The Szekula Family of Stamp Dealers

This website is dedicated to the Hungarian born stamp dealers Béla, Géza, Eugen and Frank Szekula. Each one of them ran his own stamp business with emphasis on international stamp trade, most likely driven by money rather than the love of stamps. All four assumed Swiss nationality and were at one time based in Lucerne. Especially Béla’s creative business ideas provoked more than one philatelic scandal during his career. However, the history of philately would arguably be poorer without the Szekula brothers.


Béla Szekula

 
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 40
Béla Szekula at age 40
Newspaper ad
Advertising war stamps
(Schweizerisches Handelsamts-
blatt May 27, 1915)
Béla Szekula (1881–1966) was born on Feb. 9, 1881 in Szeged, Hungary, as the first son of soap boiler Julius (Gyula) Szekula and Róza Szekula (née Fürst). According to his own memories, at the age of sixteen he jumped a ship at 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 1898/99 Béla opened a business in Budapest as wholesale and retail merchant of postage stamps. While expanding his business activities Béla Szekula quickly gained a negative reputation for sending abroad unsolicited approvals, and first warnings against him began circulating in the international philatelic press. Around 1901 he married his first wife, Lujza Bihari (1883—1964). On July 1, 1901, he published the first issue of his new stamp magazine Szekula Briefmarken-Verkehr (1901—1912). The first three issues appeared in Budapest, but issues 4 to 37 came out in Geneva, Switzerland, where he had moved his business in November 1901. Only eight months later, in July 1902, Béla and his wife moved to their new residence, the Villa Philatélie in nearby Chênes-Bougeries. In late 1902 they were joined by Béla’s brother Géza. During Béla’s first stay in Switzerland he continued to provoke warnings against him in philatelic journals, and not only because of his business conduct in general. In 1903 he received a negative echo for extensively advertising certain stamps of Puerto Rico that had been surcharged HABILITADO 17 OCTUBRE 1898 but were never valid for franking, and therefore were generally regarded as fraudulent (needless to say that today these issues are expensive collectibles for specialists). In the same year he also offered the 1902 commemorative stamps of the Dominican Republic, issued on February 25, for sale, in full sets on and off piece … and canceled with fake postmarks of Santo Domingo dated 20 January 1902 — perhaps the earliest truely black spot in his career.
In February 1904 the Szekulas left Switzerland and returned to Hungary, most likely because Lujza had realised that she was pregnant. Back in Budapest Béla began to operate under the name of Internationale Philatelisten, an international society of philatelists he had founded in 1901, by now grown to more than 400 members. In the same year he (unknowingly?) offered some forged Guatemalan stamps as genuine, which is probably the main reason why he was later referred to as a forger. On September 16, 1904, Lujza gave birth to the twin sisters Agnes and Maria in Budapest. On September 23, 1908, Béla’s third daughter Hedwig was born in Vienna, Austria, and on March 30, 1910, Béla’s son Karl Béla was born in Budapest — both outside marriage, the result of a long-term affair with Antónia Heller which lead to Béla’s and Lujza’s divorce. In February 1912 Béla landed his biggest deal so far, the acquisition of the prize-winning Robert Holitscher collection at the price of 840,000 K., roughly USD 4.8 million in today’s (2020) currency. He then sold the collection country by country at a profit of 10%.
In January 1913 Béla (or rather probably the whole family) moved to Switzerland again, this time Lucerne, where he opened the Briefmarken-Grosshandlung (= stamp wholesale business) Béla Szekula. Two years later he started offering war stamps, including unused Belgian stamps confiscated by Germany during the occupation. On October 9, 1916 he married Bertha (Berty) Huguenin (1896–1980), and on November 4, 1916 Béla became a naturalized Swiss citizen of Kriens. In the same month the British Foreign Trade Department declared Béla Szekula (incl. his alias Elise Bieri) an undesirable person for firms and persons in the British Empire to deal with and put him on the black list for trading with the enemy. On April 8, 1918, his fourth daughter, the future artist Sonja Sekula was born. In March 1923 he and his relatives were officially granted permission to change the spelling of their last name to Sekula.
