While we do not want to condone the practice of forging stamps, it is however interesting to learn the story of Jean de Sperati, the greatest stamp forger of all times! De Sperati (1884-1957) was born in Pisa, Italy, but grew up in France. His family was in the printing business, and he became a printer and engraver, eventually becoming a master forger of stamps.
What made him so successful was his technique. Often, he would simply bleach or fade the original stamp, and then print his change over the top. By doing this, everything else about the stamp remained genuine: the paper and size, the perforations, the watermark, and even the cancel, making it more difficult to identify as a fake. It is thought that he produced over 500 varieties of forgeries from the stamps of over 100 countries-and many of them still sleep in the collections of philatelists throughout the world! If you do find a de Sperati fake, don’t be too discouraged. Many of his works are worth a considerable amount, and in some cases, are worth more than the original. For example, an Australian de Sperati was purchased for over $4000.
What happened to him? Well, authorities finally caught up with him in France and he was sentenced to prison and a fine, but did not have to serve the prison sentence due to his advanced age. His cheeky defence was that he was an artist and had forgotten to correctly label his stamps as fakes! In 1954, the British Philatelic Association, in an effort to curb his forging, purchased all of his stock and materials for a reputed $15000-$40000 US, a veritable fortune back then. They also demanded a promise that he would stop-which he did, or did he?