A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Romania 1903 Second Post House Issue: Genuine or Forgery?

Romania 1903 Scott 166 15b black
"King Carol I and Facade of New Post Office"
Genuine - Forgery
Into the Deep Blue
When I visited Bud last October, we took a trip to his favorite stamp dealer. Within the myriad stock, I found the Romania 1903 seven stamp Second Post House Issue, which celebrated the new Post Office in Bucharest.  Believing I did not have this set in my collection (which turned out right), I acquired the stamps with Bud's assistance.  (Thanks Bud!)

Now, should I be nervous?

Forgery 1903 Scott 164 40b dull green 
"Mail Coach leaving Post Office"
Well, yes. !!!

Romania's preceding 1903 issue, the First Post House eight stamp set, also issued to celebrate the new Post Office in Bucharest, is rife with forgeries. !!!

For a deep dive into the 1903 First Post House set: genuine vs forgeries, see my post on this.

Now Scott is reassuring (Ha!) by stating that, with the first 1903 set "Counterfeits are plentiful", while with the second set, "Counterfeits exist". I take that to mean that, although counterfeits exist for the second set, they perhaps are not as numerous as the first set. Or perhaps that is wishful thinking?

At any rate, I checked my newly acquired stamps for forgery signs at the outstanding  Romaniastamps web site, and they seemed to be genuine. The forgery section is based on Billigs Handbook of Forgeries (Fritz Billig & Otto Stiedl), which of course is a formidable, albeit a bit dated source. By that I mean it was difficult for me to interpret all of the signs for genuine/forgeries presented because of the darkish black & white scans from the Billigs Handbook.

I was still a little uncomfortable with my identification, and thought if I could obtain some forgeries to compare, perhaps I could advance the knowledge state.

I checked the APS stamp store site, and among three what appeared to be genuine sets for sale, was a fourth set that appeared counterfeit to me. It was offered for not too much, and in the interest of advancing the genuine/forgery comparison, I acquired it. ;-)

(Note: I think the APS store is a great place to obtain stamps from fellow APS collectors and dealers. And, one has the option to return the stamps for a refund if one is unhappy. The ratio of wheat to chaff is high at the APS store because of the generally good knowledge base of members. But there is still some "chaff" there, as evidenced by my obtaining counterfeits. In this case, I had full knowledge in what I was doing.)

So let's begin....

The following observations derive from information from the illustrated Billigs Handbook of Forgeries at the Romaniastamps web site (Thanks Romaniastamps!) and my own observations. My observations will be what I can see as differences comparing my genuines with my forgeries. I should say that I believe there are several types of forgeries, so my comments will only be valid for the particular set of forgeries I have.

Romania 1903 Scott 166 15b black (Genuine)
"King Carol I and Facade of New Post Office"
Engraved; Perf 13.5 X 14; Thick Toned paper
There are four characteristics of the genuines that need to be noted right at the start.

a) Perforation is 13.5 X 14 for genuines
In fact, all of my "genuines" had 13.5 X 14 perforations. OTOH, six of my seven counterfeits DID NOT have this perforation. The Billig states that if a stamp does not have 13.5 X 14 Perf, it is a counterfeit. !!

b) Engraved
Scott states that the Second Post House Issue is engraved. (The First Post House Issue is not: by presumption, typographic.) I was actually skeptical of this claim, as the stamp issue (to me) appears like it could be typographic or lithographic. But I applied the aluminum foil - rubbing over with an eraser while the stamp is covered with the foil "test", and I could spot raises ridges in the foil. So the genuine issue is indeed engraved.

c) Thick toned paper
Scott states the issue is on "thick toned paper", and indeed the paper does seem so for the genuines. OTOH, the counterfeits tend to be on white, a bit less thick, paper.

d) Not watermarked
Yes, both the first and second Post House issues are on unwatermarked paper. What that means is watermarking is no help when distinguishing genuines from counterfeits.

Romania 1903 Scott 166 15b black 
The 15b forgery is on whiter paper, definitely not toned paper. The "foil" test was inconclusive - no ridging noted. Still. I thought at first maybe it is possible that the forgeries were engraved. I thought, as the forgery follows the genuine quite closely in detail for the most part, was that the forgery came from old plates that were touched up in areas. In fact, after reviewing close-ups of the genuine/forgery stamps, I think the forgeries are probably lithographic.

The 15b black was actually the only counterfeit that measured 13.5 X 14, like the genuines.

Let's look a little closer at the face (King Carol I) that is portrayed......

