Tannu Tuva Collectors' Society, Inc.   Tannu Tuva Collectors' Society, Inc.
          APS Affiliate #235


Tuva's recent stamps have been criticised by many – both for their proliferation, and their origin.
Here is a report by Les Winick, published in The Philatelic Exporter, February 1999.

Label distribution network
    Labels purporting to be stamps from the former Soviet Republics have been appearing throughout the world. These products are a wonderful example of the modern distribution network from the producer to the end user. It has been in use for a number of years, and seems to be working without a hitch.

Theresa Teng.

Click this stamp to see the minisheet.

    There have been several letters to the editors of various philatelic publications stating that the writer has a registered letter bearing this label, therefore the label and the cover are legitimate. Unfortunately, this type of registered letter has never seen postal service, no matter what the cancel reads.

Golf with Laurel and Hardy. 

Click this stamp to see the full set.

    Here's the entire story. The story begins in England, where the labels originate. The manufacturer decides as to the popularity of which subjects should appear on a stamp, series of stamps, or souvenir sheet. A decision is made whether the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) 'Panda' logo, should appear on some issues, how the sheets should be formatted, and any other factor that would help sell the stamps to the consumer.


Click here to see the full set.

    Various postal administrations issue statistics on which stamp issues have sold best and this information can be used as a guide. What appears on the labels is strictly a marketing decision based on the sales of legitimate stamps. One does not have to be a nuclear scientist to know that Princess Diana, space activities, rock and roll stars, and animals are popular subjects. You won't find dull pictures of the political leaders of any of the so-called Russian Republics on any of these spurious issues.


Click this stamp to see the full set.

    Even the legitimate nations of St Vincent and Nevis have had their legitimate stamps reprinted and distributed in this manner. The postal officials tried tracing the origin of the reprints in order to take the people involved to court, but could not confirm the source. Once the decision is made as to format and subject, the sheets are then printed by high quality presses as perforated or imperforate souvenir sheets and miniature sheets. To the best of my knowledge, they are never offered as sheets of ten or twenty. The purpose of the small sheetlets is that the entire set can be sold as a collectible. Photocopies of the new products are sent to four or five major distributors in large cities in Russia. The distributor is usually not told how


Click here to see the top value.


many were printed, but my information is that the normal printing quantity ranges from 1000 to 5000 copies of each sheet. Orders are faxed back to the manufacturer in England, and the labels are sent to the distributors.

James Dean.

Click this stamp to see the full set.

    It was not disclosed how the payment is arranged for the merchandise, but payment is always prompt. I am not certain, but if any issue is a sell-out, I assume additional copies can be printed.


Click this stamp to see the full set.

The manufacturing process
    Each of the distributors in Russia has a cottage industry established using women and children working out of their homes. The home workers apply the labels to the covers and then address the envelopes. For example, the labels of Tuva, a local region in Russia, may have a hand-written fictitious return address in Tuva with fictitious recipient address in Kiev. The sender and recipient addresses can vary.

Singapore Stamp Exhibition.

Click this stamp to see the top value.

    The covers are then brought in bulk to Kyzyl, the capital city of Tuva. An obliging post office clerk in Kyzyl then applies the sending postmark and a registered rubber stamp if requested. Different numbers are always written in the registration space for the appearance of legitimacy.

Teletubbies, an issue that saw English dealer Clive Feigenbaum 
convicted and fined in April 2001.

Click this stamp to see the full set.

    In some cases, for an additional over-the-counter cash payment, the post office clerk will cancel the covers and slip them in the mail stream for delivery to another country, if so addressed. The registration stamp may be left off in overseas mail.

The Grateful Dead.

Click this stamp to see the full set.

    The bulk of the registered covers are then hand transported to the city appearing as the recipient's address for a receiving cancel on the back of the cover. In the case of the covers from Kyzyl, the receiving city happens to be Kiev. An obliging Kiev postal clerk dates the receiving cancel a few days after the sending postmark. You now have a "postally used" registered cover. The merchandise is now ready for sale.


Click this stamp to see the set.


The distribution network
    Each of the four or five distributors has a network of dealers in various cities throughout Russia. This


Click here to see the full set.

distribution system has now extended to Germany and several other nations, who also buy the stamps and covers at "wholesale" prices. The dealers at this level often exchange covers and stamps with each other to get a wider variety of merchandise.


Click this stamp to see the full set.

    The dealers set up shop in parks and streets in order to sell their merchandise to the collector. Many have also sent covers and labels to Russian émigrés in the United States, United Kingdom, Israel and other nations for retail sale. Some legitimate dealers in different countries have jumped on the label bandwagon and may order direct from the distributors in Russia.

Female Film Stars.

Click this stamp to see the full set.

    The size of the market is not known. There have been many discussions on how to stop the producer, but no positive decision has been made. Postage stamps of the home country are never duplicated, so the UK suffers no loss of income. Other legitimate countries whose stamps have been counterfeited have been unable to prove who the manufacturer is.


Click this stamp to see the full set.

    The postal officials of the Russian Republics continue to issue statements stating that the labels are not a product of their postal system, but they have done nothing to stop the process within their own country. Meanwhile, the flood of these labels takes money out of the pockets of legitimate stamp dealers who can't compete with the frequency and low price of the product.

Rock stars.

Click this stamp to see the full set.

    The bilking of the unknowing collector continues. Perhaps this black market in labels has affected the legitimate market for new issues? Every dollar or pound or ruble spent on these fictitious items is money that did not go to the normal stamp dealer. This may be one of the reasons for the decline in new collectors, who can't tell the difference until they try to sell their purchase.
– Les Winick.

Hold your mouse over this envelope
to see the reverse side.
Cover from Kizil to Kiev.
Hold your mouse over it to see
the reverse with the backstamp.

Philately's Rough Trade – a report on illegal stamps. Part One (from TbBA #26)

Philately's Rough Trade – a report on illegal stamps. Part Two (from TbBA #27)

See some other questionable recent Tuva stamps – all these are considered spurious, and may be the work of three different producers: Butterflies 1, Butterflies 2, Dogs 2, Dogs 3, Dogs 6, Dogs 7, Gemstones, Astronauts, Dinosaurs, Mushrooms, Mushrooms souvenir sheet, Kittens, Kittens souvenir sheet, Filmstars 4, Filmstars 5, Filmstars 6, Filmstars 7, Filmstars 8, Mao Tse-tung, Leonardo di Caprio, Star Trek, Xena the Warrior Princess, Xena souvenir sheet.
For more information on these illegal stamps, read our in-depth exposé – click here.

TTCS Main page | Map | Contact | Covers | Classic Tuva stamps | Recent stamps | Want to join?