Paper Heritage - Costa Rica Train Stamps: 1911 - 1945


The very attractive postage stamps showing a steam train in a landscape between 1911 and 1945 are all surcharges on Telegraph Stamps. In addition to the postage issues, there were also numerous non-postal (revenue) overprints applied to the 1927 stamps, of which large numbers must clearly have been available in excess of telegraph requirements. We have limited this article to the original Telegraph issues and the postal surcharges, arranged chronologically.

There are two basic issues of the telegraph stamps, one in 1907 which occurs in two perforations, Perf 14 and Perf 14 x 11, and a new issue in 1927 in new colours, which exist only in Perf 12½. Shown in the first scan, below, is the full range of values of the 1907 Telegraphs, some in Perf 14 , some in Perf 14x11. With one or two exceptions, the Perf 14 are scarcer than the Perf 14x11. This applies both to the telegraph stamps and to the postal surcharges on them.

1907: Telegraph Issue:

The 1907 Telegraphs .

Value Colour Yvert no. Perf 14x11 Perf 14
5 cents brownish-yellow Tele 5 No Yes
10 cents Blue Tele 6 Yes Yes
25 cents grey-violet Tele 7 Yes Yes
25 cents brownish-yellow Tele 7a No Yes
50 cents Claret Tele 8 Yes Yes
1 Colon Brown Tele 9 Yes Yes
2 Colones Red Tele 10 Yes Yes
The 25c in brownish-yellow is an error of colour and a rare stamp.

The 25c grey-violet is the commonest telegraph stamp from this set in used condition and there appears to have been no surplus of supply of this value, as it is the only value, other than the 25c brownish-yellow, not to have been surcharged for postal use. All the other values, in both perforations where so issued, were surcharged in 1911 for postal use.
However, there appear to have been very few remaining copies of the 10 cents in either perforation and all 10 cents stamps surcharged for postal use are scarce.

The scan below shows the basic seven values surcharged for postal use plus a random example of a stamp with 'bar cancel':

The 1911 Postal Surchs.

The following perforations exist for the 1911 issue:

Value Colour Perf 14 Perf 14x11 Domfil
2c / 5c brownish-yellow SG 102 ****** 912.1
2c / 10c Blue SG 103 SG 109 912.2
2c / 50c Claret SG 104 SG 110 912.3
2c / 1 Col Brown SG 105 SG 111 912.4
2c / 2 Col Red SG 106 SG 112 912.5
2c / 5 Col Green SG 107 SG 113 912.6
2c / 10 Col Maroon SG 108 SG 114 912.7

Domfil does not mention perforation varieties for this issue.

As mentioned above, both the 2c/10c are scarce. Equally scarce, perhaps even scarcer, is the 2c/50c Perf 14, a seriously under-rated stamp. The 2c/10Col Perf 14 is also a highly elusive stamp.

There are numerous varieties of these surcharges, double, inverted and with just the word 'Correos' inverted only. Most standard catalogues list these and we refer you to one of them.

Bar Cancels: In the case of this issue, we presume stamps cancelled by five vertical bars (see scan above) to be remainders i.e. surplus stocks demonetised and sold to the public, but we have no source to confirm this. Listed below are the 1911 values which I have seen with bar cancels:

Perf 14: 2c/50c, 2c/1Col, 2c/2Col, 2c/10Col
Perf 14x11: 2c/50c, 2c/1Col, 2c/2Col, 2c/5Col, 2c/10Col

After the flurry of activity in 1911, this design seemed to have had its day. However, in 1927, it reappeared, again as a Telegraph issue, with a set of six values in new colours, all Perf 12½.

The 1927 Telegraphs. .

Yvert Tele 20-25, Domfil 927.1-6 One value, the 2 Colones, is similar in colour to the 1911 issue, though darker in appearance, being carmine, rather than deep rose-red. It is easily distinguished, however, by its 12½ perforation.

These stamps were extensively overprinted and surcharged both for postal use and for many fiscal / municipal purposes, but, as mentioned above, I shall only deal with postal issues in this article.

1929 5c/2Col 13c/40c:

The 1929 5c/2Col .

The 5c / 2 Col is not a straightforward stamp. There were two types of surcharge, by Typography and by Lithography, in which the settings vary.
In the typographed surcharge, there are FIVE different types of figure '5', whilst in the lithographed stamps the entire sheet of 100 stamps is surcharged with just one type of '5', Type V.

