Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Additions To My Philatelic Library Part 1 - The fascinating world of Iranian Philately

So work has been completely crazy for me lately, working six day weeks with the holidays just around the corner.  My free time has been sparse to say the least (especially since I am also currently involved in Beta Testing a PC historical grand strategy game, which has been a blast!) But I haven't totally ignored my philatelic pursuits. And over the past couple weeks I have added a couple of excellent new specialized catalogs to my philatelic library. This post will discuss one of them, the Farahbakhsh Stamps Of Iran 2015 Catalog, and the next blog in the next few days will cover the 2016 edition of the Unitrade Specialized Catalog Of Canadian Stamps.

As someone who has a Masters, and worked on the PhD in history focusing on the history of Islamic Civilization, the philately of the Islamic World fascinates me. The stamps of Iran are fascinating. The classical issues of the Qajar era include lots of color, perforation and paper varieties, as well as so many forgeries and reprints as to scare many collectors away from these stamps.  A good solid specialized reference is therefore vital to navigating the minefield of classical Iranian philately, and the Farahbakhsh catalog is considered by many philatelists of Iran as the gold standard catalog of record for Iranian stamps.

Farahbakhsh himself was an amazing man. From the obituary published in 2013 by the Iran Philatelic Study Circle :

On Saturday 19 January 2013, one of the great men of Iranian Philately, Feridon Novin Farahbakhsh passed away. Through his catalogs and exhibits he expanded our knowledge as well as promoted Iranian philately. My he rest in peace.
Mr. Farahbakhsh was born into a 'stamp family' on 6 September 1930. His farth was a well-known stamp dealer in Iran and started his first business in 1925. In 1951 he left Iran to go to Germany to study engineering. In 1953 he returned to Iran and continued his studies at Teheran University until 1958 when he received his Bachelor degree in Language (German and English). At the same time he started his own stamp business.
In 1960 he was greatly influenced by the superb exhibit of Iranian classic stamps presented by late Dr. Mohammad Dadkhah. This inspired him to one day show such great collection at a World Stamp Exhibition. After many years of building his collection and exhibiting, he finally reached his dream by receiving the Grand Prix International at BRASILIANA 83 in Rio. He subsequently exhibited in many more international shows.
He was Iran's FIP National Commissioner between 1978 and 1987 and subsequently from 1992 until his passing. Mr. Farahbakhsh was also appointed as legal expert in stamp by Iran Justice Department. Besides the well known Iran Stamp Catalog he published every year, he also published "Early Lions Stamps of Iran",  "The early postmarks of Iran" and "The Postal Stationary of Iran".
The business has been continued by his son, as has the catalog, and the 2015 edition represents the catalog's 54th edition.

The book is published in Iran, and is bilingual in Farsi and English.  Being a book in Farsi, the page order is from right to left, the reverse of the page order in most Western books. If you are not used to this format (I am due to years of reading documents in Ottoman Turkish, Farsi and Arabic as a grad student) it may take some getting used to.  Prices are in Iranian Rials, which currently is trading at US$1.00 = IRR 29850.00 (!!!) so while prices look high, they are in a severely depreciated currency.

Below are some scans from different parts of the catalog just to give an idea of the depth and flavor of the catalog.

As you can see, a wealth of information available.  All in all worth the price (UKP 30 from Prinz UK/Vera Trinder, plus shipping, so about US$50 altogether.)  The only drawback I have is that my copy is missing about 20 pages from the end of the catalog, covering the stamp issues of late 2011- mid 2014. Don't know if it just a production flaw in my copy, or a problem with the entire run of published copies, but have sent an email to Prinz UK to notify them of the issue. 

In the end, the most important part for me, the coverage of the classical issues in all their glory, is all there and the missing pages do not make the catalog copy I received useless.

Now, time to start planning to build an Iranian collection!


  1. Gene (DJCMH)- Thanks for the heads up and the nice review. I ordered one today. ;-)

    I also added your new blogspot address on my Big Blue links list.

    1. Thanks Jim much appreciated. Looking a bit more at the catalog, I find that the discussion of forgeries is still somewhat cursory, but in combination with the Varro Tyler that you have should work out quite well. Farahbahksh has also published more specialized works on early Iranian philately (he won several international medals in the late 70s and 80s from his exhibits) that I iamgine go into a much finer detail, though not sure if they are still available from any publisher.

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