The Szekula Family of Stamp Dealers

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This website is dedicated to the Hungarian born stamp dealers Béla, Géza, Eugen and Frank Sekula. Each one of them ran his own stamp business with emphasis on international stamp trade, likely driven by their business acumen rather than a particular preference for philately. All four assumed Swiss nationality and were based in Lucerne side by side for years. Especially Béla’s business ideas provoked more than one scandal during his career. However, the history of philately would arguably be poorer without the Sekula brothers.

Béla Sekula

 

I think it is a nice hobby, it keeps men out of mischief. But I am not interested in stamps.

—Béla Sekula, September 1937

B/W photo of Béla Szekula at age 20
Béla Szekula at age 20
Newspaper ad
Advertising war stamps
(Schweizerisches Handelsamts-
blatt May 27, 1915)
Béla Desző (Desiderius) Szekula (1881–1966) was born in Szeged, Hungary, on Feb. 9, 1881, as the first son of soap and grease merchant Gyula (Julius) Szekula (1850–1932) and Róza Szekula (née Fürst, 1854–1908). According to his own memories, at the age of sixteen, he smuggled himself onto a ship at the port of Fiume believing it was going to Australia, but he landed in Mombasa, Kenya, instead. He made his way to Zanzibar and – eventually – Madagascar, where he saw some old French stamps offered for sale. Following a hunch he bought them for 200 francs and sent them to Paris, where they sold for 20000 francs – the start of his career as a stamp dealer.

In 1898 – Béla had just turned 17 – he began trading stamps from his parents’ home in Budapest, and on December 1 the same year, he published the first and only issue of his postage stamp collectors’ magazine Levélbélyeggyűjtők Lapja. Advertisements placed in philatelic magazines in North and South America as early as 1899 show that from the outset he saw the whole world as his sales territory. During his early years he tried out all sorts of things testing what goes and what doesn’t. Some of his activities would soon gain him a bad reputation, like sending out unsolicited consignments on approval – followed by threatening letters if ignored. The number of new customers recruited this way must have outweighed the negative effects, like bad press and the refusal of some philatelic associations to accept him as a member because occasionally he would revisit this business model even in his later years.

On July 1, 1901, he began publishing his new stamp magazine Szekula Briefmarken-Verkehr (Szekula Stamp Communications). Around the same time, he had the first major run-in with a publisher of another stamp journal. It all started when Béla requested a page of advertising space in W. James Wurtele’s The Montreal Philatelist and enclosed stamps as payment – a quantity of worthless, demonetized Serbian 1 dinar stamps according to Wurtele, in Béla’s eyes 75 Serbian 1 dinar worth 100 Mark according to Senf. Wurtele, who was used to be paid by cash or cheque, sent the stamps back the same day. Apparently, this shipment went missing. When Béla didn’t hear back from Wurtele, he sent him a postcard threatening to put him on his black list if he didn’t respond. Unfortunately, this postcard did not go missing. Wurtele, not taking kindly to Béla’s approach, published a warning against Béla Szekula and his business methods in the November 1901 issue of The Montreal Philatelist. Béla retaliated with a vitriolic response and the promised update of his black list in the December issue of the Briefmarken-Verkehr.

On November 10, 1901, Béla married Lujza Bihari (1883–1964), sister of Dr. Jenő Bihari, a Hungarian doctor who also made a name for himself as a composer and philatelist. Whether it had been planed in advance or was a spontaneous decision during their honeymoon – which would perfectly fall within Béla’s character – in the same month, the couple moved from Budapest to Eaux-Vives, today part of Geneva, Switzerland, the new base of Béla’s stamp business and house organ for the next two years (issues No. 4 to 37 of his stamp magazine all appeared in Geneva). In the January 1902 issue (No 5) of Szekula Briefmarken-Verkehr he called for the foundation of an international society of stamp collectors. The February issue already contained a list of 25 founding members, who had applied from a dozen different countries: Belgium (1), Bulgaria (1), Denmark (1), Germany (2), France (3), Italy (1), Netherlands (1), Austria (3), Russia (4), Switzerland (5, Béla himself included), Spain (1) and Hungary (2, one of them Béla’s brother-in-law Jenő Bihari). Stated goals were the exchange of stamps and the fight against forgeries. During the following months, the Internationale Philatelisten-Verband (= Association of International Philatelists) with him as director quickly grew to exceed 100 members. In July 1902, Béla and his wife moved to their new residence, the Villa Philatélie in nearby Chênes-Bougeries, and in late 1902 they were joined by Béla’s younger brother Géza.

During Béla’s first stay in Switzerland, he continued to provoke warnings against him in philatelic journals because of his business conduct. In 1902, he had the questionable honor of being featured twice in Mekeel’s Stamp Collector, namely as a notorious dealer [...] who solicits consignments of stamps in large quantities. Readers were warned that he does not fill his engagements, is not reliable and is given to indicting postcards and letters with blackmailing intent. In 1903 he received a negative echo for extensively advertising certain stamps of Puerto Rico that had been locally surcharged HABILITADO 17 OCTUBRE 1898 and were regarded as fraudulent (needless to say that today, these issues are expensive collectibles for specialists).

In autumn of the same year, the Deutsche Briefmarken-Zeitung sounded a warning against Béla for dealing in fraudulent covers bearing sets of the Dominican issue of February 25, 1902, commemorating the 400th anniversary of Santo Domingo. Earlier that year, Béla had acquired the remainders of this issue from the Dominican government. Since late February, he was offering them for sale, not only mint, but also – at the same price – in the much more difficult to find used condition on and off cover. The remainders were all unused, so he decided to produce used copies himself, allegedly with official Dominican handstamps in his possession. The covers he offered were also fabrications of his own – something he failed to mention in his ads and only told his customers when he was asked. It should be noted that the covers contained so many wrong details that it seems inconceivable that they could or were even intended to deceive anyone: The CDS used on all the stamps and covers reading (SANTO DOMINGO (20 / ENE / 02) R. D.) predated the date of first issue by five weeks; according to the printed addresses on the envelopes they had been sent by one João Frederico Herrmann, Sto. Domingo (R.D.) to a certain Edward J. Bothwell Esq. / Agent of Maritime Assurances / Trujillo / (Peru), i.e. from Santo Domingo to a foreign destination although this commemorative issue had only been available for domestic postage (as per UPU rules at that time); finally, the arrival postmark showed the name of the destination wrongly spelt as Truillo. Most likely he had created the covers in the spirit of souvenir items to boost the sales. In spite of their obvious shortcomings, they were treated as genuine items by some. An inquiry in Peru revealed that a company with the name Maritime Assurances did not exist. Further details about the envelopes were then published showing that – except for the stamps themselves – they were an all-Swiss product. Béla stunned the trade press by simply confirming everything, and explaining that such favor-cancellations by stamp dealers were not at all uncommon. He probably had a point there, but the stamp trade likely preferred to keep quiet about this practice. When reporting on Béla’s response to the accusations the Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal was reminded of the old joke Are you quite sure, Mr, that this eau de Cologne is genuine? — Certainly, Madam, we make it ourselves!, and suggested to also produce the postage stamps in Geneva in the future, to make the originals quite homogeneous. Since Béla’s creative venture was apparently not well received by the public, he refrained from such experiments in the future. In the July issue of the Szekula Briefmarken-Verkehr, he announced that he had sold the whole stock of this issue for 80,000 francs to the stamp dealer Victor Robert in Paris, and in October he offered compensation to anyone not happy with their purchase of his canceled Dominicans either by reimbursement or by exchange of stamps.

All the while, Béla’s Internationale Philatelisten continued to grow to a philatelic association of notable size even by international standards. In October 1903, they welcomed their 300th member, and in December, after the formation of a local sub-organization in Pozsony (back then Hungarian, today Bratislava, capital of Slovakia), the total membership exceeded 400.

On February 10, 1904, the Szekulas left Switzerland and returned to Hungary. Béla’s move was picked up by the philatelic press, and it was suggested that he had fled back to Budapest after the scandal around the Dominican issue had forced him out of Geneva, and also that he had left many unpaid bills. These speculations may have given his detractors a certain feeling of satisfaction, but they were unsubstantiated. The – outside of philatelic circles – rather unimportant Dominican affair had no legal consequences and would certainly not have prompted Béla to leave Geneva, just like there was nothing on record about outstanding debts. His relocation to Budapest was no secret, nor was his new postal address, both of which he had announced a few days in advance in a major local newspaper. In all likelihood, the sudden return to Budapest had an entirely different reason: Lujza had realized that she was pregnant again. In November 1902, the young couple had suffered the loss of their first child, a baby girl they had named Lilla Vera, so this time the parents-to-be wanted their offspring to be born in their home country. Seven months later, on September 16, 1904, Lujza gave birth to the twin sisters Ágnes and Mária in Budapest. But before that, having just returned from Switzerland, Béla once again caused outrage in philatelic circles.