Despite the occasional negative press and complaints from end customers, Béla’s business and the number of its employees grew steadily over the next years, and in the stamp trade he was perceived as a reliable, straightforward and fast distributor. In September 1929 Béla renamed his company to Béla Sekula, Cosmophilatelist and started the magazine Cosmophilatelist. One year later, newspapers reporting on the IPOSTA (Internationale Postwertzeichen-Ausstellung = international postage stamp exhibition) held at Berlin in September 1930 referred to him as the world's biggest stamp dealer. In August 1931 he founded the Cosmophilatelist A.G. Luzern (Cosmophilateliste S.A. Lucerne, Cosmophilatelist Ltd. Lucerne) with himself as sole board member. Two months later Béla removed the affix Cosmophilatelist from the name of his first company changing it back to Béla Sekula.
During these years Béla Sekula also gained reputation as auctioneer with his World Stamp Auctions held between 1927 and 1932 in the noble Schweizerhof hotel in Lucerne. At these auctions, which could last up to two weeks, 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 was the affair that developed around Jean Adolphe Michel, the former postmaster in Ethiopia. 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 allowing 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 edition in 1931. When Béla began offering these stamps as originals, he and Michel were furiously attacked by a group of stamp dealers in Bern, who initially regarded the stamps as forgeries, later as unauthorized reprints and finally as philatelic reprints because the stamps had been printed after their validity had expired. Whether this was actually the case is debatable. In any case, these attacks culminated in criminal charges against Béla brought in Bern in 1933, which were dropped after two years of investigation, and a subsequent lawsuit against Michel in 1935, which ended in 1936 in favor of the defendant. By that time Béla was already preparing to leave Switzerland, albeit for a different reason.
Photo of Béla Sekula at age 54
Béla Sekula at age 54
Béla Sekula is believed to be the driving force behind the exotic looking stamps of Tannu Tuva issued between 1934 and 1936. Although there is no hard evidence to support this theory he was definitely one of the main promoters and sellers of these issues. 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 not welcome anymore at any of their public events. The ban extended to the other members of the Sekula family including their brother-in-law Max Goldberger, who were now all regarded as Béla’s accessories and vermin of philately. However, the timing of these measures suggest they had little to do with 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 from their mother’s side. In April 1935 Béla resigned from the board of Cosmophilatelist A.G. Luzern which shortly afterwards was taken over as Ocean Stamp Ltd. by Béla’s long-time colleague and friend Hermann Wiederhold. On September 23, 1936 the Sekula family moved to New York where Béla continued his business under Stamp Import & Export Corp. — initially from Hotel White, on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 37th Street. In February or March 1937, his company address changed to Woodstock Tower, 320 East 42nd Street, Manhattan. In June 1938 he finally closed his stamp wholesale in Lucerne. On June 26, 1940, Béla Sekula applied for naturalization, and on March 14, 1944 he became a citizen of the United States of America.
Unlike his earlier activities in Europe his time in America seems to have produced no notable scandal. He concentrated on wholesale and big deals with only a handful of customers. His private life, however, was overshadowed by recurrent mental health issues of his daughter Sonja who repeatedly had 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). He continued his business, however, now again from a hotel on the corner of 22 East 29th St. and Madison Avenue. Eventually, after almost twenty years in the US, the expenses for Sonja’s many hospital stays became too much and in 1955 he returned to Switzerland with his family, first to Zurich and a short time later to St. Moritz. He resumed business with the foundation of the Philatelie A.G., St. Moritz in September 1957, again with him as sole board member, starting with stamps worth Fr. 19200 acquired from Berty Sekula-Huguenin (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, while the registered business address stayed in St. Moritz. On April 25, 1963, the Sekula couple was struck by a personal tragedy when Sonja committed suicide in her studio. Béla himself died on July 20, 1966 in a hospital in Zurich at the age of 85 — after spending 68 years of his life as a stamp dealer. His ashes are buried in a family grave in St. Moritz next to his wife Berty and his daughter Sonja.
Béla S(z)ekula is mostly remembered for the philatelic scandals he was involved in, but reducing him to his misdemeanors doesn’t really do justice to the colorful character he was.


