Report of the Meeting,July 16 2016

Cyril Defriez, left, pointing out a detail of the original artist’s drawing for the Narmer Palette se-tenant pair issued in 1986 (SG 1620-21); and John Clarke, right, who kept his audience mystified and intrigued by looking more at the backs of his stamps than the front
Volunteer required! No arm-twisting involved, just a willing volunteer needed to take over the care and development of the Circle’s New Issues collection, which is growing too large for Cyril Defriez’s downsized new house. All those interested should please contact the Secretary. Stamps required! John Clarke’s engrossing and novel delving into the cancelled-backs could use some help. Will all members who have examples, and especially in blocks, please contact John with a view to furnishing scans or photos for further research.
PRESENT: Nine members attended; there were 11 apologies for absence.

It was a small but select group that met to view two most unusual displays at our mid-summer meeting. The Chairman welcomed those present and regretted to have to report the absence of our President, John Sears, because his wife Pat had had cardiac surgery only a couple of days before. The meeting wished her well for a speedy recovery. The Chairman then gave a brief report on ESC attendance at the New York World Stamp Show at the beginning of June, and congratulated several members on winning excellent medals, including: Greg Todd (ESC 585), Large Gold for his First Issue (8 frames); Hany Salam (ESC 580), Gold for his 19th century Maritime Mail routes (8 frames); Trent Ruebush (ESC 179), Gold for his Fourth Issue (5 frames); and Lucien Toutounji (ESC 249) Gold for his Lebanon Airmail, to 1950. Stephen Schumann (ESC 679) was in the Championship Class with his New Zealand postal stationery 1876-1940.

Members were advised that the forthcoming Spring Stampex 2017 would have a Middle East theme, based on the former Ottoman Empire, and that the organisers would welcome displays from ESC members. We have a minor problem with contact details, but as soon as we have anything concrete the Secretary will inform all members.

The Secretary dealt quickly with admin: apologising for a slip in his email naming the wrong speaker today, appealing for illustrated lists of lots for our big autumn auction to be sent to him by August 15 if possible; and announcing that nine Facebook members had taken advantage of the “temporary free membership” offer for 2016. All are active on the internet, and it will be interesting to see how many follow up with full membership in 2017. Officers reported that the next QC is in course of preparation with a varied series of new articles – but that there is always room for more; that finances were in order; and ditto the Library.

We then turned to the first of the day’s displays, the Circle’s New Issues collection, by Cyril Defriez (ESC 172). We have heard much about this collection, but never before seen it in real life, and members were overawed by the amount of effort and sheer hard work that Cyril has put into it since he was “volunteered” by Major ELG MacArthur to maintain the collection on its formation in the early Seventies. For 45 years he has carefully researched, arranged and mounted on more than 550 album pages all of Egypt’s new issues, their FDCs and information sheets, as they arrived so regularly from Cairo until the interruption of the Arab Spring uprisings. We are now in the course of trying to fill in gaps since 2011 – and as Cyril is now 88, he rightly feels that he has done more than his share in maintaining such an important asset (see panel above).

Unable to carry the full collection with him, Cyril showed over 100 pages, explaining that at first the mint stamps were hinged, as was the fashion of the day – but he switched to Hawid strips when a Year pack of blocks of four arrived from the Philatelic Bureau, making hinging impossible. Thank goodness. Over the years all stamps – definitives, commemoratives, air mails, officials, dues … everything… has arrived from Cairo, and the Circle is infinitely grateful to Egypt Post for continuing this important service. It even extends where necessary to full sheets – and we were fortunate to be sent the 2004 Bar Association sheet before the sitting president was literally cut out of it. Complete sheets are not easy to find.

From new issues we turned to old with the second speaker, John Clarke (ESC 497), who has been carrying out personal research into an area rarely explored – that of the “cancelled-back” stamps produced by the Egyptian Post Office on behalf of its royal patrons from 1926, when the Survey Department took over printing the nation’s stamps, until Nasser’s revolution.

Because the first sheet of each stamp was specially printed on stout, unwatermarked, ungummed paper and not perforated, John feels that they should be designated as proofs. On the reverse of each sheet was diagonally printed “Cancelled” in English. On later issues, starting in March 1947, the printing on the reverse was ordered changed to Arabic by King Farouk.

Little has been written about these sought-after items, which were first revealed at the Qubba Palace sale of the royal collections, beyond George Lee’s catalogue. But John has delved deeper, and by comparing control-numbers (indicating the year of printing) with the cancelled-back, has come up with some interesting conclusions.

First, he learns, the reverse of the card was printed before the face, so that a stock of preprinted card was available; and second that the preprinted cards must have been square, to allow for any size of printed sheet of stamps. Bear in mind that only 25 stamps (one full sheet) were printed for Fuad’s 58th birthday; and there were as many as 16 plates for the definitives and the postage dues.

George Lee (and today’s catalogues) state that the last printing of the 1937 Farouk 200m was made in 1946, so the reverse should only exist with “Cancelled” in English. But Peter Smith had a copy with Arabic “Cancelled” – and after an article in the QC, Peter Andrews also found that he had a copy. John has seen both copies and confirm that both are genuine. In view of this it seems possible that the 30m, 50m and 100m – as well as the 200m – could also exist with the Arabic “Cancelled”.

All in all, including another thought-provoking excursion into upright and sideways applications of the reverse cancellations, John left the whole meeting intrigued. Clearly there is much still to be discovered. As the Chairman said, summing up a riveting afternoon: “Congratulations to both speakers, who have put an enormous amount of time and effort into two fascinating displays.”

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