Paper Heritage - Honduras Republic: Ulua Bridge stamps 1915-1933

The four stamps issued in 1915/16, showing the Ulua Railway Bridge, spawned a fantastic number of overprints and varieties, including the world's rarest airmail stamp, ' The Black Honduras ', which is also, not surprisingly, the rarest of all railway thematics.

In describing the many surcharges on the Ulua Bridge, I have been assisted extensively by the provision of numerous scans, provided by helpful collaborators, who do not wish to be identified, but whom I would like to thank nonetheless here, albeit anonymously. A picture really is worth 1000 words when trying to describe a huge range of varieties.

I have access to very little specialized literature on Honduras, and only one sheet/50 of the Ulua Bridge design, the 1927 surcharge on the 20 cts. Whereas the 1c and 10c in the same design do not exist in tete-beche format, the 20c has five inverted clichés per sheet of 50. The 2c also comes tete-beche but I am not sure that the format of the 2c is the same as for the 20c. Can anyone advise ?

The 20c sheet for which I have a scan, illustrated later in the article with the 1927 surcharge, has the 50 stamps arranged 5 x 10, the inverted clichés being in the first, third and fifth positions of the fifth row and the third and fifth stamps of the tenth row. Clearly, tete-beche pairs may come in vertical or horizontal format, the horizontal normally being more popular amongst collectors looking for a single pair as an example.

Please note that only the links at the end of this article, and not the underlined headings, are links to other pages.

The original issue, 1915/16 :
[ ... ] 1c Chocolate (SG 186)

[ ... ] 2c Red (SG 187)
[ ... ] - ditto - tete-beche pair

[ ... ] 10c Deep blue (SG 190)
[ ... ] - ditto - Imperf Pair

[ ... ] 20c Brown (SG 191)
[ ... ] - ditto - tete-beche pair
[ ... ] - ditto - Imperf Pair

The above, overprinted OFICIAL, 1915/16
[ ... ] 1c Chocolate (SG O.204)
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double

[ ... ] 2c Red (SG O.205)
[ ... ] - ditto - tete-beche pair
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double, one inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double + Overprint Double in tete-beche pair

[ ... ] 10c Deep blue (SG O.208) The overprint is in RED on this stamp

[ ... ] 20c Brown (SG O.209)
[ ... ] - ditto - tete-beche pair

First Honduras Airmail Issue : 1925

The 1925 airmail issues are noted for their tiny printings. The Honduran Government authorized Dr. T. Pounds, under a contract, to carry mail by air between the capital, Tegucigalpa, and Puerto Cortez. The 1c, 10c and 20c Ulua Bridge stamps, inter alia, were provided to Dr. Pounds for this purpose. He overprinted these stamps, sometimes with a surcharge also, on two separate occasions, using different colour inks:

The black and red overprints were made with quite badly worn typeface, whereas the, later, blue overprints were made from sharp, new type. Most of the overprints were in settings of 12 (4x3), each varying in small detail. Forgeries of these issues exist. One of the better tests is to look at the hook at the bottom right of the letter ' R ', both in the word ' AERO ' and in ' CORREO '. In the genuine stamp, the hook is usually a fine and thin, often turning through almost 180 degrees.

Quantities Printed: I have reproduced (in italics) in this article the printing figures given for these stamps in the most recent ( 1966 ! ) Sanabria Airmail catalogue. They make fascinating reading ! It would seem that the figures given for the non-varieties represent the total for that stamp INCLUDING the varieties; thus, for example, the true figure for SG 235 with upright surcharge is probably 488, not 500. I have no explanation for some of the curious quantities given, such as SEVEN examples of ' AFRO ' out of the 500 printed of SG 231. However, it is certainly true that Dr. Pounds, working in makeshift surroundings, appeared to think nothing of just using up any odd quantity of whatever value he happened to have to hand.

