- The art of the Con
Not a Collectable- Stamp
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 didnâ€™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.”
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 worldâ€™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.