Large Hermes Heads...
I received two Greek letters in the post this morning… not recent ones, though, but additions purchased at auction for my postal history collection… or addiction as I sometimes feel it’s becoming!
These two plis or folded letters (envelopes were rarely used for postal communications until the beginning of the 19th century) bear the classic Greek “Large Hermes Head” stamps. I say classic because the design was first introduced in 1861 and was not replaced until 1886 by what is known as the “Small Hermes Head” design. Also, by using the word classic, I imply ‘long lasting beauty’… and in fact this design, by the French engraver Albert Barre, is sometimes referred to as the most beautiful stamp in the world.
And, from the author and collector of the ‘Big Blue’ philatelic website ('Big Blue' refers to the well-known American “Scott International Volume 1840-1940” stamp album) he says, ”The Large Hermes Heads hold for the classical era collector, in my opinion, a 'Terrible Beauty'. 'Beauty' because they are arguably the most perfectly designed classical stamps ever produced. 'Terrible' because they may be the most difficult issue to accurately classify for the non-specialist."
Undaunted, I have decided to collect a ‘sampling’ of these stamps… but for another reason. They match closely that other classic, the first French postage stamp of 1849 depicting Cérès which, incidentally, was designed by Albert Barre’s engraver father J.J. Barre. The two issues look so matched in design, especially the frame surrounding the medallion, and because I mildly specialise in collecting the French Cérès, I can’t help myself but start to collect the Greek twin stamp as well.
The close up above illustrates the similarities between these two classics. I used the medallion of the Cérès design on the left as the ‘avatar’ for my @postalhistory page… but reversed the design so it faced into the page for better eye-connection. This particular Cérès is very special, and I shall probably never afford one again on cover, because it is the seldom seen noir sur chamois foncé variety catalogued at around 600€ on cover compared to the basic noir sur jaune at 85€.
But although collecting ‘varieties’ can become obsessive, I don't intend to be sucked into that side of postal history due, primarily, to the limitations of my state pension (it has fallen in value after ‘Brexit’). I shall simply collect an example of each stamp used on cover… and then look for some differences in shades, which were numerous during the long life of these designs being printed.
Images / words © Ed Buziak 2016.
@postalhistory #postage #stamp #Ceres #France #Hermes #Greece