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TRAINS ON ARGENTINE REVENUES

More from the Dexter Wright Collection
by Bill Senkus

(The following article is based on one I published originally in the November-December, 2003 issue of The Dispatcher,
the journal of the Casey Jones Rail Road Unit of the ATA.)

If the album pages above don't look familiar, you're not paying attention. You must have seen the set of pages I created about Dexter Wright's collection of Railroads on Stamps & Covers of Austria. No? GO HERE.

Dexter's collection included most of the rail stamps of the world through the early 90's, but pages like those above through only the B countries.

Al Peterson (aka The Rail Philatelist) who purchased the collection from Dexter's heirs in late 2001, had been telling me he had more "good stuff" from it to show me, but it took him until NTSS-2003 in Denver to decide he was ready to part with the Argentina album. It was worth the wait for these pages alone, as I had never seen these revenues before, and while my expert source tells me most are not scarce, they must not show up in the US that often. Once I saw them, I had to know more, so I consulted an expert in the field, and with his help learned the full story about these beautiful stamps.

(12/10/2004 - I just tried an eBay search, and found about 20 lots of Argentine revenues - one of them was ten of these train issues. None of the rest had any.)


Here is what I now know about trains on Argentine revenue stamps:


Revenues of Argentina with train images

First what is a Revenue stamp? Simply put, a Revenue stamp proves payment of a fee or tax other than postage. The stamp on a package of cigarettes is a Revenue. There used to be a lot of US Revenues - on mattress tags, on playing cards, on beer and wine - but they aren't used much here any more. Argentina is a different story.

Argentina is a republic in southeastern South America, with a surface area of 2.8 million sq. km (the US = 9.8 million sq. km) and a 2003 population of about 38 million (vs. 292 million in the US). The country issued its first postage stamp in 1858, and while its total output of postage stamps has been relatively modest, the same cannot be said for its output of Revenues - there have been well over 100,000 to date, including many local and regional issues, far more than any other country (except perhaps Italy, another profligate issuer of revenues - Here is a link to the announcement of a new catalogue of Italian revenue stamps, with nearly 650 pages! - http://www.vaccari.it/_2_editoria/miv/1690E.htm). Argentina continues to issue them today. Independent from Spain in 1816, Argentina was torn by regional separatism through much of the 19th century, and this may help to account for the large number of provincial and local issues - they got into the habit, and couldn't break it.

Until recently, the only catalog of Argentine Revenues was the Argentina section of a world-wide revenue stamp catalog last published by A. Forbin, Paris (in French) in 1915, and reprinted in the 1980's. It is available occasionally from philatelic literature dealers, but if you are on the WWW, you can view it online (as scanned images) at http://www.revenue-collector.com/forbin.shtml.

Of the 788 pages of listings in Forbin, 146 of them are for Argentina - that's 18% of the total!

Clive Akerman, a stamp collector and philatelic author in the UK, and arguably the world authority on Argentine Revenues, has published five volumes (with several still to come) of a new catalog on the subject, extending that part of Forbin's work up to the 1970's. However, another collector has already extended those listings by several hundred items, demonstrating that the challenge is formidable, since the stamps were issued with little control, and have never had a large audience among collectors, so they were not saved.


Revenue stamp for sacks of flour, Santa Fe Province

There are fifteen or twenty basic Argentine Revenue designs with a train.

The province of Santa Fe issued the greatest volume of train revenues, in five sets, each with many values, plus the fabulous stamp above, for sacks of flour. (Click on the image to view a high-res version, the train is tiny, traveling across the horizon above the cows' heads.) Many of these are relatively common in used condition today, since remainders of some were canceled and sold to dealers and collectors. None has been seen mint by our sources, so they may not exist in that form. Two of the 1896 stamps have been seen as stamped paper (see images below), opening a whole new area for speculation and investigation. (The Province of Santa Fe is northwest of Buenos Aires, west of the Parana River.)

The city of Bahia Blanca issued 5 small sets from 1903 through 1911, and a longer set in 1913. Only the 1913 issue is common today. (Bahia Blanca is a coastal city of about 270,000, in SE Argentina, at the head of Bahia Blanca Bay, about 400 miles SW of Buenos Aires.)

The city of Casilda (current population about 30,000) issued seven sets, 1908 thru 1914, each set with five values, all with the same basic design, and a few strays 1915-1917. Some of these are relatively common today. (Casilda is about 210 Miles NW of Buenos Aires, and 34 miles W of Rosario.)

Six or eight other municipalities issued single stamps or small sets with trains, mostly in the early part of the 20th century. Most of them are now scarce.

Finally, in the late 60's and early 70's there was a series of federal designs with trains, with serial numbers and letters.


CIA World Factbook

In the context of revenues as a whole, most Argentine revenues are neither scarce nor expensive. A collector seeking one example of each design with a train could probably buy most of the items in Dexter's collection for prices in the $1 to $5 range. There are scarcer items that might fetch much higher prices, though, so a complete collection of all the items with trains would require a sizeable outlay of time and money; indeed it might not be attainable. I know of no US dealer who maintains a stock in the area, and suspect one would have to find sources in Argentina, though even there these are not easy to find. As with many things that are not popular with collectors, a low price does not necessarily mean an abundant supply - it just means lack of competition. A patient watch on eBay might yield some finds.

Hoping that others will find these stamps interesting too, I decided to compile a catalogue of the ones that show trains. Dexter's collection includes about half of the 1896 Santa Fe issues, the entire 1913 Bahia Blanca set, and most of the more common items from Casilda. I scanned representative items from those. My friend The Expert supplied scans of the ones I was missing. The result is on the next page -

Catalogue of Argentine Revenues.

If any reader can add to that listing, please e-mail the author - .


Many thanks to Bill Weinberger, without whose invaluable assistance this article and catalog would not have been possible.


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All text Copyright © 2004, William M. Senkus

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Revised -- 01/05/2005