Classic Romania

Over the four decades we have been auctioning, we have continually sought out those collections which have been recognized with Grand Prix awards or collections of equivalent standard, and have handled more of them than any other auction firm, ever. If there is a reason for our success, it is that as philatelists first and auctioneers second, we share the enthusiasm of a successful Grand Prix collector. We empathise with the passion required to build an outstanding property, and we relish the excitement of having the rarest and the greatest pass through our hands.

Consider that the few thousand “Bulls” released over 150 years ago have become far fewer than 1’000 extant today, and to appreciate a few of their “biographies”: some end up in the British Museum, some are seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War Two and vanish, others belong to a King (one of two kings that collected the “Bulls”) and can be tracked to Mexico, then disappear. Still others are part of an auction which is literally stolen en route from the airport to the sales room (and presumably destroyed as unsaleable by the thieves). And some now rest among a thematic collection in Japan, or form part of a new Grand Prix collection.

More than most other issues, the existing “Bulls” invite such accounts, as nearly every extant example has been inventoried and often certified as to authenticity and condition, largely due to the efforts of the foremost expert in the area, Mr. Fritz Heimbüchler. A large percentage of the “Bulls” have not been seen since 1950 (a benchmark date as it was the last time King Carol II’s collection was still in his hands, as presented in the “London Philatelist”). Gifts over the years to museums from Stockholm to London to Berlin to Nürnberg to Bucharest have removed further stamps from the marketplace. So when an important collection reaches the market, cognoscenti of world classics delight in the opportunity to revisit with old friends of great lineage and beauty, and perhaps vie to become the proud temporary custodian of a world-class treasure.

Though the papers used for the first issue of Moldavia, both laid and wove, can have natural irregularities which might be mistaken for damage, many of the surviving stamps have suffered over several generations of hinging. Creases, tears, slight thins, wrinkles and repairs are the rule rather than the exception for the majority of these stamps encountered. We continue to follow closely the market for classic Romania, often with astonishment. If there is one thing we have learned, above all else, it is that nominal “catalogue values” are regrettably inadequate for high quality examples of all the early issues, and that the sparse offers of attractive, important and interesting classic stamps and covers bring high price levels world-wide – usually significant multiples of “catalogue value”! Top quality has no upper limit—it has become the benchmark of perfection.

Historical Background

Romania was the ancient home of the Dacians, a tribe who gave the Roman Empire no end of trouble until their defeat by Trajan in C.E. 106 (commemorated in the famous column still extant in Rome). Later in the first millennium, what is now Romania became part of the First Bulgarian Empire, and was part of the “Great Schism” that separated the Church of Byzantium from that of Rome, as the Romanian Wallachs had adopted the Slavonic (Greek Orthodox) liturgy.

In the 11th century, an influx of nomadic Cumans from north of the Black Sea added to the mix of tribes, which developed into some twenty united groups, some of which established small kingdoms under the name of Vlachs (i.e. Wallachs). The 13th century brought the Mongol invasion and domination of both Moldavia and Wallachia, the Romanian lands east and south of the Carpathian mountains. Transylvania, west of that divide, became part of the Kingdom of Hungary.

In 14th century Moldavia, Dragos from Maramures established a Romanian state, but his successor were defeated by Bogdan I, who established an independent Moldavia. The independence of both Wallachia and Moldavia was affirmed by the Patriarch at Constantinople. The princes of each held absolute power and were elected for life by assemblies of the nobility. Unlike in most of the rest of Europe, the serfs were never deprived of the right to own property or to resettle.

During that period, the Ottoman Turks expanded from Anatolia to the Balkans, crossing the Bosphorus in 1352 and defeating the Serbs at Kosovo Polje in 1389. As Wallachian Prince Mircea the Old had sent troops to fight alongside the Serbs, Sultan Bayezid marched on Wallachia and imprisoned Mircea until he pledged to pay tribute. An alliance with Hungary against the Turks ended with the defeat of the combined forces in 1396 at Nicopolis (in present-day Bulgaria).

Wallachia was invaded unsuccessfully, twice in the following years (1397 & 1400) but the Mongol attack under Timurlane in 1402 on the Sultan’s eastern flank sparked a civil war which allowed Mircea to expand his control across the Danube. Ottoman pressure eventually forced Mircea to pay tribute to the Sultan in order to keep the independence of his principality. After his death in 1418, both Wallachia and Moldavia declined, beset by Polish and Hungarian pressure, and by the defeat of the European alliance against the Turks at Varna in 1444.