The 1878 Indian Woman issue of Guatemala consists of four values ranging from ½ real to 1 peso. While the three lower values were readily available at that time, there was a shortage of the high value. In April 1904, Béla sent out sample sheets of the 1-peso stamp to various stamp dealers. In a letter accompanying the samples he stated that these sheets had been examined by experts and found to be genuine, but actually it may be told in confidence that they are reprints prepared from the original government clichés. One of the dealers approached this way was W. Sellschopp, Hamburg. He knew that other values of this issue had been printed in sheets of 100, with the unusual setup of 12 horizontal rows and 8 vertical ones, plus a short horizontal row of 4 in the middle above. Believing this was true for all four values, he concluded that Béla’s sheet of 50 (5 x 10) could not possibly have been printed with original plates and therefore must be forgeries. He also noted that the sample sheet deviated from the original printing in terms of paper and perforation. He was so outraged about this offer, not only did he return the sheet to Béla accompanied by a strongly-worded letter, but he also submitted his notes and the whole correspondence to the Deutsche Briefmarken-Zeitung where everything appeared in the May issue. At the same time, Arthur Maury in Paris published a note in his magazine Le Collectionneur de timbres-poste describing this stamp that some merchants present as a reprint as a dangerous counterfeit requiring a trained eye to find some small differences in the design, thereby reinforcing its classification as a forgery. However, Sellschopp’s original assumption about the sheet size was wrong. As the DBZ pointed out in their June issue, the genuine 1-peso stamps, unlike the rest of the issue, had indeed been printed in sheets of 50. And the following November, Maury presented a letter from one M. G., Brussels, who explained that the reprints had been produced on his behalf and that he had passed them on to Béla Szekula. He assured that the stamps were not forgeries because the printer had used an authentic cliché, and that the differences in the drawings from the originals were due to retouching of said cliché. As for the differences in paper and perforation, they were intended to make the reprints distinguishable from the original stamps. Although Maury only quoted the author of the letter as Monsieur G. of Brussels, it is reasonable to assume that it was Gustave Gelli of Gelli & Tani; the DBZ had already named this quite reputable company as the original source of these stamps. Whether one is willing to believe Monsieur Gelli’s representation or not – the renowned Kohl’s handbook, for instance, argues against it – Béla certainly offered the stamps as he had received them himself. Moreover, he wasn’t the only one. At least one more dealer, Victor Gisquière of Brussels, had offered them, too. Nonetheless, the label Szekula forgery stuck. A more appropriate name would be Gelli & Tani reprint.

For Béla, these were only minor bumps in the road to success. His business continued to grow, as did his organization: On February 20, 1905, the Briefmarken-Verkehr published a list with the names and addresses of the now more than 1000 members of the Internationale Philatelisten. Béla was 24 years old at that time. His brother Géza had started working for him, and as soon as he was old enough, the third oldest brother, Eugen, joined the business as well. By 1905 there was also at least one non-family member working for Béla, the merchant Hermann Wiederhold (1881–1967) – Béla’s closest comrade-in-arms for the next three decades. Hermann was employed as an officer with Prokura, i.e. with signatory rights; in other words someone to run the day-to-day business on his own while Béla was traveling to acquire new material. And Béla traveled a lot. This, together with his talent for languages, clearly gave him a competitive advantage. He negotiated many of his deals on the spot, often enough in the language of his business partners.

On his travels, he also must have visited Austria several times. In 1908, he became godfather to one Hedwig Dorfstätter, born in Vienna on September 23, 1908. He was presumably a friend of her parents, estate manager Mathias Dorfstätter and his wife Antonia. However, as an entry in the Catholic Church register of Vienna shows, it subsequently transpired that Béla was a bit more than just little Hedwig’s godfather. These revelations lead to Béla’s and Lujza’s divorce in 1909. The twins remained with Lujza, and Antonia remained with Béla. On March 30, 1910, Béla’s son Karl was born in Budapest. It is not clear how and when exactly the relationship between Béla and Antonia ended, but eventually Antonia returned to Austria while Béla assumed full custody of both Hedwig and Karl.

Several years had past since the name Szekula had last been associated with a scandal involving controversial stamps, but in 1910, it happened again – and just as with the 1-peso stamp of Guatemala’s Indian Woman issue, Béla had nothing to do with their creation. This time it was about reprints of the 1894 issue of Bolivia. All catalogs at that time listed two major varieties of this issue, a first edition perforated 14 to 14½ and printed on thin paper in London, and a second edition printed in Paris in slightly different shades and on thick paper perforated 13 to 13½. From January to October 1910, Béla offered sets of varying thickness, including a rare 10c color error in blue instead of brown on medium-thick paper. His source was the Office Central de timbres-poste coloniaux in Paris, whose owner A. Saatdjian himself had acquired the stamps from E. Gainsborg, also Paris, around March 1909. According to Gainsborg, who had been involved in the production of the second edition back in 1894, this lot consisted of remainders of both the London and the Paris printings. However, a third Paris-based stamp dealer, Victor Perron, after corresponding with authorities in Bolivia and talking to the printer of the French edition, came to his own conclusions: Only the first printing in London issued in April 1894 should be considered as genuine; the second printing in Paris had indeed been delivered to Bolivia in July 1894 and had also seen postal use until 1897, but was not authorized by the Bolivian government but rather the result of a scheme carried out by the former secretary of the Bolivian embassy in Paris, José Manuel Paz, stamp dealer E. Gainsborg, and the Bolivian consul in New York, J. Emilio Lassús; finally, the recently emerged stamps didn’t belong to either edition, but were reprints made with electrotypes from the original plates after 1896. i.e. after the latter had been destroyed. The Parisian thick paper variety had been listed for the last 15 years, but the editors of the influential German Senf catalog found Perron’s arguments so convincing that they declared the Paris printing as fraudulent and removed it from the 1911 edition of their catalog. As a result, Béla’s stamps – reprints or not – also went overboard, and prices of whole sets plummeted to a tenth of their previous value. Disappointed customers of the color error wanted their money back and even threatened to sue for compensation. Stamps of the same type had also been sold by other dealers, but as so often, Béla had secured the largest stock, including most of the up to then desirable error stamps. Consequently, it was he who suffered the greatest blow from the price drop.

As already mentioned, Béla conducted many of his transactions on the spot. With his constant need to travel across Europe, he began thinking about moving his business to a more central location. But before he left Budapest for good, Béla was able to cause a stir again, this time in a positive sense, though. In February 1912 he landed his biggest deal so far, the acquisition of the prize-winning Robert Holitscher collection at the price of 840,000 K., roughly $4.8 million in today’s (2020) US currency. The liquidation of a collection of this magnitude was usually reserved for auction houses. Béla sold it country by country at a profit of 10%.

In January 1913, Béla relocated to Switzerland again, taking the whole family with him, including his youngest brother Franz and his father (the mother had already died in 1908). He settled in Lucerne, where he opened the Briefmarken-Grosshandlung (= stamp wholesale business) Béla Szekula in his second Villa Philatelie at Maihof 678c. In accordance with his new place of residence, he renamed his magazine to Schweizerischer Briefmarken-Sammler (Swiss Stamp Collector). By now, Béla was in his early thirties and a successful businessman, and his travels and experience must have given him a sophisticated appearance. It probably didn’t take him long to mingle with the Establishment in Lucerne. On October 9, 1916, he married Bertha Albertina Berty Huguenin (1896–1980), a member of the well-known café and confectionery dynasty of the same name, and on November 4, 1916, Béla became a naturalized Swiss citizen of Kriens.

Although Switzerland was neutral, the outbreak of World War I in 1914 naturally had consequences for Swiss merchants trading internationally. Based on an Order in Council of December 23, 1915, the British government introduced a blacklist, prohibiting British subjects from trade with specified firms and individuals in neutral countries who were doing business with counterparts in enemy countries. An even more specific embargo in France was directly aimed at the stamp trade and banned the import of any stamps of the enemy into the country. Béla being Béla, of course, was not willing to bow to such pettiness and continued doing business with Germany and also selling German stamps to French stamp dealers. It was only a matter of time until someone blew the whistle on him. The November 1916 issue of the British magazine Stamp Collecting contained the following note boasting Thanks to representations made to the authorities by Stamp Collecting, Béla Szekula (alias Ed. Bieri) is at last placed on the ‘black list’. On the 15th of the same month, the Foreign Trade Department declared Béla Szekula an undesirable person for firms and persons in the British Empire to deal with, accusing him of trading with the enemy. The same was true for Elise Bieri, probably the name of an employee Béla was using to circumvent an already-existing French trade ban he was facing after a shipment of stamps of the enemy to dealers in Paris had been intercepted by the French censors.

In 1918, in order to provide his now pregnant wife with the lifestyle he had promised her, Béla rented the luxurious Villa Sonnenhof at Brambergstr. 12a. On April 8, 1918, his fourth daughter, the future artist Sonja Yvette Sekula, was born. In the same year, Béla discontinued his stamp magazine with issue No. 160.

Géza Szekula had already left his brother’s business when the family still lived in Budapest. After relocating to Lucerne, he immediately opened one of his own, the stamp wholesale business Géza Szekula. A few years later Eugen did the same by starting the Eugen Szekula Stamp Import and Export company. It is important to note that, although all three brothers were based in the same city, they had separate businesses and were financially independent of each other. Franz, by far the youngest of the four, was of course the last one to leave Béla, but at the same time he was also the one to make the biggest step. On February 2, 1921, the then 19-year-old took a steamer to New York, and by the end of 1922 he was selling stamps at 97 Nassau Street, right in New York’s epicenter of the stamp trade. Living now in the United States, the idea to simplify the spelling of his name probably came naturally, and Franz Szekula became Frank Sekula. The rest of the family in Lucerne followed suit: In March 1923, Béla and his relatives were officially granted permission to change the spelling of their last name to Sekula.

B/W photo of Béla Szekula at age 40
Béla Szekula at age 40

Béla’s focus shifted more and more towards wholesale, and in the stamp trade he was perceived as a reliable, straightforward and fast distributor. A notable deal from this time period was the acquisition of the remainder of the Seebeck stock of South American stamps in 1924, about 55 million copies. Despite the occasional negative press and complaints from end customers Béla’s firm and the number of employees continued to grow steadily, and Béla’s transactions during the 1920s were mostly scandal-free. Every once in a while he would be called out on bad merchandise, like in 1925, when his complete sets of 1919 overprints of the Hungarian National Government in Szeged turned out to be forgeries, causing a huge clash among dealers and driving up the prices of genuine specimens. Or in 1927, when Béla’s nephew Salo Goldberger was en route as a salesman with an interesting assortment in his luggage: reprints of Belgian welfare stamps from 1914/15, Cretan revolution stamps, Montenegro stamps with fake cancels, fantasy issues of the fleeing Montenegrin government and those of the Soviet government. Béla rejected the allegation of forgery, insisting that he had acquired all the material in good faith himself. In the end, given his total turnover none of this had a lasting impact on his business. In January 1929, Frank, who had just returned from the US, joined his brother’s firm as an officer with Prokura, and in December 1930, Béla’s son Karl, or Charles as he called himself now, also began working for his father as an officer.

