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 with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Honduras- Seebecks, Forgeries, and Fakes- Oh My!

1896 "Scott 95" 1c dark blue "President Celio Arias"
Type 1 Forgery
Quick History
Honduras, located between Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, had a population of 1,100,00 in 1940, and the Capital is Tegucigalpa.

For philatelists, it has a reputation as one of the Bad Boys of Central America, primarily because of the Postal Services's involvement with Nicholas Frederick Seebeck.

And, if that is not enough, Honduras has some interesting forgeries.

Honduras had its first stamp issue in 1865, having been an independent republic since 1838. Comayagua was the Capital until 1880. In the 1870's, Banana plantations were developed by the Cuyamel, United Fruit, and Standard Fruit companies, and they basically controlled the infrastructure and the building of railroads.

Meanwhile, in New York City, an ambitious German immigrant named Nicholas Frederick Seebeck set up a printing and stationary store, but soon became a stamp dealer. He became involved with the Hamilton Bank Note Engraving and Printing Company in 1884, and in 1889 developed a plan to print stamps for foreign countries.

Only known portrait of Nicholas Seebeck
Seebeck's brother-in -law Ernest Schernikow was, at the time, the New York consul for El Salvador and Honduras, and he provided letters of introduction for Seebeck's trip to Central America. There, Seebeck met with postal officials of Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

Seebeck's proposal was this:
1) He would print the countries stamps for free.
2) After one year, the issue would be invalidated, and a new issue would be produced.
3) Seebeck would be allowed to have the remainders, and put them on the philatelic market.
4) If there were not enough remainders, Seebeck would be allowed to print additional stamps.
5) The contract would be for 10 years, and include regular, official, telegraph, revenue, and postal stationary.

To its credit, Guatemala refused (except for a few revenue stamps).

The other countries agreed.

El Salvador had 385 postage stamps produced from 1889-1899.

Nicaragua had 308 postage stamps + 66 telegraph stamps produced from 1890-1899.

The remaining countries terminated their contract early because of the bad publicity and the hassle of frequently changing issues.

Ecuador had 112 postage stamps + 43 telegraph stamps issued from 1891-1896.

Honduras had, by my count, 47 regular and 22 official stamps produced between January 6, 1890- August, 1893.

(BTW, Scott makes no mention of which issues are "Seebecks" in the 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue-at least for Honduras. I wonder why? )

In addition, Honduras re-printed a seven stamp 1878 issue in 1889 (at the request of Seebeck) with the American Bank Note Company: More about that later.

So, what about the "Seebecks"?  ;-)

The good news is the stamps are quite attractive, and to this day cheap for the classical collector.

And frankly, was Seebeck's "business model" really more disingenuous than many countries that blatantly print stamps to extract money from stamp collectors?  ;-)

Further, it appears that Seebeck, contrary to the contract agreement, would  print additional stamps at the same time he printed the issues for the countries, rather than wait to see if the "remainders" would be enough. So, in fact, Seebecks are actually "originals" in many cases, not just "reprints".

The bad news?

A can of worms for the "specialist" collector, as various papers, watermarked and unwatermarked, were used. Essentially no records exist of the printings. Reprints of course were produced by Seebeck as he had the printing plates in his possession. And after he died in 1899 at the age of 42, Schernikow may have been involved in reprints as well.

So what should the classical general collector do about Seebecks?

In my opinion, enjoy them for what they are, as even the specialists have not been very successful distinguishing the Seebeck originals from the reprints.  ;-)

1891 Official Scott O18 30c yellow 
Type of regular issue of 1890, overprinted in red
A Seebeck: These Officials were never placed in use
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic specialized catalogue, from 1865-1940, has 579 major descriptions for regular, air post, air post semi-postal, air post official, and official stamp categories. 387 stamps are CV <$1-$2. Honduras has 67% of the classical era stamps at an attractive price indeed.

With Honduras, I'm going to part from a general survey review. 

Rather, we will look at the attractive, common, and inexpensive Seebeck issues.

And we will focus on the forgeries and reprints of the the 1896 "President Celio Arias" issue.

A closer look at the stamps and issues

1878 Scott 30 1c violet "President Francisco Morazan"
1889 Scott 35a 4r scarlet vermilion ABNC reprint (Seebeck request)
Not all "Seebecks" were printed by the Hamilton Bank Note Company. When Seebeck obtained the Honduras contract in 1889, he was to receive the remainders of the National Bank Note Company 1878 issue. But there weren't enough to satisfy Seebeck, and he persuaded the Honduran consul in New York to order a re-issue from the (now) American Bank Note Company. 

