Paper Heritage - El Salvador: 1891 Volcano & Steam Train stamps and their surcharges

The name Seebeck continues to cast a shadow over Latin American philately, over a century after the demise of that gentleman's contracts with the postal authorities of Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras Republic and Nicaragua. Given the plethora of 'agency' issues that have changed stamp collecting in the last 10 or 20 years, Seebeck's behaviour was really quite restrained !!

Roughly between 1890 and 1900, N. Seebeck of the Hamilton Bank Note Co., negotiated with these four countries for the sole rights to produce their stamps. Under the contracts, he would supply new issues each year, without charge, to the postal authorities. At the end of each year, the stamps were demonetized ( i.e. decreed invalid of postage ) and the remaining stocks were returned to him.

The contract further stipulated that Seebeck could reprint the stamps, but only for sale within the philatelic market. This was one of the main reasons for the subsequent century of almost second-class status which most stamps of Latin America had to endure from many allegedly-knowledgeable philatelists. Even now, there are dealers and collectors who readily brand Latin American stamps as ' full of forgeries and reprints ', even though the Seebeck period lasted but a decade and involved only four countries. In any case, reprints and forgeries are a feature of much early European philately too !

As Seebeck had access to the original printing plates, identifying original stamps can be very difficult, in some cases almost impossible. However, in the case of the 1891 El Salvador stamps, it is usually not too difficult. Please note that, in my listing below, I have not listed the reprints. I had thought that these only existed for the unsurcharged stamps. After studying the ' 1 centavo ' surcharge on a number of stamps, I am not quite so sure.

The 1891 issue.
Original stamps are on off-white paper of medium thickness with white or yellowish gum. Some gentle age toning may account for the yellowish gum. Reprints are on quite thick paper with brownish gum. Additionally, there are colour proofs, imperforate, in both issued and unissued colours on India Paper, which is a very white, rather thin paper.

SHADES: Michel, Scott and Yvert do not list any shades. SG gives three colours of the 2c, two of the 5c, two of the 11c, two of the 1p. I have simplified this into two 2c shades in my listing below. The reson for this is that, in my opinion, SG's ' pale yellow-green ' and ' green ', whilst different, are no more marked than small shade varieties found on virtually all values. Where I have listed more than one shade, these appear to occur in quite similar quantities.

IMPERFORATE: Michel footnotes this state for the 1c, 10c, 11c, 20c, 50c and 1 peso; Scott and SG do not mention them; Yvert indicates that some exist imperforate in their heading. I do not have enough information to disagree with Michel; I shall merely write down my own observations. Of all the imperforate stamps that I have seen, the vast majority appear to be either Seebeck reprints or colour trials. Only one stamp that I have seen has very wide margins all round, is on original paper and has the original gum. That stamp is a 2c olive-green. However, I have no reason to doubt Michel and have, therefore, included all the imperforate stamps mentioned by Michel in the first listing below.

1891 ( Jan 1 ) Train & Volcano design. Engraved. Perf 12. Mi. 36-45, Scott 47-56, SG 39-48, Yv. 36-45

[ ... ] 1c Reddish-vermilion ****
[ ... ] - ditto - imperforate
[ ... ] 2c Yellow-Green to Green ****
[ ... ] - ditto - olive-green to sage-green
[ ... ] - ditto - imperforate
[ ... ] - ditto - pin-perf (almost sewing-machine perf ) **
[ ... ] 3c Pale Violet
[ ... ] 5c Crimson ****
[ ... ] - ditto - dull brownish-red ****
[ ... ] - ditto - pin-perf **
[ ... ] 10c Blue
[ ... ] - ditto - imperforate
[ ... ] 11c Violet ( medium to deep )
[ ... ] - ditto - aniline violet ( i.e.some of the ink showing through to the back of the stamp )
[ ... ] - ditto - imperforate
[ ... ] 20c Blue-green
[ ... ] - ditto - imperforate
[ ... ] 25c Yellow-brown
[ ... ] 50c Deep Blue
[ ... ] - ditto - imperforate
[ ... ] 1 Peso Yellowish Brown
[ ... ] - ditto - Sepia
[ ... ] - ditto - with control number on the back ***
[ ... ] - ditto - imperforate

** These ' sewing-machine ' type perforations only seem to occur on the 2c and 5c and are footnoted in Michel. I have no explanation for their production; they probably only occur on Seebeck reprints. One is illustrated in the scan below.

*** I have seen three of these control numbers, 228, 249 and 258, printed in greyish- green ink under the gum, all of them on 1 Peso stamps. My only information on these comes from the Michel catalogue, which suggests that these controls only occur on the 1 Peso reprints by Seebeck. Can anyone confirm or add to this, please ?

**** I have seen vertical pairs, imperf between, of the stamps thus marked. They all appear to be Seebeck reprints. Other partial perforations probably exist.

PROOFS on India Paper : I have listed those which I have seen. I do not claim that it is an exhaustive list; there is a high probability that others exist. Please let me know if you have any.

Imperforate proofs ( colour trials ) on thin, white India paper ( without gum ). The symbol ' * ' indicates this is in the issued colour.

