That Gurahoncz cancel..

or, a dissertation on the differing types of the 5kr value of the 1867 issue.

By Andy Taylor

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Question: From a Dorotheum auction came a beautiful example of the 5 kr. red value on piece with a full clear 'Gurahoncz' circular postmark on the fine whiskers printing. A Ferchenbauer certificate accompanied this item, and states 'Österreich 1867 (Ryan No. 574/400)'. My question is: 'How can this item be 1867 when the fine whiskers printing was not issued until 1874?

This question raises many interesting matters! I have tried to consult enough experts, and collect enough information, to provide a comprehensive answer, without writing a treatise on the entire history of the Austro-Hungarian Postal System! It took a lot longer than I expectedů


The first and second issues of Hungary

The First Issue of Hungary is the coarse printed issue of 1867, printed in Vienna but issued exclusively in and for Hungary. These stamps were later issued in Austria, as the 1863/64 issue ran out. They were invalidated in Hungary from 31st July 1871. Stamps with the exclusively Hungarian design of Franz Josef heads (with St. Stephen's crown and Hungarian coat of arms) were issued in Hungary officially on the 1st May 1871 but actual sales started a little later, as the 1867 stamps were used up. Earliest recorded dates are between 7th May and 23rd June (for different values of the Litho printings) and betwen 2nd July and 29th August for the line engraved stamps.

How could an Austrian stamp acquire a Hungarian cancellation?

Coarse vs fine whiskers

The 'coarse vs fine' whiskers are a consequence of the printing arrangements, and are not a design feature. The stamps were printed from 'plates comprising 100 individual cliches held within a frame. The plate was placed face-up on the bed of the press; above it were two rollers, a smaller one for the ink and a larger one for the paper. As the plate was traversed forwards and backwards, both rollers rotated. The plate was inked by the smaller roller, the skill of the printer ensuring that neither too much nor too little ink was applied. Meanwhile the paper was gripped to the larger roller (in English called the Impression Cylinder), which as it rotated pressed it on to the just-inked plate, causing the image to be printed. This roller was steel covered by a 'make-ready' to allow the raised parts of the plate to press into the paper without creating indentations in the roller. Apart from the recognised subtypes of the 5kr, the differences are reputedly due to the use of felt or soft card as a make-ready under the stamp paper for the 'coarse' prints, and a strong paper make-ready under the 'fine' or 'hard' prints, with variations caused by changes in the stamp paper itself, the make-ready becoming hard with repeated use or absorption of ink, etc etc. It is not true that all stamps printed before 1874 are coarse-whiskered and all on or after that date fine-whiskered.

Gary Ryan has pointed out that illustrations of the 'coarse' and 'fine' prints (such as that given in Michel or Gibbons) are an oversimplification and considerable experience is sometimes required to differentiate between the two. Study of the paper or the perforations can assist. However, a more reliable guide for the 5kr value is available, by examination of detailed design variations: see below. The first type II appeared in 1872, hence no type II stamps were sold in Hungary.

The Ferchenbauer Certificate's Number

The certificate refers to Ryan No. 574/400. However, there are (at least) three Ryan catalogues, and you have to know which issue of which stamp you are looking at in order to ensure you use the correct one! In particular, you have to know that Gary Ryan has proved to the satisfaction of most philatelists that the 'First Issue of Hungary' is the coarse printed issue of 1867, printed in Vienna but issued exclusively in and for Hungary. The number 574 for the GURAHONCZ cds comes from the 'First Issue of Hungary' book, where it is given 400 points for 1868, 1869, 1870 & 1871 dates, 500 for 1867 dates. The cancel in question is recorded between 1866 and 1887, after which it was replaced by various other cancels with the same name; the place was renamed as Honcztő in 1911 and now rejoices in the name Gurahonţ in Romania.

Traditional Classification of Austrian Stamps

The 'traditional classification' of Austrian Stamp issues may lack logic, in that it separates issues that would be better grouped, groups issues better separated, and omits some entirely! But it is too well established to amend. According to Müller it is:

11850Arms in rectangle
21858Kaiser facing left, embossed in a square
31860Kaiser facing right, in an oval
41863Arms in Oval, perf 14
51863/64Arms in Oval, perf 9½
61867Kaiser facing right, in a square (coarse or fine)
71883Double Eagle
81890Kaiser facing left, in a square (Kreuzer); also 1891 octagons
91899Kaiser facing left, in a square: Heller (and also the 1901, 1904, 1905 & 1906/7 issues)
101908Jubilee issue

So 'the 1867 issue' is a term used to cover all issues of the Kaiser facing right, in a square design, even a stamp printed in 1882!

The types and subtypes of the 5Kr value of the 1867 issue

The 5kr stamp, of which 1,260,000,000 were printed as it was the inland letter rate, is the only value of this issue which occurs in two different types. The stamps printed from 1872 originate from a new master die, the original having either rusted or worn out (sources differ!). Each type comes in two (some say more) subtypes, identification of which can assist in deciding when, and in which country, a specimen might have been issued or cancelled.