The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 led to the cut-off of water-borne trade with Venice and Genoa at the Black Sea ports, though the principalities escaped direct Ottoman rule. Vlad III Dracula (“the Impaler”) ruled Wallachia three times between 1448 and 1476, and defied the Sultan by refusing to pay tribute. Vlad was finally driven into exile by Sultan Mehmed II, and Wallachia’s resistance to the Ottomans softened over time.

Moldavian Prince Stefan the Great (who ruled 1457-1504) repelled a Hungarian invasion at the Battle of Baia, then invaded Wallachia in 1471 and defeated the Turks when they reacted. At the Battle of Vaslui in 1475, Stefan prevailed and begged Pope Sixtus IV (unsuccessfully) to form a Christian alliance against the Ottomans, who captured key Black Sea ports in 1484, and burned the capital of Moldavia, Suceava, in 1485. Though Stefan again defeated the Turks in the later years, his further efforts were confined to ensuring the Turks would grant Moldavia an honorable suzerainty.

Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul)

Transylvania, after an horrific revolt by the peasantry against Hungarian rule, became a vassal of Turkey after the Hungarian defeats at the Battles of Mohacs (1526) and Buda (1541). With Hungary secure, the Ottomans asked for greater tribute from Moldavia and Wallachia. Wallachian Michael the Brave (“Mihai Viteazul”; ruled 1593-1601) had bribed his way to become prince, then turned on his Ottoman benefactors, capturing Transylvania in 1599 and Moldavia in 1600−the first time a single Romanian prince ruled over all Romanians.

Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II incited Transylvania’s nobles to revolt; at the same time, Poland overran Moldavia. Michael agreed to help Rudolf reclaim Transylvania from the Hungarian nobility; however, Rudolf’s General Basta had Michael killed. But the short-lived union of Romania’s principalities would prove to be an inspiration over further centuries of continued conflict and intrigue.

The Battle of Vienna, 1683

The crushing defeat of Ottoman Turkey’s last major onslaught against Europe at Vienna in 1683 allowed the Transylvanians to renounce Ottoman suzerainty for that of Austria, though ethnic Romanians continued to be subject to Germanisation and Magyarisation campaigns. Austria seized part of Wallachia (Oltenia) in 1718 and held it until 1739.

Bitter rivalries between the rulers of Moldavia (Vasile Lupu) and Wallachia (Matei Basarab) in the middle of the 17th century sapped the strength of both while the Porte was in decline; Russia was on the horizon as a potential ally. When Peter the Great signed a treaty of alliance with Moldavia in 1711, the Ottomans sent an army which crushed the combined Russian and Moldavian forces at Stanilesti in June of that year, and the peace treaty forced the Moldavians to repudiate the Russian alliance (among other harsh terms). An Ottoman garrison at Hotin became the nucleus of a sanjak, nearly completing the encirclement of Moldavia by Turkish-held border strips.

By mid-century, the Romanian principalities were ripe for the expansionist dreams of three empires: Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey. After the war between the last (1768-1774) and the partition of Poland (1772), Moldavia found parts of itself physically adjacent to both the Austrian and Russian empires. In 1787, Russia and Austria went to war against a weakened Turkey, with the Russian goal of making Moldavia a Russian province, to be called Dacia, under Catherine the Great’s favourite, the famous Potemkin.

But the final peace treaty, at Jassy in 1792, nonetheless stipulated that Moldavia would remain a Turkish vassal. As the 19th century opened, Napoleon encouraged the Czar to go to war with Turkey yet again, and Russian troops occupied both Moldavia and Wallachia under General Kutuzov, who was made governor-general of the principalities. By the Treaty of Bucharest (1812), Russia annexed eastern Moldavia (Bessarabia), which had long been a magnet for Russian immigration (and remained part of Russia until 1918).

Tudor Vladimirescu led a popular uprising in 1821, wanting independence for Moldavia and Wallachia and national emancipation in Transylvania; it was the first of several revolutionary movements in the century. After further conflict with Turkey, Russia announced a Protectorate over Moldavia and Wallachia in 1829 as part of the Treaty of Adrianople, but withdrew in 1834. Moldavia and Wallachia, inspired by the Romantic movements in Europe which included nationalism along ethnic lines, and the relatively loose Turkish reins, formed a Customs Union in 1846.

