Forgeries of Common Stamps and Information on Who Made ThemBy

Forgeries of Common Stamps and Information on Who Made Them

Many stamps, like the Colombian Exposition issue in Fig. 1, have strong crossover appeal to non-stamp collectors because of the subject matter. The problem is, how do you know what you're buying once you step out of your field? Does a Chicago World's Fair collector/dealer have the experience to evaluate a stamp?

Authentication of low-to-medium priced stamps has always been a problem for nonspecialists. Stamps listing in price guides for $50-$100 are usually not worth hiring a stamp expert to prepare written appraisals. But stamps in this price range have been among the most widely forged of all collectibles.

What can you do to protect yourself, your business or your customers? Read the books Focus on Forgeries, A Guide to Forgeries of Common Stamps and Philatelic Forgers, Their Lives and Works, both by Varro Tyler and published by Linn's Stamp News.

Focus on Forgeries shows side by side photos of the most commonly found faked stamps. Most were made for what is termed the "packet trade". This is the practice of selling a large quantity, or packet, of mixed and unsorted stamps for a relatively low amount of money. The author claims that some packets sold in the past and at present contain over 30% fakes and forgeries.

Some stamps are such favorites for forgery that the fakes far outnumber authentic examples. The 1893 2 cents Colombian commemorative shown in Fig. 1 is a good example of a widely reproduced issue.

Copies of this stamp were made almost immediately after the Exposition by Adolf Krueger of Hanover, Germany. They were sold throughout the United States from 1900-1910 for twenty five cents a set. Some of the copies were overprinted with the word "Imitation" at the top but many others were not. In many cases, the word Imitation is hidden by early postmarks and cancellations.

Other frequent fakes include a series of stamps from the "Confederate States of America" (Fig. 2). Beginning in 1934, these stamps were offered for 25-35 cents up through the 1950s. They were sold in such large numbers that they are commonly found in many accumulations and collections today.

The Confederate fakes were not even copied from originals but were taken from a series of artist's drawings made in 1918. Although these stamps are relatively well known among stamp collectors, most general line dealers, appraisers or auctioneers would not have any reason to suspect them as fakes.

Focus on Forgeries includes photos of forged and genuine versions of 150 stamps in 158 pages. Below each image is a list of easy to understand key features that separate the forgeries from the genuine. Remember, these are the most common mass produced fakes likely to be found in casual collections. The individually crafted forgeries of multi-thousand dollar stamps are not included. A great reference for the generalist who occasionally encounters stamps.

Philatelic Forgers, 165 pages, 65 photos, is a less technical book than the previous title. Although it includes many photos of fakes, it focuses on the forgers rather than the products they created. It is a valuable reference because it documents many original advertisements and sales schemes through which the fakes were sold.

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Fig. 1 At first glance, a nice commemorative of the 1893 Colombian Exposition. Hidden in the cancellation is the word Imitation. This example is marked, many are not. Another obvious clue is in the ornamentation detail shown enlarged. The forgery has a dot and dash, the original a single diamond. Photo courtesy Linn's Stamp News.

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Fig. 2 Booklet of fake Confederate stamps, ca. 1930-40s .
Photo courtesy Linn's Stamp News.

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Fig. 3 Lenin Mourning issue of 1924. This lithographed issue has been so extensively forged that counterfeits outnumber genuine pieces. The line defining Lenin's head is very thick and blunt in the copy. The same line in the original is relatively thin and tapers to a point at the top of the head. Photo courtesy Linn's Stamp News.

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Fig. 4 United States, 2 cents regular issue, 1923-1938. The forgery was produced in 1935 by New York stamp dealer Jacob B. Huffman. The "S" in forgery is larger than other letters.
Photo courtesy Linn's Stamp News.