It’s been almost ten years since I wrote my article on the Coro a La Vela y Viceversa labels. It’s time to update it.
One of the things that always remained pending for me, and which has been demanded on multiple occasions, is not having created an English version of that article.
For example, the page ZNÁMKOVÉ ZEMĚ (“Country Stamps” in Czech) paraphrased many parts of the original article and reused images from it. It would have been easier if the original had been available in another language.
Similarly, several collectors of the Netherlands Antilles stamps and postal history, have expressed interest in the above article, but are limited in their use, due to the language in which it was written.
This time I hope not to make the same mistake as there is definitely interest in these pieces beyond our lands.
So let’s start with the new installment on these intriguing pieces.
I’ll start the article by saying that, after ten years, I haven’t changed my mind. I still consider that there are two groups of pieces that are clearly and easily differentiated, in which one of the groups shows pieces that have been reported since the 1880s and that can be found today on genuinely circulated covers… and another group of labels, with different papers, different inks, different fonts… and that we have yet to see a genuinely circulated cover.
Not to mention that these pieces only began to be shown in the Venezuelan market in the early 20th century, almost 20 years after the other group.
Now… why to write a second article, if there’s no change of heart?
That’s a very good question, my fellow reader! Basically for two reasons.
The first is because in this last decade I have been able to locate some new data that not only support my thesis, but also enrich the study and, therefore, are worth exposing.
The second is because, unfortunately, fake pieces are still being sold, even with certificates, for incredible prices. It should be noted that some of these certificates are issued with good intentions and genuinely express the opinion of the signatory expert . What would be missing in these cases would therefore be a greater disclosure of my study.
As a lover of philately in general, and of Venezuela’s in particular, and due to my obstinate passion for both identifying every non-genuine piece and making it known to the public, I consider it my duty to call attention to it once again.
Due to the complexity of this topic, and in order not to write such a long article, I decided to divide it into several installments. This is the first one.
19th Century References
The oldest reference I could find about these pieces is in the magazine number 80 of L’Ami des Timbres, dated August 1880. They don’t say anything particularly interesting, but they do show a picture of a piece, in which the word CORRCO is seen instead of CORREO. The editor originally thought that it belonged to Colombia and was informed by a person from that country that both the names of Coro and La Vela were unknown in his country and that they belonged to Chile.
In the following magazine, issue number 81 of September 1880, a reader throws light on the piece which he places, correctly, in Venezuela:
And in issue number 83, of November 1880, they include the piece in the worldwide catalogue that the magazine had been printing:
Finally, in the magazine number 115 of July 1883, they point out a new type of these pieces: The “VALE 1 REAL”:
Apparently, L’Ami des Timbres was no longer printed after the end of 1883. At the end of the century and the beginning of the next, it seems that they tried to relive, without much success, their glory years. No new references were found in this magazine.
Almost to parallel, another very famous magazine started to publish information about these pieces. The first mention is found in the 213th issue of Le Timbre Poste, September 1880, published in Brussels, Belgium, by Jean-Baptiste Moens.
Like L’Ami des Timbres, in this first and very early reference (only a few years after it was used), more questions than answers are arised about what they are and how they were used.
It is worth mentioning that the word CORREO is written as “CORRCO”. This shows another coincidence with the previous magazine.
They also reproduced an image of the pieces, in very good resolution. Lucky us!
Later on, in issue 219 of the same magazine, we find another small reference:
In this one, the magazine informs that according to its correspondent in Caracas, the labels described in the previous number, of Bejuma and Coro a la Vela, are “well authentic”. They also say that they are privately created and no longer in used.
In the number 246 of June 1883, the mentions of these pieces continue:
The latter is tremendously interesting since on the one hand they mention that a correspondent sent them a piece similar to the one described in the magazine number 213, but without a frame and with value: 1 REAL. And they show the picture.
And on the other hand they mention (sic) “Finally, CORREO is not written as CORRCO“. This information is invaluable!
That implies that the biggest philatelic magazine of the planet for the decade of the 80’s of the 19th century, had never seen a piece like the one described in the magazines 213 and 246 WITHOUT the word CORRCO. The conclusion is that this flaw in the letter E of CORREO was present throughout the first printing.
In the magazine 252 we find even more interesting information.
In this issue we see that a correspondent named Juan Obediente sends a list with the dates (years) of issue of each type and mentions some important things.
But first, it is necessary to mention that the image they used for the type with value “1 REAL” was created with the magazine’s own fonts, instead of a reproduction of the stamp, as they did on the magazine number 246.
Returning to Juan Obediente, he tells us that the initial piece was issued in 1867 in black on white paper. The second one, similar to the first one, except that it was printed on yellow paper, and was printed in 1868. He adds that by 1870, the value “1 REAL” was added and the frame was removed.
He said that there were also cases where the value was substituted by the word “GRATIS”. About this piece, he explains:
The purpose of these stamps was to cover the cost of postage for letters from this town (CORO) to La Vela, because there is a special commercial post office and those who did not subscribe to it, paid 1 REAL for each letter by using the stamp; as for the subscribers, they did not pay anything so their correspondence was stamped “GRATIS”.Juan Obediente (I), free translation of his letter to Le Timbre Poste, #252, December 1883.