Failed revolutions throughout Romania in the “Year of Troubles,” 1848, led to Russian reoccupation. The defeat of Russia in the Crimean War led to a substantial Russian withdrawal in 1856. One of the consequences of the Treaty of Paris which ended the Crimean War was the increased autonomy, under nominal Ottoman Turkish suzerainty but safeguarded by the Great Powers (Britain and France), granted to the Romanian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia (Transylvania remained under Austro-Hungarian rule, Bessarabia under Russia).

Moldavia’s issue of its own postage stamps, long before Ottoman Turkey would do so, was one result, as was the freedom of the Principalities to elect their own Princes (which led to the eventual union of the two Principalities in 1859). In Moldavia (as in Uruguay in the same period), postal matters had long been handled by a contractor, the “Compania Diligentelor” (from 1852) which held the monopoly for both State and private mails at fixed rates, carried by their stagecoaches. In 1857, the contracts were finally withdrawn and Moldavia’s State-run post established.

Background of the 1858 “Bulls”

The stamps were printed by the “Atelia Timbrului” in Jassy, which had the Principality of Moldavia’s warrant to produce stationery, tax forms, and revenue stamped paper. The latter were imprinted on a small Austrian press which could hold only one die at a time. The dies for the circular revenue imprints had been engraved in Paris, and the engraver, Bessaignet, supplied eight blank dies along with the finished revenue dies in 1856.

These blanks were later used for the early issues of Moldavia, and were engraved by a local engraver, Dettmer, in June or July 1858. Each denomination (27, 54, 81 and 108 Parale) features the head of a native “auroch” (bison) which resembles a bull, in a circular frame with inscription in cyrillic letters above, and the value in a posthorn below. As they were hand-engraved, each aspect of every value differs from the others – lending detail to tests for authenticity. The original dies for all the issues of Moldavia now rest in the Romanian Postal Museum at Bucharest.

The original die was locked in the press, inked, and a sheet of paper was inserted. After each impression, the paper was moved a few centimeters and another impression was made, one at a time, to produce four rows of eight stamps, 32 to a sheet. Judging by a surviving sheet of the second issue, and the only known tete-beche of the first, the press was set to produce stamps along one row at a time, and the two inner rows were printed head to head, or “tete-beche,” then the paper guide was reset and the two outer rows were then completed, a total of 32 separate impressions per sheet. The die sometimes rotated in relation to the paper guides, so some of the multiples of early issues show a marked displacement from the perpendicular.

1858 Moldavia “Bulls” set of four values



The “Bulls” were printed on coloured horizontally laid papers for all but the 81 Parale, which was on bluish to bluish-grey wove paper. The paper fibers were laid down without alignment, so that tiny natural pinholes can occur. In 1857, new double-circle postmarks giving the town name (in German) plus “Moldova” were finally commissioned from J. Radnitzky in Vienna. These were used from 22 July to 1 November 1858 though up to now only 29 July through 31 October have been recorded to cancel the first issue of Moldavia.

Of the 14 different town cancels recorded by Kiriac Dragomir, only 12 are known on the “Bulls,” which are also known with the straight-line italic “Recepisse” cancel used for registered mail. In some post offices, the usual style (day over month) was sometimes reversed, or one numeral was inverted.

The total quantity of the Moldavia “Bulls” sold to the public was only 11’756 stamps of the first issue: 3’691 of the 27 Parale, 4’772 of the 54 Parale, 709 of the 81 Parale and 2’584 of the 108 Parale. Though a total of 24’064 had been delivered to the post offices, 12’308 were unsold and later officially destroyed.

Today, it is estimated based on the best census data (as given by Heimbüchler, and admittedly incomplete) that fewer than 800 in total of all four values now exist, with some 100 of these being on covers (the fortuitous result of two correspondences having survived).

These figures include examples which are locked away in museums world-wide: the Tapling Collection at the British Library, the German Postal Museum, the Bavarian Transport Museum, the Swedish Postal Museum, the new Romanian Postal Museum and so forth. For example, the greatest cover of all these issues, franked with the 27, 81 and two 108 Parale, is in the German Postal Museum.