The scan above shows, on the top row, in order, Types I II III and IV (typo) and in the bottom row a type IV se-tenant with a type V (typo), then a pair of Type V (litho).
Shown below is the sheet setting for the typographed stamps (I have used 1 2 3 4 5, rather than the Roman numerals, for the types of the figure '5' in order to keep the columns lined up):

1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 5
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 5
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 5
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 5
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 5
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 4
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 4
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 4
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 4
1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 4

From this, you can see that it is impossible to get a horizontal pair in Type V from the Typographed surcharges. This is useful, since it is quite hard to distinguish the typo and litho surcharges. However, if you can acquire a horizontal pair in Type V, it must be Litho, whilst a Type V in horizontal pair with Type IV muxt be Typographed.
Most people, though, will turn to their collectionm and find a single Type V - and they may, of course, be happy with just one example. However, for your amusement, here are a few hints on how to distinguish the two types of Type V surcharge, although when you only have a single copy, comparison is rather difficult! However, if you have any of Types 1 - IV as well, you can use this as a guaranteed example of the typo printing with which to examine the words CORREOS and CENTIMOS. You need a strong magnifying glass at this point:
* Shininess Test: The Litho ink is shinier than the Typo ink
* Patchiness Test: Although both printing methods may produce some white areas within the black letters of the surcharge, these patches tend to be larger and more frequent in the litho surcharges, in which the ink seems less evenly spread. This is usually much more evident in the words CORREOS and CENTIMOS than in the large figure '5'.
* Thickness and Coarseness of Surcharge: This is the best test on a single stamp with nothing for comparison. The letters in the Litho surcharge are thicker and much rougher than in the typographed surcharge. The 'C' of 'CORREOS' is the best example of this. In the typographed stamps. the top of the 'C' has a sharply defined serif, whereas in the litho there is no obvious serif, just a thick curve. If in doubt, you are probably holding a Lithographed surcharge.

1929 5c/2Col with Inverted Surcharge: It is reported that all five types of the Typo surcharge and the Litho surcharge exist with inverted surcharge.

1929 13c/40c Green: This is usually listed along with the 5c / 2Col. It has a litho surcharge with the same characteristics as the 5c/2Col litho above.

Dubious Varieties: This is the start of a three-year period where numerous 'varieties' of uncertain origin occur. The 13c/40c exists, according to some catalogues, with inverted surcharge, but, at the same time, the catalogue value of this variety is very low - and forgeries exist! Why would anyone forge a common stamp? I am left wondering whether any inverted surcharge on this stamp is authentic. I do not own a specialised Costa Rica catalogue (Saenz, I think) but that might shed some light on this and several other odd varieties on the next issue discussed. Did the surcharge plates fall into private hands?
Returning to the 13c/40c, I have seen this stamp in a block of 6 (3 x2) with the surcharge invertd on the two centre stamps. I consider this to be a private production but I could be wrong.

1930-32 Airmails:

The 1932 5c/10c .

There are four values in this style:
1932 5c/10c Brown SG 182 Sct.C.3 Domfil 932.1
1930 20c/50c Blue SG 183 Sct.C.4 Domfil 930.9
1930 40c/50c Blue SG 184 Sct.C.5 Domfil 930.10
1930 1 Colon Orange SG 185 Sct.C.6 Domfil 930.11 (surcharged Correo / Aereo only)

SG lists two varieties in this set, the 5c/10c surcharge inverted and the 5c/10c surcharge double, one inverted. They also have a footnote that other varieties are considered to be clandestine. Scott does not list any varieties and has a footnote that the existence of genuine inverted or double surcharges is in doubt.

The scan above just shows examples of some of the varieties that I have seen on the 5c/10c Brown air surcharge. You will notice that some have been created by folding over the selvedge (the sheet border); the rest of the surcharge is on the gummed side. I think that one can confidently say that well-centred surcharges with missing letters and words, such as these, are almost certainly later creations, very possibly from the original surcharge plates. Misplaced surcharges have a chance of being genuine and, basically, the jury is out (and minded to convict) on most of the inverted and double surcharges. However, that does not mean that they are not interesting to collect! Here's a list of varieties I have seen in addition to those illustrated in the scan above:

* 5c/10c '5 CENTIMOS' omitted

* 20c/50c Inverted surcharge in vertical pair with normal (making surcharge tete-beche)

* 40c/50c Inverted surcharge
* 40c/50c Surcharge double
* 40c./50c Surcharge misplaced (CENTIMOS at top, 40 at the bottom)

* 1 Colon Surcharge Inverted
* 1 Colon Surcharge Double
* 1 Colon Inverted surcharge in vertical pair with normal (making surcharge tete-beche)

1932: 40c overprinted with wings:

The 1932 40c Air

The only genuine variety reported on this stamp is overprint inverted.