In early 1928 (probably before March) Béla had moved into his new business premises in the Genferhaus (= Geneva House) at St. Leodegarstr. 2. Eventually, his firm would occupy more than 40 offices across two stories in the building for housing a staff of several hundred people. Newspapers reporting on the IPOSTA (Internationale Postwertzeichen-Ausstellung = international postage stamp exhibition) held in Berlin in September 1930 referred to Béla as the world’s biggest stamp dealer. In August 1931, Béla founded his first incorporated company, the Cosmophilatelist Ltd. Lucerne, with business office in the Geneva House, and himself as sole board member. He had already started a new magazine of the same name, but the Cosmophilatelist wasn’t nearly as successful as his Briefmarken-Verkehr and only saw six issues.

During these years, Béla Sekula also gained reputation as an auctioneer with his Welt-Briefmarkenauktionen (= World Stamp Auctions) held between May 1927 and December 1932 in Lucerne; initially in the noble Schweizerhof hotel, from the fourth auction in March 1928 onwards in the nearby Geneva House. Schweizerhof and Sonnenhof had the same owners, the hotelier brothers Hauser, so perhaps he received a discount when renting the venue for his first three auctions, especially since many a bidder may have taken their accommodation directly in the hotel. However, as a report of the French stamp magazine Philatelia on the second World Stamp Auction held in October 1927 shows, Béla and his wife spared no expense or effort in turning these auctions into social events to ensure that the customers would come back next time: Mr. Béla Sekula, who does not know how to do things by halves, outdid himself in organizing the last auction. The sales took place in a beautiful airy room, the buyers were comfortably seated with small tables in front of them; they could smoke while following the auction and each session was interrupted by a break, during which one could go and eat at a buffet. [...] It should also be added that Mr. and Mrs. Sekula, in their desire to make the stay in Lucerne pleasant for the buyers, invited them to a magnificent banquet which was most successful. The auction lots themselves also left nothing to be desired. Over the years, several collections from well-known philatelists and dealers fell under the hammer. Special mention should be made of material from the world-renowned philatelist Lars Amundsen (June 11–19, 1928), Ludvig Lindberg’s first-class Finland collection (Dec. 7–15, 1928, and Mar. 11–19, 1929), the collection of the Belgian liqueur producer (Elixir d’Anvers) Louis-Xavier de Beukelaer (Sep. 16–Oct. 5, 1929) and that of Paris-based stamp dealer Joseph Thumin (June 16–19, 1931).

As for the later image of Béla in philatelic circles, it is largely determined by two events that took place in the first half of the 1930s. The first one was the affair that developed around Jean Adolphe Michel, the former postmaster in Ethiopia (or Abyssinia, as it was called back then). Michel was sponsor of the Ethiopian 1919 Animals and Rulers issue and owner of the original dies and plates. In accordance with his original contract with the Ethiopian government, which allowed him to get compensation for his investment by reprinting and selling these stamps ten years after the first edition of 1919, he commissioned Béla Sekula to arrange for the production of a second printing in 1930/1931. This second edition was printed under Frank’s supervision by the printing firm Aberegg-Steiner & Cie, founded 1923 in Bern, and with respect to the Ethiopian stamps legitimate successor to the liquidated Balmer & Schwitter AG (BUSAG) which had been responsible for the first printing. Of the total number of 120 original plates – 15 stamps × 2 colors (per stamp) × 4 plates (à 25 stamps) per printer’s sheet (of 100) – a small number had oxidized over the years and had to be replaced with galvanos (electrotypes). However, the person in charge of both printings, William Ernst Aberegg, made every effort to make the second printing look the same as the first one. As a result, colors, paper and perforation are so similar that the only reliable distinguishing feature of mint stamps is the gum: completely smooth for the original versus cracked for the reprint (to prevent the stamps from coiling up). When Béla began advertising the reprints as originals, he and Michel were furiously attacked by a group of stamp dealers and philatelists in Bern led by Arthur Hertsch, owner of Zumstein & Cie, and Hans Roth, president of the Union of Swiss Philatelic Societies, who initially regarded the stamps as forgeries and somewhat later as unauthorized reprints. When confronted with the facts, they finally accepted the stamps as authorized. However, they insisted Béla should use the term reprint instead of original in his ads because the stamps had been printed at a time when they were already obsolete. The attacks culminated in criminal charges brought against Béla in Bern in 1933, which were dropped after three years of investigation, and a lawsuit against Michel in 1935, which ended in 1936 in favor of the defendant. By that time Béla was already preparing to leave Switzerland for the USA, albeit for a different reason.

Béla Sekula is generally believed to be the driving force behind the stamps of Tannu Tuva issued between 1934 and 1936: the Registered Post and the Air Mail series 1934, the Landscape and the Zoological series 1935, and the Jubilee and the Jubilee Air Mail series 1936. Although there is no definite proof for this theory, he was definitely their main promoter and seller. These issues were generally viewed critically by the philatelic press, who (wrongly) assumed that they had never actually seen a Tuvan post office from the inside. When Béla and other dealers arranged for letters franked with these stamps to be sent from Tannu Tuva as proof, it was (in part correctly) suggested that the covers had been fed into the mail in Moscow by the Soviet Philatelic Association, whose rubber-stamp was often emblazoned on the back. However, there could be no ambiguity concerning their main purpose, namely to generate revenue through their sale to stamp collectors. Some of the stamps offered very imaginative insights into Tuvan life, with depictions that took quite some liberties with reality, and were obviously targeting topical collectors. As a wholesaler, Béla had always specialized in stamps with motifs from exotic countries, so the Tuva pictorials fit perfectly into his portfolio.

In autumn 1934, the German stamp dealers association used Béla’s ads offering magnificent picture stamps as specious grounds to ban his advertisements from all their publications, and he was given to understand that he was no longer welcome at any of their public events. The ban extended to the other members of the Sekula family including their brother-in-law Max Goldberger in Berlin, who were now all regarded as Béla’s accessories and vermin of philately. Articles appeared in German philatelic magazines lamenting the great damage which the Sekulas allegedly had caused to the philatelic community over the years. In one of these articles, the readers were reminded that Béla had been blacklisted by Great Britain in 1916, and the author of this article expressed his regret that such a law didn’t exist in Germany right now – completely ignoring the fact that Béla hadn’t been blacklisted for dubious business practices but for trading with the enemy. In 1916, of course, the enemy was Germany. However, the rhetoric and timing of these attacks during the Nazi rise in Germany suggest they had little to do with Béla’s business conduct – the World Stamp Auctions had always been well attended by German stamp dealers – but rather with the fact that the Sekula brothers were Jews on their mother’s side. In retrospect, the developments in Germany also shed a different light on the fierce attacks from Bern, which, as even some observers noted back then, seemed to be completely out of proportion in view of the cheap stamps involved.

The hostilities towards the Sekulas also had financial repercussions, especially against the background of the global economic crisis whose impact had become increasingly noticeable in Switzerland since 1930. In April 1933, bankruptcy proceedings were instituted against Béla’s Briefmarken-Grosshandlung und Welt-Briefmarkenauktionen, but he was able to fend them off with the help of a bank loan. He then founded two more companies as stock corporations: the short-lived Briefmarkenhandels AG Globus (Globe Stamp Trading Corp.), in January 1934, and one month later the Briefmarken-Import und Export AG (Stamp Import and Export Corp.), a name he would eventually adopt for his business in the USA. In March 1935 Béla left the Globus AG, and in April he also resigned from the board of Cosmophilatelist AG Lucerne. The latter was taken over shortly thereafter by Béla’s long-time colleague and friend Hermann Wiederhold, who renamed it to Ocean Stamp Ltd. and successfully continued business until 1948. The Globus AG, however, already went bankrupt in June 1939.

For more than two decades, Béla Sekula had been building a stamp empire in Lucerne. The businesses of Géza and Eugen were distinctly smaller, but like Béla both looked back on a long career in the stamp trade and were established stamp dealers with worldwide connections. Frank had more than ten years of experience with selling stamps and had previously regained his financial independence after founding the Frasek AG in Lucerne in April 1933. Charles’ career as a stamp dealer had only just started, but he also had gained a lot of experience when working for his father. In normal times, all of them should have been able to enjoy a secure existence in Lucerne. But the times were not normal. In 1935, two years after Hitler had seized power in Germany, the writing on the wall was too big to ignore. And so began the exodus of the Sekulas. Between 1935 and 1938 one after another left Lucerne: Béla and Charles for New York, Eugen and Frank (initially) for Lugano, and Géza – after a compulsory break – for Lausanne.

Photo of Béla Sekula at age 54
Béla Sekula at age 54

Béla, his wife Berty and daughter Sonja moved to New York City on September 23, 1936, where he continued business with the Stamp Import & Export Corp., initially from Hotel White on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 37th Street. In February or March 1937, he leased a detached house in Scarsdale (near White Plains) for his family, while the company address changed to Woodstock Tower, 320 East 42nd Street, Manhattan. In June 1938, he finally closed his stamp wholesale in Lucerne, and in July he left the Swiss Briefmarken-Import und Export AG (liquidated in April 1941). In June 1940, the Sekulas moved from Scarsdale to Westport in Connecticut, where Béla applied for naturalization on December 9, 1941. By 1942 the family had moved again, back to New York City, now living at 399 Park Avenue, and in 1943 he relocated his business to the Bush Terminal Building at 130 West 42 Street. On March 14, 1944, at age 63, Béla Sekula became a citizen of the United States of America.