Charts on the following pages indicate the quantities of each value that are known mint, used or on cover, in or out of private hands, and indicate how many of the items recorded have not been in the marketplace or expertised since 1950. A second chart tabulates the recorded cancels which can be found on each value.

Census of the Moldavia “Bulls”

Based on Heimbüchler, with additions from recent auctions; every unique occurence of a stamp is counted, i.e. pairs are counted as 2 stamps, three examples on one cover as 3 and two different stamps on piece are counted under each value. A few new additions or attributions from Heimbuchler’s Handbook III have NOT been included.


[Figures in brackets] reflect items not seen at auction or expertised by Heimbüchler since 1950; these include items from the King Carol II collection and the Witzleben collection, captured by the Russians at the close of World War II.

(Figures in parentheses) reflect examples thought to be in museum or institutions.

27 Parale 54 Parale
Mint/Unused: 8+[8]+(1)Used: 96+[26]+(6)Cover/Front: 16+[9]+(4)Total: 120+[43]+(11) = 174 Mint/Unused: 19+[2]+(3)Used: 171+[32]+(11)Cover/Front: 35+[9]+(1)Total: 225+[43]+(15) = 283
[also the unique tete-beche pair used, ex King Carol II]
81 Parale 108 Parale
Mint/Unused: 23+[8]+(5)Used: 19+[4]+(3)Cover: (1)Total: 42+[12]+(8) = 62 Mint/Unused: 14+[5]+(1)Used: 108+[28]+(9)Cover/Front: 15+[14]+(1)Total: 137+[47]+(11) = 195

TOTALS: Mint/Unused: 64+[23]+(10)

Used: 394+[90]+(29)

Cover/Front: 66+[32]+(7)

Totals: 5 2 4 + [ 1 4 5 ] + ( 4 5 ) = 7 1 4

Thus, it can be seen that about one third to one quarter of all recorded items have disappeared from the marketplace. The collection of King Carol II, reportedly used as collateral by him for a loan in Mexico and forfeited, has vanished and was rumored to have been stolen (though it is included in the counts above), and a group of items destined for auction in England in 1988 was stolen at a London airport and has never appeared again (also still included above). Another major collection, of von Witzleben, was taken to the Soviet Union in 1945 and is now in the Russian Postal Museum in St. Petersburg (likewise still included).


The 5 parale “type I” tied to piece

The great rarity of ALL the “Bulls” is the 5 parale “PORTO GAZETEI” without break in frame at foot (so-called “Type I”). On bluish paper, only 3 unused and 32 used have survived. On white to yellowish paper, 7 unused (one on wrapper, ex Witzleben) and 32 used of which 8 are on a single newspaper (see lot 20027) including four pairs, two of which are defective. (cf Heimbüchler I, pp. 144-8, 163).

Places of Use of the “Bulls”

Quantities extant by town or cancel on stamps, pieces, covers or fronts as recorded by Heimbüchler Handbook I.

VALUE: 27 Par. 54 Par. 81 Par. 108 Par. TOTALS
Bakeu 8+[4]+(2) 8+[3]+(1) (1) [1]+(2) 16+[8]+(6)
Berlad 1+[2] 10+[2]+(1) 0 8+(1) 19+[4]+(2)
Botuschani 1 (1) 0 1+[1] 2+[1]+(1)
Dorohoi 2+[1] 2+[1] 0 0 4+[2]
Fokschani 14+[4]+(1) 28+[6]+(5) 6+[1] 12+[3] 60+[14]+(6)
Foltitscheni 3 2+[1] 0 1+[1] 6+[2]
Galatz 13+[5] 32+[6] 8+[2]+(2) 14+[5]+(3) 67+[18]+(5)
[plus the King Carol II tete-beche of the 27 Parale]
Jassy 44+[13]+(4) 85+[15]+(2) 4 69+[19]+(3) 202+[47]+(9)
Manuscript 0 2 0 0 2
Piatra 1+[2] 7+[2] 1+(1) 5 14+[4]+(1)
“RECIPISSE” 0 0 [1] 1 1+[1]
Roman 5+[1]+(2) 8+[1] 0 7+[1] 20+[3]+(2)
Tekutsch 6+[1] 9+[1]+(2) 0 6 21+[2]+(2)
Waslui 3+(1) 2 0 0 5+(1)
TOTALS 101+[33]+(10) 195+[38]+(12) 19+[4]+(4) 124+[31]+(9) 539+[106]+(35)

The balance have cancels which cannot be identified for certain.