The seven stamp re-issue is printed on soft paper, while the original 1878 issue has hard thin paper. There are also some minor color changes. Indeed, the paper of the one centavo above is hard, while the 4r scarlet vermilion is soft.

1890 Scott 50 1p carmine "Arms of Honduras"
First Hamilton (Seebeck) printing for Honduras
On January 6, 1890, the first "Seebeck" eleven stamp set for Honduras was issued. CV for the stamps (mint) are 30-70 cents.

1891 Scott 64 10p green & black "President Luis Bogran"
High denomination Seebeck
On July 31, 1891, an entirely new fourteen stamp set featuring the Honduran president was produced, with the higher values in two colors.

A criticism of the Seebecks by collectors then, was they included denominations not much used in the home country, and had high denomination value stamps, such as this illustrated 10 peso stamp.

July 31, 1892 Scott 74 75c lake "Columbus sighting Honduran Coast"
The 1892 Seebeck issue
The 1892 Seebeck was issued in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. At the same time, the United States was issuing their multi-stamped (and expensive) Columbus set. Co-incidence?  ;-)

The eleven stamp issue now has a mint CV of 25-60 cents. Still, an attractive design.

August, 1893 Scott 81 25c dark blue "General Trinidad Cabanas"
The last Seebeck issue for Honduras
To Honduras's credit, they broke off the contract with Seebeck early, and the 1893 eleven stamp set for General Cabanas was the last regular issue. CV (mint) ranges from 25-60 cents.

There were, however, some Official stamps produced.....

Seebeck: 1890 Official Scott O8
Type of regular issue of 1890, overprinted in red
There were 22 official stamps produced in 1890 (11 stamps) and 1891 (11 stamps). The 1890 issue is shown above, while the 1891 issue is illustrated elsewhere on the blog. None of these stamps were ever actually placed in use. All of the stamps have a mint CV of 25 cents.

So what can we say about the Honduran Seebecks?

They are attractive and inexpensive: two qualities a general WW classical collector would appreciate. And considering the devilish forgeries to come, rather benign.  ;-)

1896 Scott 95 1c dark blue "President Celio Arias"
Probable original, albeit over-inked
In 1896, an eight stamp lithographed set featuring  "President Celio Arias" was issued. CV ranges from <$1-$1+.

Scott mentions reprints. Then Scott states "Counterfeits are plentiful"

Are they ever.

I came into a medium cache (125) of these stamps, and elected to do a study of the reprints, fakes and forgeries.

But before one can do a study, one needs information.

Varro E. Tyler's "Focus on Forgeries" Book
Varro Tyler's "Focus on Forgeries" book is just the ticket (1st edition 1993; 2nd edition 2000). Consisting of one page illustrated articles on forgeries found on 150 common stamps (1st ed), or 300 common stamps ( 2nd ed), these were originally published as fortnightly columns in Linn's Stamp News in the 1980's.

Fortunately, the forgery stamps of the Honduras 1896 "Arias" issue was included.

Vario lists four common forgeries (Type1-Type 4), as well as discussing briefly the reprints.

I found three of the forgeries in the collection, as well as probable reprints.

As I review the denominations, forgeries and reprints, one might perhaps want to pull out one's own Honduras 1896 "Arias" stamps, and compare/contrast.

Forgery Type 1....
Original: 1896 Scott 95 1c dark blue "Arias"
Forgery Type 1: Can you spot differences?
Forgery Type 1 is attributed to Nino Imperato of Genoa, Italy. He produced forgeries circa 1920-22, and advertised them as "costing a fraction" of the genuine stamp. Besides Honduras, he is responsible for forged stamps of Batum (British occupation), Brazil, Eritrea, Italian Occupation of Austria, Italian Offices in the Turkish Empire, Spain, and Sicily.

Of course the Honduran stamps are only worth pennies, so he couldn't have produced forgeries for all eight stamps in the set for that reason. ;-)

Lets take a closer look....

Nino Imperato Forgery (Forgery Type 1) of Genoa, Italy
Arrows point to differences with the Original
• Droopy lower right eye
• High arched right eyebrow
• Much more inflected white in hair and beard
• No serif of "1" in "1896"
• The "gear-wheels" on which "UPU" and "1896" are placed are blunted on the end
• In "Correos" and "Honduras", the "O" letter center space is more circular than elliptical
• Perforation 11 (rarely Perf 11 1/2) compared to original Perf 11 1/2
• In the "1" centavo, the "1" is thinner

Other differences exist, if one wants to look for them.

Original: 1896 Scott 99 20c emerald "Arias"
Type 1 Forgery
Above is the 20c denomination. My other copy of the 20c Type 1 forgery has the same color. Seems the 20c Type 1 forgery (Imperato)  has a different color shade.

