|A Suspecious Item at the International Stamp Exhibition Singapore 2004
I took the photo shown to the right at Singapore 2004 on which the (now late) exhibitor, Constantin Mattheos (Greece) describes one of his items:
"A folded cover from Copenhagen, Denmark, mailed on 22 September, 1863, franked with two examples of 4 SK. (23 Lepta), single rate up to Hamburg for transit to Athens via Trieste. On arrival in Athens, 100 Lepta further charge was levied by addition of 20 Lepta, blue, and 80 Lepta, rose carmine, provisionals (fine) in order to cover the postage from Hamburg to Athens. Both Greek stamps are cancelled by diamond dotted "1" (Athens). On the back, Hamburg, Trieste transit and Athens arrival cds (19 Sept. 1863). This is the only known combination cover Denmark-Greece. A spectacular cover."
At the bottom of the page:
"Note: Greece until 1922 used the Julian calendar in which date show a time lag of 12 days, as compared with Gregorian calendar reconing."
I was a judge and the Danish commissioner at this International Stamp Exhibition "Singapore 2004". I saw the cover and noticed that the calendar statement was pretty wrong. (I have written about calendars: (https://norbyhus.dk/calendar.php) which has been visited more than 700.000 times in the period 1995-2022!). Another matter was that I could not remember to have seen such a misc franking of Danish and Greece stamps before so I was interested in getting a little more knowledge about the cover's story.
When I took some photos of the cover/page, the owner (Constantin Mattheos, Greece) contacted me and asked why I was interested in the cover. I told him that he was wrong about his calendar explanation but strange enough he was certainly not interested in my explanation - but that's his problem, not mine.
Mattheos' incorrect Information about the Greek Calendar:
The Change over from Julian Calendar to Gregorian Calendar in Greece took place in 1923 (not in 1922 as Mattheos wrote) where the last Julian day was 15 February 1923 and the following day was 1st of March 1923 (according to a Decree from 18 January, 1923, published in the Greek National Gazette on 23 January 1923. (See https://norbyhus.dk/calendar.php, Scheme 1.2. Gregorian Calendar Reforms). Furthermore the time lag in the period when the letter was sent, was 13 Days (and not 12 as Mattheos wrote).
I contacted Anthony "Tony" Virvilis, a good Greek friend of mine and - as I - a former member of the FIP-literature Commission, and he told me: Costantin Mattheos was a lawyer (born 30 November 1937 and died 12 November 2017). At Capex 1996 his collection of the first Greek stamps was awarded Grand Prix d'Honneur.
But there seems to be some problems with the cover
Later on, when I wrote about my Singapore 2004-tour, I wrote something wrong about the cover (I wrote that the two Danish 4 Sk stamps were issued in 1863. That's incorrect: They were issued in 1854). I was told that cover probably was fake (manipulated) - even it had been expertised by a Greek expert: Orestis Vlastos. He had stamped the cover on the front in the lower left corner with his name-stamp: "Orestis Vlastos". He was a well-known Greek dealer, expert and catalogue publisher. So his conclusion was that the cover was genuine and not faked! But, according to several other experts, it is not genuine!
The famous English stamp club "The Royal Philatelic Society of London" ("The Royal") published a book of Mattheos' collection, despite several advices to the publishers to be very careful before printing the book. "The Royal" also invited the two AIEP-experts Michéle Chauvet and Jean-Francois Brun, to examine the cover and after a closer review of the book it was withdrawn from the market. (AIEP: Association Internationale des Experts Philatelie).
Also Claes Arnrup, CEO at the auction house Postiljonen AB in Sweden, told me about Mattheos' book. Arnrup (who is also First Vice-President of the "Club de Monte-Carlo" and a Commissioner at MonacoPhil 2022) told me that the cover in question was exhibited at MonacoPhil 2002 and was during and after the exhibition discussed by philatelic experts: Frank Banke and Carl Aage Møller (Bundesprüfer) and Karsten Jensen, Aalborg. They all concluded that it is a manipulated cover.
Karsten Jensen provided a better photo of the front - a photo of the back is still wanted.
The two Danish 4 Sk. Stamps
- with dotted background in the corners were issued in 1854-57 and not available at the Danish post offices in 1863 when this letter was sent. Furthermore one can see that the cancellation number "1" postmarks have not fully circular rings. They seems to be improved (pencil). And, the two Danish 4 Sk stamps do not originate from the same printing. Also, one would expect a Copenhagen cancel in connection to the stamps so the two stamps do not belong to the cover. (Besides, the left 4 Skilling Dk-stamp seems to be repaired in the upper right corner, Frank Banke said).
