Nicaragua : The 1907 Telegraph Surcharges on the Momotombo & Train Design

The 1900 Definitive stamps showing a train and Mount Momotombo were overprinted in 1900 and surcharged in 1901 for Telegraph use. Then ,in 1907, the 1c, 2c, 3c and 50c recess-printed stamps of 1900 and the 5c red and 10c violet lithographed stamps of 1902 were surcharged for Telegraphic use. The 1907 issue is the subject of this study.

Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps -5 The quality, or rather the lack of quality, of printing, of care and of workmanship in these overprints can hardly be overstated. I have compiled a list of personally verified varieties below and have not attempted to add any from catalogue sources.
However, the majority of the stamps where there is a blank in the table below will probably exist. Readers of this article are welcome to send me details of any further varieties they may find (scan of these appreciated, please) and to advise of any further values which they have personally seen of the varieties I have listed below.

If anyone can identify the sheet size and/or location of the varieties within the sheet, this could also be usefully added to the article. I am sure many of the varieties listed will also exist on the stamps with double and inverted surcharge. However, as some of the varieties are probably due to typeface falling out, one would need to know whether the sheets printed double or inverted were produced before or after such mishaps to the typeface. To be honest, I think it is very unlikely that such information exists anywhere, but I would be happy to be proved wrong!

I have a suspicion that the surcharges on the Lithographed stamps may well have been made at a different, probably later, date than the surcharges on the recess-engraved stamps. On the 10c/5c and the 15c/5c, in particular, the quality is quite dreadful and only marginallty better on the 10c/10c. However, as the varieties seem to appear on both recess and litho stamps, perhaps the answer is that the ink of the telegraphic surcharge was not suited to the surface of the lihograhed stamps.

After producing this article, I received extensive further information from Alan Slater, concerning both general settings and further varieties. It is a subjective decision as to where the line should be drawn between these. For the moment, I have put the following in the first camp, i.e. general setting variations:

** The gap between 'e' of 'Vale' and the '1' of '10' or of '15' can be wide or narrow.
** There are at least three different types of the figure '0' in '10'

Surcharge Inverted : As whole sheets were produced with surcharge inverted, it follows that most varieties listed below will also occur on stamps with inverted surcharge.

The stamps illustrated above each group show the varieties listed in that section, in order from left to right:

Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps - 1 .

Variety 10c/1c 10c/2c 10c/5c 10c/10c 10c/50c 15c/3c 15c/2c 15c/5c
Normal Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Thick T in Telegrafos . Yes . Yes Yes Yes Yes .
Missing T in 'Telegrafos',faint 'V' in 'Vale' . . . . . Yes . Yes
small raised second e in Telegrafos Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes . .
'T' with serifs - NOT illustrated Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
** The last variety above is not illustrated, but an examination of the various scans will show the two types. I have assumed this variety exists on all values.
** I have not seen the 10c/10c with the raised small 'e' except as listed below with the additional variety of a strange broken letter 'd' (perhaps) for the '0' in '10'

Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps -2 .

Variety 10c/1c 10c/2c 10c/5c 10c/10c 10c/50c 15c/3c 15c/2c 15c/5c
Weak or missing 'f' 'fo' or 'o' in Telegrafos Yes . Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes .
Missing 's' in Telegrafos . . . . . Yes . .
Missing 's' in Telegrafos and missing C . . . . Yes Yes . .
Raised and Invtd 'os' = Telegrafso(note below) Yes Yes . Yes Yes Yes Yes .

** Some stamps with 'Telegrafso' error may be found with a very weak or missing 'L' in 'Telegrafos'

** Alan Slater reports a copy of the 10c/2c with 'Telegrafso' variety in proper alignment.
** Alan also reports the 10c/1c with missing 'c' but with the 's' still present.
** On the 10c/1c, 10c/2c and 10c/10c, Alan also reports a double variety of 'Telegrafso' and widely spaced '0' and 'C'. This may well exist on other values too.

Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps -3 .

Variety 10c/1c 10c/2c 10c/5c 10c/10c 10c/50c 15c/3c 15c/2c 15c/5c
Figure '1' missing from new value . . . . Yes . . .
Figure '0'(in 10) or '5'(in 15) missing from value . . . Yes . . . .
Figure '0' or '5' and C missing . . . Yes . . . .
Taller, thinner '0' in '10' Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes **** **** ****
** Alan Slater reports the 15c/3c with the figure '5' all but missing

Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps -4 .