April 29th 1925: Overprinted AERO / CORREO in BLACK (also in Red for the 10c), some additionally surcharged ' 25 ' between two solid squares of ink :
[ ... ] 10c Deep Blue with RED overprint Qty 500 (SG 229)
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Inverted Qty. 12
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint tete-beche Qty. 2 (pair)
[ ... ] - ditto - Double overprint (in Black and in Blue) Qty ?? (listed Sanabria)

[ ... ] 10c Deep Blue with BLACK overprint Qty. 24 (SG 230)

[ ... ] 20c Brown (Black Overprint) Qty. 500 (SG 231)
[ ... ] - ditto - AFRO for AERO Qty. 7
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Inverted Qty. 36
[ ... ] - ditto - Stamps tete-beche Qty. 20
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint tete-beche Qty. 2
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double Qty. 4

[ ... ] 25c / 1c Chocolate Qty 500 (SG 235)
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge Inverted Qty. 12

[ ... ] 25c / 10c Deep Blue (Black Overprint) 'The Black Honduras' Qty. 2* (SG 236c)

* The ' Black Honduras 'is one of the world's great rarities. There may once have been three copies in existence, although this is far from certain. Of the two copies known, one was offered by Harmers of London in an auction c. 1999; it was, I believe, unsold, when offered with a reserve of £ 100,000. This seems surprisingly cheap for the world's rarest airmail stamp that is not a variety, and one of the greatest rarities in all philately. It is both curious and hard to comprehend why its origin, Honduras Republic, should apparently consign it into a relatively modest price bracket, when compared to prices fetched for European, American or some other stamps with significantly greater printings. Maybe, in time, this artificial hierarchy within stamps, mostly based on old prejudices, will be erased by some form of philatelic globalisation, perhaps with the internet providing the impetus ?

June 25th 1925: Overprinted AERO / CORREO in BLUE, some additionally surcharged ' 25 ' as above :
[ ... ] 20c Brown Qty 200 (SG 232)
[ ... ] - ditto - stamps tete-beche (pair) Qty 8
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Inverted Qty. 18
[ ... ] - ditto - overprint vertical (whether 'up' or 'down' not known to me) Qty ??

[ ... ] 25c / 20c Brown Qty 300 (SG 237)
[ ... ] - ditto - stamps tete-beche Qty ??
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge Inverted Qty 12
[ ... ] - ditto - Diagonal Surcharge Qty ??

Ulua varieties

1. Tete-beche pair, overprints reading same way, genuine and rare.
2. 1926 Overprint triple, two inverted.
3. Tete-beche pair with surcharge double; I'd need to plate the stamps to know which way up to show it !!

1926 ( Dec ) : overprinted HABILITADO / 1926
[ ... ] 2c Red (SG 242)
[ ... ] - ditto - tete-beche pair
[ ... ] - ditto - error HARILITADO
[ ... ] - ditto - HABILITADO omitted
[ ... ] - ditto - 1926 omitted
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double, one inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Triple, two inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Triple, twice on the face, once on the back
I would imagine that the HARILITADO error is constant and will occur in conjunction with all the last four varieties. I think this is less likely to be true of the ' HABILITADO omitted ' and ' 1926 omitted ' varieties. Does anyone have any?

Ulua Sheet

Above: Full sheet / 50 of the 1927 Surcharge, showing format of the original 20c stamp. Note the inverted ' t ' in ' cts ' in the lower right corner, the subject of Footnote 1. for this issue.

1927 ( Mar ) : Surcharged vale 6 cts. / 1927 / (bar)
[ ... ] 6c / 20c brown (SG 245)

[ ... ] - ditto - ' t ' inverted (listed, but may not exist, see footnote 1)
[ ... ] - ditto - Full stop omitted (Posn.8 ; also, very weak stop, often missing, in Posn. 10)
[ ... ] - ditto - tete-beche pair (6 inverted clichés per pane, footnote 3)
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge inverted (footnote 4)
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge inverted + ' t ' inverted (giving ' t ' normal!) (Posn. 50, see Footnote 1 )
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge Double

Footnote 1: Unless there were different pane settings of the original stamp, I have my doubts about the existence of the ' t' inverted variety, since it occurs in Position 50. This stamp is in a tete-beche position within the sheet, so one would expect to see the surcharge orientated accordingly, but it is not. As a result, the surcharge in this position is inverted. As Position 50 is, apparently, the only example of the inverted ' t ' in the sheet and, apparently, constantly in a surcharge inverted position, I fail to see where an upright surcharge with ' t ' inverted can occur. Even in a complete sheet with inverted surcharge, it would appear in Position 1, again with surcharge inverted and ' t ' upright.