Millenary Postal Cards — 1896

Unused Hungarian 2K and 5K Crown of St. Stephen postal cards issued on the occasion 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.



Postal Card — March 3, 1898

Sent on March 3, 1898 from Budapest to Wojnilow, Galicia, Austrian Empire (today Voinyliv, Ukraine).

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Postcard — April 3, 1898

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

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Cover — April 5, 1900

Sent on April 5, 1900, from Budapest to Trenton, New Jersey, USA.

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Cover — December 1901

Stationery envelope sent around December 1901 from Cuba to Budapest, Hungary, and forwarded to Geneva, Switzerland.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Postcard — January 20, 1902

Sent on January 20, 1902 from Villa Nova d’Ourém (today Ourém), Portugal, to Béla Szekula in Geneva.

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Cover — February 5, 1902

Sent registered on February 5, 1902, from Geneva to Stuttgart, Germany.

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Postcard — December 27, 1902

Sent on December 27, 1902 from Chêne-Bougeries to Hartland, Vermont, USA.

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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

Sent registered on August 8, 1903, from Terijoki (today Selenogorsk), Russia, to Genève-Chêne (Chêne-Bougeries and Chêne-Bourg).

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Postcard — October 3, 1903

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

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Postcard — October 9, 1903

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

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Wrappers — October 1903 to 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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Guatemala Forgery — 1904

Two different printings of the forged 1878 1 peso Indian Woman issue of Guatemala, sold by Béla Szekula as orginals. He later stated that the lot had been offered to him as genuine, and denied being involved in the manufacture of these stamps. There was at least one more dealer, Guisquiere of Brussels, who also offered these forgeries as genuine items.
Today, this forgery seems to be more prevalent than the genuine stamp. It can be identified by the pineapple in the upper right corner of the forgery which has seven thick hairs spread over its top instead of a bun.

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Cover — January 9, 1904

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

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Postcard — March 11, 1904

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

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


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

Sent registered on May 13, 1904, from Budapest to Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

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Cover — June 1904

Sent registered in June 1904 from Budapest 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 to 1913

In the early 20th century paper seals became a popular replacement for wax seals. The advertising labels shown below were all produced during Béla’s exile in Budapest between 1904 and 1913. The stamps featured 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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Wrapper — 1904 to 1913

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

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Scan provided by David Rossall.


Cover — June 14, 1905

Sent registered on May 6, 1905 from Budapest to Basel, Switzerland.

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Offer — October 1905 to 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
The letter shows that by 1905 Béla had already created the label Internationale Philatelisten Genf in Budapest for his undertakings. As we know, he later dropped the Genf part, probably when his business there was shut down for good. Also, he was still issuing his journal Briefmarken-Verkehr.

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Postcard — February 3, 1906

Sent on February 3, 1906 as registered COD to Regensdorf, Switzerland.

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Postcard — February 21, 1906

Sent on February 21 to Tzschecheln, Germany (now Dębinka, Poland).

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Postcard — June 25, 1906

Sent on June 25, 1906, from Budapest 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

Magazine wrapper sent around September 1906 from Mexico to Chêne-Bourg, Switzerland, and forwarded to Budapest, Hungary.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Wrapper — December 31, 1906

Magazine band sent on December 31, 1906 from the UK (London?) to Chêne-Bourg, Geneva, Switzerland, and forwarded to Budapest, Hungary.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Postcard — January 10, 1907

Sent on January 10 to Vienna, Austria.