The 1858-61 Second Issue

A simplified tariff was introduced effective 1 November 1858: ordinary letters up to 8 grams cost 40 Parale, registered letters double that, and newspapers 5 Parale per printed sheet. The second issue was prepared in time, and printings continued through November 1861.

Some of each value were printed on thin bluish paper, usually with a lilac tinge: 7’008 of the 5 Parale, 28’032 of the 40 Parale and 8’000 of the 80 Parale. The balance of the issue was done on various thin white or yellowish papers, with 16’032 printed of the 5 Parale, 78’000 of the 40 Parale and 52’072 of the 80 Parale. Note these figures only include the so-called “Type I” of the 5 Parales, with unbroken bottom frame line.

The stamps were printed by the same establishment, using the same press, capable of printing only one stamp at a time, as the “Bulls.” The dies were hand engraved by the same engraver, Dettmer, and the few surviving sheets show the same arrangement as the first issue: four rows of eight impressions each, with the central horizontal rows tete-beche.

Complete sheet of the 40 parale, showing the lower two rows inverted

The inks, whether through poor mixing, erratic attention to the “recipe” or insufficient stirring duringprinting, varied in colour, and impressions made with poorly mixed, watery ink can be extremely poorand blotchy or distorted. The brownish-yellow gum used for the issues makes the paper seem yellowish, particularly on cover. Thus, specialists can collect shades, impression and paper varieties aplenty.

A late printing of the 5 Parale was made with the die broken under “A” of cyrillic “PAR” (the so-called “Type II”) probably in April 1862. Never issued, the entire printing (possibly some 200 sheets, or 6’400 stamps) was sold as remainders at a later date. These remain relatively common, in contrast to the 5 Parale “Type I” of the 1858-61 printings.

That stamp is the rarity of the issue, in fact the supreme rarity of the Moldavia “Bulls.” Of a total of 23’040 printed, only 3 unused and 32 used of the bluish paper are recorded, while on white or yellowish paper, 7 unused and 32 used are given by Heimbüchler. The “unused” include two affixed to newspapers but not cancelled, one of which (on bluish paper) is now located in the German Postal Museum (thus leaving only two in collectors’ hands). The famous newspaper franked with 8 of the 5 Parale on lilac-bluish paper comprises one quarter of the known examples of this stamp in used condition!

The famous “Large Journal” franked by eight of the 5 parale type I on blue paper – one quarter of the extant examplesThe famous “Large Journal” franked by eight of the 5 parale type I on blue paper – one quarter of the extant examplesThe famous “Large Journal” franked by eight of the 5 parale type I on blue paper – one quarter of the extant examples

The 40 Parale is found with or without a slightly damaged head of the cyrillic “R” in “PAR” (i.e. what appears as a roman “P”) below the posthorn; Heimbüchler speculates the damage occured to the die over its useful life, as early printings (to mid-1859) do not show the defect.

One printing of the 80 Parale, on 1 April 1861, comprised 8’000 stamps including a portion printed on lilac-bluish paper (the only use of it for this value). Of these, very few unused examples have survived; Heimbüchler states they are rarer than the 81 Parale of the first issue (36 recorded). Used examples are roughly as scarce as the 54 Parale (about 200 known).

The 80 Parale can be collected in two “types,” the first showing one or two parallel cracks in the right frameline above the second “R” of “SCRISOREI” (1858-60), the second showing a distortion at the left end of the bottom frameline with a small dent or break under “P” of “PORTO.” As these minor characteristics developed over time, different degrees of these “types” can be collected, more or less visible depending on the inking. The scarce 80 Parale on bluish paper occurs only in the second “type.”

This issue marked the change from a separate Moldavian post to a system encompassing the United Principalities (political union occured in 1859 but postal only in November 1861. A larger variety of cancels can be found on these issues: double-circle town cancels with “Moldova” (including a new design with ornaments), the same without “Moldova,” and a variety of fancy framed handstamps reading “FRANCO” and the town name, some struck in colours. These were introduced to discourage widespread fraud by postal clerks who had become adept at striking their double-circle handstamps on previously used stamps with the same cancels so skillfully that the fraud was difficult to detect during the life of this issue.

