BULL STREET - The art of the Con

Not a Collectable- Stamp Forgery

Once started, the copying and forgery of coinage continued in earnest, but forgery of postage stamps eventually outshone it in profitability.  Stamp forging dates back to the issuance of the English One Penny Black, the first stamp, in 1840. Immediately collectors gravitated to the field and from a philatelic point of view, the scarcer a stamp was the more it became copied. From the very beginning, counterfeiters made big money just by copying run of the mill stamps solely for their value relative to mailing letters. Most copies were good enough that the postal inspectors didn’t bother to stop them.  

“In the United States, in 1895, a gang made up millions of copies of the two-cent rose carmine stamp of 1894 and tried to sell them from Ontario in huge quantities to mail-order businesses at a discount. Many were sold to innocent users, and used before Edward Lowry, a Chicago stamp dealer, spotted them and brought them to the attention of the U.S. Secret Service. Today the forged two-cent 1895 stamp has a black-market value of several dollars to collectors, whereas the real two-cent stamp is considered philatelic junk.” [87]

Some years ago, I made a very substantial donation of what I thought were highly valuable stamps to Boystown, which at that time had one of the world’s great collections. All the stamps had been purchased by me from supposedly reputable dealers and many were accompanied by certificates of authenticity. A number of years later Boystown, was weeding out their collection and apparently put some of the stamps that I had donated earlier up for auction.

The dealer who was holding the auction reported to the officials at Boystown that many of the stamps that were in my collection were forgeries. These officials asked me about it and I did some research. Not only did every one of them come from supposedly ethical dealers in stamps, not only did the majority carry certificates of authenticity by the highest authority in the stamp collecting world, but I had also taken the trouble to have each and every stamp authenticated once again by sending them to a stamp appraiser recommended by the officials of Boystown itself. When I told the people at Boystown who had done the expertizing, they became both horrified and morose. I was so upset by the experience that I gave up the hobby altogether and although parts of the collection still remain in my library, I doubt that I would ever touch another stamp again, other than to put it on a letter and mail it.

However, it is true that the forgery of stamps is particularly simple. Most stamps come with perforations. When a category of stamp was issued in the old days, either perforations were added or subtracted from the stamp and the oil dies were used. It was like rolling off a log for a counterfeiter to add or remove them creating value from possibly worthless material. Moreover, some stamps were issued without perforations after a perforated issued of the same stamp had already been in circulation. In this case, the simple use of a scissors would do the job creating value where none had existed before.




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