A few years ago I bought the Tuva 2000 Stamp Catalogue, a small but very colorful catalogue full of stamps of Tuva produced by Anders Backman of Sweden.
[W:Tuva], or Tyva or Tannu Tuva, is not a very well known area of the world, but amongst stamp collectors it enjoys quite some popularity. Why this is so, is not really obvious, but there are some reasons one can think of. The Tuva Republic originally only existed within the Soviet Union between 1921 and 1944. That doesn’t make it one of the most short-lived nations in the world, but it doesn’t make it exactly a longstanding nation either. The nice thing about it from a stamp collector’s point of perspective however is that a collection has a fairly limited scope: the numbering used in the Tuva 2000 Catalogue for the original series of stamps (the part which is usually collected) stops at 136. At first glance that makes it easy to collect these stamps, but they are somewhat pricy however!
Another reason why Tuvan stamps are quite sought after is there looks: they are quite marvelous. The Tuvan stamps came in all sorts of shapes, ranging from the conventional square stamps to triangles, trapezes and “quares on their sides” (in other words: printed at an angle). The stamps are colorful too: they come in a lot of different colors. Also important are the scenes pictured on these stamps: all stamps have a direct link with the Tuva territory and as such don’t feel so “fake” like the stamps of the Pacific Islands these days do, with their endless series of stamps for thematic collectors. No, these stamps were really of local interest. The depictions on the stamps are either wildlife and fauna, local sights, the daily life or Buddhist religious practices (like the Wheel of life in the first series). Okay, some of these stamps are nonsense, like the famous “camel racing a locomotive”, but then again, even such a stamp is not so out of place here.
But that is where the positive news ends: the stamps are pretty much speculative themselves. The first few series were “real”, in the sense that they could be used locally, but the rest of the stamps were printed to appeal to stamp collectors. That actually worked, as these stamps are still quite often collected, but they are what they are: a way of making money. In that way they are exactly like the Pacific (or Caribbean, or most African) stamps: a money making machine. The fuller story of this can easily be found on the internet (start with the Wikipedia article about the [W:Postage stamps and postal history of Tannu Tuva] for this).
The catalogue itself is beautifully printed, especially given the fact that it is a specialty product. It comes on a good quality paper and has nothing of the Xeroxed quality of many of these specialty catalogues. One can only hope that this catalogue would set a standard for others to follow, but unfortunately (for various reasons) this has not always been the case. Or actually, only seldom will one find this type of quality! Page after page of full color depictions of the stamps, with a numbering system attached to it and some idea of valuating the stamps. Of course, these prices are at best an indication.
The full name of the catalogue is “Tuva 2000 Stamp Catalogue”, but it has a subtitle of “Catalogue of Tuva Stamps 1926-1944, 1994-1995” and that already gives some idea of one actually finds in the catalogue. The catalogue consists of several parts and besides some introductory text it has two parts: the first part is the part that most stamp collectors will look for, the original series of stamps and for most part the only “real” Tuvan stamps, even though a large part of these original stamps are speculative issues.
The second part consists of the stamps printed in 1994-1995 and they are, I think, purely speculative. Of course, they do get some seal of approval and are not like the real speculative stamps of many other parts of the former Soviet Union, which have stamps with no local backing at all, purely there to make money, but these last series of Tuvan stamps are pretty much of the same (or less!) standing as a large part of the original series.
What the catalogue lacks in is background information: with just a simple search on the internet one can find a lot of information about the speculative nature of both part of the first series and whole of the second series, but even though the second series are being given some treatment in this respect (and a too positive one at that!) there is no information at all about the first series and their background. So, not even the name of Bela Sekula is being mentioned. Of course, perhaps we should see this catalogue in good fun, as in: it is a nice catalogue made for people who like to collect “weird” stamps of “weird” areas of the world. But one or two pages of text would have been much appreciated.
At only 16 pages plus cover this is not exactly a large book, although the pages in the book are larger than A5, but it is quite beautiful and when it comes to layout, paper quality, use of color and such things this is a good catalogue. I guess mr. Backman invested his own money in it and so took a risk, I hope he got his money back. The book is not expensive, at $7.99 this is a bargain! As far as I know it is still available at http://www.silverdalen.se/stamps/books/tuva2000/tuva2000.htm.
If you have 8 dollars to spare, get it! I enjoyed reading this booklet and still look at it once in a while. And technically this catalogue can’t get out of date…
And here the details of this book:
Publisher: Scientific Consulting Services (January 1, 1998)
See this link for the Amazon listing.