Rarities from the Oval Issue of Finland

By Mårten Sundberg and Tomas Bjäringer

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This book is not only an achievement in its performances, but also unusual in its presentation
with the binding and its slipcase which are both hand-crafted in leather.
The edition is limited to only 100 and is available on pre-order. It will be printed once all copies have been sold.

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Mårten Sundberg and Tomas Bjäringer

ISBN 978-1-913015-21-3

This work tells the stories of the rare têtebêches of the oval issue of Finland 1856–1858, rarities which are highly prized by philatelists the world over. Appreciation of these rarities arose at a relatively late date, but amongst the former and present owners are many of the most acclaimed collectors in the history of philately including Agathon Fabergé, Philippe de Ferrari, Arthur Hind, Théodore Champion, Alfred F. Lichtenstein, Alfred H. Caspary, Alphonse Mayer von Rothschild, HM King Carol II, Maurice Burrus, Leo Linder, Rolf Gummesson, Hiroyuki Kanai, Christian Sundman, Gustaf Douglas, Luis Alemany Indarte and William H. Gross (all depicted on the back cover). Collections of classic Finland with tête-bêches have been awarded Grand Prix at international exhibitions on eight occasions.

Each of the sixty-eight recorded tête-bêche items is presented with a comprehensive biography including provenance. Four previously unlisted items have been added, but more thrilling is the story of the items that have been dismissed from previous listings. With the help of Leo Linder’s reference archive earlier recorded items that obviously were fakes are detected.

One hundred and four owners are presented in short biographies. One chapter deals with collectors who reportedly owned tête-bêches, but the relevant individual items could not be identified. Reprints and forgeries of tête-bêches are described, as well as reconstructions of large tête-bêche blocks.

Agathon Fabergé claimed to know that all unused tête-bêche blocks came from the same source, and that a dealer divided full sheets that he had bought. The book presents a chain of circumstantial evidence that suggests who this dealer was.

A comprehensive index of 20 pages helps the reader find relevant information.


Mårten Sundberg and Tomas Bjäringer have a shared interest in philatelic literature.

As a grandson of Harry Wennberg, Tomas Bjäringer RDP Hon FRPSL was born with philately in his blood.

Tomas Bjäringer has had a successful career as exhibitor and lecturer on Swedish philately. He is co-author of two major works on the topic: Swedish Letter Rates to Foreign Destinations 1855–1895 (1986) and Sweden Number One / The Three Skilling Banco (2005). He has an important philatelic library and is a member of the expert committee of The Royal Philatelic Society London.

Mårten Sundberg FRPSL worked for 40 years as a reporter and editor at a local newspaper in the Åland Islands. Philatelic articles by him have been published in journals in Finland, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. In the exhibition catalogue for STOCKHOLMIA 2019 he wrote the key article “The Centre of the Philatelic World” on the daily life at The Royal Philatelic Society London. He is a researcher of philatelic history rather than a stamp collector.

Foreword Jonas Hällström RDP FRPSL
Cyril Schwenson FRPSL
Preface Tomas Bjäringer RDP Hon FRPSL
Mårten Sundberg FRPSL
Appendix: Frequently used references
Chapter 1 The Oval Issue of Finland
Chapter 2 Finnish Philately in Old Journals and Catalogues
Chapter 3 Biographies of Tête-bêches
3.1 5 Kopek • Small Pearls • Blue 5KS-01 – 5KS-20
3.2 10 Kopek • Carmine 10K-01 – 10K-30
3.3 5 Kopek • Large Pearls • Blue 5KL-01 – 5KL-18
For page numbers item by item see pp. vi-ix
Chapter 4 The Linder Reference Archive
Chapter 5 The Letter to A. F. Lichtenstein about a Letter from Fabergè
Chapter 6 Reconstruction of Large Tête-bêche Units
Chapter 7 The Paul Wahl Find / Did Scheindling Divide the Sheets?
Chapter 8 Forgeries and Reprints
Chapter 9 Biographies of Owners
Chapter 10 Unidentified Items
List of Owners (sorted by number of items)
Auctions of Collections Including Tête-bêches
Sales by Private Treaty of Tête-bêches
Publications of Collections with Tête-bêches

A masterpiece in its completion, its importance, and its beauty too.

In retrospect, addressing philatelic importance, we know that most prominent philatelists are compliant with having one thing in common: they seek for certain criterion of attraction connected with the stamp issues they commit to. Very often, such stamp issues are of provisional status, and/or primitive design. Finland was early to implement uniform postal rates in 1845, with corresponding postal stationery stamped envelopes. However, Finland was relatively late in 1856 to issue their first stamps. The 1856 adhesives are of oval design, primitively printed and manufactured, and supplied in very low quantities. They were hand-printed one by one in a process causing tête-bêche positions. All these facets of Finland's first adhesives make them philatelically important, and they have attracted many prominent philatelists, and the authors to this book.

The authors, Tomas Bjaringer RDP Hon. FRPSL and Marten Sundberg FRPSL, have many things in common. They are fascinated by the history
of philately generally, of philatelic provenances and legends, of census registrations, and not least to connect all their fascinations in philately
into this one publication. They are also very passionate members of The Royal Philatelic Society London. However, their most common
practice relates to the classic Finland oval design adhesives, and their tete-beches, and here we are in this book. This book is a complete
census of all recorded tete-beches, a complete volume of all their recorded provenances, and a complete biographic census of everything
known to date being published about the tete-beches.

The Royal Philatelic Society London as the most prestigious philatelic publisher in the world, is the publisher of this work too.
Addressing this masterpiece in its completion, its importance, and its beauty too, the format on which it is published follows a tradition from
Tomas Bjaringer's previous philatelic authorships. The book is published in 100 + 12 and offered on pre-subscription only. The binding
and its slipcase are hand-crafted and conclude what this book is about: an important monograph, reflected by its perfectionism in performance,
and its final presentation addressing philatelic connoisseurs, and philatelic bibliophiles.

I want to congratulate the authors to have accomplished their mission.
At this final presentation, it all proves to have been worth the efforts. I thank you for the education the book gives, and its reference to further
exploration not only into the tete-beches, but also deriving the roots to how our hobby has evolved through history, including our hobby's
many prominent characters.

Jonas Hällström RDP FRPSL

Sample pages (click one to enlarge)