In Austria 5/14, John F Giblin wrote about the 1867 issue, describing two subtypes of each of types I & II. There were two dies, from each of which two plates were made. In addition, he described the die and cliche preparation process, and tabulated the impression types and paper varieties - see below. He outlined the numerous colour variations, and the even more numerous perforation ones!

In articles in Die Briefmarke, translated into English by J .F. Giblin and printed in Austria 86/9, 87/44 and 88/39, Friedrich Schaffer identifies and describes seven identifiable subtypes. As the series of articles suddenly ceased, he may well have found more. He expounded on the printing history, the papers used, the flaws etc. However, his ideas do not seem to have been widely adopted. He does observe that the traditional classification of 'coarse' and 'fine' would be more useful and meaningful if replaced by 'soft' and 'hard' printing, caused by the use of felt and paper underlay respectively. He adds that, while 'hard' printing began at the end of 1874, coarse-looking stamps can be found from printings made up to 1883!

J .F. Giblin also translated a German translation of a Hungarian work (Austria 66/41, 67/38, 68/36, 70/30). It states that all the 5Kr stamps used in Hungary are Type I (defined as below) and identifies three subtypes thereof - but not the same three as Schaffer! Mixed pairs of subtypes are known. Numerous defects can be traced to imperfections in the felt underlay; as the issue was prepared and printed in a hurry there was no time to evolve a better method (ie the 'hard printing' introduced later).

Identification of the types according to Ferchenbauer.

In the 5th edition of his Handbook, Dr U Ferchenbauer divides the 5kr into two types, each with two subtypes. The distinguishing features occur in the figure 5 itself, and in the top and bottom corners of the ornament at the bottom left hand corner of the stamp.

In Ferchenbauer's Type I the 5 has a bent top; the 5kr. is offset to the right of centre; and the small ornamental piece at the bottom left does not extend into the curl above it. This is clearer in the enlarged sketch above. Types Ia and Ib are separable by the shape of the ear:

In Type Ia the ear appears correctly. In Type Ib the ear has an extra line, making the lobe appear separate.

In Ferchenbauer Type II the 5 has a flat top; the 5kr. is centred; and the small ornamental piece at the bottom left does extend into the curl above it. This is clearer in the enlarged sketch below:

Types IIa and IIb are separable by the shape of the little piece at the top of the bottom left ornament:

In type IIa it is separate from the main ornament. In type IIb it is joined to the main ornament.

Other catalogues in common use more or less follow the same pattern:


(which for example means that a stamp with the features of Ferchenbauer Type IIa would be classed by Michel as a IIa, by ANK as a Iy, and by SG as a B) and they record the usage of the types thus:

'Coarse Printing'37 I Type Ia
37 I Type Ib
37 I Type IIa
37 I Type Ia
37 I Type Ib
37 I Type IIa
37 I Type Ix
37 I Type Iy
AH52 Type A
AH53 Type B
'Fine Printing'"37 II Type IIa
37 II Type IIb
37 II Type IIa
37 II Type IIb
37 II61 Type B
62 Type C

Note that a (Ferchenbauer) Type II can be coarse, but a Type I cannot be fine whatever its whiskers look like!

The printing impressions

(J F Giblin's explanation.) It is usual to divide these impressions merely into 'coarse' and fine', but in fact they may be divided again into four distinct subdivisions. The impression roller was originally covered with a felt layer, but this was found to use too much ink, and in Autumn 1874 it was replaced by a harder roller thought to be made of either rubber or of a decoupage of paper - more probably the latter. The impressions may thus be divided as in the table.

The table further gives the various changes of paper which were introduced as the printings were required. These changes of paper were not abrupt, but were introduced as needed. The first two types of paper had a sheet watermark BRIEF-MARKEN horizontally in the middle over two counter-sheets of 100 stamps each. Paper C of 1883 was similarly watermarked, but with letters which although still 23-24mm high, were now 478mm instead of 428mm long.

ImpressionRoller-layerF's TypesDatesPaper
CoarseFeltIa (1867)
Ib (1870)
IIa (1872)
IntermediateFelt: slowly hardeningIIa1874-75B
Very FinePaper: slowly hardeningIIb1883-84C

Types of Printing Paper:

Perforation varieties (according to Ferchenbauer

The 'coarse printing' is always Sheet Perf 9½, except that type IIa also comes in 10½. 'Fine printing' (ie later type IIa and all type IIb) began as 9½, but the enormous demand forced the use from 1877 of line perf machines normally used for Fiscal stamps. The following line perfs are recorded:


Michel adds that sheet perf 9 was ±¾; line 9 was 8½-9¾; line 10½ was 10-11; and line 12 was 11½-12½.

Further reading

More information can be found in Müller's Specialised Catalogue of Austria 1850-1918, 5th edition published in 1952, APS Library item 21. See also Müller (APS Library 68 & 76); Ferchenbauer (APS Library 41); Puschmann (APS Library 240) etc etc. Perhaps the most comprehensive treatment is that by Waschutt (APS Library 52) which covers developments year by year for each value in great detail. All are in German. See also Bélyegkőnyv... by Gabor Visnyovszki (in Hungarian, German & English: reviewed in Austria 124 p52; APS library 306).

Gary Ryan's works are in English, although you have to know which issue of which stamp you are looking at in order to ensure you use the correct one!

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