Unlike his earlier activities in Europe, his time in North America seems to have produced no notable scandal. His approval days were over for now, and he concentrated on wholesale and big deals with only a handful of customers. As for his private life, it was crucially influenced by his daughter Sonja and her decision to become an artist. Due to her connections to the art scene, she became friends with several prominent figures like writer Klaus Mann, composer John Cage and painter Jackson Pollock – and these acquaintances extended to the whole family. By 1939, the Sekulas were already part of New York’s upper class whose activities were recorded by the society columns of the New York Times. Inviting and being invited was the name of the game. At the same time, the family’s life was overshadowed by Sonja’s recurrent mental health issues forcing her repeatedly to undergo treatment. In 1949 Béla sold his stock of 50 million stamps through J. & H. Stolow in New York (with estimated proceeds of $250,000–$300,000). However, he had no intention to retire. He continued business from Hotel Seville on the corner of 22 East 29th St. and Madison Avenue. Eventually, after almost twenty years in the US, the expenses – particularly those for treating Sonja’s manic episodes – became too much, and in 1955 the family returned to Switzerland, first to Zurich and a short time later to St. Moritz.

After a short leave from the stamp trade, Béla resumed business with the foundation of the Philatelie AG, St. Moritz in September 1957, again with himself as sole board member, starting with stamps worth Fr. 19200 acquired from Berty (Béla and his wife had separate property). In April 1958, Béla moved back to Zurich managing the business from his new home address at Steinwiesstr. 18 whereas the registered business address remained in St. Moritz.

While returning to Switzerland had been a financial necessity for Béla, it was a disaster for Sonja. Used to a life immersed in New York’s cosmopolitan art scene, the cultural activities in prudish Zurich of the 1950s appeared to her now as bourgeois and provincial. Her art was perceived as too American and was no longer in demand. On April 25, 1963, after a series of artistic failures and personal disappointments, Sonja Sekula hanged herself in her studio.

Béla himself also only had a few years left. In the end almost deaf and suffering from cerebral arteriosclerosis and cirrhosis of the liver, he died in a hospital in Zurich on July 20, 1966, at the age of 85 – after having spent about 67 years of his life as a stamp dealer. His ashes are buried in a family grave in St. Moritz next to his daughter Sonja and his wife Berty (✝︎ September 19, 1980). However, Béla’s death did not mean the end of his company. In April 1967, Philatelie AG moved from St. Moritz to Zug where it continued to be active in the stamp trade until February 2001.

Today, Béla Sekula’s legacy seems to be nothing more than a bad reputation. In his native country Hungary, however, he is and always has been regarded as an esteemed figure who played an important role in the birth of organized philately. On December 30, 1991, celebrating 120 years of Hungarian stamps, the Hungarian post issued a Pro Philatelia souvenir sheet featuring Béla Szekula along with three other early philatelists (Mihály Gervay, József Zichy, and Gábor Baross).

Béla Sekula was certainly no angel. In private life he was a charming and generous person, but in business he was always ready to fight with no holds barred which earned him many enemies. However, reducing him to the philatelic scandals he has been blamed for, unfairly most of the time, and ignoring his accomplishments really doesn’t do justice to the colorful character he was.


Today a millionaire, tomorrow only ten centimes!

—Béla Sekula, n.d.


Millenary Postal Cards — 1896

Unused Hungarian 2K and 5K Crown of St. Stephen postal cards issued at the time of the Hungarian Millenary Exhibition 1896, with two different SZEKULA BÉLA / Budapest hand stamps on image side.

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Scan provided by David Rossall.
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Postal Card — April 3, 1898

Sent on April 3, 1898, from Budapest, Hungary, to Cöpenick (today part of Berlin), Germany. Arrived on April 4, 1898.

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Postal Card — November 1, 1898

Sent on November 1, 1898, from Budapest, Hungary, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States.

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REM
The Montreal Philatelist
April 1899
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O Colleccionador de Sellos (S. Paulo - Sorocaba - Brazil)
June 1899


Cover — April 5, 1900

Sent on April 5, 1900, from Budapest, Hungary, to Trenton, New Jersey, United States.

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REM
El curioso americano
April 1901 – May 1901


Cover — December 1901

Sent in December 1901 from Cuba to Budapest, Hungary.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Postcard — January 20, 1902

Sent on January 20, 1902, from Villa Nova d’Ourém (=Ourém), Portugal, to Geneva, Switzerland. Arrived on January 25, 1902.

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Cover — February 5, 1902

Registered mail sent on February 5, 1902, from Geneva, Switzerland, to Stuttgart, Germany. Arrived on February 6, 1902.

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Postcard — December 27, 1902

Sent on December 27, 1902, from Chêne-Bougeries, Switzerland, to Hartland, Vermont, United States. Arrived on January 12, 1903.

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Dominican Republic “Favor Cancels” — 1903

In autumn 1903 the Deutsche Briefmarken-Zeitung sounded a warning against Béla for dealing in fraudulent covers bearing whole sets of the Dominican issue of February 25, 1902, commemorating the 400th anniversary of Santo Domingo (Scott #144–150, Michel #101–107).
Béla Szekula had bought up the remainders of this edition and was now offering some of them in used condition, both off cover canceled with a CDS predating the date of first issue by five weeks, and on fantasy covers with various cancellations. He admitted that these postmarks were favor-cancellations applied by himself. It is not certain whether he used, as he claimed, official Dominican handstamps that he had received along with the stamps, or fakes made in Geneva. In any case, at least two different circular date stamps with the date January 20, 1902, can be found on used stamps from this issue, the most noticeable difference being the spelling of the month with small caps as Ene compared to a less common variety ENE exclusively in capital letters.

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REM
Philatelic Chronicle & Advertiser
February 1903
REM
Philatelic Chronicle & Advertiser
March 1903
REM
La Tribune de Genève
April 19, 1903


Postcard — June 29, 1903

Sent on June 29, 1902 from Chêne-Bougeries to Saint Petersburg, Russia; arrived on July 3 (June 20 in the Julian calendar).

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Cover — August 8, 1903

Registered mail sent on August 8, 1903, from Terijoki (=Selenogorsk), Russia, to “Geneve-Chêne” (Chêne-Bougeries and Chêne-Bourg), Switzerland. Arrived on August 12, 1903.

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Postcard — October 3, 1903

Sent on October 3, 1903, from Chêne-Bougeries, Switzerland, to Intra, Italy. Arrived on October 3, 1903.

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Postcard — October 9, 1903

Sent on October 9, 1903, from Chêne-Bougeries, Switzerland, to Turin, Italy. Arrived on October 10, 1903.

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Wrappers — October 1903 – December 1903

Wrappers used for sending out free samples of Béla’s journal Szekula Briefmarken-Verkehr.

Wrapper sent on October 10, 1903 from Geneva to Brilon, Germany.
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Wrapper sent on December 17, 1903 from Geneva to stamp dealer Reinou Kingma in Velp, Netherlands.
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Another wrapper sent on the same day from Geneva to Sinj, Hungary.
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Cover — January 9, 1904

Registered mail sent on January 9, 1904, from Chêne-Bougeries, Switzerland, to Ferrette, Alsace, Germany (today France).

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Postcard — March 11, 1904

Sent on March 11, 1904, from Budapest, Hungary, to Turin, Italy.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Guatemala Reprint — April 1904

Two different printings of the forged 1878 1 peso Indian Woman issue of Guatemala offered by Béla Szekula. These stamps were made from original plates on behalf of Galli & Tani, a company in Brussels, who then sold them to Béla.
Today, this reprint seems to be more prevalent than the original. It can be identified by the pineapple in the upper right corner which has seven thick hairs spread over its top instead of the bun seen on the genuine issue.

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Wrapper — April 21, 1904

Another wrapper used to ship a free sample of Szekula Briefmarken-Verkehr, this time sent on April 21, 1904 from Budapest, Hungary to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.

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Cover — May 13, 1904

Registered mail sent on May 13, 1904, from Budapest, Hungary, to Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

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Cover — June 1904

Sent registered in June 1904 from Budapest, Hungary, to Lucerne, Switzerland, collecting payment of 4 Kronen 40 Heller or 4 francs 50 centimes by cash on delivery.

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Scan provided by Max Brack.


Labels — 1904 – 1912

In the early 20th century paper seals became a popular replacement for wax seals. The labels shown below all date from between 1904 and 1912 during Béla’s second stay in Budapest. The stamps featured on the labels are a Hungarian 10f stamp from 1900, a French Indochinese 1c stamp from 1904, and the 2c and 1c stamps from the Liberian 1909 definitive set.

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Scan by Ed Pieklo.
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Scan by Ed Pieklo.
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Scan by Ed Pieklo.
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Scan by Ed Pieklo.
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Scan by Ed Pieklo.
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Scan by Ed Pieklo.
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Scan by Ed Pieklo.
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Wrapper — 1904 – 1912

Magazine band sent sometime (date unreadable) during Béla’s second stay in Budapest, Hungary, to Wels, Austria, and forwarded to Graz.

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Scan provided by David Rossall.


Cover — May 3, 1905

Registered mail sent on May 3, 1905, from Budapest, Hungary, to Polská Ostrava (today part of Ostrava), Austria-Hungary (today Czech Republic). Arrived on May 4, 1905.

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Cover — June 5, 1905

Registered mail sent on June 5, 1905, from Budapest, Hungary, to Kirchhain, Germany. Arrived on June 7, 1905.

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Cover — June 14, 1905

Registered mail sent on June 14, 1905, from Budapest, Hungary, to Basel, Switzerland. Arrived on June 16, 1905.

