Croatia 2015: President Jefferson – Composer?

Five years ago, on April 21 2015, Croatia issued a set of three Kn3.10 values honouring personalities. Mi 1175/SG 1247 is dedicated to the composer Luka Sorkočević (Luca Antonio di Sorgo, 1734-1789). The issued version shows his Italian name and details of his handwritten sheet music. What a surprise then, when an example of this value appeared with a different design at an auction in December 2017! (Barac-Pervan, Zagreb).

LEFT: President Thomas Jefferson – RIGHT: No portrait available

In fact, the portrait used on this version shows the third American president, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)! The White House Historical Association reports that Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860) painted this second portrait of him in late January 1805 at the White House. It “shows Jefferson as he appeared at the conclusion of a very successful first term in office. At the peak of his popularity and with the knowledge that he had won a landslide victory for re-election, Jefferson posed for this formal portrait in a somewhat unconventional manner with his hair not dressed and covering his red coat with a large, fur-lined cape.”

I have noticed that several YouTube videos with music by Luka Sorkočević have been illustrated with the same Jefferson portrait – a possible source of this mistake?

The auction description explained:

‘Republic of Croatia – Unissued stamp from 2015 supposed to show Mr Luka Sorkočević, Ragusan 18th ct. composer. Three stamps were envisaged for the set ‘Famous Croats’ in 2015 featuring Messrs. Luka Sorkočević, J.J. Strossmayer, and Ivan Supek. By mistake the image of American President Thomas Jefferson was placed on the Kn. 3.10 stamp.

‘This error was noted just before the release of the set and the entire run of the Kn3.10 stamp was withdrawn and destroyed. It is though known that one post office sold 22 examples prior to the release date. In view of the events and given the fact that – insofar as is known – not a single copy has reached philatelic market to date, we consider this stamp could become the ‘Croatian Mauritius’. As this error is also important for the American philatelic market we believe the price will only increase in the future.’

The mint example started at €500; it reached a result of €1700!

Sandra Veljković reported in Večernji List on January 26 2019, that ‘Croatian Post Mixed up Croatian Composer with Thomas Jefferson’. The lucky buyers who bought a postage stamp with the figure that is supposed to represent the 18th century Dubrovnik composer Luka Sorkočević at post offices and kiosks in Dalmatia, now own a very rare stamp which has reached a price of several thousand euros at recent auctions.

Croatian Post explained that it did not use a portrait because there was no contemporary portrait of Sorkočević from his lifetime. In Croatian Post’s view, as the stamp has never been registered with the Universal Postal Union, it is not officially recognised as a Croatian postage stamp. So far, this seems to be the only case in Croatia where such an error has reached sales points. Now, almost four years later, the stamp’s value has increased substantially. Neither the Michel nor the SG catalogues list, or even mention, this withdrawn stamp.

Article by Michael Burzan

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