Genuine (top); Forgery (bottom)
What can we see with this close-up?

a) How crude the forgery "face" is drawn! The fine line drawing for the face in the genuine (engraved) is turned into crude horizontal lines in the forgery (lithographic?). Actually, the whole set of forgeries I have, show this darker "crude face" look, which is quite distinguishable from the delicate genuine portrait. This is the reason I think there are more than one forgery type. The Billig Handbook only shows one forgery example of a "crude face"; the other forgery "face" examples, the face look much more like the genuines.

b) Take a look at the letters surrounding the King: "carol.I.rece.al.romaniei." For the genuine, many letters are shaded in, while the forgery does not have any shading of the letters.

c) Take a look at the "flower" arabesques on either side ( 9 & 3 o'clock) of the face medallion. There are more markings inside the "flowers" for the forgery. I thought maybe I just had some worn plate genuines that didn't show all the markings. But the genuines shown at the Romaniastamps webside show the same decrease in markings. So, at least for these forgeries, look for increased markings inside the "flowers" as a sign of them indeed being likely forgeries.

d) Note the circular dotted line between the head and the letters? The dotted line (going counter-clockwise) intersects the neck above the bust in the genuine, while the circle intersects at the lower tip of the bust in the forgery.

Let's look at the right upper corner "15" tablet area...

Right Upper corner of stamp "15" tablet
genuine (top), forgery (bottom)
Often, examining the number denomination area of the stamps (both upper corners) is helpful to distinguish genuines from forgeries.

a) Note the bottom of the "1" is drawn much closer to the "flower" ("flower" located in the left lower section of the tablet) for the genuine compared to the forgery.

b) The lower tip of the "5" is curled in facing the "5" in the genuine, while the forgery has the lower tip of the "5" more straight. 

c) The top of the "5" is curved in the genuine, while more flat in the forgery.

d) The "1" and the "5" are fairly even in height in the genuine, while the "5" appears higher than the "1" in this forgery. (Of interest, the Billig Handbook scan shows an example where the "1" is higher than the "5" for their forgery. An example of there being at least two forgery types?)

e) The horizontal lines drawn just to the left of the tablet number box - look at the length. They are longer in the genuine, and shorter in the forgery.

f) Finally, look at the chain ornaments in the frame: specifically the right upper corner chain link. In this case, for the genuine, the chain link is shaped as an "o" rather than an "8". For the forgery, the link is attached to others forming three loops. This "chain link" sign works to distinguish the 15b, 25b, 40b & 50b & 5L. But,for the 1L & 2 1/2L, the forgery also has an "o", and therefore looks similar to the genuine.

Romania 1903 Scott 167 25b blue
"King Carol I and Facade of New Post Office"
Genuine - Forgery
From first appearances, the 25b forgery is on whiter paper, and the color is a brighter blue.

Also, the perfs for the genuine are 13.5 X 14, while this 25b forgery example is 13.5 X 13. (Important to measure Perfs:  if not 13.5 X 14, then a forgery. !!)

1903 Scott 167 25b blue
A quick glance tells me that this appears to be good medallion image.

 1903 Scott 167 25b blue
That crude head and hair says forgery.

Note the bottom tip curl of the "5" (in both upper corners) points up (Forgery) rather than curl in (Genuine).

And there is two more signs that sorts out forgeries and genuines...

In the ROMANIA tablet and script, look for...
Genuine (top); Forgery (bottom)

a) See the small vertical line under the second leg of "R" in ROMANIA in the genuine? This small dot or vertical line is attached to the horizontal line below ROMANIA. You will note that my forgery does not have this dot or line. 

According to the Billig Handbook, all originals have this small line. If it is not there, the stamp is a forgery. If it is there, it could very well be a genuine.  But you should check other signs to rule out a type of forgery.

All of my genuines have this line, while none of my forgeries have it.

b) Note the "O" for both the genuine and forgery? The Forgery tends to have a rounder "O" on the inside.

1903 Scott 168 40b gray green
Genuine - Forgery
Note the colors are quite different: the genuine appears green or yellow green on a gray (toned) background, while the forgery is blue green.

The genuine has a Perf of 13.5 X 14, while the forgery is 13.5 X 13.5.

1903 Scott 168 40b gray green
The face appears relatively delicate and nuanced.

1903 Scott 168 40b gray green
The face appears rough with a very odd hair line.

Medallion and "Flower" close-up
Genuine (top); Forgery (Bottom)
The masked bandit on the forgery! Note the "Flowers" at 9 & 3 o'clock on either side of the medallion: The forgery actually has more markings than the genuine.

Right upper corner: "40" tablet close-up
Genuine (top); Forgery (Bottom)
The "0" of "40" for the genuine is closer to the right vertical dotted line in the tablet space compared to the forgery. Note how the genuine "40" is marked with thin horizontal lines inside the numbers, while the forgery is infilled with color in a crude way.

