Fakes and Forgeries – Beware!

Real or fake? At top is the unique genuine British Guiana Penny Magenta, and on the bottom is a very similar stamp described by experts as a forgery.

As with any object of value, stamps attract the attention of some dishonest individuals. Just like in the world of currency and of fine art, one has to be on the lookout for forgeries and fakes. In fact, only twenty years after the issuing of the first stamp in 1840 did the first forgery appear. It is probably every collector’s greatest nightmare to discover that a well-loved and valuable stamp is actually a fake. How to protect one’s self from being a victim of stamp counterfeits, especially since they can be difficult to detect? Well, the first step is to understand the difference between a fake and a forgery.

A forged stamp is one which has been copied from an original and produced from scratch. It can have the object of defrauding a collector, as well as defrauding the government. Some may think that only expensive and rare stamps attract counterfeiters, but this is not the case. By producing common, every day stamps, these can then be used as regular postage stamps, without the initial purchasing cost. An interesting fact: in the early 1900’s, many used forged stamps to fill blank spaces in stamp albums in order for it to look full and neat. If the stamp in question was not particularly important to the person, this was considered an acceptable alternative. This led to counterfeit stamps flooding the early market which may have even made their way into modern collections today!

A faked stamp is a common stamp which has been altered in order to make it resemble another stamp, usually a more valuable one. There are many ways of faking a stamp. A person could add a cancellation or an overprint, add or cut off perforations, or actually alter the design.

How to go about discerning the difference between the genuine article and the fakes? Well, tune in next week to learn about the various methods counterfeiters use, and how to use this knowledge to spot a fake. 

Queen Victoria Genuine and Forgery Stamp of Queen Victoria from P.E.I. On the left is the genuine stamp; to the right is the forgery, now worth more than the original!


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