary Powers, who was captured by the USSR .

The last big prisoner exchange on this bridge took place in 1986.

Marginalia: July 2010, Newly Found London to London Proof

Article Number 11:  Newly Discovered London to London Proof Enriches Saga of Rarest Map Stamp

New Submission July 2010,  Research, text and scans by Miklos Pinther

Our eleventh Marginalia submitted by Society President Emeritus Miklos Pinther describes the fascinating events behind the recent discovery of a press-proof of the famous London to London stamp. — web admin


An old collector friend of mine periodically reminds me that just when one thinks he knows everything about an item, a surprise comes along.  A few months ago, such an unforeseen event astonished the cognoscenti of the Canadian philatelic circle.  It concerned the 1927 “London to London” stamp.

Readers may recall that during the time when pioneering transatlantic flights were attempted, Carling Brewery of London, Ontario decided to jump into the race and support such an undertaking.  It provided the aircraft, named “Sir John Carling” after the founder of the brewery, and offered a $25,000 prize to the pilots if successful.  After some weather related delay, the pilots Captain Terrance B. Tully and Lt. James V. Medcalf took off from St. John’s , Newfoundland , on September 7, 1927 .  Unfortunately, they never made it to England .  The plane disappeared over the Ocean without a trace along with a packet of commemorative mail with specially printed 25 cent stamps.[i]  Very few of the stamps and only one cover are known.  The latter was removed from the plane just before it took off.  Recently this cover resurfaced and was sold by Harmers of London for £70,575 on April 6, 2004 .

At the time, Harmers reported that only six mint examples of the stamp are known, and I noted further that one of them is to be found in the Allan Lee Collection.[ii]  Subsequently, I was corrected by the curator of the National Postal Museum .  The stamp in Allan’s collection is a mere copy of the original.

Two years later, in a detailed exposé in “Scott Stamp Monthly,” Charles J. G. Verge traced the history of this stamp of which now nine copies are known.[iii]  The ninth copy surfaced in 2006.  It was owned by Mac Geldert, former president of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada, who gave it to his daughter.  Described by Charles Shreves as “the most attractive of these six [the six known in private hands] with its impeccable centering,” the stamp was sold for $18,000.00 by Shreves Philatelic Galleries, Inc. on October 28, 2006 .   The buyer remains anonymous.

Figure 1. The London to London plate proof with the following note, “Original proof from which stamp was O.K.’d by cutting off upper right and returning to Lawson & Jones, Lithographers.”

Now to return to the surprising new find.  In December 2008, after being hidden for virtually 81 years, a Toronto banker, John Harding, Jr., rediscovered a printer’s proof of the London to London stamp in a sock drawer (Figure 1.).  Brett Popplewell of the Toronto Star quoted Harding earlier this year saying, “People told my father it was worth something… He kept it in a box in his attic for the better part of 40 years.  Then he gave it to me and said ‘See what you can get for it someday.’”[iv]  Not being a philatelist Harding first put the item up on eBay.  Almost immediately, however, he was convinced by John H. Talman, a Toronto stamp dealer, to take it off and offer it instead for sale at his December 19th auction.  The lot was estimated at $3,000.00, but after what was described as a “bidding war,” it was hammered down at $10,000.00 “to an anonymous American collector.”[v]  Banker Harding and stamp dealer Talman were happy.  But is this the end of the story?  Was the price realized fair for an obviously unique item of one of Canada ’s rarest stamps?

All things considered, it was still unexpected to see this item come on the market again in April, only four months later.  It was offered for sale by Charles G. Firby Auctions on April 23, 2009 .  Charles Firby is an expert on Canadian stamps and is one of the premier auctioneers in this area.  The lot was now described in much more detail.  It called attention to the handwritten note on the proof and the envelope (Figure 2.) in which the proof was kept:  “Accompanying the proof is the envelope in which it has resided since 1927.  The corner card is of the Carty News Service which directly ties the content to this flight.  Mr. Arthur C. Carty, of the News Service, was also the manager of the Sir John Carling Flight that we now call the London to London Flight.”[vi]  The lot, now with a 2009 V. G. Greene certificate of genuineness, sold for $35,000.00, which is more in line what collectors have been willing to pay for the single stamps.

Figure 2. Carty News Service envelope with the following ms notations, “Carling Flight,” “Air Mail Matter,” “This is Original Press proof,” Seale Holmes Says Stamps worth $2,000.00 Sept/52.”

Following the auction I contacted Charles Firby to inquire about the provenance of this plate proof.  It turns out that he was the “anonymous American buyer” who bought the item from John Talman, which he then sold in his own auction to Ray Simrak, a noted Canadian aerophilatelist.[vii]


[i]  Listed under “Air Post Semi-Officials,” catalog number CLP6, in Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps.

