| Glen Ellyn Philatelic Club
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
I collect Latvian stamps because I am of Latvian heritage. I was born in Germany in 1947. My parents were refugees from the Baltic country of Latvia that had been overrun by the Soviet Union during WW II. My parents brought me to the US when I was two years old. I speak Latvian but I'm told that I have an American accents. I read Latvian but I move my lips when I do. I've never written anything in Latvian. You might say that I am semi-literate in Latvian. I've never been to Latvia but, in connection with my other philatelic interest, ice hockey, I plan on going to Latvia in 2021: the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) tournament will be co-hosted by Minsk, Belarus and Riga, Latvia. Anyway, I collect Latvian stamps so that I can learn a little bit more about the country.
One of the first stamps that I acquired was Latvia, Scott #1. Let's get all of the relevant philatelic facts out of the way.
But the most interesting thing about these stamps was that they were printed on the reverse side of German, World War I, military maps.
The sheets were printed in 12 horizontal rows of 19 stamps for a total of 228 stamps per sheet. There were 2 lithographic stones used. The stones can identified by the use of a Roman numeral, I or II, in the lower border underneath the 9th column from the left. The characters are laid on their sides. The margins of the maps are wide so there are stamps that do not have any military markings on their back. If you are into fly-speck philately Latvia #1 is a great stamp to study and collect. Experts have identified 14 transfer flaws and 74 plate flaws.In addition to printer flaws a number of forgeries have been found. To add even more differentiation to the stamps, the stamps were not just printed on the back of 1 map, there were 79 different maps that were used.
Click on the image to get a closer look
Topographic maps were published by the Prussian military at the turn of the 20th century at a scale=1:100,000). The set was based on Russian and Austrian maps and was not an original survey. A full set of the maps was about 470 sheets but according to the book "Lettland: Handbuch Philatelie und Postgeschiechte - Die Briefmarken in Rubel-Währung 1918 - 1922"* the Latvian stamps were only printed on 79 of them. A number of them can be seen on the Lithuanian Maps site. I got in touch with the owner of that site and in the upper right corner of the page you can see that he put a link to my page on his site. The maps were identified by a letter-number combination with a city name. The map I have is U16 Antonopol and you can see where it is located on the right hand side of the map.
If you are familiar with the Penny Black stamp you know that many collectors try to collect a stamp from every position on the printing plates of 240 stamps. There were 11 plates, plate 1 was used so much that it had to be overhauled and therefore gave rise to plates 1a and 1b. In any case that would mean that a complete plating of the Penny Black would be 12 X 240 = 2880 different stamps. In the case of Latvia #1 a complete plating would consist of 79 X 228 = 18,012 stamps.
*The book is in German and English. The English title is "Latvia: Handbook of Philately and Postal History - The Stamps, Ruble Perios 1918 - 1922" The German title just seemed to give the attribution more gravitas. (smile)