Stamps? I don’t got to show you no stinking stamps!
By Ken Perkins
Lot number 16 of a recent Sequoia silent auction, a cream-colored cardboard stock page, was labeled “Misc”. And an accurate enough description it was at first glance. Plainly showing on the top half of the stamps, the only part visible on this pre-Mylar page, were phrases such as “Telegrafos España”, “Asociacion Beneficia de Correos”, “Stamp Duty”, “Excise/Accise”, and “Marca da Bollo”, with a scattering of other very miscellaneous stamp-like objects. So, primarily a bunch of fiscal/revenue/telegraph stamps.
I do collect revenue stamps, but only American ones, so I dismissed this lot on my first pass along the table and moved on to other offerings. But we always get to have a second look at the silent auction lots before the auction ends, so I followed the crowd to the table to browse some more.
And on my second look I spotted a few stamps in the third row from the bottom with a familiar word peeking over the cardboard: “FIUME” in black overprint ink. Also visible was a black overprinted date: “3-V-1945”, and “RIJEKA”. Well, I collect Italian stamps issued up to the end of WWII, and Fiume, a city on the Adriatic, has a long association with Italy and Italian territorial ambitions. Nobody else being interested in poor old “Misc” lot 16, Steve’s cry of “TIME” made it mine.
When I got a chance to have a closer look at the overprinted stamps, I found they were not listed in Scott, but then lots of interesting stuff is not in Scott Catalogue. I had to turn to some Italian-language catalogs (Sassone, CEI, Unificato) to find them. They were from the Italian Social Republic’s 1945 Monumenti Distrutti (Monuments Destroyed) issue, overprinted by Yugoslavia for use in Fiume (Rijeka is the Croatian name for Fiume) and the surrounding area during their occupation of the city which began on May 3, 1945. The Paris Treaty of Feb. 10, 1947 ceded Fiume to Yugoslavia; it’s currently the third largest city in Croatia, one of the new countries formed after the 1991 break-up of Yugoslavia.
My second chance to look over this lot provided me with some stamps with a convoluted history; stamps originally issued by a short-lived Nazi-backed Fascist government in Northern Italy which were then overprinted by the newly-established Stalinist-style Communist regime in Yugoslavia.
From now on I will be sure to give the silent auction lots a second look before Steve calls “Time”.