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Cover — January 31, 1907

Pre-addressed envolope sent registered on January 31, 1907 from Santiago de Chile to Budapest.

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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

Sent registered on October 26, 1907 from Budapest to New York City, USA.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Postcard — December 9, 1907

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

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Cover — May 28, 1910

Cover sent registered on May 28, 1910 from Budapest to New York, USA.

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Postcard — January 1911

Sent on January 12 to Würzburg, Bavaria.

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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 to Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Cover — June 15, 1912

Pre-addressed envelope mailed registered on June 15, 1912, within Budapest, Hungary.

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Cover — August 24, 1912

Sent registered on August 24, 1912, from Budapest to Heidelberg, Germany.

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Postcard — January 25, 1913

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

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Double Reply Card — February 11, 1913

Paid reply postal card sent on February 11, 1913 to Harderwijk, Holland, and forwarded to Assen.

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Postcard — October 3, 1913

Payment reminder sent as printed matter on October 3, 1913 from Lucerne to Cairo, Egypt.

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Cover — December 26, 1913

Sent on December 26, 1913 from Lucerne to Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Cover — May 1914

Cover sent in May 1914 from Porto Alegre, Brazil, to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.

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Postcard — June 28, 1914

Sent on June 28, 1914, to Esslingen, Germany.

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Approval Booklet — 1915

Unused approval booklet ca. 1915.

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front
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front inside

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glassine page No. 1 for mounting stamps

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back inside
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back



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.

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Cover — April 5, 1915

Registered cover sent on April 5, 1915 from Lucerne, Switzerland to St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

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Cover — April 6, 1915

Registered cover sent on April 6, 1915 from Lucerne, Switzerland to Valdivia, Chile.

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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.

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Cover — April 19, 1915

Registered cover sent on April 19, 1915 from Essen, Germany to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — May 1915

Sent in May 1915 from Budapest, Hungary, to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.

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Postcard — May 25, 1915

Sent on May 25, 1915 from Lucerne to La Tronche, France; forwarded to Villeurbanne.

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Cover — June 1915

Registered cover sent in June 1915 from Mannheim, Germany to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.

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Postcard — June 9, 1915

Payment reminder sent on June 9, 1915, from Lucerne to Budapest, Hungary.

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Cover — June 28, 1915

Registered cover sent on June 28, 1915 from Lucerne, Switzerland to Valdivia, Chile.

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Cover — June 30, 1915

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

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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

Sent as printed matter on July 10, 1915, from Lucerne to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, USA.

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Cover — August 1915

Censored cover sent in August, 1915 from Freiburg, Germany to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — August 15, 1915

Registered cover sent on August 15, 1915 from Palermo, Italy to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — September 2, 1915

Registered cover sent on September 2, 1915 from Copenhagen, Denmark to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — September 16, 1915

Registered cover sent on September 16, 1915 from Lucerne to Arnstadt, Thuringia, Germany.

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Postcard — November 11, 1915

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

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Cover — December 15, 1915

Sent registered on December 15, 1915 from Lucerne, Switzerland to Solln (today part of Munich), Germany.

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Cover — January 7, 1916

Sent registered on January 7, 1916, from Lucerne to Detroit, Michigan, USA.

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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

Censored cover sent in April 1916 from Rochester, Kent, England, to Lucerne.

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Postcard — May 22, 1916

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

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Cover — June 1916

Censored cover sent in June 1906 from Stellenbosch, South Africa to Béla Szekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — July 4, 1916

Registered cover sent on July 4, 1916 from Lucerne to Olten.

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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 Foreing 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 — August 17, 1917

Sent registered on August 17, 1917, from Lucerne to Willisau.

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Front of 4-page leaflet advertising Schaubek stamp albums sold by Béla.



Postcard — August 27, 1917

Sent on August 27, 1917 to Charlottenlund (near Copenhagen), Denmark.