And that is not the end of the valuable information that Juan Obediente left for us. He ended his letter with this:
The stamps were issued by the CORREO DEL COMERCIO’s administrator office.Juan Obediente (and II)
That is, now we can affirm with certainty what we perhaps already suspected: These stamps were authorized by the same people who later authorized the series called De Las Palomitas.
From 252, we go to #274, issued on October 1885, and we find this:
Here we learn that (sic) “«in the papers of a deceased administrator…» some stamps were discovered that would have been used in 1869“.
And they show the type with a frame composed of parenthesis in black on pink paper.
They also mention that there was another type just like the one they had shown before (#213) but, they say, bigger and with “two more drawings (?) on the width and one more in the height“. It also says that “These stamps do not have the CORRCO flaw and are printed in black on glossy paper“. Then it ends up listing the types like this:
|Black on Pink
|Black on Pink
It is clear to me that this time the magazine did not know how to interpret the information it received properly. It’s also clear to me that this time they didn’t have the new type in front of them since they definitely didn’t understand when the description mentioned that it had “two drawings in the width and one in the height“. This is noticeable by the inclusion of a question mark in the middle of the sentence.
In any case, we know from the pieces that have come to us that this time the correspondent was referring to the piece on the right, in the next pair:
When we count the number of “hillocks” we see that the pink piece has two more in the horizontal and one more in the vertical. and CORREO is well written.
It is also worth mentioning that the piece with the frame made of parenthesis shown in the previous review, shows a distinctive mark on the Y. It has a flaw on its right side.
Going back to the references, finally in the magazine 320, of August 1889 we find the last mention of these pieces in this magazine.
A free translation of the above review would be:
CORO A LA VELA. Between 1863 and 1864 a private post office was established between Coro and La Vela to send correspondence between these cities and Curaçao, Puerto Cabello and La Guayra. The authorization was given under the government of the former Sovereign State of Falcon.
After renouncing the first stamps, it was decided to issue new ones on January 1, 1889.
These stamps are not given to the public. People who send their letters through this post office must present the letters at the office where the employee uses the stamps and applies them to the correspondence.
Coro merchants who support the post office and pay a monthly fee can send their mail for free; merchants who do not support the post office pay double the postage for individuals.
This information, which was given to us by Mr. Curiel Coutino, is quite extraordinary. There are three kinds: the subscriber pays nothing; the private individual pays a amount for postage and the merchant pays double that.
The labels are all the same type. In a rectangle, in the center, a carrier pigeon; four stars above, seven below; in the frame, to the left: Codde del i Entre; top: Coro; right: La Vela — Comercio; below the value.
Printed in black on colored paper, perforated with colored lines.
Porte Libre, brown
1/2 Real, blue
1 Real, rose
2 Real, green
3 Royal, lilac
It should be noted that this past reference is written in the present continuous since the pieces were still being used when it was written. The reference must have been written in July 1889 and the pieces were released in January of that year.
Then, with this valuable reference we learnt that these pieces were used from January 1st, 1889 and that there were three rates:
- Free, for the subscribers (“PORTE LIBRE”)
- Normal rate for individuals
- Double Rate for Non-Subscribing Merchants.
This information was given to Le Timbre Poste by Don Nicolas Curiel Coutinho, a Corian born on January 14th, 1873, so that at that time he was a 16 years old teenager, who years later would work in the development of Falcon State in the Main Registry of the city, under the command of General Pedro Linares.
This is the information provided by Le Timbre Poste magazine. Excellent contribution to our philatelic heritage!
So much for the bibliographical references I have been able to find for the 19th century.
In these magazines we were able to find some very interesting images of very good quality for the time. These images allow us to compare these pieces with those that have come down to us these days.
We can also see that all the series except the last one – Las Palomitas – used the same font, changing the frame and the color of the paper.
Another very interesting fact that we discovered is that all these pieces, from the first to the last, were printed by order of the Post Office of Commerce (CORREO DEL COMERCIO), which worked by means of a subscription and therefore had three different rates: Free, Normal or Double, depending on whether the sender was a subscriber to the service, or a private individual, or a business, respectively.
Now we also know the order in which the philatelic world knew about these pieces. This should normally give us an indication of the order in which the series were printed, but I have to confess that in this case, such a hasty conclusion causes me discomfort. The fact that these pieces have started to be issued since 1867, all by the same authority, and all under the same rates, makes me wonder many things given other characteristics of the pieces we know today.
- Why would there be a change backwards from the spelling of the legends? ¿Why go from “y viceversa” to “i viceversa”?
- Why go from an initial design of the frame to a null one, and therefore devoid of any adornment?
Enough circulated letters would need to be evaluated in order to determine an actual order. Let’s see if we can draw more precise conclusions in the next installments.
Until the next article in this series, where I will comment on the bibliographical references published in the 20th Century.