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...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Iran (Persia) - Focus on Forgeries

1882-84 Scott 59 10fr buff, red & black
"Shah Nasr-ed-Din"
Quick History
In 1935, Persia adopted its ancient name. Iran. The Big Blue '69 has the country listed under Persia, while the 2011 Scott Classic catalogue and Deep Blue (Steiner) have the listing as Iran. Culturally, it is known by either.

The population was 15,000,000 in 1940, and the Capital is Tehran.
The topography of Iran
Located between Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east, Iraq and Turkey to the west, Iran is truly at the center of the Islamic world. Home to the Elamite kingdom in 2800 BC, the blossoming Persian culture in literature, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and art has had a major influence on Muslim civilization.

Persian (green), Pashto (purple), Kurdish (turquoise),Lurish (red), Baloch (yellow)
There are at least five major languages spoken in Iran, although Persian is the official language, and Persians constitute 65% of the population.

Shia Islam is the official state religion, and about 90% of Iranians are members.

1880 Scott 46 10s violet & black
"Nasser-eddin Shah Qajar"
(Probable Boital Paris reprint)
Into the Deep Blue
Stamps were introduced in Persia in 1870. The year was also the beginning of the great Persian Famine which caused the death of 1.5 million people.

Reviewing the 2011 Scott Classic catalogue, there are 669 active major numbers for regular issues. This contrasts with Scott using number 875 for the last regular stamp in the classic catalogue: 206 numbers have been dropped, or never used. We will be encountering the out-fall from this problem later in Big Blue. ;-)

There are also 67 air post, 44 officials, 1 newspaper, and 18 parcel post numbers. The total is 799 active major numbers.

For CV of <$1-$1+, 285 stamps are found, tending toward later rather than earlier issues. "Affordability" is 36%.

Persia/Iran is known for their interesting designs, and many overprints.

But for the WW classical collector, the Scott "boxed warning", much like what the Surgeon-General put on cigarette cartons, states:

"Beware of forgeries and/or reprints of most Iran stamps between the years 1870-1925. Scott values are for genuine stamps. Collectors should be aware that forgeries of many issues outnumber genuine examples by a factor of 10 or 20 to one"


So, rather than do a general survey of Persian stamps (which are lovely and interesting), I've elected to "Focus on Forgeries". I choose the phrase deliberately, as, for Persia, I will be using the 2000 edition of Varro Tyler's "Focus on Forgeries: A Guide to Forgeries for Common Stamps".

A page from "Focus on forgeries"
Varro Tyler had, for many years, a column in Linns Stamp News were he discussed common forgeries. The 321 columns were collected in the second edition, and are presented as shown. A forgery is illustrated, as well as a genuine stamp, and the differences are outlined and discussed. Nice.

A few observations about Persia and its stamps...
• The real problem are all the unauthorized reprints that were produced for many issues. A specialist will need to be aware of perforations, paper, color, gum, or any other clue to differentiate the original issue from reprints. Perhaps a cancellation will help.

• The forgeries then can be forgery-reprints, or outright forgeries, where some (small) alteration in stamp design might be observed.

• For an issue that has forgery-reprints: In my experience, if the stamp is unused, or has a nice "cto" cancellation, then likely to be a forgery-reprint. A heavier cancellation is more likely to be genuine.

• One can find bargains with Persian stamps, as many collectors are scared away. Of course that means one will need some knowledge. ;-)

So lets enter the Rogue's Gallery of Forgeries...

Left: 1882 Scott 50 5c blue violet & violet "Sun"
Right: Reprint-Forgery
After the striking 1882 issue was produced, the printing plates were re-touched, and large quantities of reprint-forgeries were sold to collectors.

The differences: ( One might want to enlarge the image)
• Red arrow: The middle vertical line of the right frame on the edge of the "Sun" vignette is thin or non-existent. Genuine. 
• Blue arrow: The middle vertical line of the right frame is prominent and consistent. Reprint-Forgery.

Left: 1882 Scott 51 10c deep pink & rose "Sun"
Right: Reprint-Forgery
Again, if one looks at the middle vertical line of the right frame on the edge of the "Sun" vignette, one will note the much more prominent line in the forgery.