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Cover — September 19, 1917

Sent registered on September 19, 1917, from Lucerne to Kalmar, Sweden.

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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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Covers — May 1918 to 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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Private Overprints — April 1919 to 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.

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 #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



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 to Pekalongan, and forwarded to Ungaran (Dutch: Oengaran), Java, Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).

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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

Sent registered in January 1920 to Anklam, Pomerania, Germany.

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Postcard — March 28, 1921

Sent on March 28, 1921 to New York City, USA.

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Cover — April 7, 1921

Sent on April 7, 1921 to Berlin, Germany.

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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

Sent registered in 1923 from Caracas, Venezuela, to Béla Szekula at Sonnenhof in Lucerne.

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Cover — March 30, 1923

Sent registered on March 30, 1923 from Rosario, Argentina, to Béla Szekula Villa Philatelie in Lucerne.

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Cover — May 30, 1923

Sent registered on May 30, 1923 from Cairo, Egypt, to Béla Szekula Villa Philatelie in Lucerne.

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Cover — June 11, 1923

Sent registered on June 11, 1923 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Béla Sekula Sonnenhof in Lucerne.

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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 — August 3, 1923

Sent registered on August 3, 1923 from Peru to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — August 17, 1923

Sent registered on August 17, 1923 from Valparaíso, Chile, to Béla Szekula Sonnenhof in Lucerne.

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Double Reply Card — September 1, 1923

Paid reply postal card sent on September 1, 1923 to Hamburg, Germany.

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Cover — September 18, 1923

Sent registered on September 18, 1923, from Braunschweig, Germany, to Lucerne. Franked with fee paid tax stamps during German inflation period.

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Postcard — 9, 1924

Sent on January 30, 1924 to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

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Scans provided by Albert Little.


Postcards — January 9, 1926 to January 14, 1926

Two postcards sent in January 1926 from Lucerne to Ludwigslust, Germany.

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Postcard — May 25, 1926

A postcard sent from Béla Szekula’s office on May 25, 1926, explaining to the editor of the General Anzeiger für Philatelie that Béla is currently out of town, but will return next week and contact him then to take out new ads. It is interesting that the logo on this 1926 card still says Szekula - three years after he officially adopted the new spelling Sekula.

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Cover — August 8, 1926

Sent on August 8, 1926 from Estremoz, Spain, North Africa, to Béla Sekula.

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Cover — September 9, 1926

Stationery envelope sent on September 9, 1926 within Lucerne to Béla Sekula.

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Cover — September 10, 1926

Sent registered on September 10, 1926 from Tranqueras, Uruguay, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — October 14, 1926

Sent on January 6, 1927 to Milovice, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic).

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Cover — November 18, 1926

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

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Scans provided by David Rossall.


Cover — December 17, 1926

Stationery envelope sent on December 17, 1926 within Lucerne to Béla Sekula.

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Cover — January 6, 1927

Sent on January 6, 1927 to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Scan provided by Albert Little.


Auction Catalog — May 2, 1927 to 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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Cover — July 16, 1927

Printed matter sent on July 16, 1927 to New York, USA.

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Cover — September 23, 1927

Sent on September 23, 1927 to Netstal, Switzerland.

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Cover — January 18, 1928

Express cover sent on January 18, 1928 from Lucerne to Basel.

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Cover — February 7, 1928

Printed matter sent on February 7, 1928 from Lucerne to Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Cover — February 10, 1928

Sent registered on February 10, 1928 from Náchod, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic), to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — February 23, 1928

Sent registered on February 23, 1928 from Bondowoso, Dutch India (Indonesia), to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Auction Catalog — March 5, 1928 to 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

Sent registered on April 4, 1928 from Lugoj, Romania, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — May 28, 1928

Sent registered on May 28, 1928 from Cernăuți, Romania (today Chernivtsi, Ukraine), to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — June 28, 1928

Sent registered on June 28, 1928 from Metz, France, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — October 9, 1928

Sent registered on October 9, 1928 to Barmen, Germany.