1903 Scott 169 50b orange
Genuine - Forgery
The Genuine is Perf 13.5 X 14, while the Forgery is 13 X 13.5. 

1903 Scott 169 50b orange
The genuine has a normal looking head. Also note the right upper corner "5" of "50" is close to the right (3 o'clock) flower.

1903 Scott 169 50b orange
Note the crude "masked bandit" look. The "5" of "50" in the upper right corner is farther from the right (3 o'clock) flower. The color to me is more red-orange.

Another sign....

Left side: Arabesque area
Genuine (top); Forgery (Bottom) 
The Billig Handbook Forgery scans for this issue show a number of the signs have to do with subtle markings within the arabesque drawings for the genuine that are not seen for the forgery. The problem is the Billig scans are not sensitive enough or too dark to pick up these subtle markings, and hence leads to confusion (at least for me). Or it is unclear which subtle marking the handbook is trying to point out.

So here (in high definition!) is the left edge of the arabesque with several subtle markings seen for the genuine, that are not present in the forgery. Do you see them? I see at least three markings inside the arabesque that are not present in the forgery. One is in the end of the bulb adjacent to the frame, and two more are just to the right in the next arabesque drawing, including a line that divides that arabesque area. I'm sure there are more in other portions of the arabesque.

One can decide which subtle marking one wants to look for, if one wishes. In the big picture though, there are easier ways to determine Genuine from Forgery that doesn't require a high definition scan. I think if one is dealing with a particular vexing genuine/forgery, then these subtle signs might come into play. Otherwise, just go for the big and obvious differences! ;-)

1903 Scott 170 1L dark brown
Genuine - Forgery
The genuine is dark brown, while the forgery is blackish, and on whiter paper.

The Perf is 13.5 X 14 for the genuine, while the forgery is 13.5 X 13.5.

1903 Scott 170 1L dark brown
The head is fine featured.

I want to point out something in the design that might have escaped your attention.

1903 Scott 170 close-up: "Mail Coach Leaving PO"
The first 1903 Post House issue features,as a design, "Mail Coach leaving PO".  (There is an illustrative example at the beginning of this post.) Well, guess what? The second 1903 Post House issue repeats that motif in miniature! Cool!

The Head is crudely portrayed.

Let's look at the right upper corner 1 L tablet area...

Right upper corner Tablet area
Genuine (top); Forgery (bottom)
The "1" is closer to the flower in the genuine compared to the forgery. The forgery "L" is higher than the "1", while, for the genuine, they are of the same height.

Now note that the chain link in the right upper corner (within the frame) appears the same for the 1 L denomination.  Recall what I said earlier...

"f) Finally, look at the chain ornaments in the frame: specifically the right upper corner chain link. In this case, for the genuine, the chain link is shaped as an "o" rather than an "8". For the forgery, the link is attached to others forming three loops. This "chain link" sign works to distinguish the 15b, 25b, 40b & 50b & 5L. But,for the 1L & 2 1/2L, the forgery also has an "o", and therefore looks similar to the genuine."

Also note, as I mentioned earlier, that the horizontal lines just to the west of the 1 L tablet space is longer for the genuine, and shorter for the forgery.

And the flower has more markings inside, on the forgery, as also mentioned earlier.

1903 Scott 171 2 L dull red
Genuine - Forgery
The color is dull red for the genuine, while red on whiter paper on the forgery.

The Perf is 13.5 X 14 for the genuine, and 13.5 X 13.5 for the forgery.

1903 Scott 171 2 L dull red
The head is noble.

1903 Scott 171 2 L dull red
The head is dark and crude.

Another sign...

Winged structure (Bird? Bicycle? Mercury?)
Genuine (Top); Forgery (Bottom)
I'm not sure what this winged structure is, but there are obvious differences between the genuine and forgery. One thing that stands out is the genuine has shading applied on the lower wings, while the forgery has none.

1903 Scott 172 5 L dull violet
This is certainly a dull violet color, and the Perf is correct (13.5 X 14). 

I said earlier that I did not have this seven stamp 1903 Second Post House issue in my collection when I visited Bud and spied this set among the dealer stock. On the other hand, I've seen plenty of the 1903 First Post House issue. Why is that? I think the second issue is much more scarce than the first issue.That is reflected in the set CV: $210+ (used)- $380+ (unused) versus $40+ (used)- $110+ (unused). And with the Second Post issue, much of the value is in the 5 L dull violet ($160 unused).

I should mention that a "red violet" color is a minor number, and less expensive ($80 unused).

1903 Scott 172 5 L 
My forgery of the 5 L is strong violet color. This stamp has a Perf of 13 X 13.5, which marks it as indeed a forgery.