Also, the colors of the forgeries are different, and my other forgeries have the same color. A helpful sign.

Left: 1882 Scott 52 25c deep green & green "Sun"
Right: Reprint-Forgery
The "Line" sign is there, as well as a color difference.

There is also a "softer" difference I found. For the reprint-forgeries, the shading around the eyes, nose and mouth of the Sun, as well the lines close to the Sun are less prominent. Might be helpful.

CV for the three stamps in the set is $20-$40 used.

Left: 1882-84 Scott 53 5s green , Type I, "Sun"
Right: Reprint-Forgery
The 1882-84 issue of seven stamps also had a "Sun" design stamp, shown above. Note the lack of shading behind the numeral compared to the earlier set. CV is $1+ used.

Type I refers to 3 dots at the right end of the scroll, rather than 2 dots (Type II).

The reprint-forgery has the "line" sign. although the colors are similar.  The reprint-forgery shows  less shading/less prominent markings around the sun. Other markings are less prominent too. Note the nicely placed "cto" cancellation on the reprint-forgery. ;-)

Left: 1885 Scott 66 6c on 5c green, Type I,
Right: Reprint-Forgery
The "Officiel" overprint indicates these surcharged stamps were officially authorized. These are not "Official" stamps.

In 1885 and 1887, a group of seven stamps were surcharged as illustrated above. CV for each stamp in the group is $30.

The forgery-reprint stamp (Scott 53) was then used to make a surcharged forgery as well. Fortunately, the "line" sign is still present.

"1902 Scott 236 2c brown & buff , Imperforate"
"Handstamp overprinted in Black"
Left: Type I: "CHAHIS" is capitalized
Right: Type II:"C" is capitalized: Certain Forgery
The joke here is the 1902 issue (Scott 235-239) was only issued as Type I. Therefore, the Type II stamp (blue arrow) is definitely a forgery.

But no doubt the Type I stamp above is also a counterfeit-forgery/reprint. CV for this stamp is $300 unused. !

Left: 1906 Scott 424 3c green "Provisoire" overprint 
"handstamped in black"
Right: Forgery One
The 6 stamps in the set are all found with the illustrated "Forgery One" forgery, found on the right..
(One might want to enlarge the image.)

• Red arrow: The small vertical oval just to the left of the larger diagonal oval is intact. Genuine. CV $1. Sometimes, though, this area is difficult to see, as the original stamps were not clearly printed.

• Blue arrow: The small vertical oval to the left of the larger diagonal oval is incomplete. Quite characteristic for the forgeries. The forgery is often found unused, or with a "cto" cancel.

Other differences exist. For the 3c value shown above, the inner frame is intact in the corners on the forgery, while incomplete on the genuine.

One Genuine (left), & Two Forgeries
1906 Scott 425 6c red
There is another forgery found only for the 2 and 6 centime values. (Enlarge please.) This forgery (Forgery Two) is shown on the right, and the green arrows point to the inner frame lines where they curve slightly (diagnostic).

Both forgeries share the incomplete oval (blue arrows), while the genuine has a complete oval (red arrow). CV for a Scott 425 6c red genuine is <$1.

1919 Scott 620 6c violet & black, surcharged
"March-April Provisional Issue"
1919 Scott 621 12c blue & black: Forgery
This issue has an interesting back story. In 1911, a bogus plate was confiscated for a fantasy Persia issue in Zurich. This plate was subsequently stored in the archives in Teheran. When stamp supplies became scarce after WWI, the plate was retrieved, the design was printed, and different overprint/surcharges were applied as shown above.

So the left stamp above is a genuine stamp based on a fake plate. ;-)

The issue consisted of 5 stamps with a CV of $1-$10.

Then the counterfeiters became busy.

The stamp on the right is a forgery, and is quite common in general collections. It is found for all values.