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Offer — October 1905 – November 1905

The purple letter is the cover letter for a stamp offer, sent out on 10/14/1905.
About six weeks later, on 11/29/1905, the red letter was send to the same customer asking for payment:
Sehr dankbar wäre ich Ihnen, wenn Sie der Ordnung halber eine à-Konto-Zahlung zukommen lassen würden.
Hoffend, daß Sie meinem Wunsche nachkommen, empfehle ich mich Ihnen
Hochachtend
Wiederhold
In English:
I'd be very grateful if you, as a matter of form, would send a payment on account.
Hoping that you will comply with my request I remain respectfully yours
Wiederhold

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Postcard — February 3, 1906

Registered COD sent on February 3, 1906, from Budapest, Hungary, to Regensdorf, Switzerland. Arrived on February 5, 1906.

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Postcard — February 21, 1906

Sent on February 21, 1906, from Budapest, Hungary, to Tzschecheln (=Dębinka), Germany (today Poland). Arrived on February 21, 1906.

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Postcard — March 22, 1906

Sent on March 22, 1906, from Budapest, Hungary, to New York City, United States.

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Postcard — June 25, 1906

Sent on June 25, 1906, from Budapest, Hungary, to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Postcard — July 2, 1906

Invoice/receipt sent on July 2, 1906 as registered COD postcard from Christian Sauerland’s General-Anzeiger für Philatelie in Hemer, Germany, to Béla Szekula in Budapest, who refused acceptance. Postcard was returned to sender on July 13, 1906.

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Wrapper — September 1906

Sent in September 1906 from Mexico to Chêne-Bourg, Switzerland, and forwarded to Budapest, Hungary. Arrived on September 14, 1906.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Postcard — December 21, 1906

Sent on December 21, 1906, from Budapest, Hungary, to Bloemfontein, South Africa. Arrived on January 16, 1907.

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Wrapper — December 31, 1906

Sent on December 31, 1906, from United Kingdom to Chêne-Bourg, Switzerland, and forwarded to Budapest, Hungary.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.
REM
A Hét
1906


Postcard — January 10, 1907

Sent on January 10, 1907, from Budapest, Hungary, to Vienna, Austria. Arrived on January 10, 1907.

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Cover — January 31, 1907

Registered mail sent on January 31, 1907, from Santiago, Chile, to Budapest, Hungary. Arrived on March 3, 1907.

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Cover — July 4, 1907

Sent on July 4, 1907, from Manaus, (Capital do) Amazonas, Brazil, to Budapest, Hungary.

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Cover — October 26, 1907

Registered mail sent on October 26, 1907, from Budapest, Hungary, to New York City, United States.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Postcard — December 9, 1907

Sent on December 9, 1907, from Budapest, Hungary, to Elende (today part of Bleicherode, Thuringia), Germany. Arrived on December 11, 1907.

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Cover — May 2, 1908

Registered mail sent on May 2, 1908, from Budapest, Hungary, to Malmö, Sweden. Arrived on May 4, 1908.

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Cover — February 13, 1909

Registered mail sent on February 13, 1909, from George Town, Cayman Islands, to Budapest, Hungary.

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Cover — September 6, 1909

Canceled on September 6, 1909, in Kinshasa, Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and addressed to Béla Szekula in Budapest, Hungary.

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Cover — May 28, 1910

Registered mail sent on May 28, 1910, from Budapest, Hungary, to New York City, United States. Arrived on June 8, 1910.

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Postcard — January 12, 1911

Sent on January 12, 1911, from Budapest, Hungary, to Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany.

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Wrapper — April 1911

Sent in April 1911? from Hungary to Vienna, Austria (Hungarian newspaper stamp cancelled at destination on April 22).

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Cover — November 29, 1911

Sent on November 29, 1911, from Budapest, Hungary, to Cincinnati, Ohio, United States.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Cover — May 29, 1912

Sent on May 29, 1912, from Budapest, Hungary, to Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

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Cover — June 15, 1912

Registered mail sent on June 15, 1912, within Budapest, Hungary.

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Cover — August 24, 1912

Registered mail sent on August 24, 1912, from Budapest, Hungary, to Heidelberg, Germany. Arrived on August 26, 1912.

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Postcard — January 25, 1913

Sent on January 25, 1913, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Cairo, Egypt.

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Double Reply Card — February 11, 1913

Sent on February 11, 1913, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Harderwijk, Netherlands, and forwarded to Assen.

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REM
The Philatelic Gazette
August 1913


Postcard — October 3, 1913

Printed matter sent on October 3, 1913, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Cairo, Egypt.

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Cover — December 26, 1913

Sent on December 26, 1913, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, United States.

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Labels — 1913 – 1918

Another series of labels produced between 1913 – the year he returned to Switzerland – and 1918 when he discontinued his stamp magazine. The stamps featured on the labels are a Hungarian 1Kr stamp from 1900, a Gambian 2d stamp from 1880, and a Swiss 10c William Tell stamp from 1914.

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Scans provided by Ed Pieklo.


Cover — May 1914

Sent in May 1914 from Porto Alegre, Brazil, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived in May 1914.

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Postcard — June 28, 1914

Sent on June 28, 1914, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Esslingen am Neckar, Germany.

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Wholesale Price-List — 1915

Front and pages 20 to 23 covering Liberian material.

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Scans provided by Travis Searls.


Cover — March 1915

Sent in March 1915 from Biberach, Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — April 5, 1915

Registered mail sent on April 5, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to St. Louis, Missouri, United States. Arrived on April 26, 1915.

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Cover — April 6, 1915

Registered mail sent on April 6, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Valdivia, Chile. Arrived on May 13, 1915.

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Cover — April 7, 1915

Registered mail sent on April 7, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Hannover, Germany. Arrived on April 9, 1915.

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Cover — April 13, 1915

Sent registered on April 13, 1915, by the Belgian Government-in-Exile from Le Havre, France, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — April 19, 1915

Registered mail sent on April 19, 1915, from Essen, Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on April 19, 1915.

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Cover — May 6, 1915

Registered mail sent on May 6, 1915, from Böblingen, Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on May 8, 1915.

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Cover — May 21, 1915

Registered mail sent on May 21, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Highwood (today part of Englewood, New Jersey), United States. Arrived on June 8, 1915.

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Postcard — May 25, 1915

Sent on May 25, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to La Tronche, France, and forwarded to Villeurbanne. Arrived on May 29, 1915.

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REM
SHAB
May 27, 1915


Postcard — June 9, 1915

Sent on June 9, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Budapest, Hungary.

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Cover — June 22, 1915

Sent on June 22, 1915, from Alland, Austria, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on July 4, 1915.

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Cover — June 28, 1915

Registered mail sent on June 28, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Valdivia, Chile. Arrived on August 17, 1915.

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Cover — June 30, 1915

Printed matter sent on June 30, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Plain Dealing, Louisiana, United States. Arrived on June 30, 1915.

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Scan provided by Albert Little.


Advertisement Cover — July 10, 1915

Printed matter sent on July 10, 1915 from Lucerne to Rønne, Denmark, advertising Béla Szekula’s Swiss house organ Schweizerischer Briefmarken-Sammler (Dec. 1913 – 1918).

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Postcard — July 10, 1915

Printed matter sent on July 10, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, United States.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
July 25, 1915


Postcard — August 5, 1915

Sent on August 5, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Sangerhausen, Germany.

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Cover — August 15, 1915

Registered mail sent on August 15, 1915, from Palermo, Italy, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on August 18, 1915.

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Cover — September 2, 1915

Registered mail sent on September 2, 1915, from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on September 5, 1915.

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Cover — September 7, 1915

Registered mail sent on September 7, 1915, from Berndorf, Austria, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on October 2, 1915.

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Postcard — September 25, 1915

Sent on September 25, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Nordhausen, Germany.

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Cover — September 30, 1915

Registered mail sent on September 30, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Palermo, Italy.

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Cover — October 29, 1915

Registered mail sent on October 29, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Münster, Germany. Arrived on October 30, 1915.

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Scans provided by Ed Pieklo.


Postcard — November 11, 1915

Sent on November 11, 1915, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Scheibenberg, Germany.

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REM
Am häuslichen Herd - schweizerische illustrierte Monatsschrift
1915 – 1916


Cover — January 7, 1916

Registered mail sent on January 7, 1916, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Detroit, Michigan, United States.

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Advertisement Cover — March 10, 1916

Printed matter sent on March 10, 1916, from Lucerne to Laibach, Austria (today Ljubljana, Slovenia), advertising Béla Szekula’s Swiss house organ Schweizerischer Briefmarken-Sammler (Dec. 1913 – 1918).

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Cover — April 1916

Sent in April 1916 from Rochester, Kent, England, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on April 13, 1916.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
April 23, 1916


Postcard — May 22, 1916

Sent on May 22, 1916, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa.

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Cover — June 1916

Sent in June 1916 from Stellenbosch, South Africa, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on July 22, 1916.

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Cover — June 6, 1916

Registered mail sent on June 6, 1916, from Munich, Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
November 24, 1916


Postcard — December 5, 1916

Elise Bieri postcard sent as printed matter on December 5, 1916, from Lucerne via England to Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

During WWI France imposed several philatelic war restrictions which severely limited the French stamp trade. Among other things, it was forbidden to circulate all stamps issued by enemies, either used or unused. When Béla Szekula was caught selling stamps of the enemy to some stamp dealers in Paris, the dealers were fined and Béla was blacklisted by the French censors. To circumvent the ban he began using the alias Elise Bieri on his correspondence – it is not clear wether this was a made-up name or the name of an employee. In November 1916, the Foreign Trade Department of the UK followed suit and declared him an undesirable person for firms or persons in the British Empire to deal with.

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Cover — December 30, 1916

This cover with the sender’s address Ármin Szekula / grain exchange / Budapest, an uncle of the Szekula brothers still living in Budapest, was likely created on behalf of Béla Szekula. The reason for the special cancellation was the coronation of King Charles IV of Hungary and Croatia on December 30, 1916, after he had already succeeded his great-uncle Franz Joseph I (✝︎ Nov. 21, 1916) as Emperor Charles I of Austria.

