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Members’ questions on philatelic matters are answered by experts in various fields of philately. Questions may be submitted to the Federation Secretary, pfsasec@mweb.co.za .

Italian cancellation found on SWA stamps        

Brian Ring of Nelspruit asks
    Please could you let me have some information on the pair of SWA 1937 Coronation ½d stamps with an Italian cancellation ?

Gunter von Schumann RDPSA answers
    The cancellation reads  PFO Postale Italiano / Maiella and is dated  25 Giu 37.  “Giu” is the abbreviation for Giugno = June.  (The SWA Coronation stamps were issued on 12 May 1937.)
    This is the ship’s postmark of the cargo-passenger vessel Maiella of the Italian line Navigazone Libera Triestina.  She was one of four similar vessels of 5 800 tons.
    These ships maintained a regular service around Africa, sailing from Trieste down the East Coast of Africa and returning along the West Coast, with calls at Lüderitz, Walvis Bay and Dakar and sometimes Casablanca and Barcelona.  Sometimes the voyage was done in the opposite direction.
    The stamps would be cancelled when the Maiella was in or near the ports of Lüderitz or Walvis Bay – which one, can be established only by checking the newspapers of the time, which are held in the Sam Cohen Library in Swakopmund.
    Indeed, the Swakopmunder Zeitung of 19 May 1937 reports that the Maiella was expected at Walvis Bay from Europe on 15 June 1937, and on 23 June 1937 the paper reported that the ship was in port on that day.  On 30 June 1937 the Swakopmunder Zeitung confirmed that the Maiella was still in port on 25 June 1937, the very day of the postmark
    At the time foreign vessels used South West Africa stamps on board when they were in local territorial waters.  One also finds SWA stamps with markings of vessels of the Union Castle, Woermann and Deutsch Ost Afrika Linie.
    It was customary that the mail, usually from passengers, was given to the shipping agent in the harbour immediately prior to the sailing of the ship.  The agent would then take the mail to the post office and hand it in.


Rust on stamps and covers

“Collector”, Hermanus, asks :  What is brown rust on stamps and what can one do about it ?

Glen Carpendale, veteran stamp dealer in Pretoria, replies :

    Rust, also called ‘toning’ or ‘brown spots’, is a fungus which thrives on the combination of moisture, paper (especially gummed) and a suitable temperature.  It flourishes in areas of high humidity and temperature, like the east coast.  Even Cape Town is a risk area because of sea air and moisture, although cold winters and dry summers will mitigate fungus growth.    
    The risk of rust in Johannesburg is minimal, because of the low humidity and cold winters.  Subtropical areas like the Lowveld favour fungus growth which would however be retarded by the dry winters.
    What can be done to minimise rust ? 
    Stamps need regular attention and contact, at least twice a year.  Open each of your album pages just for a second or two – but choose a nice hot sunshine day with minimum humidity, if possible.  To work with our stamps we normally choose a wet rainy day when we are trapped indoors, but this is where the problem comes in: when you turn the pages, moisture is trapped.
    Collectors store their stamps in different places – metal or wooden cupboards, tin trunks, suitcases etc.  Regardless of where you keep the stamps, if you are in a risk area, unpack 50 teabags and spread them around to absorb moisture.  When they become soft and spongy, dry them in the oven until they are hard and brittle, and they can be used over and over to absorb moisture from the air and maintain low humidity.
    Always keep your albums standing upright.  If albums lie flat, the pressure (weight) will trap moisture and speed up the growth of the fungus.
    Try to use inside walls of the house or building for the storage of stamps.  Outer walls may get too hot and certain stamp storage materials (plastics) may deteriorate, resulting in damage to philatelic material.  Cellars, garages, attics, sheds, prefab buildings are places with no or little ventilation and should be avoided.
    What can be done when rust is found ?               
    Used stamps can be cleaned with a cleansing fluid made by Lindner.  It is very expensive and a bit difficult to work with, but it does clean used stamps very well.  It is stocked by Arcade Stamp Shop in Edenvale.
    There is nothing you can do to save mint stamps.  However, my advice is to use this cleaner on mint stamps as well.  It will remove the gum but it will kill the rust and the stamp will be bright and beautiful, but the stamp should be marked at the back in pencil to confirm its condition.  Do not try to sell such a gum-less stamp as gummed to a future buyer.
    Inexpensive covers can sometimes be cleaned with a weak solution of bleach (Jik) but I believe some experimenting is needed to get the solution right.  I have never done it, so I cannot advise on this.
    The above is a layman’s practical guide which I have gleaned over four decades as a stamp dealer.


Soak off self-adhesive stamps

Rob Sinclair-Black, George, asks

How does one soak off self-adhesive stamps, without damage to the item ?

Glen Carpendale replies

Despite experimenting I do not have a fool-proof way of soaking self-adhesive stamps, and my recommendation to collectors is to cut them off the letter close to the margin and mount them on piece, as is.

We do not know how self-stick stamps are going to react in 50 years’ time and this is the safest and easiest way.  Stamps from parcels and cardboard obviously present a problem, but my advice would still be the same even it does not look as neat.