Variety 10c/1c 10c/2c 10c/5c 10c/10c 10c/50c 15c/3c 15c/2c 15c/5c
Missing both 'le' and 10C, leaving only 'Va' . . Yes Yes Yes . . .
'0' like base of damaged 'd' (+ raised 'e') . . . Yes . **** **** ****
'01' in error for '10' . . . Yes Yes **** **** ****
Surcharge Double . Yes . . . Yes Yes .
Surcharge Inverted (illustrated in introduction) . Yes . Yes . . . Yes
Other Varieties reported by Alan Slater:

** The 10c/5c is found with grossly misplaced surcharge, including 'Vale 10c' appearing above 'Telegrafos'.
** The 10c/5c exists with missing 'a' in 'Telegrafos'.
** All examples seen with only 'Va' in the bottom line also have the variety 'afos' printed low.
** Alan Slater reports the 15c/3c with surcharge double, one inverted, one with the Telegrafso variety.

The stamps in this section of the article are listed by Yvert (Tele 89-96) and Domfil (907.43-50). Both catalogues also list a further value 30c/1c (Yv. 96A, Domf.907.51). I have never seen a copy of this stamp and can therefore make no comment upon it, except to say that it appears to be a pretty rare stamp. If anyone has one, I should be pleased to hear from them.


1911/12 Railway 'Ticket' Types overprinted for Telegraphic Use

Of all the world's railway issues, the postage stamps, and hence also the telegraph stamps, of this design are the most complex. The original purpose of the stamps is still not established with certainty. Often previously listed as 1c and 2c stamps, the current thinking is that they are 1st and 2nd Class Railway Tickets. Without any confirmation of this to my knowledge, I consider it equally likely that they could be seat reservation stamps for 1st and 2nd Class, but this is pure speculation. Onto the stamps ...

Note: Throughout this part of the article, I refer to the pictorial side as the front of the stamp, even though the franking value is frequently on the non-pictorial side, which I call the back throughout, no doubt in contravention of philatelic norms. Welcome to Nicaragua!

The Fiscal Surcharges
The original Railway Stamps were clearly little used and the remainders were initially surcharged for fiscal use, the red stamps (1st) always in BLACK, the blue stamps (2nd) most frequently in RED but also in BLACK. The new value of the surcharge is always 10c on the red stamps and 5c on the blue stamps. However, this fiscal surcharge had two distinct styles, 'TIMBRE FISCAL' and 'Timbre Fiscal' and they can be found reading up or reading down, always on the front of the stamp. There are some varieties in the fiscal surcharge, such as surcharge double, surcharge triple(two on the front, one on the back) and many more! Other fiscal surcharge varieties include using 'ctvs' and 'cvs' on different printings of the blue stamps, often with the variety 'ctvs' inverted in position 20. If I ever do a listing of the postage stamps in this design (not a very tempting proposition), I might go into more detail about the fiscal surcharges, but for the Telegraphs, I doubt that I have enough material from which to do so.

The Postal Surcharges
In order to understand the Telegraphic surcharges, one needs a certain knowledge of the Postal Surcharges. These stamps were all surcharged in panes/20 (4x5) with the postal surcharge either on the front or the back and, occasionally, on both sides and intentionally printed thus. There are huge variations in the postal surcharge, providing perhaps 14 major varieties in the pane/20, and these stamps were used for the First and Fourth telegraph issues described below. Many collectors collect these Nicaragua stamps in panes, where possible, and a surprising number of panes survive of some of the issues, but this does not apply to the telegraph stamps! To judge from the number of panes I have seen with burn marks around the edges, many of the surviving panes were probably 'rescued' from a bonfire, rather than purchased over the counter! Yes, welcome to Nicaragua!