Let's look closer at the 5 L tablet area...

Right corner 5 L tablet area
Genuine (top); Forgery (Bottom)
What jumps out dramatically is how much larger the "L" is for the forgery! In fact, the Billigs Forgery Handbook for Romania shows two different type forgeries: this one with the rough face and large "L", and another one which looks similar to the genuine (smaller "L").

1903 Scott 172 5l dull violet
Genuine - Forgery
Out of the Blue
OK, I've shown the "rough face" forgeries versus what I believe are genuine stamps. Hopefully, you enjoyed seeing the differences. As I cautioned earlier, my comments are only valid for the particular set of forgeries I have.

Unfortunately, based on the notes from the Billig Forgery handbook, I believe there are other forgeries out there. 

Comments appreciated!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Malta - Bud's Big Blue

1899 Scott 18 10sh blue black
"St, Paul after Shipwreck"
See also #s 65, 85 and 93
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Malta, rich in history and iconography, might be expected to have interesting stamps, and it does. The archipelago’s strategic mid-Mediterranean location has spawned storied layers of artifacts and lore stretching well back into the stone age.

Saint Paul’s shipwreck is a case in point. According to the Bible’s Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul was being taken as a prisoner to Rome, since he was a Roman citizen, to be tried for sedition and heresy.

Acts records a fierce storm that blew the ship off course, finally grounding it on a reef in Malta. None of the 276 passengers perished. Safe on shore, Saint Paul gathered some wood for the fire that local people had built. The brush produced a snake that bit him. The locals expected him to die but he shook it off without ill effect. As the result, he was welcomed. Then he healed sick people and, according to tradition, converted some of the islanders to Christianity. (Never mind that today Malta has neither snakes nor trees, but it does have many Christians).

The event is memorialized by the stamp pictured above, which was inspired by a Gustave Doré’s wood-engraving, although there are several differences.

Saint Paul’s Shipwreck, Gustave Doré, 1866

For example, the stamp includes the fire and snake, Doré omits them. Saint Paul has a dark beard and a halo on the stamp, but white hair and no halo in the engraving. The passengers climbing on shore are men in the engraving, but they are women on the stamp. Waves seem not so angry on the stamp and there are no threatening clouds.  

Saint Paul’s shipwreck, reckoned to be Malta’s most important historic event, is memorialized on eight classical era Maltese stamps, four of which use the same drawing. One of them, the ultra-scarce Scott # 65, has the highest catalog value ($3,500) of all Maltese stamps. Its border design differs from #18 and, sadly, I don’t have one. But there is a much cheaper #93 with the “self-government” overprint in the supplement pages.

1922 Scott 93 10sh black
Red "Self-Government" Overprint

Melita, the symbolic personification of Malta and the Maltese people appears on more stamps than Saint Paul does. Debuting in the same series as the Saint (1899), she has the lesser values of the 1922-26 definitive series all to herself and shares with her protective big sister, Britannia, the higher values. Stereotypical female depictions of countries, usually with Latin-derived names, were especially popular in the 19th and early 20th Centuries -- compare Germania, Hibernia, Columbia, Zealandia, and Helvetia.

1922 Scott 109 1sh olive brown & blue
"Britannia and Melita (Malta)"

For the lesser values, Melita wears the eight-pointed Maltese cross, another national symbol frequently appearing on Malta’s stamps. This cross, not as ancient as some suppose, can be traced to early modern times, the 1500s. She holds a rudder for guiding the ship of state. Debate has arisen about whether or not Edward Caruana Dingli’s depiction of Melita (below) is art or kitsch.

1926 Scott 108 6p olive green & violet
"Melita (Malta)"

The Maltese eight-point cross (a variety of croix fourchée, meaning “forked” in the parlance of heraldry) has been adopted by many modern paramilitary and civic groups.

1925 Scott J11, J12, J13 "Maltese Cross"

Census: 69 in BB spaces, 84 on supplement pages

Jim's Observations
When Napoleon Bonaparte ejected the Order or Knights of Malta, which had ruled for 270 years, in 1798, the ouster was initially welcomed. (The Sovereign International Order of the Malta, now based in Rome, continues to do charitable works, and issue their own stamps.) But the Maltese soured on the French occupation, and the archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea eventually became a British colony in 1814.

Malta's strategic location between the Strait of Gibraltar and the the Suez Canal (1869) was advantageous indeed. And it was on the trade route to India.

Malta is perhaps one of the more interesting British colonies with a number of pictorials and overprinted stamps. There are expensive stamps, but still enough less expensive ones to interest the general classical collector.

Malta Blog Post & BB Checklist

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Comments appreciated!