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Cover — November 5, 1928

Sent registered on November 5, 1928 from Bildstock, Saar Territory, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — February 9, 1929

Sent registered on February 9, 1929 to Bielefeld, Germany, forwarded to Essen.

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Cover — July 31, 1929

Sent registered on July 31, 1929 to Apponaug (Warwick), Rhode Island, USA.

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Cover — September 13, 1929

Sent registered on September 13, 1929 from London, England, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — October 17, 1929

Printed matter sent on October 17, 1929 from Lucerne to Ohio, Cincinnati, USA.

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Scan provided by David Rossall.


Cover — October 26, 1929

Sent registered on October 26, 1929 from Cadiz, Spain, to Lucerne.

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Cover — November 11, 1929

Sent registered on November 11, 1929 from Lucerne to Hamburg, Germany.

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Cover — November 28, 1929

Sent registered on November 28, 1929 from Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Postcard — December 26, 1929

Payment reminder sent on December 26, 1929 from Lucerne to Southport, England.

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Cosmophilatelist — 1929 to 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 — January 23, 1930

Printed matter sent on January 23, 1930 from Lucerne to Holden, Massachusetts, USA.

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Cover — February 21, 1930

Sent registered on February 21, 1930 to Berlin, Germany.

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Cover — March 14, 1930

Sent registered on March 14, 1930 from Lucerne to Mälarhöjden, Sweden.

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Cover — June 9, 1930

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

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Postcard — July 3, 1930

Prompt note sent on July 3, 1930 to Athus, Belgium.

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Postcard — August 30, 1930

Postcard sent as printed matter on August 30, 1930 to Leipzig, Germany.

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Postcard — September 10, 1930

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

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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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Cover — December 27, 1930

Sent on December 27, 1930 from Lucerne to Prague, Czechoslovakia.

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Animals and Rulers issue of Ethiopia — 1931

The controversial 1931 reprints of the Ethiopian Animals and Rulers issue of 1919 (Scott #120–134) were printed with plates created from the original master dies 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. 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, more yellowish and typically darker.

Original issue and reprint side by side:

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Postcard — January 6, 1931

Sent on January 6, 1931 from Lucerne to Oujda, Morocco.

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Cover — April 5, 1931

Sent registered on April 5, 1931 by Béla Sekula from Lucerne to Santiago, Chile.

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Cover — May 18, 1931

COD cover sent registered via air mail on May 18, 1931, from Lucerne to Berchtesgaden, Germany.

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Cover — June 17, 1931

Sent registered on June 17, 1931 from Cafundó, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — June 19, 1931

Pre-addressed envelope sent registered on June 19, 1931 from Červený Kostelec, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic) to Lucerne.

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Cover — July 30, 1931

Sent as printed matter on July 30, 1931, from Lucerne to Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

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Cover — August 24, 1931

Printed matter sent on August 24, 1931, from Lucerne to Ekenäs, Finland, arriving on August 28, 1931, and forwarded more than one year later, on November 5, 1932, to Liljendal.

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Cover — September 5, 1931

Sent on September 5, 1931 by the newly founded Cosmophilatelist A.G. from Lucerne to Wilhelmshaven, Germany.

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Auction Catalog — September 18, 1931 to 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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Cover — December 4, 1931

Sent registered on December 4, 1931, from Lucerne to Lisieux, France.

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Cover — February 10, 1932

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

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Cover — February 19, 1932

Sent registered on February 19, 1932 from Lucerne to Wauseon, Ohio, USA.

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Cover — February 22, 1932

Pre-addressed envelope sent on February 22, 1932 from Bern to Lucerne.

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Cover — March 7, 1932

Registered cover sent on March 7, 1932 via airmail to Buffalo, New York, USA.

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Cover — March 9, 1932

Sent registered on March 9, 1932, from Tampico, Mexico, to Lucerne.