The Telegraphic Surcharges
These mirror in some ways the postal issues, some with panes/20 with perhaps 14 major varieties, others much less colourful but nevertheless intriguing. I do not claim for one moment that the list below is complete; I believe that would be a naive claim for anyone to make about these issues! Several years after compiling the Momotombo section on this page, I added these ticket types to the article in 2012, in response to a request for help from John Barefoot, who was bravely compiling a new world catalogue of Telegraph Stamps. I was spurred into action by John's comment that he didn't think Nicaragua was too difficult if you took it a step at a time. Welcome to Nicaragua, John!

Telegraphic Cancellations
Used Stamps : Cancellations are usually in violet with a double circle telegraphic cancel or, quite frequently with what appears to be a remainder cancel in three lines : SIN VALOR / (some line apparently about the legal decree authorising this cancellation) / NICARAGUA, the SIN VALOR being in much larger letters than the rest. Although used are more common, a fair number of mint telegraph stamps are on the market.

In order to list these stamps, I need to establish a 'quickly-memorable' short-form codes for the fiscal surcharges for all the issues listed below. They do NOT all exist for all issues and you never see red fiscal surcharges on red stamps. Except where otherwise stated, I am only listing stamps I have personally seen in this part of the article, and this therefore leads to the exclusion of several stamps which I would expect to exist.

Code Description
rU Timbre Fiscal in RED, reading UP
rD Timbre Fiscal in RED, reading DOWN
bU Timbre Fiscal in BLACK, reading UP
bD Timbre Fiscal in BLACK, reading DOWN

The Four Telegraph Issues
These telegraph stamps come in four apparent issues, of which the following are single identifying features:
First Issue : Inscription on the BACK includes the word 'TELEGRAFO' (singular)
Second Issue : Inscription includes the word 'Telegrafos' vertically on the FRONT, no postal surcharge on back
Third Issue : Inscription reads 'Telegrafos' horizontally on the FRONT
Fourth Issue : Stamps with POSTAL surcharge on BACK, overprinted 'Telegrafos' vertically on FRONT

The fiscal surcharges are reported to date from 1903. The Postal and Telegraphic surcharges were made in 1911/12. In the case of the Telegraphs, the First Issue is thought to be of 1911 origin, the other three 1912.


First Issue : Fiscal Surcharge only on the front, Vale / xx Cts / TELEGRAFO / DE 1911 on the back.
These are complex, sharing the same multitude of varieties as their postage cousins. However, the printer appears to have completely reset the pane when changing the surcharge from CORREO to TELEGRAFO on the 15c value, so that the varieties occur in totally different places in the pane.
I am unable to provide a scan of the 10c Telegraph setting of the First Issue but am providing a scan of the postage surcharges, and it is best to assume that the varieties on the 10c Telegraphs are also in different positions to those of the postage setting.
I am able to provide a scan of the pane of the 15c Postage setting next to the 15c Telegraph setting for this issue, so that you may study this at your leisure. The telegraph illustration is for Zelaya Province (Bluefields) but it is reasonable, I think, to infer that this setting was also used for the national issue, but then, this is Nicaragua!


Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps - R1 .

10c/5c/2nd (RU)
10c/5c/2nd (RD)
10c/5c/2nd (RD) Telegraph Surcharge Inverted

10c/5c/2nd (rD)
10c/5c/2nd (rD) Telegraph Surcharge Inverted

10c/5c/2nd (BD) 10c/5c/2nd (BD) Telegraph Surcharge Inverted


Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps - R2 .

15c/5c/2nd (RU)
15c/5c/2nd (RD) Telegraph Surcharge Inverted

15c/5c/2nd (rD) (Pane/20 illustrated)
15c/5c/2nd (rD) Telegraph Surcharge Inverted
15c/5c/2nd (rD) Telegraph Surcharge on Front and Back

15c/5c/2nd (BD)

In many cases, I have seen several copies of some of the above and have been surprised not to find alternative fiscal surcharges amongst them. It is possible that the telegraph overprints, being relatively small in number, exhibit far fewer varieties of fiscal surcharge than their postage counterparts.


Second Issue: Fiscal stamps without surcharge on the back, overprinted vertically 'Telegrafos' on the FRONT.

Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps - R3 .

Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps - R3 .