[ii]  Miklos Pinther, “Literature Notes” in The New CartoPhilatelist, Whole Number 6, July 2004, page 4 and 7.

[iii]  Charles J. G. Verge, “Remarkable new London-to-London stamp discovery turns up more examples” in Scott Stamp Monthly, August 2006, pages 24 to 30.

[iv]  Brett Popplewell, “Stamp found in sock drawer reopens 1927 intrigue” in Toronto Star, January 11, 2009 , page A1.

[v]  Ibid.  See also

[vi]  See, lot 788.  See also “The Flight of the Sir John Carling, London to London 1927,” in Gibbons Stamp Monthly, Vol. 39, No. 12, May 2009, pages 61-62.

[vii]  Information concerning the sale of this item and the illustrations are reproduced with the kind permission of Charles G. Firby.

Marginalia: July 2008 Identification of Unknown Map on Vatican mini-sheet

Article Number 10:  Identification of Unknown Map on Vatican sc1008

New Submission July 2008,  Research, text and scans by Miklos Pinther

Our tenth Marginalia article submitted by Society President Emeritus Miklos Pinther sheds some light on a previously unknown map.  –web admin

In 2005 David Wolfersberger originally asked me about the world map depicted on the Vatican City’s special souvenir sheet (scott 1008) which was issued for the China 1996 Philatelic Show. Both Dan Nelson and I searched the sources we knew, and I asked some other map historians, but unfortunately, no information was available about the cartographer or the publisher. The results of the searching showed that this “unknown map” was also of specific interest of those who collect antique maps on stamps. A number of suggestions were offered, but since several editions of very similar designs are known, the precise source of this particular map remained an enigma.

Vatican City, sc 1008, March 15, 1996

What we do know about this fine souvenir sheet, shown below, comes from an article about this issue that appeared in the May 1996 journal of Vatican Notes. The article states that the souvenir sheet, issued on March 15, 1996, measures 138 x 100 mm, and features a world map in two hemispheres, with the right hemisphere depicting Marco Polo’s return route to Venice. The map was copied from a volume preserved in the Pontifical Lateran Library. Along the top of the sheet are the coat of arms of Vatican City, the logo of the International Philatelic Exhibition “CHINA ‘96”, and an inscription in Italian and Chinese. At the lower center is a perforated 2,000 Lire stamp which features Marco Polo, taken from the first printed edition of Il Millione, the account of the travels of Marco Polo. The issue size was 300,000 souvenir sheets with printing carried out by Helio Courvoisier S.A. of Switzerland on white chalky paper in color rotogravure.

Now, thanks to the kind intercession of Dr. Roberto Rossetti, a former legal adviser to the United Nations and personal aquaintance, who has sent the following information which has been kindly provided by Dr. Laura Ciolli, DeputyLibrarian of Pontifical Lateran University Library in Rome.

The map in question is entitled:

Rapresentato in due Planisferi E nuouamente coretta e in piu parte Aumentata secondo le Relatione piu recente

Prepared by N. Sanson (Nicolas Sanson of Abbeville,1600-1667), engraved by Gio. Lhuilier (Joannes Lhuilier), and published in 1684 by Gio. Iacomo de Rossi (Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi) printing workshop of Rome. This map is the first of a set of maps in a bound edition of 47 x 34 cm size. Other maps in order are of Europe, Asia, Africa, Italy and the Lazio region, as well as of other subjects and of various dimensions. The Library’s volume bears a mark “SA”, meaning that it originally belonged to the convent of Saint Bonifacio and Alessio on Aventine Hill.

Mr. Pinther and the CartoPhilatelic Society are grateful to Dr. Rossetti and Dr. Ciolli for providing this information.


Thomas I. Crimando, “New Issues” in Vatican Notes, volume 44, no. 6, May 1996, pp. 4-5., The Vatican Philatelic Society.

Additional Notes:

Both Dan Nelson and Miklos searched extensively on the Internet for the map depicted in the souvenir sheet but it does not seem to be online. If anyone knows of an online version of the true map shown in the souvenir sheet, please inform Mr. Pinther.

An interesting resource for a number of old maps is the EU’s digmap project, but I am not sure of the status of the project, beyond the search interface and the digmap wiki site.

More information about philatelic issues from the Vatican can be found at the Vatican Philatelic Office.

Unfortunately, I could not find an image of Nicolas Sanson. Perhaps someone can help?

