The Samovar

Inflation Era Postage Due

jlechtanski - 9/22/2007 at 15:19

Here is a letter from Bobruisk, Minsk Guberniya to Brooklyn, New York, USA from Oct 1923.

It seems the postal workers must have worked hard checking for postage due. The cover is stamped with 550k and was assessed 12 cents postage due.

Are the calculations correct?

Would the "T" have been placed on the cover by the Russian PO?

Bobruisk - Brooklyn Postage Due.jpg - 69kB

The Back of the Cover

jlechtanski - 9/22/2007 at 15:21

Bobruisk - Brooklyn Postage Due Back.jpg - 103kB

MKS - 9/23/2007 at 17:13

According to my calculations, there shouldn't have been any postage due on this cover. So, we have the following stamps here (using Scott #'s):
14x #219 -- 30r -- accepted as 30k in Oct. 1923
9x #230 -- 10r -- accepted as 10k
4x #241 -- 10r -- accepted at face value as 10r
Therefore, the total postage comes down to 45.10r. On Oct. 1-15, 1923 the first-step international rate was 45r, which is very close to our total postage, but we see an overpayment of 10k. Unless the cover was overweight...

I'm not 100% sure with these calculations, so please correct me if I'm wrong.:)

jlechtanski - 9/23/2007 at 20:40

Your calculations look correct for the 1-15 Oct 1923 rate of 45r (expressed in the paper currency of 1923).

However, looking more closely at the postmarked stamps on the back of the cover, the postmark appears to be 30 Oct 1923.

The rate at that time would have been 0.40r expressed in hard gold kopecks.

What truly amazes me is how any foreign postal worker would even attempt to calculate the postage due on Russian mail during this period. The constantly changing rates and the use of old RSFSR, Imperial, Saving, Control and Fiscal stamps at values differing from their face values would make such calculations a major undertaking.

MKS - 9/23/2007 at 21:10

You are right, the postmark seems to be 30 Oct 1923. But I think that starting Oct. 16, 1923 the international rate for a regular non-registered letter was 0.20r in gold currency.

So, the sender paid 45.10r in old 1923 rubles (perhaps, he wasn't aware of the new rates) and apparently it wasn't enough to satisfy the international rate. To determine the amount of underpayment we need to know the exchange rate of a gold ruble at that time.

I am also curious to see how a US postal worker arrived at 12 cents.

Alep - 9/24/2007 at 02:15

The exchange rate on 30 October was 1 gold kop. = 6 rub. 85 kop., i.e. the cover should be franked on 137 rub and the underfranking was 92 rub. or 13.4 gold kopeks. Probably, 1 cent was nearly equal to 1 gold kop. at that time.

Lacplesis - 9/24/2007 at 08:39

Did you consider the missing second stamp on the front in your calculations?

MKS - 9/24/2007 at 09:47

I didn't notice that the stamp was missing on the front. Well, then it makes nearly impossible to solve this mystery, since we don't know, of course, what stamp it was.

Alep - 9/24/2007 at 12:56

With a great degree of probablity, the missing stamp could be one more #241=10 rub. In this case, the original franking was 55 rub 10 kop and the deficiency 81 rub 90 kop giving almost exactly 12 gold kop. I am no expert in the field of currencies and money circulation, but the gold ruble could possibly be equated originally to the USD, couldn't it? Of course, it is only speculation.

MKS - 9/24/2007 at 15:03

Alep, it is possible that 1 dollar was equal to 1 gold ruble. One way to check it would be to compare the gold composition of dollars and gold rubles at the time. Those were the times when gold standard was used to derive exchange rates, right? So I googled it and found the following:
1) 1 USD was defined as 1.5 g of gold
2) 1 Soviet chervonets was defined as 7.74 g of gold
Therefore, 1 gold ruble = 0.1*1 chervonets = 0.774 g of gold = $0.516
From here, we know that 12 cents = 23 gold kop. But this doesn't make sense. How can the postage due be greater than the rate of 20 gold kop.? Probably, there is a mistake here somewhere...

jlechtanski - 9/24/2007 at 19:17

My mistake. The rate was indeed 0.20r. The registered rate was 0.40r.

The chervonets was not completely backed by gold. Therefore, there would probably be an established exchange rate between it and the US$.

From the Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs or

“Each issued Chervonets was backed by highly tradable goods, by at least 25% of gold, by other precious metals and a stable foreign currency. The rest of the Chervonets was backed by commodity bills of exchange and other short-term liabilities.”

MKS - 9/24/2007 at 19:56

jlechtanski, I thought it means that even though each chervontets was formally defined as 7.74 g of gold (as it is mentioned on that site), the bank physically possessed only 25% of it, and backed up the remaining 75% by precious metals, stable foreign currency, etc. But maybe you are right and the exchanged rate was something else.

Alep - 9/25/2007 at 02:05

Sorry, my mistakes too. I quite forgot that in 1923 the deficiency should be calculated relative to the registered rather than doubled ordinary letter rate. This means: (40 x 6.85) - 55.10(?) = 218.90, i.e. 32 gold kopeks. Thus, there are too many unknown quantities...

jlechtanski - 9/25/2007 at 19:42

The inflation era is quite interesting and difficult just based on the responses

The item I picked seems to have many unanswered questions.

I think I will investigate this area further. Thanks for all the replies.

A late observation!

Fergana - 9/26/2007 at 04:50

Regardless of the exact deficiency amount and the reason for it, an important piece of information appears to be missing. So here’s my 2 cents worth!
A Russian post official, having decided that postage had been underpaid, applied the T(axe) mark and sent the letter on its way. I admit I know very little about UPU procedures of the day but in the absence of contrary information it appears to me that NY had to treat the letter as a straight forward Unpaid. But what happened to the Postage Due label? Was it soaked off along with the “missing” Russian stamp? Was a Postage Due label used? Was the 12cents charge raised by NY ignored by the delivering office? Is there a Postage Due specialist reading this stuff?