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Cover — March 23, 1932

Sent on March 23, 1932, by Béla Sekula from Lucerne to the rapid alert service of the Federation of Germany Stamp Dealers in Leipzig, Germany.

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Cover — May 18, 1932

Sent registered on May 18, 1932, from Souk el Tleta, Morocco, to Lucerne.

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Cover — June 14, 1932

Sent registered on June 14, 1932 from Buffalo, New York, USA to Cosmophilatelist in Lucerne.

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Cover — June 16, 1932

Sent as printed matter on June 16, 1932, to Santiago de Chile.

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Postcard — July 7, 1932

Sent on July 7, 1932 from Lucerne to Helsinki, Finland.

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Postcard — July 30, 1932

Sent on July 30, 1932 from Lausanne to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — August 11, 1932

Sent on August 11, 1932 to Hannover, Germany.

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Cover — August 25, 1932

Printed matter sent on August 25, 1932 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 7, 1932

Sent on October 7, 1932 to Reichenbach im Vogtland, Saxony, Germany.

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Cover — October 21, 1932

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

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Scan provided by David Rossall.


Cover — November 8, 1932

Printed matter sent on November 8, 1932 to Blountville, Tennessee, USA.

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Cover — November 14, 1932

Printed matter sent on November 14, 1932 to Reichenbach im Vogtland, Saxony, Germany.

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Cover — November 26, 1932

Sent registered on November 26, 1932 from Reșița, Romania, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — January 20, 1933

Sent registered on January 20, 1933 from Cuenca, Ecuador to Lucerne.

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Cover — February 10, 1933

Sent registered on February 10, 1933 from New York City, USA, to Lucerne.

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Postcard — September 18, 1933

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

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Cover — January 23, 1934

Registered cover sent on January 23, 1934 to Fürth, Bavaria, Germany.

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Cover — February 2, 1934

Sent on February 2, 1934 from Bucharest, Romania, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — March 10, 1934

Registered cover sent on March 10, 1934 via airmail to Brooklyn, New York City, USA.

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Cover — April 4, 1934

Sent registered on April 4, 1934 by Paul Vogelsanger from Lucerne to Amiens, France.

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Cover — April 7, 1934

Sent registered on April 7, 1934 from Newtown, Trinidad & Tobago, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — May 3, 1935

Sent on May 3, 1935 from Cologne, Germany, to Cosmophilatelist A.G. in Lucerne.

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Cover — May 22, 1935

Sent registered on May 22, 1935 from Alexandria, Egypt, to Cosmophilatelist A.G. in Lucerne.

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Cover — September 14, 1935

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

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Cover — October 23, 1935

Registered cover sent on October 23, 1935 by Cosmo S.A. from Lucerne to La Flèche, Sarthe, France.

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Cover — February 10, 1936

Registered cover sent on February 10, 1936 from Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal, to Cosmophilatelist SA. in Lucerne.

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Cover — March 11, 1936

Printed matter sent on March 11, 1936 from Lucerne to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Cover — August 19, 1936

Philatelic cover sent registered on August 19, 1936 from Berlin, Germany, to Stamp Import & Export Ltd. in Lucerne.

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Cover — February 1937

Registered cover sent in February 1937 from Barcelona, Spain, to Béla Sekula in Lucerne.

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Tannu Tuva Covers — February 12, 1937 to 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. However,
  • the majority of these covers have genuine arrival postmarks, which show that
  • the transition time was considerably longer than was normal for registered covers sent from Moscow to the same destinations.
  • Since the USSR was only one of two countries (the other being the Mongolian People’s Republic) that recognized Tannu Tuva as an independent state, it had to serve as an intermediary for international shipments while extending UPU rules to non-UPU member Tuva (UPU Convention 1929: Title 1, Chapter 1, Art. 7). It was of political importance for the Soviet Union to prove that Tannu Tuva was indeed independent. Faking the origin of dispatch would have been counterproductive – if discovered, it only would have confirmed the assessment of the international community of Tannu Tuva being a Russian puppet state. Furthermore, it seems unrealistic that the Soviet postal service in Moscow would have been willing to undermine UPU rules and play along with such a charade by accepting mail that was franked with stamps of what was officially regarded as a foreign country, and cancelling them with back-dated foreign postmarks.
The most likely explanation for these covers is that they were prepared by the Soviet Philatelic Association in Moscow, shipped in bulk to Tuva, and from there they were sent off as genuine postal items.