The differences are: (Enlarge image)
• Red arrow: One thin (broken) line over the "Postes" inscription: Genuine

• Blue arrow: Two thick solid lines over the "Postes" inscription: Forgery

1882-84 10fr buff,red & black
I'm bringing back the post header stamp, as this elaborate specimen has also been forged, as is shown in Varro Tyler's book. Here is a genuine stamp. CV is $30. Look at the large pearl at the base of the feathers on the hat. One single line curves up to the left from the pearl, while two lines go up toward the right.

A Forgery will show a thick single line going off on the right.

Genuine: 40 cogwheel teeth surrounding the 10 F.
Forgery: 31 cogwheel teeth surrounding the 10 F.

Let's show one more stamp from this series.

1882-84 Scott 58 5fr rose red & black
"Shah Nasr-ed-Din"
This stamp value is also illustrated in Varro Tyler's book. The above stamp is genuine. CV is $10.

The characteristics are:
• For genuine: The top of the plume (feathers) touches the first horizontal line under the crown. The coat and collar ornamentation is very detailed. Stamps are Perf 12, Perf 13, or a compound of these two gauges. This stamp is Perf 13.

• For Forgery: The top of the plume just touches the second horizontal line under the crown. The coat and collar ornamentation is not detailed- just dots and dashes. The Perf is 11 1/2.

We are done with the primer on forgeries for Persia.

If this whets your appetite for more, consider investigating:

Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 58 pages, and I have stamps on 42 pages- not bad. ;-)

1898 Issue handstamped in violet 1899
Deep Blue page
The Steiner follows the Scott catalogue, and I had no problems with use.

1907-09 Scott 445 50k gold,vermilion & black
"Mohammed-Ali Shah Qajar"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on 12 pages, has, for Iran (Listed under Persia), 355 regular, 25 air post, and 32 official spaces for a total of 412 spaces. Coverage is 53%.

• BB generally does a good job covering Persia, save for some early series cut-offs.

• Persia is fairly expensive in BB, with 61 stamps over the $10 threshold. Nine of these stamps are CV $35-$60. But six more stamps are CV $100-$150. !!!  The details are in the comment section below the checklist.

Let's take a look at a page in Big Blue...

1901-1902 section in Big Blue: An expensive page
And some stamp spaces are no longer in the Scott catalogue
The 1902 page in Big Blue is particularly tough for collectors. Here are the highlights:

• Green X's- These spaces (Scott "184-186") no longer exist in the current Scott catalogue, although they were present in my '47 catalogue. Note I have a Scott "186" 5k gray brown stamp on a space, so clearly these stamps are still to be found in albums.

• Red circles- CV $15-$50, so these spaces will be expensive to fill.

• Blue circles- CV $100-$150!!!  Very expensive. One can cheat, though, by putting in forgery reprints, as I show for several spaces here. ;-)





59A or 60, 61,62,63,64,65,





Next Page





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1903 (Actually 1902-04)


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1912 (actually 1911)


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723 or 740*, 724 or 741, 725 or 742, 727,728,729,