Footnote 2: Surcharge Double: As the entire sheet was given a double surcharge, so far as I know without any shift of positions, all the varieties found on the normal sheets will also exist with double surcharge.

Footnote 3 : The tete-beche stamps are, as with the original sheets of course, in positions 1,3 and 5 of Row 5 and positions 3 and 5 of Row 10, the latter being the subject of Footnore 1, above.

Footnote 4 : Other than Position 50 in the normal sheet ( with ' t ' inverted), there are two sources of this stamp with surcharge inverted. They may come from complete sheets with inverted surcharge and also from Position 46 (Row 10, Stamp 1) in normal sheets. The latter may be distinguished because the bar is at the top of the surcharge, instead of at the foot. It will be appreciated (or maybe not appreciated at all !!) that a complete sheet with surcharge inverted is going to produce other varieties, because of the positioning of tete-beche stamps within the sheet. You have the scan of the complete sheet; may I leave it to the more inspired of my readers to work out the possibilities ?!

Ulua-1930 Double Opt

1930 Surcharge Double, left stamp with a straight, upright stroke in place of ' l ' ( ' L ' ) in ' Habilitado '.

Broken H

Habiiitado Broken i Broken d Broken o .

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Broken u juiio variety short and normal hyphen minimal top serif to 1 .

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Thicker taller figure 1 Broken 9 Open 0 in 1930

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Varieties on the 1c 1930 overprint, in the same order as below, left to right in three rows, except for the missing stop variety, which is not illustrated, and the bar for 'l' in 'Habilitado', which is not shown in the detailed scans.

For the issue below, I have suggested premiums that might be reasonable for each variety, compared to the price for the normal stamp, for example 3 x normal.

1930 : Overprinted Habilitado / julio. - 1930 in BLUE
[ ... ] 1c Chocolate (SG 305)
[ ... ] - ditto - Broken top left serif to 'H' in 'Habilitado' ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Damaged 'l' giving appearance 'Habiiitado' ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - 'l' in 'Habilitado' is a simple bar ( no serifs ) ( 2 x normal ) *
[ ... ] - ditto - Broken second 'i' in 'Habilitado' ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Broken 'd' in 'Habilitado' resembling 'aclo' ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Broken 'o' in 'Habilitado' resembling a reversed 'c' ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - 'u' of 'julio' broken in two places ( 2 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - 'juiio' for 'julio' ( 5 times normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Stop omitted after 'julio' ** ( 8 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Short hyphen (dash) between Julio and Date ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - '1' of '1930' almost completely missing top serif ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Thick, slightly taller '1' in '1930' ( 3 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - '9' of '1930' with damaged right side ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Open Top to '0' in '1930' ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Inverted ( 1.5 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double ( 2.5 x normal )

[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double, second overprint spread equally over two stamps (à cheval) HORIZ. PAIR ( 6 x normal single )
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double, second overprint overlapping two stamps (à cheval) VERT. PAIR ( 4.5 x normal single )
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double, One Inverted (2 x normal )
[ ... ] - ditto - Overprint Double, One Inverted in horizontal pair with normal stamp ( 50 x normal )

* Illustrated on left stamp of the pair at top of the scans above ( the pair has double overprint ).
** The missing stop variety, although priced moderately in catalogues, is scarce, occurring, I believe, only once per sheet. There is also in the sheet one stamp with a very faint stop ( 2.5 x normal ) .

The typesetting varieties listed for the normal stamp should logically all be found on both the inverted overprint and double overprint varieties.