Once again, it seems that someone acquired the printers' surcharge plates after the order had been completed. I prefer not to think that the postal authorities had anything to do with these dubious varieties! However, this time, possibly after protests from someone (postal authorities, philatelists?), the plate was defaced before it passed into unscrupulous hands.

The top stamp is a genuine single example. The lower pair may be identified as clandestine, firstly because it is a non-existant variety but, more importantly, because the overprint has been defaced. There is a white line through the middle of the word CORREO in the surcharge, whereas, in the original, this word is solid black ink. There are also other scratches across the overprint. I have only seen about three of these defaced stamps and they have all had some part of CORREO damaged. However, with a whole plate to deface, assuming it was the whole plate that walked out of the printers', there is every chance that some defaced stamps need to be identified by an alternative form of damage to the overprint.

As mentioned above, surcharge inverted is a genuine variety, although it may also exist as a forgery. I can confirm the existence of the genuine item but I have not seen a forgery of the surcharge inverted. My best guess, though, is that it will exist, as will a few other imaginative creations!



This just leaves the 1945 Airmails (SG 402-04, Sct.C.117-19, Domfil 945.14-16)- and even they are not straightforward! The issued stamps, overprinted: (bar)/CORREO AEREO /1945 were as follows:
* 40c Green - overprint in RED (I have also seen this stamp with overprint inverted, illustrated below)
* 50c Blue - overprint in RED
* 1 Colon Orange - overprint in BLACK

However, there were some trial overprints made in the opposite colours, just one sheet of each, as follows:
* 40c Green - overprint in BLACK
* 50c Blue - overprint in BLACK
* 1 Colon Orange - overprint in RED
Note: These stamps always exhibit some foxing (age staining)

There was also a trial overprint on the 1927 5c Telegraph. This stamp was never issued. I have seen the following
* 5c Reddish-Claret - overprint in BLACK upright (illustrated below)
* 5c Reddish-Claret - overprint in RED inverted

As so often, I am sure there is a lot more information out there somewhere about all these issues.

Miscellaneous C.Rica .


As this article claims to cover the period 1911-1945, this final scan includes, in the centre, the 1934 winged wheel design, which should please all the aficianados of winged wheels!. Here's a listing:

* 1934 (SG 207-10) 1 Col Carmine, 2 Col Light Blue, 5 Col Black, 10 Col Red-brown
* 1934 (SG O.220-23) optd OFICIAL (in black): 1 Col Carmine, 2 Col Light Blue, 5 Col Black, 10 Col Red-brown
* 1941 (SG303-06) optd Mayo 1941 / Tratado Limitofe / Costa Rica - Panama / (with or without new value ) + bars: 65c / 1 Col Carmine, 1 Col 40 / 2 Col Light Blue, 5 Col Black, 10 Col Red-brown
* 1943 (SG 368/69) optd Legislacion Social / 15 Setiembre 1943 5 Col Black (Red opt), 10 Col (Blue opt)
* c.1943 Trial Overprint in Red: LEGISLACION SOCIAL / 15 Setiembre 1943 5 Col Black (perhaps others?)
* 1944 (SG 388) optd 1944 in BLACK: 1 Col Carmine (* Also exists optd in BLUE, SG 388a, very scarce)
* 1945 1934 Officials optd with 1945 (in a box) (SG 398-401) 1 Col Carmine, 2 Col Light Blue, 5 Col Black, 10 Col Red-brown
* 1946 Unissued: New printing with all values printed in BLACK overprinted in RED V CONGRESO POSTAL / PANAMERICANO / RIO DE JANEIRO: 1Col Black, 2 Col Black, 5Col Black, 10Col Black

There are probably other, non-postal uses, of this American Bank Note Co. engraved design. The 1907-27 Telegraphs, incidentally, were designed and printed by Waterlow & Sons As far as I am aware, and assuming it is not a purely artistic creation, nobody has so far identified the location of the design. Now, there's a challenge!

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