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Azerbaijan’s 1st stamps – something old; something new

Written by catpaw

June 21, 2021

Years ago I bid on a small lot of pre-1940 stamps. It was a bit of a jumble box, filled with odds and ends from older collections. But it included a couple airmails I wanted so I tossed in a bid and won.  Buried inside was an introduction to a country I had little experience with as a collector, Azerbaijan.  

First something old – Azerbaijan’s 1st stamps

The first stamps that caught my eye were the Soldier with Flag and Rifle issues from 1919-1920.  They are part of a 10 stamp series that had 2 printings. The first, on white paper in 1919 and the second on buff paper with a yellow or no gum in 1920.  

Soldier with Flag and Rifle issues from 1919-1920 Azerbaijan's 1st stamps Soldier with Flag and Rifle issues from 1919-1920 Azerbaijan's 1st stamps

They don’t  scan well which means the colours are off and the paper appears white on the screen. That’s the thing people have to remember when scanning their stamps, the colours don’t always transfer properly.  The stamps in my collection are yellowish on the back and definitely not on white paper.  When I have time, I’m going to pull out my 35mm & tripod. With correct lighting, I can often duplicate tricky colours. That will have to wait awhile.

I wasn’t lucky enough to get all 10 of Azerbaijan’s 1st stamps. Although they aren’t expensive, I’ve just never had the opportunity to grab the entire series. The third stamp, of the 1919-1920 set I found, was the Farmer at Sunset.

Azerbaijan's 1st stamps farmer and sunrise

I have never been able to find out who the original designer was. A lot of that information is lost in the historical mess we’ve made over time. And I suspect this may be the case with the artist in question. If anyone has a lead on the designer, I’d appreciate a note.  There were a few others in the little envelope from 1920 and 1921.  

Blacksmiths from the 1922 set.

Azerbaijan Blacksmiths stamp 1921

And these charity stamps for hunger victims, issued 1922 as well.  They are Widows & Orphans and Carrying Food to Sufferers. 

Azerbaijan Charity Issue 1921 Azerbaijan's 1st stamps  Azerbaijan Charity Issue 1921 Azerbaijan's 1st stamps

To my eye, they look like they were drawn by the same artist. The original scans I did, allowed me to blow each up into a huge format so I could make a detailed examination. Each stamp has a matching structure and the people are similarly drawn. Look at the arms, hands and faces.  They appear to be drawn by the same hand.

There is something wonderful about these sets and I like to think of them as small time capsules of Azerbaijan at the cusp of a changing world. They are beautiful pieces of folk art.  

Forgeries? Authentic? I’ve never been able to decide.  A lot of forgeries abound and I’d be bitterly disappointed if they are. It’s not the monetary value, it’s the sense I’m holding a link to the past in my hands. I use sites like Stamp Forgeries and check their substantial database to help me out. Stamp forgeries of Azerbaijan 1919 | Stamp forgeries of the World offers close up views of authentic and forged stamps.  Although I purchased these from a reputable source, there’s always the chance of forgeries slipping through, especially when buying stamps I’m not familiar with. Both seem to have the finer details lacking in the forged versions, especially around the printed Republique d’ Azerbaijan. But, I’m not an expert. 

Now for something new

In 2019, Azerbaijan issued a reproduction of the first 4 stamps on the 100th anniversary of their issue. Individual stamps, a souvenir sheet, FDC and evocative cancel are all part of the series.

  100th Ann. OF Azerbaijan's 1st stamps

Azerbaijan's 1st stamps - reprint for 100th anniversary

Designer Leyla Gulaliyeva created this tribute and did a fine job. I’d like people to remember the names of stamp designers. They take an idea and make it come to life for us. In this case, Gulaliyeva’s work does justice to the 1919 series. She doesn’t over design the set, and avoids the pitfalls of creating an overly linear layout. It’s an eye catching set. 

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Hey, how about trying a different article:  

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