10c/1st (bD) Overprint reading DOWN
10c/1st (bD) Small raised 'f' in 'Telegrafos' (illustrated)
10c/1st (--) Overprint reading UP (in Yvert & Hiscocks, not seen by me)
10c/1st (--) Overprint Double (in Yvert & Hiscocks, not seen by me)


Third Issue: Fiscal stamps usually without surcharge on the back, surcharged horizontally 'Telegrafos / xx cts / 1912' on the FRONT.
This is an odd issue. Both Yvert & Hiscocks list the first stamp the same way, as
I think they are both incorrect and that the stamp is, in fact, a 15c/5c/5c/2nd, as, in all the examples I have seen, the 15c surcharge (in black) appears to be on top of the 5c surcharge (in red). Looking at the second stamp in this 'set', it is hard to be sure, but, based on the intensity of the black ink, I think the word Telegrafos was printed along with the 10c surcharge and this ties in with the assessment of the first stamp above.
It would seem that two telegraph stamps were prepared for use, but not issued, a 5c/5c/2nd and a 10c/10c/1st. I know of no examples of these original stamps in circulation. Presumably due to a change in rates or an urgent need for 15c telegraph stamps, both these stamps were further surcharged 15 cts in black. As the black ink dominates the red ink on the blue stamp, it was not felt necessary to add an obliterating bar, but one was used to obliterate the 10 cts on the red stamp.

Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps - R4

15c/5c/5c/2nd (RD)
15c/5c/5c/2nd (rD)
15c/5c/5c/2nd (BD)
15c/5c/5c/2nd (--) Surcharge Double (Which surcharge? Not seen by me, listed in Yvert & Hiscocks)

15c/10c/10c/1st (bD)
15c/10c/10c/1sr (bD) 15 cts superimposed on 10 cts (misplaced surcharge)

15c/10c/15c/10c/1st (bD)
This stamp is as the above, but with an additional 15 cts Postage surcharge on the BACK (This is, in order, reading backwards, a 1st class ticket, with 10c fiscal surcharge, surcharged 15c for postal use on the back, then surcharged Telegrafos 10 cts on the front, then further uprated 15 cts on the front - welcome to Nicaragua!)

Note : The 's' of 'Telegrafos' is frequently weak or missing in this issue.

Fourth Issue: Fiscal stamps overprinted 'Telegrafos' vertically on the front, surcharged on the BACK 'Vale / 15 Cts / CORREO / DE 1911', the postal surcharge annulled by a thin vertical bar. We are left to assume that the face value is therefore 10c as per the unobliterated fiscal surcharge, although in no other examples of postage or telegraph stamps does the fiscal value prevail, and they may conceivably have served as 15c telegraphs. However, I have described the stamps as 10c/1st, as the 15 cts surcharge was the last surcharge and has been annulled
The setting for the postal surcharge creates about 14 major varieties again (see the introduction and scanned panes above). The 'Telegrafos' overprint in this issue reads DOWN unless otherwise stated.

Nicaragua Telegraph Stamps - R5 .

10c/1st (bD)
10c/1st (bD) Small raised 'f' variety (Position 19, seen from the back)
10c/1st (bD) Postal surcharge inverted
10c/1st (bD) 'Telegrafos' reads UP, postal surcharge inverted
ERROR : 15c/10c/1st (bD) : Obliterating bar for postal surcharge omitted

ERROR : 15c/10c/1st (bD) : Postal surcharge on the FRONT (obliterating bar on the back, obliterating nothing)
Note: The front of the above stamp is illustrated above (right). It does not even exist to my knowledge as a postage stamp. It has only ever been reported with postal surcharge either on the back or on both sides, but not on the front only. This stamp also has a further variety, fiscal surcharge double, one on the back.

10c/1st (bU) 'Telegrafos' reads UP

10c/1st (BD) 'Telegrafos' reads DOWN



BLUEFIELDS / ZELAYA ISSUE surcharged on the BACK 'Vale / xx Cts / TELEGRAFO / DE 1911 / B'
There are only two main railway ticket types found in the Province of Bluefields :

10c/5c/2c (rD)
15c/5c/2c (rD)

A full pane of the 15 cts with its (approximately) 14 major varieties is shown above (illustrating the National First Issue) and the Bluefields 10c will have had a similar 'richness' of surcharge styling. Thank you for visiting Nicaragua; we hope you enjoyed your visit!

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