[ ... ] 1c Reddish-vermilion *
[ ... ] 1c Orange
[ ... ] 1c Deep Blue
[ ... ] 1c Deep Brown
[ ... ] 1c Deep bluish Green
[ ... ] 1c Violet

[ ... ] 2c Bright Yellow-green
[ ... ] 2c Bright Chestnut
[ ... ] 2c Violet
[ ... ] 2c Prussian-blue ( deep greenish-blue )

[ ... ] 3c Pale Violet *
[ ... ] 3c Deep Violet
[ ... ] 3c Deep Brown
[ ... ] 3c Olive-brown
[ ... ] 3c Orange

[ ... ] 5c Crimson *
[ ... ] 5c Prussian-blue
[ ... ] 5c Blue-green
[ ... ] 5c Bright Yellow-green

[ ... ] 10c Blue *
[ ... ] 10c Bright Blue
[ ... ] 10c Bright Yellow-green
[ ... ] 10c Olive-brown

[ ... ] 11c Deep Violet *
[ ... ] 11c Reddish-vermilion
[ ... ] 11c Olive-brown
[ ... ] 11c Blue

[ ... ] 20c Blue-green *
[ ... ] 20c Green
[ ... ] 20c Reddish-vermilion
[ ... ] 20c Yellow
[ ... ] 20c Red-brown

[ ... ] 25c Yellow-brown *
[ ... ] 25c Deep Brown
[ ... ] 25c Orange-brown
[ ... ] 25c Reddish-vermilion
[ ... ] 25c Yellow

[ ... ] 50c Deep Blue *
[ ... ] 50c Carmine-lake
[ ... ] 50c Deep Violet
[ ... ] 50c Bright Yellow-green

[ ... ] 1 Peso Sepia *
[ ... ] 1 Peso Deep Yellow-green
[ ... ] 1 Peso Bright Chestnut
[ ... ] 1 Peso Bright Blue

[ ... ] (-) An undenominated ( blank value tablets ) Die Proof exists in Black (other colours may exist)

.

Salvador 1891 Trains

From left to right above:
1. 1891 Un Peso
2. 1891 Un Peso with control number on back (249) - some paper adherence too !
3. Un CENTAVO / 2c surcharge cheval
4. 1 centavo / 2c ( perhaps a Seebeck surcharge - see closing paragraph on the 1891 surharges below )
5. 1 centavo / 2c ( perhaps an original surcharge - see below again )
6. 1891 5c with pin-perforation ( or sewing-machine type perf ).
7. 5c Plate Proof on India Paper in blue-green

The 1891 Surcharges.
There were three surcharges on the above issue, all produced locally by the Salvador Post Office out of genuine need, in response to a shortage of 1c and 5c stamps.

There are two styles of surcharge for the 1c/2c, UN CENTAVO and 1 centavo ; I have conflicting information on these. According to SG the ' 1 centavo ' surcharge was applied in April and the ' UN CENTAVO ' in August. In Michel, it is the reverse. The order of listing of these stamps in the four main catalogues varies ( two catalogues list ' 1 centavo ' first; two list ' UN CENTAVO ' first ! ). I also have in my possession an album page with notes about the decrees issued for the surcharges but, unfortunately, the writer of the notes used the notation ' UN CENTAVO ' for both issues. However, his notes clearly seem to indicate that the correct information is available somewhere, but I do not know where.

The notes suggest that the original ( Jan 1 ) printing of the 1c was limited to an inadequate 50,000 stamps and that a decree of April 1st 1891 authorised the surcharging of 200 Pesos worth of 2c stamps ( 10,000 stamps ) with a new face value of 1c. The notes go on to suggest that, at the end of the year, further 2c stamps were surcharged 1c, perhaps for use when sending out New Year cards.

The 5 CENTAVOS on 3c was produced against a decree of August 17th 1891, which authorised the surcharge upon 600 Pesos worth of 3c stamps ( 20,000 stamps ). The date of issue, August 1891, for this stamp is given by both Michel and SG.

1891 Surcharges on the train and volcano issue. Mi. 46-48, Scott 57-59, SG 49-51, Yv. 46-48.

Orientation of the Surcharge: On all three stamps, the NORMAL surcharge is diagonal, reading from North-West to South-East. Varieties are described by compass points.

[ ... ] 1 centavo / 2c Yellow-green to Green ( Mi. 47, Sct 57, SG 49, Yv. 47 ) Surcharged ( appears handstamped ) in Black or Violet-Black or Violet
[ ... ] - ditto - surcharge inverted ( reads from South-West to North-East )
[ ... ] - ditto - surcharge inverted ( reads from North-East to South-West )

[ ... ] UN CENTAVO / 2c Yellow-green to green (Mi. 46, Sct 58, SG 50a, Yv. 46 ). Surcharge machine-overprinted in Black
[ ... ] - ditto - on Olive-green to Sage-green ( SG 50 )
[ ... ] - ditto - surcharge cheval (illustrated above on the Yellow-green shade )

[ ... ] 5 CENTAVOS / 3c Pale Violet ( Mi. 48, Sct 59, SG 51, Yv. 48 ) Surcharge machine-overprinted in Black

General note on the surcharges: Amongst the ' UN CENTAVO ' and ' 5 CENTAVOS ' surcharges that I have examined, the majority have features of the Seebeck reprints, even though the surcharges appear completely authentic. Is it possible that Seebeck was provided with the surcharge plates along with the remainders at the end of 1891 ?
As for the ' 1 centavo ' surcharges, I also have some suspicions, but I lack sufficient evidence to form any real opinion. I have indicated, in the notes below the scan, which of the two illustrated ' 1 centavo ' surcharges I think may be original - and which may be a Seebeck surcharge, but I could well be wrong about this. Does anyone have any covers for these surcharges, please ? They could be most revealing !

I am aware that this article is rather less precise, indeed rather less researched, than some of the other articles. Perhaps you can add something useful to it? Please do email me if you think you can.