Fake FBI Wanted PostersBy

Fake FBI Wanted Posters

Be on the lookout for...Bonnie & Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly and John Dillinger

The fake Bonnie and Clyde poster below (Fig. 1) was recently sold for over $300 through a phone/mail auction. It was described as original and came with a letter of authenticity. The auctioneer personally told the buyer it was "absolutely authentic." When the poster was delivered to the buyer, a retired FBI agent, he had the advantage of comparing it to genuinely old posters he already owned and found major problems.

The most obvious is that the overall format of the fake is wrong. On original FBI posters of the 1930s, a fingerprint chart occupies about one third the area. (see Fig. 2). Next, the quality and detail in originals are totally lacking in the suspect piece. The printing is blurred and Bonnie's photo is crooked. J. Edgar Hoover was a perfectionist and would never allow such untidy work. For example the word "aliases" is used; it should be "alias" (see Fig. 1). The date under the identification number runs into the date issued (Fig. 1). "Federal Bureau of Investigation" doesn't appear anywhere on the fake; "Division of Investigation" is substituted on the new piece. Using the Bureau's name on any nonofficial form is a federal crime. Maybe the forger knew this and intentionally changed the wording. The reverse side of the fake poster lists offices and phone numbers in 30 cities. All addresses and numbers on the fake are incorrect. Originals from the 1930's list FBI offices and phone numbers in 51 cities.

Original posters from the 1930s are on 8" x 8" sheets of lightweight cardboard which are carefully printed and machine trimmed. This odd size is not readily available to the do-it-yourself forger. The new poster is trimmed by scissors from a larger sheet leaving wavy edges along the borders. The new cardboard is about twice as thick as the weight originally used. Authentic posters were filed in a two-post binder or file holder. That's why original posters are punched at the top center with two holes seen in Fig. 2 below, but missing in the fake in Fig. 1.

Similar fake posters are known to exist for John Dillinger and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. The other fakes suffer many of the same problems as the Bonnie and Clyde piece.

Special thanks to retired FBI agent and ACRN subscriber William Rosenbaum for sharing this information.


Fig. 1 Faked Bonnie and Clyde poster. Date runs into identification number, left arrow; misspelled word "aliases", middle arrow; "Division of Investigation" instead of Federal Bureau of Investigation, right arrow. Fingerprint chart not included; most printing blurred, poor photos.


Fig. 2 Typical original 1930s FBI poster. The most prominent feature is the fingerprint chart. Posters were issued with two punched holes at the top for attaching to a file holder. Also note the use of "Federal Bureau of Investigation" at top. Good quality photographs, crisp printing.