Philatelic fakes and forgeries


Generally in the world of philately the fakes and forgeries are considered to be any label that looks like a stamp but actually is not. These items don’t have any value and can clog your collection. Such labels are produced to deceive or defraud. Being able to identify such items can be a challenging branch of philately but at the same time very important.

Philatelic fakes and forgeries

So a term "forgery" is generally to indicate stamps produced to defraud collectors (properly known as forgeries) and to defraud stamp-issuing governments (properly known as counterfeits).

"Fake" is used to denote an item that looks like a genuine stamp but in fact it is the alteration of a genuine item. Fakes might refer to not only to postage stamps but also to various philatelic items such cancellations, covers etc.

Expertizing stamps as protection

When a collector decides to buy some valuable stamps it is essential to turn to a special expert who is able to identify whether these items are genuine or fake. Usually such experts are generally focused on a selected philatelic area. It is important to remember that today homemade forgeries can easily reach the market through the internet that is why the collectors should be careful with their purchases.


History of philatelic fakes and forgeries

The first postage stamp forgery appeared soon after the first stamp (in 1840) was released. This item was created to deceive the stamp collectors making them believe that it is genuine and valuable item. By 1863 stamp forgeries were so common and usual in the world of philately that soon a special book under the title “Forged Stamps: How to Detect Them” was published to help stamp collectors to identify fakes.

Forged Stamps: How to Detect Them

Jean de Sperati is among the master forgers in the history of philately. He bleached a real, cheaper stamp of the same vintage to produce his forgeries using then a process called photolithography to make a perfect copy of the philately item. During his life Sperati made approximately 500 stamp copies that now often worth more than the originals.


Classification of fake stamps

For all fake stamps a special classification exists. It should be notices that some items are not really fakes and forgeries, but a special type of philatelic items which are not actually postage stamps.

Postal counterfeits

Those who produce counterfeits appeal to a very different market from philatelists. They depend on their stamps being produced in large quantities in order to be able to recover their outlay.

Postal counterfeit are usually created for a different market than philatelists. Such postage stamps are often definitive postage stamps that are made to defraud the official postal service.

The first stamp to be copied was the famous Penny Black the original version of which cost a lot of money. Forgeries allowed a common person to buy and use the copies of this valuable item. To make a perfect forgery one should be a real professional. The tricks to make such an item are the following: changing colors, face values, imitation of a higher value stamp or making the cancellation disappear.

Philatelic fakes and forgeries

Notable postal forgeries include:

  • France: 20c (1870), 15c (1886), sower 25c (1923)
  • Germany: 10pf (1902), 10pf (1909)
  • Great Britain: 1s (1872), 4d World Cup Winners (1966)
  • Australia: 2d Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932)
  • USA: 2c Washington (1894), 13c Liberty Bell (1980)

As postal forgeries are quiet often nowadays the official postal services have developed their own methodology to protect the quality of the items they produce. The major steps include: 

  • Watermarks
  • Special paper
  • Delicate engraving
  • Printing methods
  • Special ink for postmarks
  • Insertion of silk threads
  • Secret marks either visible or invisible to the microscope

Philatelic forgeries

    Philatelic forgeries

Forgery - postage stamps produced to defraud collectors and to defraud stamp-issuing governments. Knowledge is an important tool in detecting forgeries. Unless a philatelist cannot identify forgery himself he should spend a lot of money for expertizing fees. But nowadays some postal forgeries are actually quite collectible, and can be many times more expensive than the actual postage stamp they were originally made to imitate. Many postal forgeries produced in the earliest days of stamp collecting in the 19th century are still plentiful.

Fake stamps

Fake stamp

Fake is the alteration of a genuine stamp to make it appear as something else. Fakes might refer to cancels, overprints, added or clipped perforations, design alterations, etc. For a person it can be quiet profitably to alter the cheap example into something that can be sold for more expensive price.

Knowledge is an important tool in helping to detect fakes and forgeries. A person who is able to identify some of the most obvious forgeries can save a lot of money in expertizing fees, though the information may not yet be enough to establish that a stamp is genuine.


Government and propaganda stamp forgeries

Government and propaganda stamp forgeries  Government and propaganda stamp forgeries

Forgeries are also created because of political reasons and propaganda. These items aim to deprive the enemy of revenue, to distribute propaganda material, to cause confusion, and to depict propaganda messages. Propaganda stamps are very popular among the collectors and can be also philatelically forged.


Other types

Official reprints

Stamp reprint    

Official reprints of stamps are not actually fakes. They are issued by Postal Services to reproduced old already not valid stamps and to meet a philatelic demand. Scott numbers 3 and 4 of the United States were produced for this purpose.


Remainders are surplus stocks of legitimate postage stamps that are put on the philatelic market after ceasing to be valid for postal purposes. The reason why these stamps are popular on the market is that used stamps can be much more valuable than mint ones.

Bogus stamps

Bogus stamps

Bogus stamps are fictitious stamps which purport to be produced by an entity that exists and might have produced them, but did not. Generally this type of stamps is not considered to be fake one as it is not based on any genuine stamp. It does not even resemble anything that the entity did produce, meanwhile the term also refers to a genuine stamp which bears the sham addition of an unauthorized surcharge.

Stamp fantasies

Stamp fantasies

Fantasies are a stamp type that is considered to be not real one. Fantasies are philatelic items that were issued by countries that do not exist. One of the most famous of these were "King" Charles-Marie David de Mayrena's stamps for Sedang.

Stamp cinderellas

Cinderellas is a term that denote anything that looks like a postage stamp but isn't. This term is very broad that includes such notions as bogus stamps and fantasies, many fund raising labels, Christmas seals, and other stickers that were produced for legitimate purposes.


Methods of producing stamp forgeries

Entire stamp forgeries

Entire forgeries are the most common way of producing counterfeits. The forger – a person who makes fake stamps - starts from scratch, and engraves a completely new plate as ii is impossible to produce a new engraving that will be identical to the original.

Forged stamp overprints

    Stamps Forged overprints

One would imagine that overprints should be easier for a forger to falsify. It is just a simple matter of applying a few letters to a stamp with black ink.

Reperforating stamps

Stamps were generally cut into four quarters before being perforated. By this way a lot of stamps appeared that had only three perforated sides. A a rule, such items are not very popular among collectors that is why unscrupulous dealers have “reperforated” many older straight-edged stamps. Thus common stamps looked like rare old items but actually they were not.

Repairing stamps

Many stamps that were damaged are enhanced by the dealers by repairing the damaged places

Stamp colour changes

The colour of a stamp can be changed by special chemical reactions, or by leaving it out in bright sunlight. Such procedures can be used to create specific colours that characterize "rare" missing colour varieties.

False postmarks

False postmarks

In some cases a genuine stamp can have a fake cancellation applied to make it appear to be a rare, and valuable postally used example. It should be noticed that some cancellations that are used for the payment of taxes or real estate can be misrepresented to the unwary as the more valuable postal cancellations. The false postmarks are produced to increase the value of stamps.

Cancelled-to-order (CTO)

A cancelled-to-order postage stamp is a stamp the issuing postal service has cancelled, but has not traveled through the post, but instead gets handed back to a stamp collector or dealer. Such items can be easily identified because they retain the original gum. Collectors buy them because cancel-to-order stamps are usually sold at a considerable discount to the philatelic community. But as a mint stamp is less valuable as the used one, many collectors are more interested in those items that have been correctly used.