1930 : Stamp of 1926 ( with HABILITADO / 1926 overprint ) further overprinted Habilitado / julio. - 1930 in BLUE
[ ... ] 2c Red (SG 306a)
[ ... ] - ditto - 1926 Overprint Double, 1930 Overprint Normal
[ ... ] - ditto - 1926 Overprint Double, 1930 Overprint Inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - 1926 Overprint Normal, 1930 Overprint Inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - 1926 Overprint Normal, 1930 Overprint Double, one Inverted

Full sheets of the 2c red contained tete-beche pairs in many positions, whereas the 1c value was printed in sheets without tete-beche stamps. I have not seen a tete-beche pair of the 1930 2c but they may exist. Without further information about the printing of the 2c value, it is difficult to say which, if any, of the typesetting varieties found on the 1c will also exist on the 2c. The 1c with inverted overprint is found in large multiples and is therefore not the result of the 1c being overprinted with the setting for the 2c.

The 1930 2c, and varieties of it, are all very scarce. SG has accidentally numbered two different stamps ( the 1c brown Morazan Statue with overprint inverted,and the stamp above of the 2c Ulua Bridge ) as SG 306a . Take care, if buying from a list, although you are unlikely to see either stamp on most lists !
I have not seen the 1930 2c with the HARILITADO error on the 1926 overprint but it almost certainly exists

Ulua varieties

1. 1925 Air 25c / 20c, Genuine.
2. The scarce 1930 overprint on the 2c HABILITADO 1926.
3. 1915/16 10c Official with 1933 Official Air surcharge double, black and red, the red inverted.

1931 (Oct) : Surcharged in BLUE ' Servicio aereo / interior / Vale 15 cts. / Octubre 1931
Note: This surcharge is applied to the 20c Official stamp of 1916 (SG O. 209); although the word OFICIAL has not been obliterated, this is not an official but an airmail stamp.

[ ... ] 15c / 20c Brown ( SG 344a )
[ ... ] - ditto - tete-beche pair
[ ... ] 15c / 20c Surcharge Inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge Double, one inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge Double, one inverted, tete-beche pair

This issue contains an enormous number of errors and varieties. I have attempted to plate the more important ones, but, without a full sheet, and even with the help of some surcharge double, one inverted types, I have only been able to plate the sheet partially.

Sanabria has a footnote under the set of 5 stamps with this surcharge, giving plate positions for the five textual varieties listed in that catalogue. These include Octuber (for Octubre), which I have not seen on the Ulua Bridge stamp, but which I am confident will exist. I have found the other four textual varieties, but, with the exception of Position 1, all of them seem to be in different positions to those shown in Sanabria, which has led me to conclude that Sanabria's plate positions are only applicable to the three vertical-format stamps in the set.

To assist anyone without a Sanabria catalogue, who might wish to try to unravel how the printer re-arranged the surcharge setting between the vertical-format and horzontal-format stamps, Sanabria gives the plate positions as follows:

Error 1391 : Positions 35 and 40
Error 1932 : Positions 43 and 48
Variety Vaie (with accent on ' i ') for Vale : Positions 1 and 6
Octuber : Positions 2 and 7
Octubrc : Positions 13 and 18

There are a very large number of smaller letters ' r ' in various positions and I have not included these in the listing, since their inclusion would probably create another fifteen or twenty varieties! However, some of the varieties are major errors, such as wrong date and wrong letters and I have listed all of these known to me, with sheet positions where known. I have not seen a 'surcharge inverted ' for this issue, but I have had access to scans of a large number of ' surcharge double, one inverted '; it seems safe to assume that all varieties occur in conjunction with these two types.

Plate positions are given for normal stamps but I do not fully guarantee them all. The positions given in Sanabria under San. 86 only tally partially with my own research and do not seem to apply fully to this stamp (San. 82). To find the equivalent plate position for an inverted surcharge, simply subtract the normal plate position from 51 (e.g. the setting for Position 47 with normal surcharge will be the same as for Position 4 with surcharge inverted. I have provided two additional check boxes for ' surcharge inverted ' and ' surcharge double, one inverted '. It should be noted that study of this issue indicates that the printer made no attempt to rotate the surcharge on the stamps in tete-beche position, so that all tete-beche positions have inverted surcharge. This particularly needs to be borne in mind, when viewing stamps in these tete-beche positions with surcharge double, one inverted. I'll leave you to work out the implications !!