Important cover franked by both the 40 and the 80 parale values

The issue was demonetised before 5 May 1862 on the introduction of a new set of postal rates.




1862-64 “United Principalities” Issues

In 1859, the Electors of the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia both chose as their prince (“Domnitor” in Romanian) Alexandru Ioan Cuza, thus uniting the two principalities through a personal union. The nascent nucleus of modern Romania, which did not include either Transylvania (still under Habsburg rule) or Bessarabia (under Russia) was now ruled by a liberal nobleman (who had been jailed in Vienna for his actions when revolutionaries ruled in Wallachia in 1848).

Alexandru Ioan Cuza

Cuza, minister of war in 1858, had been a forceful speaker in the debates at the assembly at Jassy after the Crimean War, and had strongly advocated union. The formal union, despite Austro-Hungarian opposition, was recognised by the Ottoman Sultan at the end of 1861 and went into effect on 5 February 1862, as the “new” country of Romania, its capital at Bucharest.



Cuza arrives at Bucharest to take up his new position as “Domnitor” (Prince)

On May 1, 1862, a new uniform postal tariff for the whole of Romania was introduced, though adhesive postage stamps valid throughout the United Principalities became available only on June 26,1862.


Printed on the same presses, and with the same layout (4 rows of 8, the 2nd and 3rd arranged tetebeche) as the “Bulls” of Moldavia, though the machines had been sent from Jassy to Bucharest. The Postal Directorate had placed an order for 120’000 stamps on 17 April 1862, and by 26 June, the first printings were ready, comprising 20’000 of the 3 Parale for printed matter and newspapers; 40’000 of the 6 Parale for local letters; and 60’000 of the 30 Parale for letters from town to town.

Full sheet of the hand-printed 3 parales value

Although the cumbersome method of having each stamp printed individually was seen to be inefficient, and a new press was sought, several subsequent printings were made before a new press was available in August or September 1864 (used for the printings from plates of 40 stamps). Heimbüchler records that of the hand printed issues, some 580’000 of the 3 Parale and some 742’000 30 Parale were sold, with the total quantity of 6 Parale not known (Michel states some 242’000 were sold).

The hand-printed stamps came on three papers:  white wove (from greyish to yellowish, both thin and medium weight); bluish paper (both thin and thick); and thin, translucent laid paper. The finished stamps exhibit a wide range of shades, again owing to inattention to the ink “recipe” and to poor mixing while printing (as the components of the ink settled). Consequently, the range of colours and impressions is quite large, in contrast to the relatively limited range of the subsequent machine-printed stamps.

Despite the large numbers printed, used examples of the 3 & 6 Parale are far scarcer than mint (due to the rate of destruction of printed matter, and the limited numbers of local covers in surviving commercial correspondences). All of the printings on laid paper (3 Parale & 30 Parale) are scarce to rare, as are the bluish papers (Michel does not even list the 3 Parale thus!).

Multiple franking of the hand-printed 3 parale values

Cancellations in use for the second Moldavia issues were also used on these, as were new double-circle datestamps produced for Wallachian towns, with either six-pointed stars or fancy scrolls where the

Moldavian datestamps had “MOLDOVA.” Many post offices received only 5’000 or fewer stamps over the life of the issue; even figuring a generous 5% survival rate, this means that well-struck cancels from these towns are relatively rare (and worth pursuing). Heimbüchler points out (p. 141) that “Only the hand printed 30 Parale…on letters comes commonly to hand. The number of 3 or 6 Parale stamps on newspapers, printed matter, single or multicoloured franking or making up higher postages can today hardly exceed the number of letters of Moldavia’s first issue.”

We might add that this fact is not generally recognised, and covers other than with the 30 Parale are greatly undervalued because of this!



With the arrival of a new printing press in the summer of 1864, a complete sheet of stamps could finally be printed in one operation. From the original single dies, electro-galvanic cliches were created and individually nailed to a firm wooden backing at regular spacings, to produce a “plate” of 40 subjects, used to typograph sheets of each value.

The sheet layout was unusual: four horizontal rows of 8, two each oriented “foot out” along the tops and bottoms of the paper, plus a central row with strips of four cliches also oriented “foot out” toward the left and right edges of the paper, thus having one tetebeche pair at the center of the sheet.