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Cover — January 20, 1917

Registered mail sent on January 20, 1917, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Halmstad, Sweden.

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REM
L’Indicateur=Der Anzeiger
April 28, 1917
REM
Schweizerische Lehrerzeitung
April 28, 1917


Cover — April 30, 1917

Registered mail sent on April 30, 1917, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Bredbyn, Sweden. Arrived on May 6, 1917.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
May 29, 1917
REM
La Tribune de Genève
July 21, 1917
REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
August 3, 1917




Postcard — August 27, 1917

Sent on August 27, 1917, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Charlottenlund, Denmark.

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Cover — September 19, 1917

Registered mail sent on September 19, 1917, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Kalmar, Sweden.

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Double Reply Card — January 28, 1918

Sent on January 28, 1918, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Gorinchem, Netherlands. Arrived on February 1, 1918.

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Cover — January 31, 1918

Registered cover sent on January 31, 1918 from Brussels, German occupied Belgium to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — February 27, 1918

Registered mail sent on February 27, 1918, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Arrived on March 2, 1918.

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Covers — May 1918 – December 1918

Two covers sent registered to Stockholm, Sweden.

Cover used for a shipment of stamps on approval sent registered on May 22, 1918.
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Cover containing payment reminder sent registered on December 31, 1918.
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Letter asking for payment of the May shipment or return (stamps for registered shipment included) — signed M. Bieri.
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Cover — June 13, 1918

Registered mail sent on June 13, 1918, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Limhamn (today part of Malmö), Sweden.

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Private Overprints — April 1919 – December 1919

In April 1919 Béla Szekula was granted a permit by the postal administration to overprint postage stamps with the name of his company, provided they were only used for his company's correspondence and the font size was small enough, not exceeding 2 mm in height. This permit was valid at least until December 20 of that year, the latest cancellation date observed so far. Apparently, Béla adhered to the requirement to use the stamps exclusively for company correspondence and not to give the unused stamps to third parties: To date, no mint copies are known.

Béla Szekula / Luzern overprint on the long-running definitive issues featuring Helvetia seated, William Tell’s son and William Tell.
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Sc #135, Mi #105x
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Sc #136, Mi #101x
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Sc #140, Mi #140x
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Sc #144, Mi #109x
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Sc #151, Mi #137x
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Sc #153, Mi #111 III
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Sc #154, Mi #136x
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Sc #157, Mi #113III
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Sc #167, Mi #118II (10c) & Sc #172, Mi #120 (15c)
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Sc #171, Mi #139x
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Sc #172, Mi #120
Overprint on mountain landscapes.
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Sc #182, Mi #142
Overprinted Swiss Pax Set – issued on August 1, 1919.
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Sc #190, Mi #146
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Sc #191, Mi #147
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Sc #192, Mi #148

Scan of overprinted Scott #140 provided by Ed Pieklo.


Postcards — May 28, 1919 – August 5, 1919

Two Postcards sent on May 28 and on August 5, 1919, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Kristiania (=Oslo), Norway. Both franked with private overprint.

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Postal Card — June 27, 1919

Registered mail sent on June 27, 1919, from Przemyśl, Poland, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on July 5, 1919.

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Postcard — October 29, 1919

Sent on October 29, 1919, from Lucerne to Blora, Java, Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia). Franked with private overprint.

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Postcard — December 6, 1919

Sent on December 6, 1919, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Pekalongan, Java, Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia), and forwarded to Ungaran. Arrived on January 17, 1920.

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Cover — December 19, 1919

Sent registered on December 19, 1919, from Lucerne to Wülflingen (today part of Winterthur). Franked with private overprint.

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Cover — January 1920

Registered mail sent in January 1920 from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Anklam, Pomerania, Germany. Arrived on January 20, 1920.

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Postcard — March 28, 1921

Sent on March 28, 1921, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — April 7, 1921

Sent on April 7, 1921, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Berlin, Germany.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
July 5, 1921


Postcard — May 8, 1922

Advertising postcard sent on May 8, 1922 from Lucerne to Stockholm, Sweden, offering Nyassa issues.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Postcard — August 19, 1922

Payment reminder sent on August 19, 1922, from Lucerne to Kristiania (renamed to Oslo in 1925), Norway.

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Cover — 1923

Registered mail sent 1923 from Caracas, Venezuela, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — March 30, 1923

Registered mail sent on March 30, 1923, from Rosario, Argentina, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — May 30, 1923

Registered mail sent on May 30, 1923, from Cairo, Egypt, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on June 6, 1923.

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Cover — June 11, 1923

Registered mail sent on June 11, 1923, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on July 4, 1923.

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Postcard — June 13, 1923

Payment reminder sent on June 13, 1923, from Lucerne to Kristiania (renamed to Oslo in 1925), Norway.

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Cover — July 30, 1923

Registered mail sent on July 30, 1923, from Rabat, Morocco, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on August 8, 1923.

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Cover — August 3, 1923

Registered mail sent on August 3, 1923, from Lima, Peru, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on September 4, 1923.

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Cover — August 17, 1923

Registered mail sent on August 17, 1923, from Valparaíso, Chile, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on September 10, 1923.

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Double Reply Card — September 1, 1923

Sent on September 1, 1923, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Hamburg, Germany.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


“Fee Paid” Covers — September 1, 1923 – September 19, 1923

During the hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic it became increasingly difficult for the Imperial Printing Office in Berlin to produce new postage stamps to keep up with the frequent rate changes. Consequently, out of necessity, locally produced fee paid stamps (aka local issues) were officially approved and were therefore valid for postage. However, some dealers also seized the opportunity and produced their own labels. Both Béla and Eugen Sekula collaborated with these dealers in creating philatelic collectibles by serving them as recipients of the travelled covers.

The fee paid labels used on the first two covers below were privately produced by stamp dealer Walter Behrens, Brunswick, Germany, and went through the postal system for about two weeks without objection. Both show correct franking of M200,000.- for international letter up to 20 g plus M75,000.- for registration.

The first cover was sent registered on September 14, 1923, from Brunswick, Germany, and arrived in Lucerne on September 17, 1923.
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This cover was mailed registered on September 18, 1923, from Brunswick, Germany, and reached Lucerne on September 20, 1923.
See also the same cover to Frank Szekula in New York.
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Certificate from Walter Behrens, issued in the autumn of 1928 and giving a guarantee of 100 Reichsmarks that
  1. the fee paid stamps on the above cover were printed at the instigation and with the permission of the Brunswick post office,
  2. they served for about 2 weeks in September 1923 to frank domestic and foreign commercial letters,
  3. this registered letter number 957e was duly handed over at the counter and delivered to the recipient without objection.
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The fee paid labels used on the last cover are products of the print shop owner and philatelist Ulrich Runge in Halle. Although their use was forbidden immediately, some letters slipped through, even by registered mail and also to foreign countries.

The cover was sent on September 19, 1923, from Halle, Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland, where it arrived on September 22, 1923.
See also the same cover to Eugen Szekula.
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Postcard — January 30, 1924


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Scans provided by Albert Little.
REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
September 17, 1924


Postcard — December 21, 1925

Sent on December 21, 1925, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Glaubitz, Germany.

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Postcards — January 9, 1926 – January 14, 1926

Sent on January 9th and 14th, 1926 respectively, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Ludwigslust, Germany.

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Postcard — May 25, 1926

A postcard sent from Béla Szekula’s office on May 25, 1926, informing the editor of the General Anzeiger für Philatelie that Béla is currently out of town, but will contact him after his return next week to take out new ads.

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Cover — August 8, 1926

Sent on August 8, 1926, from Estremoz, North Africa, Spain, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — September 9, 1926

Sent on September 9, 1926, within Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — September 10, 1926

Registered mail sent on September 10, 1926, from Tranqueras, Uruguay, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on October 5, 1926.

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Cover — October 14, 1926

Sent on October 14, 1926, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Milovice, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic). Arrived on October 14, 1926.

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Cover — November 18, 1926

Sent on November 18, 1926, from Tianjin (alt. Tientsin), China, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Cover — December 21, 1926

Registered mail sent on December 21, 1926, from Tripoli, Italian Tripolitania (today part of Libya), to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on December 26, 1926.

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Cover — January 6, 1927

Sent on January 6, 1927, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Arrived on January 6, 1927.

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Scan provided by Albert Little.


Cover — March 1927

Registered mail sent in March 1927 from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on April 18, 1927.

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Cover — March 17, 1927

Sent on March 17, 1927, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to New York City, United States.

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Auction Catalog — May 2, 1927 – May 7, 1927

Front and Liberia lots.
The catalog values of the Liberian lots stated here are truely remarkable. Values are in Yvert Fr, i.e. in French francs. Accounting for inflation the price of 610 FF for the 1921 definitives Yvert #168-79 = Scott #183-94 would be equivalent to about $318 in 2015; for a stamp set that had only been issued six year before!
Liberia.Scott no.Yvert Fr.~1927 USD~2015 USD
1921 1 c. — $ 5 mint (11)183-194610 F$24$318
1 c. — $ 5, ditto official and registered 10 c., 5 mint (33) provis.195-208, O127-O140, F25-F291320.50 F$52$687
1 c. — $ 5, regular and official and registered, complete, mint sets (33)183-194, O113-O126, F20-F241262.70 F$50$657

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Postcard — June 10, 1927

Sent on June 10, 1927, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Schweicheln (today part of Schweicheln-Bermbeck), Germany.

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Cover — January 18, 1928

Express mail sent on January 18, 1928, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Basel. Arrived on January 18, 1928.

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Cover — February 10, 1928

Registered mail sent on February 10, 1928, from Náchod, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic), to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on February 11, 1928.

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Cover — February 23, 1928

Registered mail sent on February 23, 1928, from Bondowoso, Java, Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia), to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on March 24, 1928.