–web admin

Marginalia: February 2008 A Small Map Find

Article Number 9:  A Small Map Find, Jersey sc183

New Submission February 2008,  Research, text and scans by David Wolfersberger

Our ninth Marginalia article was originally submitted in Feb. 2008 by then Society President David Wolfersberger is in regards to an interesting map discovery on Jersey sc183.  –web admin

 Stamp World London 1990 Booklet, Front Cover
sc 491, sc487 and sc480

 Stamp World London 1990 Booklet, Back Cover
showing a map of Jersey’s location.
 100th Anniversary of the Royal Jersey Golf Club, 1989

While looking through my small collection of golf related stamps, I came across a £4.20 booklet issued by Jersey in 1989. The booklet contains 12 each 18p (Scott 491), 14p (487) and 4p (480) stamps. This booklet commemorates several things:  Stamp World London 1990, the 21st anniversary of the Jersey Post Office (1969-90), and the fourth set featuring “Scenes of Jersey”. The 18p shows the sunset over Corbiere Lighthouse; 14p has St. Ouens Bay; and the 4p shows golfers on a green at the Royal Jersey Golf Club.

The cartophilatelic connection is a nice map on the back cover of the booklet showing the English Channel and the locations and names of all of the Channel Islands. A few locations in England and France are also noted.

What is interesting is that this is not the first time this map has been used. In 1978 Jersey issued a set of 4 stamps marking the 100th anniversary of the Royal Jersey Golf Club. This set of 4 was issued in a small folder and on the back cover of this folder is the same map as on the 1989 booklet. One of the stamps, Scott 183, shown below, has a nice map of the golf course.

The Royal Jersey Golf Club is located on the east coast of Jersey on the Royal Bay of Grouville. google maps link



Picture of Harry Vardon from US LOC circa 1910

Harry Vardon, one of the best and most famous golfers in the history of the game was born near the Royal Jersey Golf Club, a fact that is commemorated at the course by a small stone monument and a statue of Vardon.

The 1978 set shows the statue as well as other items relating to Vardon.

While not a stamp, maps such as the one on the back of this booklet cover are a nice addition to a maps on stamps collection.

Marginalia: December 2007, New Color Omission Error

Article Number 8:  Color Omission Error on Portugal sc#1115

New Submission December 2007,  Research, text and scans by Mark Honig

Our eighth Marginalia is in regards to a fascinating new color error that our member Mark Honig from The Netherlands has recently found.

Wanting to buy a mint copy of Portugal 1114 (4.50e Meteorological map) I saw a complete set being offered on eBay last year. I was the only bidder and I acquired the set for a few dollars.

Portugal, 1971, 25 Years Meteorological Service sc1115, mi1148, sg1434

Portugal, 1971, 25 Years Meteorological Service
sc1115, mi1148, sg1434

Color Variation Portugal, 1971, 25 Years Meteorological Service sc1115, mi1148, sg1434

Color Variation
Portugal, 1971, 25 Years Meteorological Service
sc1115, mi1148, sg1434

When I added both map stamps from that set to my collection  I discovered that I already had the other map stamp (sc1115), but in a different color. I already had a red colored 6.00e stamp, but on this newly acquired stamp the main background color is grey.

After checking various stamp catalogues at my disposal, it became clear that the stamp should have a red color. A grey variety is not mentioned in any of the catalogues, not even in the Portuguese Afinsa catalogue.

I also sent email messages to some Portuguese dealers however these messages remained unanswered.
In November 2005 I continued my research about this color variation and contacted the president of the International Society for Portuguese Philately (ISPP) in the US, Mr. Roy Texeira.  Judging the stamp from only a scan, Roy feels the stamp has probably been bleached by sunlight or chemicals.







Personally however, I think that this specific stamp is a genuine color variety based on the following reasons:

  • The set was offered as a normal set, not as a set with a variety.
  • The seller has sold many items to me, with great satisfaction.
  • The stamp is in perfect condition with a shiny surface like the red stamp.
  • The gum looks normal
  • The yellow and orange parts look the same as on the red stamp. When bleached these colors would probably have disappeared too.

The president of the Netherlands Society of Collectors of Spanish and Portuguese stamps “Iberia” also thinks the stamp is bleached, but he has offered to perform a test on the stamp, as he is an official expert with the Netherlands Museum for Communication (Prev. Netherlands Post Museum). The results of this test will be forthcoming.

One other item about this set…

During my continued research on this stamp, it became clear that there is also a cartographic design error on the 6.50e stamp. On the satellite image the coastline of Spain and Portugal has been overlaid, however during the design process the coastline of northwest Africa has been omitted. The 4.50e stamp does show coastlines for both the Iberian peninsula and northwest Africa.

Additional Notes:

If anyone knows more information about this fascinating color variation that Mark has found, please let us know. Regarding the missing coastline issue, I have made two checks to determine the map projection of this stamp and to also understand approximately how much of the African shoreline should be shown. One projection I checked was a Lambert Conformal Conic, the other was an Orthographic. I feel there is a significant amount of distortion with the map in question. We welcome any comments or suggestions. –web admin