June 29, 2008 - I bought the cover below recently in an eBay auction, because I collect souvenirs of WIPA 1933. It has a copy of one of the History of Mail Transport poster stamps on the back, nicely tied by two of the postmarks.

(Click on image for hi-res version)

My first reaction when I saw it was that there had to be an error in the dates of the handstamps, since all are for January, 1932, yet the 1933 WIPA (Vienna International Philatelic Exhibition) did not take place until June, 1933. Surely those labels were not available that long before the show! But how could it be a mistake in the dates? One handstamp with the wrong date, sure (HERE is an example of that), but ten!? No way.

So I emailed my friend Roger Riga, cinderella dealer (RIGASTAMPS), and asked his opinion.

Roger replied:

I have my suspicions that the cover is part fake and part real, the real part being the German cover mailed to New York. The fake part being the forwarding to Washington, DC. Of course the extremely early use of the WIPA label steers me in that direction. The second thing is all the rubber stamped forwarding address (Why would the P.O. in NY have a large rubber stamp for a hotel in Washington, DC?) Also all of the forwarding cancels etc are in the same P.O. purple ink. and all clearly readable. Just luck ?

I've kown people to apply labels and fake transit markings to "dress up" an otherwise uninspiring cover. I don't pretend to be enough of an expert on postal history to say if there is anything else to suspect but the whole thing raises questions to me.

I emailed the eBay seller, asking what he knew about the cover's provenance, and questioning the date for the WIPA labls. He replied:

It is curious isn't it! The label is very definitely tied with JAN 14 1932 postmark so the label must have been available at that time. It came with a genuine estate I picked up in the US so I doubt if there is anything dubious about it.

Roger Riga's repsonse to that was:

The problem with the owner's comment regarding the cancel is that the canceling devices themselves are available in the marketplace. I have one myself that I picked up at a local bourse for $5.00. That doesn't mean it's a fake, just that it could be.

I emailed Bill Weinberger, another cinderella expert, and he replied as follows:

Paul Kohl was a stamp dealer, and wrote an article on early Romania. Thus, the cover does have some philatelic connection, but is certainly commercial.

In those early years, event labels (not just philatelic) were issued for publicity purposes and it is not unusual to see them on letters or entires several months before the show date. However a year and a half, I admit,has to be quite unusual and perhaps unique as it is so early.

Today most stamp show labels are given or sold at the show as souvenirs rather than publicity.

I tried emailing a couple of other contacts who share my interest in the 1933 WIPA, but the only one who responded was Peter Sanders of The Netherlands. He replied:

It surely is an early use, because www.kosel.com says 'Erscheinungstermin 1. August 1932' (Issue date August 1, 1932). That doesn't fit. But the label is from the first printing, according to the color, and that printing might have been earlier? The stamps were issued to get money to organize the show in June/July 1933. The letter looks genuine to me. ...
The fee is as follows:
30 Pfg Einschreiben (Registration)
30 Pfg Ruckschein (return receipt)
25 Pfg Auslandsbrief bis 20g (foreign mail)
so 85 Pfg is correct!

Michel 1996 says it is worth 15 DM, but the interest in well-franked letters makes it worth buying, especially in combination with the label (the little damage would not bother me).

That was enough to convince me I should bid on the cover, so I did, and won it for a price I considered reasonable ($19.49, including postage).

BUT I'm still curious when the HoMT labels were issued.

I emailed kosel.com, quoted above as giving an issue date for the labels of August 1, 1932. Gabriele Sander replied that the person who added that information to their web page is no longer with the company!

I tried posting an inquiry on Richard Frajola's message board but got no response there (I didn't really expect to, it's outside the subject matter of that forum, but I figured it couldn't hurt.)

July 21, 2008 - At Roger Riga's suggestion, I wrote to Herb Trenchard, the dean of U.S. philatelic history who apparently shares my obsession with the WIPA 1933. I was told by other contacts that Herb has no email, so I Googled his name and found his ordinary mail address on the American Philatelic Society web site. I fired off a letter.

Herb replied promptly as follows:

The WIPA 1933 History of Mail Transport labels were available to the public in November 1931 (and perhaps earlier). That was the date of the first WIPA 1933 Prospectus, where they are mentioned in the text. The Austrian philatelic journal Die Postmarke (which contains the journal Die Sammlerfreund) has an ad for them in its January 1932 issue ( click here). So there is no question that Paul Kohl could have had them in January 1932 to use on your cover.

Your cover is addressed to "The Heirs of the late Mr Ernest R Ackerman" who had been a Congressman from New Jersey, and during his years in Congress lived at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. Ackerman was an active philatelist known world-wide for his many gold-medal winning collections at international philatelic exhibitions. You can read my biography of him on the APS web site - http://www.stamps.org/Almanac/alm_halloffame_2000-04.htm.

WIPA 1933 was one of the greatest of all pre-WWII exhibitions. Edwin Mueller was the man behind it. [He was also the publisher of Die Postmarke.] Later, after his escape from Austria, he ran Mercury Stamp Co., and I looked forward to visiting him and hearing him tell about his Vienna days!

Mystery solved! My sincere thanks to Herb for resolving the issue so decisively and informatively.

July 23, 2008 - Bill Weinberger, after reading all of this, added the following:

All now ties in but there is a strange thing about the cover that I don't think anyone noticed before: It is addressed to Plainfield NY, but Ackerman's home town is Plainfield NJ! Obviously misadressed.
But it got to NJ without delay because the NY post office knew the correct state somehow.
Note the dates on back-
1) NY arrival Jan 13
2) Plainfield NEW JERSEY arrival Jan 14
3) Plainfield must have made a special stamp for forwarding since there had to be lots of mail.
4) Washington arrival Jan 15
5) Either the Heirs picked up mail at the hotel or maintained his apartment there.

How many days do you think it would take for the letter to be delivered under the same circumstances today!?

2/19/16 - Peter Ebner of St. Aegyd, Austria wrote to add the following:

My guess would be that the letter was delivered to somebody taking care of the estate like an attorney. Plausibly he would have rubber stamps to redirect all the incoming mail.

Thanks, Peter, I agree.

Number of visitors to this page since 06/29/2008:

All Letter images Copyright © 1997, 2000, SF chapter of AIGA
All text Copyright © 2008, William M. Senkus

Send feedback to:

Created -- 06/29/2008
Revised -- 02/20/2016