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Auction Catalog — March 5, 1928 – March 13, 1928

Front and Liberia lots:
Liberia.Scott no.ffr~1928 USD~2015 USD
5451.1914. 2 c. on 25 c. brown, 3 postally used strips of three on piece131360 F$14$192
5452.*2 c. on 25 c., mint block of four131300 F$12$160
5453.5 on 30 c. violet 2 postally used pieces130150 F$6$80
5454.5 on 30 c. brown, 2 postal pieces132150 F$6$80
5455.10 c. on 50 c. green, 3 postal pieces133180 F$7$96
5456.*10 c. on 50 c. green, mint block of four133240 F$9$128
5457.*overprints 2 c. to 10 c. of regular and official stamps, mint ¹129-133, O72-O751140 F$45$607
5458.ditto, used on pieces129-133, O72-O75890 F$35$474
5459.ditto, complete set on registered cover129-133, O72-O75890 F$35$474
5460.1923/24. 3 c. purple and black, neatly canceled block of nine with lower corner margin, one stamp in part albino impression, R.216
¹ should read 2 c. to 20 c., because the Yvert numbers given are those of the complete set, including the official 20 cents overprints.

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Cover — April 4, 1928

Registered mail sent on April 4, 1928, from Lugoj, Romania, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on April 7, 1928.

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Cover — May 28, 1928

Registered mail sent on May 28, 1928, from Cernăuți (=Chernivtsi), Romania (today Ukraine), to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — June 28, 1928

Registered mail sent on June 28, 1928, from Metz, France, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on June 29, 1928.

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Cover — October 9, 1928

Registered mail sent on October 9, 1928, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Barmen, Germany. Arrived on October 10, 1928.

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Cover — November 5, 1928

Registered mail sent on November 5, 1928, from Bildstock, Saar Territory (today part of Friedrichsthal, Saarland), Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on November 6, 1928.

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Cover — December 5, 1928

Registered airmail sent on December 5, 1928, from Tangier, Morocco, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on December 8, 1928.

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REM
La Sentinelle
March 30, 1929
REM
Engadiner Post
April 5, 1929
REM
Il Grigione italiano
April 10, 1929
REM
Fögl d’Engiadina
May 28, 1929


Cover — July 6, 1929

Registered mail sent on July 6, 1929, from Bandung, Java, Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia), to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on August 3, 1929.

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Cover — July 31, 1929

Registered mail sent on July 31, 1929, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Apponaug (today part of Warwick, Rhode Island), United States. Arrived on August 10, 1929.

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Cover — September 2, 1929

Registered mail sent on September 2, 1929, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Gera, Germany. Arrived on September 3, 1929.

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Cover — September 13, 1929

Registered mail sent on September 13, 1929, from London, England, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — October 17, 1929

Printed matter sent on October 17, 1929, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Ohio, Cincinnati, United States.

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Scan provided by David Rossall.


Cover — October 26, 1929

Registered mail sent on October 26, 1929, from Cadiz, Spain, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on October 29, 1929.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Nachrichten
October 26, 1929


Cover — November 11, 1929

Registered mail sent on November 11, 1929, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Hamburg, Germany. Arrived on November 12, 1929.

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Cover — November 28, 1929

Registered mail sent on November 28, 1929, from Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on December 13, 1929.

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REM
Twentsch dagblad Tubantia en Enschedesche courant
December 14, 1929


Cover — December 21, 1929

Registered mail sent on December 21, 1929, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Gera, Germany. Arrived on December 22, 1929.

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REM
Briger Anzeiger
December 25, 1929


Postcard — December 26, 1929

Sent on December 26, 1929, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Southport, England.

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Cover — December 28, 1929

Registered mail sent on December 28, 1929, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Léopoldville (=Kinshasa), Belgian Congo (today Congo-Kinshasa). Arrived on January 18, 1930.

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Cosmophilatelist — 1929 – 1931

In autumn 1929 Béla changed the name of his company from Béla Sekula to Béla Sekula, Cosmophilatelist and started publishing a new trilingual (German, French, English) magazine, the Cosmophilatelist — Organ der Internationalen Philatelisten-Unternehmung „Cosmophilatelist“, Luzern

With a total of eight issues in two volumnes it was rather short-lived:
• Vol. 1, No. 1, Nov./Dec. 1929, 32 pp.
• Vol. 1, No. 2, Dec. 1929/ Jan. 1930, 32 pp.
• Vol. 1, No. 3, Jan./Feb. 1930, 36 pp.
• Vol. 2, No. 4/5, Feb./Mar. 1930, 68 pp.
• Vol. 2, No. 6, 1930, 36 pp.
• Vol. 2, No. 7, ?
• Vol. 2, No. 8, 1931, 36 pp.

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Cover — March 14, 1930

Registered mail sent on March 14, 1930, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Mälarhöjden, Sweden. Arrived on March 17, 1930.

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Postcard — March 29, 1930

Sent on March 29, 1930, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Paris, France.

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Postcard — April 12, 1930

Postcard mailed to Béla Sekula in Lucerne on board the airship Graf Zeppelin (LZ 127) on one of her many flights to Switzerland. Mail drop at Bern on April 12, 1930.

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Cover — June 9, 1930

Sent on June 9, 1930, from Malta to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Postcard — July 3, 1930

Sent on July 3, 1930, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Athus, Belgium.

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Cover — July 15, 1930

Registered mail sent on July 15, 1930, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Tanjungpura, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia). Arrived on August 6, 1930, and forwarded on August 7 to Binjai.

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Scans provided by Max Brack.


Postcard — August 30, 1930

Printed matter sent on August 30, 1930, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Leipzig, Germany.

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Postcard — September 10, 1930

Sent on September 10, 1930, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Celje, Yugoslavia (today Slovenia).

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Postcard — September 10, 1930

Printed matter sent on September 10, 1930, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Vienna, Austria.

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Advertisement — September 17, 1930

Front and back of the September 17, 1930 issue of Internationaler Postwertzeichen-Markt with Béla announcing his presence at the IPOSTA in Berlin and his next Weltauktion XXI in Lucerne.

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REM
Arader Zeitung
October 12, 1930


Animals and Rulers Issue of Ethiopia — 1931

The controversial 1931 reprints of the Ethiopian Animals and Rulers issue of 1919 (Scott #120–134; Michel #64–78) were printed from the original plates by the printing firm Aberegg-Steiner & Cie., founded 1923 in Bern, and with respect to the Ethiopian stamps legitimate successor to the liquidated Balmer & Schwitter AG (BUSAG) which had been responsible for the first printing. Of the total number of 120 original plates – 15 stamps × 2 colors (per stamp) × 4 plates (à 25 stamps) per printer’s sheet (of 100) – a small number had oxidised and had to be replaced with galvanos (electrotypes). The person in charge of both printings, William Ernst Aberegg, made every effort to make the second printing look the same as the first one. As a result, colors, paper and perforation are so similar that the only reliable distinguishing feature of mint stamps is the gum. The gum of both editions is glossy, but the first printing has completely smooth gum, while the gum of the reprints is cracked (to prevent the stamps from coiling up), also more yellowish and typically darker.
Please note that the 1919 copies of the ⅛ guerche, 1 guerche, and 2 guerches stamps shown below are atypical examples, most likely color changelings. The color differences between the two editions of these values are usually much less pronounced.

Original issue and reprint side by side:

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Postcard — January 6, 1931

Sent on January 6, 1931, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Oudjda, Morocco. Arrived on January 13, 1931.

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Cover — March 18, 1931

Registered mail sent on March 18, 1931, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Mulhouse, Alsace, France.

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Cover — April 5, 1931

Registered mail sent on April 5, 1931, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Santiago, Chile. Arrived on May 23, 1931.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
April 8, 1931


Cover — May 18, 1931

Registered COD airmail sent on May 18, 1931, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Berchtesgaden, Germany. Arrived on May 19, 1931.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Nachrichten
June 2, 1931


Cover — June 17, 1931

Registered mail sent on June 17, 1931, from Cafundó, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on July 8, 1931.

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Cover — June 19, 1931

Registered mail sent on June 19, 1931, from Červený Kostelec, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic), to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on June 21, 1931.

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Cover — July 30, 1931

Printed matter sent on July 30, 1931, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

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Cover — September 5, 1931

Sent on September 5, 1931, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Wilhelmshaven, Germany. Arrived on September 5, 1931.

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Auction Catalog — September 18, 1931 – September 26, 1931

Front, Liberia lots and mailing envelope.
A comparison of 1931 Yvert and 1930 Scott catalog values for a few selected issues (1914 and 1921) can be found here.

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Cover — November 19, 1931

Sent on November 19, 1931 with a special airmail flight from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia via England to Cosmophilatelist in Lucerne.

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REM
The Daily Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica)
December 19, 1931
REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
January 5, 1932


Cover — February 10, 1932

Sent on February 10, 1932, from Brno, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic), to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — February 18, 1932

Registered mail sent on February 18, 1932, from Zagreb, Yugoslavia (today Croatia), to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on February 20, 1932.

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Cover — February 22, 1932

Sent on February 22, 1932, from Bern, Switzerland, to Lucerne.

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Cover — March 7, 1932

Registered airmail sent on March 7, 1932, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Buffalo, New York, United States. Arrived on March 7, 1932.

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Cover — March 9, 1932

Registered mail sent on March 9, 1932, from Tampico, Mexico, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on March 23, 1932.

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Cover — May 17, 1932

Printed matter sent on May 17, 1932, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

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Cover — May 18, 1932

Registered mail sent on May 18, 1932, from Souk el Tleta, Morocco, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on May 22, 1932.

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Cover — June 14, 1932

Registered mail sent on June 14, 1932, from Buffalo, New York, United States, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on June 22, 1932.

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Cover — June 16, 1932

Printed matter sent on June 16, 1932, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Santiago, Chile.

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Postcard — July 7, 1932

Sent on July 7, 1932, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Swedish: Helsingfors (=Helsinki), Finland.

