Honduras Republic: Ulua Railway Bridge stamps : 1915-1933

Honduras Republic stamps Ulua Railway Bridge

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.

There is a limited amount of specialized literature on Honduras Republic, which is unfortunate as it is a most interesting country philatelically. The sheet formats of the Ulua Bridge design is curious; the 1c and 10c do not exist in tête-beche format, whereas the 20c has five inverted clichés per sheet of 50. The 2c also comes tête-beche but we are not sure that the format of the 2c is the same as for the 20c. Can anyone advise?

The 20c sheet for which we 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. tête-beche pairs are therefore found in both vertical or horizontal arrangement.

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

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

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

20c Brown (SG 191) [ . ]
- ditto - tête-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 - tête-beche pair [ . ]
- ditto - Overprint Double [ . ]
- ditto - Overprint Double, one inverted [ . ]
- ditto - Overprint Double + Overprint Double in tête-beche pair [ . ]

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

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

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Honduras Republic stamps Ulua Railway Bridge

After many years of searching for a view of the Ulua Bridge more interesting than some distant view across the river, we finally came across the above, which beautifully encaptures the atmosphere of a railway interrupted but rarely by the passage of a train, something common to many Central American railways.
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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, with or without surcharges, 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 fine and thin, often turning through almost 180 degrees.

Quantities Printed: We 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. We 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 tête-beche Qty. 2 (pair) [ . ]
- ditto - Double overprint (in Black and in Blue) Qty ?? (listed in 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 tête-beche Qty. 20 [ . ]
- ditto - Overprint tête-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, we 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, as well as being 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 philatelic globalisation

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

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

Honduras Republic stamps Ulua Railway Bridge - no train

Left to Right above:
tête-beche pair, overprints reading same way, genuine and rare.
1926 Overprint triple, two inverted.
tête-beche pair with surcharge double.

1926 ( Dec ) : overprinted HABILITADO / 1926
2c Red (SG 242) [ . ]
- ditto - tête-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 [ . ]

We would imagine that the HARILITADO error is constant and will occur in conjunction with all the last four varieties. we think this is less likely to be true of the ' HABILITADO omitted ' and ' 1926 omitted ' varieties. Information invited.

Honduras Republic stamps Ulua Railway Bridge 1927 surcharge

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 - tête-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 2) [ . ]

Footnote 1: Unless there were different pane settings of the original stamp, we have some doubt about the existence of the 't' inverted variety, since it occurs in Position 50. This stamp is in a tête-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, we 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 we know without any shift of positions, all the varieties found on the normal sheets will also exist with double surcharge.

Footnote 3 : The tête-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 that a complete sheet with surcharge inverted is going to produce other varieties, because of the positioning of tête-beche stamps within the sheet. You have the scan of the complete sheet; we shall leave it to the more inspired of our readers to calculate the possibilities!

Honduras Republic stamps Ulua Railway Bridge 1927 surcharge

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

Broken H

Broken i Broken 9
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Honduras Stamps Ulua Bridge Broken d Honduras Stamps Ulua Bridge Broken o Honduras Stamps Ulua Bridge Habiiitado Honduras Stamps Ulua Bridge Open 0 in 1930
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Honduras Sellos Puente UluaBroken u Honduras Sellos Puente Ulua juiio variety Honduras Sellos Puente Ulua short and normal hyphen
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Briefmarken Honduras Ulua Bahnbrücke Thicker taller figure 1 Timbres-Poste Honduras Pont Ferroviaire Ulua - minimal top serif to 1

Images above show all the varieties on the 1c 1930 overprint, in the same order as the listing below, except that there are no scans of the 'missing stop variety' or the bar for 'l' in 'Habilitado' variety.

For the issue below, we have suggested premiums that one might reasonably expect to pay for each variety, using a base figure of the retail price of a 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) [ . ]

1c Chocolate Overprint Inverted (1.5 x normal) [ . ]

1c Chocolate 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 the 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, we 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 tête-beche pairs in many positions, whereas the 1c value was printed in sheets without tête-beche stamps. We have not seen a tête-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 same type-setting as 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 an auction or a dealer's list without illustrations.
we have not seen the 1930 2c with the HARILITADO error on the 1926 overprint but it almost certainly exists.

Ulua varieties

Left to Right (above):
1925 Air 25c / 20c, Genuine.
The scarce 1930 overprint on the 2c HABILITADO 1926.
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 for public postal use.

15c / 20c Brown ( SG 344a ) [ . ]
- ditto - tête-beche pair [ . ]

15c / 20c Surcharge Inverted [ . ]
- ditto - Surcharge Double, one inverted [ . ]
- ditto - Surcharge Double, one inverted, tête-beche pair [ . ]

This issue contains an enormous number of errors and varieties. We 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, we 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 we have not seen on the Ulua Bridge stamp, but which we are confident will exist.
We 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 us to conclude that Sanabria's plate positions are only applicable to the three vertical-format stamps in the set and not the Ulua Bridge design.

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, we give below the plate positions as given in Sanabria but which, as mentioned, only seem to apply to the vertical format stamps:

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 we 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 we have listed all of these known to us, with sheet positions where known. We have not seen a 'surcharge inverted' for this issue, but we have had access to scans of a large number of 'surcharge double, one inverted' stamps and have used this to inform our listing.

Plate positions are given for normal stamps but we do not fully guarantee them all. The positions given in Sanabria under San.86 only tally partially with our 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.

We have provided two additional check boxes for 'surcharge inverted' [si . . ] and 'surcharge double, one inverted' [sdi . . ]. It should be noted that, from what we have seen, the printer made no attempt to rotate the surcharge on the stamps in tête-beche positions, which results in all the stamps in the tête-beche positions having inverted surcharge. This needs to be borne in mind when viewing stamps in these tête-beche positions from sheets of stamps with 'surcharge double, one inverted'.

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

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 : (tête-beche posn) ' 1932 ' for ' 1931 ' ... Inv (from Posn. 3) Servlcio (' l ' for ' i ') **

** Because the printer, when setting the surcharge, failed to account for tête-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.

There will probably be other significant varieties, which we have failed to list, as we 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 us an email, ideally with 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 [ . ]

Honduras Republic stamps Ulua Railway Bridge

There are very few interesting postcards of the railways of Honduras found on the open market, but the one above, we feel, does convey something of the atmosphere of the railways of that country around the time stamps in the design covered in this article first appeared.
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