Further varieties on the 1931 15c / 20c ( SG 344a )
[ ... ] Vaie (for Vale), also (possibly not constant) first 'e' in 'Servicio' inverted ( Posn. 1 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] First ' i' of ' Servicio ' missing ( Posn. 2 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] Servlcio (' l ' for ' i ') ( Posn. 3 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] Accent on ' o' of ' interior ' ( Posn. 6 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] Accent on first ' i ' of ' interior ' Octubrc ' for ' Octubre ' ( Posn. 8 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] ' I ' for ' 1 ' in ' 15 ' and inverted 's ' in ' cts ' ( Posn. 9 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] Servicic ( Posn. 12 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] ' 193I ' for ' 1931 ' and accent on first ' i ' of ' Servicio ' ( Posn. 15 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] ' I93I ' for ' 1931 ' ( Posn. 22 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] ' 193I ' for ' 1931 ' (Posn. 41) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] ' 1391 ' for ' 1931 ' (Posn.45 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] ' I931 ' for ' 1931 ' ( Posn. 46 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] ' I93I ' for ' 1931 ' and ' I5 ' for ' 15 ' (all Roman I's) [ ... ] [ ... ]
[ ... ] ' 1932 ' for ' 1931 ' ( Posn. 48 ) [ ... ] [ ... ]

Ulua varieties

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Above : A block of six of the 1931 15c / 20c with surcharge double, one inverted, showing Positions 41-43 and 46-48
Posn. 41 : Second ' 1' in ' 1931 ' is Roman I. .... Inv. (from Posn. 10) No major variety.
Posn. 42 : No major variety. .... Inv. (from Posn. 9) ' I ' for ' 1 ' in ' 15 ' and inverted 's ' in ' cts '
Posn. 43 : No major variety. .... Inv. (from Posn. 8) Accent on first ' i ' of ' interior ' Octubrc ' for ' Octubre '
Posn. 46 : ' I931 ' for ' 1931 ' (Roman I). ... Inv. (from Posn. 5) No major variety
Posn. 47 : ' I93I ' for ' 1931 ' (poorly formed figures) and ' I5 ' for ' 15 ' ... Inv. (from Posn. 4) No major varieties
Posn. 48 : (tete-beche posn) ' 1932 ' for ' 1931 ' ... Inv (from Posn. 3) Servlcio (' l ' for ' i ') **

** Because the printer, when setting the surcharge, failed to account for tete-beche positions, Posn. 48, most curiously, ends up identical to Position 3 in the case of surcharge double, one inverted stamps. The two positions can only be distinguished when in pairs. I'm sure your mind is elated at the prospect of mulling over this philatelic curiosity !!

There will probably be other significant varieties, which I have failed to list, as I have not seen all 50 sheet positions. As ever, if you have any further information on this or any other issue covered by this article, please send me an email and/or a scan.

1933 : 10c Deep Blue (without OFICIAL opt) surcharged Aereo Oficial / Vale L. 0.70 / 1933 in BLACK

[ ... ] 70c / 10c Deep Blue (Sanabria 162)

1933 : 10c Dark Blue (with OFICIAL opt) surcharged Aereo Oficial / Vale L. 0.70 / 1933 in RED

[ ... ] 70c / 10c Deep Blue ( SG O.376 )
[ ... ] - ditto - surcharge inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge Double

1933 : 10c Dark Blue (with OFICIAL opt) surcharged Aereo Oficial / Vale L. 0.70 / 1933 in BLACK

[ ... ] 70c / 10c Deep Blue ( SG O.375 )
[ ... ] - ditto - surcharge inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge Double
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharge on Front and Back
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharged both in Black and in Red
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharged both in Black and in Red, both inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharged both in Black and in Red, Black surch. inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Surcharged both in Black and in Red, Red surch. inverted
[ ... ] - ditto - Triple Surcharge, once in Black, twice in Red, all inverted

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