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Postcard — July 30, 1932

Sent on July 30, 1932, from Lausanne, Switzerland, to Lucerne.

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Cover — August 11, 1932

Sent on August 11, 1932, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Hannover, Germany. Arrived on August 11, 1932.

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Cover — August 25, 1932

Printed matter sent on August 25, 1932, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Reichenbach im Vogtland, Saxony, Germany.

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Cover — September 7, 1932

Registered letter sent on September 7, 1932 via airmail to Zschopau, Germany. Scarce franking with Scott C15 / Michel 245x / Pro Aero 13.

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Cover — October 19, 1932

Sent on October 19, 1932, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

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Cover — October 21, 1932

Sent on October 21, 1932, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Komárno, Czechoslovakia (today Slovakia).

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Scan provided by David Rossall.


Cover — November 26, 1932

Registered mail sent on November 26, 1932, from Reșița, Romania, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on November 29, 1932.

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Cover — January 20, 1933

Registered mail sent on January 20, 1933, from Cuenca, Ecuador, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on February 16, 1933.

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Cover — February 10, 1933

Registered mail sent on February 10, 1933, from New York City, United States, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on February 25, 1933.

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Cover — February 11, 1933

Printed matter sent on February 11, 1933, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Écija, Spain.

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Postcard — September 18, 1933

Sent on September 18, 1933, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Mapperley, Nottingham, England.

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Postcard — October 14, 1933

Sent on October 14, 1933, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Dinant, Belgium.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
January 21, 1934


Cover — January 23, 1934

Registered mail sent on January 23, 1934, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Fürth, Bavaria, Germany. Arrived on January 25, 1934.

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Cover — February 2, 1934

Sent on February 2, 1934, from Bucharest, Romania, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — March 10, 1934

Registered airmail sent on March 10, 1934, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to New York City, United States. Arrived on March 23, 1934.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
March 22, 1934


Cover — April 7, 1934

Registered mail sent on April 7, 1934, from Newtown, Trinidad and Tobago, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on April 23, 1934.

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REM
Der Bund
May 29, 1934


Cover — August 29, 1934

Registered mail sent on August 29, 1934, from Kortrijk, Belgium, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on August 30, 1934.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
October 7, 1934
REM
Briger Anzeiger
March 4, 1935


Cover — April 15, 1935

Sent on April 15, 1935, from Barcelona, Spain, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — May 3, 1935

Sent on May 3, 1935, from Cologne, Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — May 22, 1935

Registered mail sent on May 22, 1935, from Alexandria, Egypt, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on May 28, 1935.

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Cover — July 15, 1935

Registered mail sent on July 15, 1935, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to New York City, United States. Arrived on July 25, 1935.

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Cover — July 30, 1935

Registered mail sent on July 30, 1935, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Zanzibar (today part of Tanzania). Arrived on August 20, 1935.

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Cover — September 14, 1935

Sent on September 14, 1935, from Baghdad, Iraq, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — October 23, 1935

Registered mail sent on October 23, 1935, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to La Flèche, Sarthe, France. Arrived on October 24, 1935.

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Cover — February 10, 1936

Registered mail sent on February 10, 1936, from Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on February 13, 1936.

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Cover — March 9, 1936

Registered mail sent on March 9, 1936, from Mexico City, Mexico, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on March 21, 1936.

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Cover — August 19, 1936

Registered mail sent on August 19, 1936, from Berlin, Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on August 21, 1936.

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REM
Der Bund
September 6, 1936


Cover — February 1937

Registered mail sent in February 1937 from Barcelona, Spain, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on February 8, 1937.

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Tannu Tuva Covers — February 12, 1937 – February 13, 1937

Two philatelic covers sent to Béla’s first address in New York City.
Béla Sekula was the main importer of Tuva stamps to the US. Due to the negative reception by the philatelic press to stamps that were perceived as labels without postal use, Sekula, along with other wholesalers (e.g. UK based stamp dealer Thomas Cliffe), arranged for registered letters to be sent to them as proof of their legitimacy. Later these covers were also attacked, and it was suggested that they had actually been sent from Moscow.

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Auction scans.


Cover — March 5, 1937

Non-philatelic Tannu Tuva cover sent registered on March 5, 1937, from Kyzyl to Béla Sekula’s second address in New York City.

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Tannu Tuva Cover — March 13, 1937

Philatelic cover sent registered on March 13, 1937, from Kizil, Tannu Tuva, to Paul Vogelsanger, one of Béla Sekula’s officers in Lucerne. Franked with Scott #78, 80, 83, 84, 87, 88 / Michel #83C, 85C, 88C, 89A, 92C, 93C. LUZERN 2 arrival postmark on back dated 31.III.37.

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Cover — July 10, 1937

Registered mail sent on July 10, 1937, from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on July 10, 1937.

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Cover — June 22, 1938

Registered mail sent on June 22, 1938, from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Lenzburg.

Béla Sekula founded the Globus AG in January 1934 with himself as board member and the Austrian Ludwig Lauber as managing director. After Béla left the company in March 1935, it only survived for four more years. In June 1939 Globus went bankrupt.
 
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Cover — September 21, 1938

Registered airmail sent on September 21, 1938, from Jos, Nigeria, to Lucerne, Switzerland. Arrived on October 10, 1938.

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Cover — December 30, 1940

Registered mail sent on December 30, 1940, from Madrid, Spain, to New York City, United States. Arrived on January 30, 1941.

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Cover — June 1942

Sent in June 1942 from Banwell, Somerset, England, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — June 19, 1942

Sent on June 19, 1942, from London, England, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — February 24, 1943

Censored letter sent on February 24, 1943 by Capitol Stamp Ltd. (Case Gare 8318) from Lausanne to Béla Sekula, Stamp Import & Export Corporation, New York City, USA.

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REM
Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois)
May 23, 1943


Cover — September 20, 1943

Sent on September 20, 1943, from Ciudad Trujillo (=Santo Domingo), Dominican Republic, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — May 1945

Registered mail sent in May 1945 from Caracas, Venezuela, to New York City, United States. Arrived on May 5, 1945.

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Cover — May 25, 1946

Registered mail sent on May 25, 1946, from Vatican City to New York City, United States. Arrived on July 10, 1946.

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FDC — June 11, 1946

Registered mail sent on June 11, 1946, from Tangier, British PO, Morocco, to New York City, United States. Arrived on July 13, 1946.

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Cover — October 15, 1946

Sent on October 15, 1946, from Barcelona, Spain, to New York City, United States. Arrived on October 24, 1946.

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Cover — April 3, 1947

Airmail sent on April 3, 1947, from Johannesburg, South Africa, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — October 9, 1947

Sent on October 9, 1947, from Barcelona, Spain, to New York City, United States. Arrived on October 17, 1947.

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Cover — February 7, 1948

Sent on February 7, 1948, from Suva, Fiji, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — April 28, 1948

Airmail sent on April 28, 1948, from Trieste, Free Territory of Trieste (today part of Italy), to New York City, United States.

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Cover — March 4, 1949

Sent on March 4, 1949, from Verona, Italy, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — July 31, 1949

Sent on July 31, 1949, from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India, to New York City, United States.

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Auction Catalog — October 1949

In October 1949, Béla’s stock was auctioned off by J. & H. Stolow, New York.

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Cover — December 2, 1949

Registered airmail sent on December 2, 1949, from Jamnagar, Gujarat, India, to New York City, United States. Arrived on December 6, 1949.

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Cover — August 14, 1950

Registered cover sent on August 14, 1950 by Béla Sekula from St. Moritz, Switzerland, to his business address in New York City, USA.

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Cover — November 20, 1950

Airmail sent on November 20, 1950, from Berlin, Germany, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — February 9, 1951

Sent on February 9, 1951, from Budapest, Hungary, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — June 8, 1951

Sent on June 8, 1951, from Paris, France, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — 1952

Printed matter sent 1952 from India to New York City, United States.

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Cover — April 28, 1952

Registered airmail sent on April 28, 1952, from Hamburg, Germany, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — August 28, 1953

Registered airmail sent on August 28, 1953, from Hong Kong, British Empire (today China), to New York City, United States. Arrived on August 31, 1953.

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Cover — June 21, 1954

Registered mail sent on June 21, 1954, from Geneva, Switzerland, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — February 26, 1955

Sent on February 26, 1955, from Vienna, Austria, to New York City, United States.

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Aerogramme — May 20, 1955

Sent on May 20, 1955, from Stockholm, Sweden, to New York City, United States. Arrived New .

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Cover — June 29, 1955

Sent on June 29, 1955, from Copenhagen, Denmark, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — November 6, 1956

Airmail sent on November 6, 1956, from St. Moritz, Switzerland, to New York City, United States.

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Cover — December 8, 1960

Sent on December 8, 1960 from Vienne, France, to Philatelie A.G. at Béla Sekula’s last private address, Steinwiesstr. 18 in Zurich.

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Cover — 1961

Sent 1961 from Kathmandu, Nepal, to Zurich, Switzerland.

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Scan provided by Max Brack.
REM
Der Bund
October 21, 1962


Cover — June 16, 1963

Registered mail sent on June 16, 1963, from Karlsruhe, Germany, to Zurich, Switzerland.

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REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
July 20, 1966
REM
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
June 5, 1987


Souvenir Sheet — December 30, 1991

Today, Béla S(z)ekula’s legacy seems to be nothing more than a bad reputation. In his home country Hungary, however, he is and always has been regarded as an esteemed figure who played an important role in the birth of organized philately. On December 30, 1991, celebrating 120 years of Hungarian stamps, the Hungarian post issued a Pro Philatelia souvenir sheet featuring Béla Szekula along with three other early philatelists: Hungary’s first postmaster general Mihály Gervay (1819 – 1896) and the statesmen József Zichy (1841 – 1924) and Gábor Baross (1848 – 1892).

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