The Danish Postmark "SJ.JB.P.SP.B." (SJællandske JernBanes PostSPeditions Bureau)
The letter shows the date-part of a Danish so called combined postmark which we can identify as "NUM-K.34, type 14" or "NUM-K.181, type 3". Both mentioned types were delivered to the train post offices in 1862: On 21 May 1862 and 12 February 1862. But very unusual is that the fully combined postmark is not shown and it is also unusual that the letter shows the number "1"-cancel AND a part of a combined postmark. Karsten Jensen told me that he, among thousands of Danish letters sent abroad, never have seen this combination of postmarks before. One would also have expected a normal Copenhagen cancellation on the cover. The postmark: "SJ. JB. .." without its number part at the upper left corner are only known from 8 April 1884!
According to Karsten Jensen's Danish UBT (in Danish: "Udenrigsbrevposttakst": "Foreign Letter Rate-Table" of 1 June 1861): At that time a letter could be sent to Greece EITHER fully franked OR unfranked (without stamps so the receiver had to pay the total postage of letter). PARTLY franked was not allowed cf The UBT of 1 June 1861.
According to UBT of 1 June 1861: Danish postage 2 Sgr (Silvergroschen) = 9 DK Sk. + German/Austrian - postage 3 Sgr. + foreign postage from Trieste to Greece 5 Sgr. = 35 Sk. - manuscript "35/9" in the lower left corner, and which was to be paid in cash = 9 Sk. + 35 Sk. = 44 Sk.: Written in the upper right corner.
The letter was forwarded as not prepaid to Athens via Trieste.
According to Hellenic Post Circular non prepaid letters of 1st weight arriving from Denmark (Hamburg) via Trieste to Athens would be charged with 100 lepta (the faint manuscript 100 in blue), therefore, stamps valued 100 Lepta (20+80) were affixed. The Hellenic Post should pay to the Austrian-German Post.
The "missing" Danish stamps
If the letter from the beginning had been fully franked, it would probably have had 2×16 Dk Skilling + 8 Dk Skilling. + 4 Dk Skilling = 44 Dk Skilling, OR 2×16 Sk. + 3×4 Sk = 44 Sk. (that's what the space on the cover would have allowed. But if so and the stamps later on had been removed, there would have been signs of cancellation of a cancellation postmark on the cover - and there would probably also have been some signs of a "Kjøbenhavn"-postmark ("Copenhagen"-postmark) on the cover front as well.
Frank Banke saw the letter at Monacophil 2002 and that it was shown in one of
the books published for each Monacophil exhibitions and concluded that it was manipulated.
Frank said that we can see that there are some stamps missing, e.g. to the left of the two Danish stamps, so I have placed (using my PaintShopPro-program) a copy of the "NUM-K.34, type 14" combined cancel to show that this is probably correct.
Patrick Maselis (President of the Club de Monte-Carlo de l'Elite de la Philatélie), when I asked for a scan of the back of the cover - eventually from the book that had been withdrawn: "That's unfortunaly impossible. Beware. Nobody owned more fakes and forgeries than Mr. Mattheos... ".
Chris King (former president of the Royal Philatelic Society London): "The Danish cover was originally in the mentioned book, but was removed as being doubtful together with many others before publishing. "The Royal" eventually published Mattheos' book in 2011. It was not very well received by Greek experts who considered that there were still other manipulated covers shown.
"The Royal" stopped selling the book, except by special request, and it took some years for the furore to die down. Mr. Mattheos was very unhappy about this. He died in 2017, and there the matter rests. He was either unwise in many of his purchases, or too
certain of his own judgement. In either case, it was a sorry episode. I had to deal
with some of the problems that were caused by the publication".
What happened to Mattheos' material?
After the greatest contemporary collector of the first Greek issue, the civil engineer
Zachariadis from Cyprus, sold his collection at David Feldman house between
2002-2007 in seven luxurious auctions, Mattheos noticed the excellent results of this
sale and thought that it was his chance to sell his collection, so he asked Feldman to sell it and it was put for sale on 12 May 2003, under the name "The
Grand Prix Collection" - as his exhibit had been awarded Grand d'Honneur at CAPEX 1996. Starting prices were general were very high and a small part was sold. There was no second part auctioned!
In later years some of his (presumable genuine) material was also auctioned by Feldman SA Auction and Karamitsos International Philatelic Auctions.
Thanks for help and discussion
As you can see I have tried to describe the matters which proves that the letter is manipulated and thanks are due to (in alphabetic order) Claes Arnrup (SE) Postiljonen. Frank Banke (DK) fbanke.com.
Karsten Jensen (DK) Danske frimærkefrankerede forsendelser til og fra udlandet 1851-1905.
Chris King (UK) ABPS judge.
Mark Lorentzen (US) pumamarco.com.
Patrick Maselis (BE) President of the Club de Monte-Carlo de l'Elite de la Philatélie) museumofphilately.com.
Carl Aage Møller (DK) Bundesprüfer) AIEP-expert - and Anthony Virvilis (GR) European Academy of Philately.
Claes Arnrup, SE.
Frank Banke, DK.
Karsten Jensen, DK.
Chris King. UK.
Mark Lorentzen, US.
Patrick Maselis. BE.
Carl Aage Møller, DK.
Anthony Virvilis, GR.
Toke Nørby - 01.02.2023