1896 "Scott 102" 1p black brown "Arias"
Type 1 Forgery
Of  the 125 "Arias" stamps, I have two copies of the 1 peso denomination ( CV $1+): a Type 2 forgery (to be discussed soon), and a type 1 forgery. As mentioned, the Type 1 forgery can be found for all eight denominations. I am missing only the 2c in my accumulation.

 Forgery Type 2.....

Original: 1896 Scott 96 2c yellow brown "Arias"
 Forgery Type 2: What are the obvious differences?
The Type 2 forgeries are also found in all eight denominations, and they are abundantly present in my collection (as are Type 1).

A closer look...

Forgery Type 2
The Forgery Type 2 stamps are very easy to spot.

• Stamp is printed on very white paper
• The face has no shading
• There is no serif on the "1" of "1896"
• Perforation 12 1/2
• Non inked white patches among the horizontal shading lines around the portrait
• For the "1" centavo denomination, the "1" is thinner
• The "c" in "centavo" is more open

Original: 1896 Scott 30 ultramarine "Arias" with red cancel
 Type 2 Forgery
A couple of comments about the above illustration... 

Notice the red "Honduras between bars" cancellation?  I believe this is an original printing as the reprints are reported with black "Honduras between bars" cancellations. Also notice the more baby blue shade of the Forgery Type 2 stamp.

Illustrated elsewhere on the blog is a 50c denomination Type 2 Forgery.

Forgery Type 3....

Original: 1896 Scott 95 1c dark blue "Arias"
Forgery Type 3:What can you find that is different?
Forgeries Type 3, contrasted with the all denomination forgeries of Type 1 & 2, are only found for the 1c, 2c, and 5c. And there are some further differences between the 1c and the 2c/5c denominations for Forgery Type 3.

But all of the 1c,2c, and 5c denominations are reputed to have wide margins. And a giveaway here: It can be found imperforate.

A closer look...

Forgery Type 3 for 1 centavo
Actually, there is not that much difference between an original printing and a Type 3 forgery, so careful inspection is sometimes necessary.

• The obvious: imperforate, or Perf 14 1/2 with wide margins
• There is a break in the top of the "O" in the first "O" of "Correos" (diagnostic)
• The left eye tends to have a "white" pupil

Now, lets look at the 2c/5c denominations.....

Original: 1896 Scott 97 5c purple "Arias"
Forgery Type 3 (Note red violet color for 5c-but not diagnostic)
The 5c Forgery Type 3 clearly has a red violet color. That is helpful, but not sufficient, as the original printing can be found in this color also, as we shall see shortly.

• Here 14 1/2 perforations with "wide margins" (Unfortunately, I'm not sure "wide margins" is all that helpful, as many of my "Arias" stamps  have "wide margins".)
• A break in the first leg of "N" of "Honduras". See arrow. This finding is diagnostic.
• Again, the left eye tends to have a "white" pupil.
• The 2c denomination should have similar findings.

Forgery Type 4...
I don't have samples of Type 4, but according to Varro Tyler, the forgery is of modern German origin, and can be found for all eight denominations. The characteristic finding is a "UPU" script which is remote from the circular rim that surrounds the script, and the "UPU" letters appear to be too small.

Minor Scott number color variations in the original printing...

1896 Scott 97 5c purple "Arias"
1896 Scott 97a 5c red violet (color variation)
Besides the major number "purple" color in Scott, there is a commonly encountered minor number "red violet" color as illustrated.

1896 Scott 98 10c vermilion "Arias"
1896 Scott 98a 10c red (color variation)
Similarly, the 10c denomination is found in vermilion, and. less commonly, in a red color. The less common nature of the red color is reflected in the CV ( <$1 vs $4+).


Scott says the originals can be found on thin transparent paper, and opaque paper. Reprints are found on thicker opaque paper, often with a black "Honduras-between bars" cancellation.

If the stamp clearly is on thin transparent paper, then one can with a degree of certainty say it is original. 

But I have difficulty with opaque paper: Is it an original or a reprint? I have a number of "mint" opaque paper stamps that could be original...or a reprint.  ;-)  Varro Tyler says the reprints have "characteristic shades", but gives no further information. 

Now looking at a cancellation...

Original: 1896 Scott 98 10c vermilion "Arias"
Reprint: 10c vermilion with black "Honduras between bars" cancellation
I believe the cancelled stamp above is probably a reprint. It is on opaque paper. It has the black "Honduras between bars" cancellation. And the printing looks somewhat worn: presumably the same plates from the original printing were used.

Actually, if I see a black "Honduras between bars" cancellation on this issue, I'm inclined to think it is probably a reprint. 