Full sheet of 40 of the 3 parale; note the unusual upright/sideways/tete-beche arrangement

Printing was accomplished in August through September 1864, and this relatively short period limited the shades of the issue. For example, the 6 Parale is always a dull lilac-pink shade, quite unlike the printings from the single die. Generally, the electro-galvanic process and nailing of the cliches to the backing enable these stamps to be distinguishable in single examples, as often there are traces of the nail heads and other characteristics which enable clear distinction (Heimbüchler II provides detailed descriptions of each, pp. 80-88).

Though almost the entirety of the issue was printed on wove paper, both the 6 Parale and the 30 Parale are also known on thin horizontally laid paper, catalogued by Heimbüchler for the first time. The most important factor to keep in mind for the machine printed stamps is their short period of use: introduced on September 15, 1864, they ceased to be valid on December 31 of that year.

Though a very few 3 parale values exist with apparently genuine contemporary cancels, the 6 parale stamps were never issued to post offices (as stocks of the hand-printed were sufficient), while the 30 parale is known used and on covers (both single and multiple frankings).

The totals sold for the machine printed issues were 34’284 (of 52’000 printed) of the 3 parale and 88’402 (of 166’000 printed) of the 30 parale (Heimbüchler II, p. 79).

Forgeries of cancellations were applied to unused remainders sold in 1881, especially in the period between the World Wars, so expertisation is recommended, even for covers with these stamps. No 6 parale values can possibly exist in used condition as they were never sold during the currency of the issue (though generations of forgers have remedied that situation).

1864-66 Alexandru Cuza Issues

Although the Romanian Ministry of Finance had proposed having the new 1864-65 issues printed in Belgium or France, the Postal Directorate had favoured locally produced stamps, printed by lithography. One printing, by Wonnenberg and Co. of Bucharest, was never issued. The stamps, with the profile of Cuza facing right in a circular medallion, were later remaindered and remain common, though only some 40’400 sets can exist.

The actual issue, lithographed portraits in an oval medallion also facing right, were printed by Sander & Co. (as a subcontractor for Socec & Co.) of Bucharest on various wove and vertically laid papers. The first printing, consisting of all three values, was done in sheets of 192 stamps (16 rows of 12 stamps). A second printing of the 20 Parale value was done in sheets of 200 from a new stone with an additional top row of eight subjects and four blank spaces (at left), thus 17 rows in all. Spacing between these rows was roughly 1 mm less.

The 20 parale also shows two repeating master dies used in the composition of the stone, of equal value and occurrence: Die I has the medallion touching the line above “FRANCO” while Die II has a space there of about 0.3 mm (among other differences). The distinctions of paper colours and types are well covered by Mr. Heimbüchler’s handbook; suffice it to say that mint examples, except for the 20 Parale on bluish lilac paper, are relatively common while on cover, the two lower values are extremely scarce as either single or multiple frankings (Heimbüchler prices them at € 3’000 – 6’000).

Because of the conversion from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar at the end of 1864, the year 1865 started with January 13, though some, especially in rural areas, kept to the old dating, and some letters exist datelined with both dates (Heimbüchler II, pp. 148-9).

One of the most important covers for this issue

The Cuza issue was released in Bucharest on January 21, 1865 and somewhat later in other areas. Heimbüchler records that only 15 post offices were supplied with the two lower values during 1865. Prince Cuza instituted many reforms during his tenure: secularization of monastic assets (1863), agrarian reform including some land redistribution (1864), a criminal and civil code (1864) among others alienated his more influential subjects, and undercut his attempts to create an alliance of prosperous peasants and a strong liberal prince, in the style of Napoleon III.

With financial distress and a scandal involving his mistress, a so-called “Monstrous Coalition” of conservatives and radicals forced Cuza to abdicate when a group of military conspirators broke into the palace on February 22, 1866 and compelled him to depart. He spent the rest of his life in exile and died in 1873.

The stamps with Cuza’s portrait were withdrawn from use in Bucharest on May 31, and the rest of the country on August 1, 1866. No mixed issue frankings with either the previous or the subsequent issues can occur; in fact, covers are known from the period between this and the following issue which had the franking paid in cash.

This article is drawn from our auction catalogue for the “Tomasini” Romania collection, held in December 2006. Copyright 2006 by David Feldman SA. Our sincere thanks to Mr. Fritz Heimbuchler for his assistance in reviewing that auction and allowing us to quote from his Handbooks.