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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

Censored registered cover sent on July 10, 1937 from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain, to Stamp Import & Export Ltd. in Lucerne.

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Cover — December 30, 1940

Sent registered on December 30, 1940, from Madrid, Spain, to New York City, USA.

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Cover — June 1942

Censored letter sent in June 1942 from Banwell, Somerset, England to Béla Sekula, New York City, USA.

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Cover — June 19, 1942

Censored letter sent on June 19, 1942 from London, England to Béla Sekula, New York City, USA.

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Cover — February 24, 1943

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

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Cover — September 20, 1943

Censored cover sent on September 20, 1943 from Ciudad Trujillo (Santo Domingo), Dominican Republic, to Stamp Import & Export Corporation, New York City, USA.

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Cover — May 1945

Censored letter sent registered in May 1945 from Caracas, Venezuela to Stamp Import & Export Corporation, New York City, USA.

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Cover — January 3, 1946

Sent via airmail on January 3, 1946, from London, England, to New York City, USA.

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Cover — May 25, 1946

Sent registered on May 25, 1946, from Vatican City to New York City, USA.

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FDC — June 11, 1946

Sent registered on June 11, 1946 from the British PO in Tangier, Morocco, to New York City, USA.

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Cover — October 15, 1946

Sent on October 15, 1946 from Barcelona, Spain, to New York City, USA.

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Cover — October 26, 1946

Sent via airmail on October 26, 1946, from Frosterley, County Durham, England, to New York City, USA.

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Cover — October 9, 1947

Sent on October 9, 1947 from Barcelona, Spain, to Stamp Import & Export Corporation, New York City, USA.

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Cover — February 7, 1948

Sent on February 7, 1948 from Suva, Fiji, to Stamp Import & Export Corporation, New York City, USA.

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Cover — March 4, 1949

Sent on March 4, 1949 from Verona, Italy, to Stamp Import & Export Corporation, New York City, USA.

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Cover — July 31, 1949

Sent via airmail on July 31, 1949 from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India to New York, USA.

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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

Sent registered via airmail on December 2, 1949 from Jamnagar, Gujarat, India to New York, USA.

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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 — February 9, 1951

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

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Cover — June 8, 1951

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

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Cover — 1952

Sent as printed matter in 1952 from India to New York, USA.

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Cover — April 28, 1952

Sent registered via air mail on April 28, 1952, from Hamburg, Germany, to New York City, USA.

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Cover — August 28, 1953

Sent registered via air mail on August 28, 1953, from Hong Kong to New York City, USA.

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Cover — June 21, 1954

Registered cover sent on June 21, 1954 from Geneva, Switzerland, to New York City, USA.

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Cover — February 26, 1955

Sent via air mail on February 26, 1955 from Vienna, Austria, to New York City, USA.

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Aerogramme — May 20, 1955

Sent on May 20, 1955 from Stockholm, Sweden, to New York City, USA.

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Cover — June 29, 1955

Airmail cover sent on June 29, 1955, from Copenhagen, Denmark, to New York City, USA.

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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 in 1961 from Kathmandu, Nepal, to Béla Sekula in Zurich.

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Scan provided by Max Brack.


Cover — June 16, 1963

Sent registered on June 16, 1906, from Karlsruhe, Germany, to Zurich.

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Souvenir Sheet — December 30, 1991

Today, Béla Szekula’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.

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