Deep Blue

Deep Blue (Steiner) page for the Seebeck 1891 "Bogran" issue
Deep Blue (Steiner), on 48 pages, provides spaces for all the major numbers in the Scott catalogue.

Although the Seebeck requested 1889 reprints of the 1878 "Morazan" issue are minor numbers in Scott, Deep Blue does fortunately provide spaces for these stamps.

The 1896 "Arias" issue that I discussed thoroughly in the blog only has spaces for the (presumably) originals.

The reprints, as well as the three types of forgeries are all housed on quadrilled pages.

1891 Scott 56 25c magenta "Luis Bogran"
Part of the 1891 Seebeck set
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on eight pages has 211 spaces for regular, official, and air post stamps. Coverage by BB is 36%. Big Blue could have included another 150+ stamps for a CV of  <$1-$1+.

A) Most of the Seebecks are included in the '69 BB (1890,91,92,93, 1891 Official O12-O17), except for the Official 1890 issue (O1-O11), and the rest of the 1891 Officials (O18-O22). The 1889 ABNC reprints (Seebeck request) of the 1878 issue or the original 1878 issue can be put in.

I was frankly surprised that not all the Seebecks were included, because they are very inexpensive.

But reviewing the '47 BB, ALL of the Hamilton Seebecks ARE included. What happened? The '69 editors, in the interest of layout, lopped off 16 Seebeck Official spaces.  :-(

B) BB does not include space for the 1896 "Arias" Scott 101 50c rose & Scott 102 Scot 102 1p black brown (CV <$1-$1+). Not unusual for BB to end a stamp series when the CV becomes slightly higher.

C) Despite 211 spaces, there are NO stamps with CV $10+. Honduras is an inexpensive country for BB album users.


30 or a, 31 or a, 32 or a, 33 or a,
34* or a, 35 or a, 36 or a,



Next Page




Next Page





119 or 127,120,121,122,

123,124,125,126a or 126,

Next Page











Next Page






Next Page


Next Page

Official Stamps







Next Page

Air Post






A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): None
B) (   ) around a space indicates a blank space elective choice
C) 34 or a*: I included the ABNC reprints (1889-Seebeck request), as BB admits them based on date, even though they differ somewhat in BB's requested colors.

1896 "Scott 101"  50c rose "Arias"
Type 2 Forgery
Out of the Blue
The Seebecks are plentiful and inexpensive. Trying to discern Seebeck reprints from originals is, unless one is a specialist, IMHO not worth it. So enjoy the classically designed Seebecks without guilt. ;-)

The Forgeries are actually fun if one has the information.

Reprints? Not so much.  ;-)

Note: Honduras Map, Seebeck photo appear to be in the public domain.

I would appreciate observations and comments!


  1. What a timely post! I've been reading a book about Mexico and Central American countries for past week, and this post about Honduras fits in more than nicely :)

    I loved the tidbits you shared from the Varro book, and I'm hoping to put them into good use :)

  2. As you know Keijo the central American countries have much historical intrigue/ turmoil, and their stamps are quite interesting- especially the overprints, forgeries, fakes and Seebecks. ;-)

    By the way, at this moment I am in Guaremala in an indigenous/ Mayan area on a trip visiting our sponsored little girl and her Kaqchiquan family. :-)

  3. Lucky You. I would give an arm & leg for possibility to be where You are right now. But maybe someday I get a change to visit Guatemala...

    To be honest, the key reason why I'm reading the book is the fact that I felt myself under-educated about the Mexican & Central American history. Though public schooling in Finland teaches us a lot of world history/culture, it also leaves out a lot. I recall vainly something about the Mayas, the Aztecs, Spanish colonialism, and watching Viva Zapata on VHS! Reading more has really opened up a wider perspective to history of these fascinating stamps.

  4. Jim, I finally got around to comparing my album with your detailed description of the forgeries, and am relieved to note that I have more forgeries than genuine. But as you say, ferreting out the forgeries is fun. I've penciled a little note of the type above each forgery and am off on my merry way to find an affordable copy of the 2nd edition of Tyler's book.

  5. Bob- Varro Tyler 's second edition is tougher to find than the first- good luck!

  6. I add my appreciation for your discussion of Seebeck, et al. I, too, enjoy the fakes and repros, if for no other reason, they evidence the gullibility of hobbiest like myself.

    My wife and I were in Guatemala a few years ago, and spent most of our time in the highlands where the Kaqchiquan people live. I had a doctoral student at the time who was doing her field work for her dissertation there.

  7. Very interesting Bud. The Lake Atitlan area has many indigenous communities, and I was privileged to be able to visit them. We are back in Mexico City today.