Next Page





Next Page



Next page

Air Post



Next Page

Official Stamps



A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1882-84 Scott 54 10s buff, orange & black ($10)
1885 Scott 66 6c on 5s green,type I ($30)
1887 Scott 70 3c on 5s green,type I ($30)
1886 Scott 65 5k dull violet ($35)
1891 Scott 88 2k orange ($20+)
1897 Scott 102 1k on 5k violet & silver ($10+)
1897 Scott 103 2k on5k violet & silver ($30)
1894 Scott 95 16c rose ($20+)
1894 Scott 99 10k red & gold ($10)
1894 Scott 100 50k green & gold ($10)
1898 Scott 118 10k orange ($10+)
1898 Scott 119 50k bright violet ($20+)
1899 Scott 122 3c dull violet ($10+)
1899 Scott 123 4c vermilion ($10+)
1899 Scott 125 8c orange ($10+)
1899 Scott 128 16c green ($20+)
1899 Scott 129 1k ultramarine ($10)
1899 Scott 147 3k lilac brown ($10+)
1899 Scott 148 4k orange red ($10+)
1899 Scott 149 5k gray brown ($10+)
1899 Scott 150 10k deep blue ($100) !
1899 Scott 151 50k brown ($30)
1901 Scott 169 12c on 1k red ($100) !
1902 Scott 173 1c gray/green ($20)
1902 Scott 174 2c brown/green ($20)
1902 Scott 179 10c pale blue/green ($10+)
1902 Scott 180 12c lake/green ($50)
1902 Scott 182 1k red ($20+)
1902 Scott 183 2k deep green ($50)
1902 Scott 211 5c on 10c pale blue/green ($20)
1902 Scott 235 1c gray & buff ($150) !
1902 Scott 236 2c brown & buff ($150) !
1902 Scott 237 3c green & buff ($150) !
1902 Scott (238) 5c red & buff ($100) !
1902 Scott 256 10c dark blue & blue ($30)
1902 Scott 317 2c brown & yellow ($60)
1903 Scott 364 1c on 3c green (V) ($20)
1903 Scott 365 2c on 3c green (Bl) ($20)
1903 Scott 366 12c on 10k rose red ($40)
1906 Scott 422a 1c violet ($10+)
1906 Scott 426 10c brown ($40)
1906 Scott 427 13c blue ($10)
1907-09 Scott 439 4k bright yellow ($10)
1909 Scott 463 30k gold,carmine & bister brown ($10+)
1924-25 Scott 677 5k red & brown ($20)
1924-25 Scott (678) 10c chocolate 7 lilac ($10+)
1927 Scott 733 1k dull blue ($10)
1929 Scott 734 2k bright violet ($50)
1931-32 Scott 766 10c blue & dull red ($20)
1933-34 Scott 785 5r dark brown & red orange ($35)
1935 Scott 793 1r red brown & purple ($20)
1935 Scott 794 1 1/2r violet & ultramarine ($10)
1902 Scott O5 5c on 1k red ($30)
1902 Scott O6 10c on 1k red ($30)
1902 Scott O7 12c on 1k red (40)
1911 Scott (O35) 9c gray & maroon ($10+)
1911 Scott (O36) 10c multicolored ($10+)
1915 Scott O54 1t gold, purple & black ($10)
1915 Scott O55 2t gold,green & brown ($10)
1915 Scott O56 3t multicolored ($10+)
1915 Scott 57 5t gold, blue & indigo ($10+)

B) (   ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.

C) *"184",*"185",*"186", are no longer in the current (2011) Scott. They were dropped. Actually 187,190,191-205 were also dropped, all with "Provisoire 1319" overprint applied. They are all in the 1947 Scott catalogue. But Big Blue still has spaces for 184-186. They are:
1902 Scott "184" 3k lilac brown
1902 Scott "185" 4k orange red
1902 Scott '186" 5k gray brown
No doubt they were dropped as there was no evidence of actual postage use. These stamps are still found in albums, as I have some copies.

D) *317, the 2c brown & yellow (Type I), is $60. Not given as choices are 316 (Type II) -no CV given, and 318 with red overprint for $500. You are free to substitute if you wish. ;-)

E) *422a is 1c violet, perforated, while 422 is 1c violet, imperforate. Both appear to be given a space.

F) *681: Scott 681-684 are "1924" overprint, while (Scott 686,687,689,) are "1925" overprint.

G) *723 or 740- I include the redrawn 1928 Scott 740-42 as choices.

H) *756 - There are no stamps in the 1931-32 Scott 760-770 issue to put in for the blank space choice. I substituted a 1929 Scott 756.

I) *785, the 5r @ $35 is included, but 784 3r @ $2 is not. ;-)

1911-13 Scott 497 5k red & ultramarine
"Ahmad Shah Qajar"
Out of the Blue
A real challenge, but nevertheless I am attracted to these issues. What fun it would be to become reasonably competent in this area.

Note: Maps and pic appear to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!

Reported: 1.2 million Persian carpet weavers in Iran


  1. Thanks so much for this very helpful information, just the kind of thing classic worldwide collectors (like me) need on the internet. When starting to work on a particular country (and Iran/Persia is a perfect example), frequently the biggest problem is to avoid being misled by forgeries or reprints that would be obvious to the specialist. I'm unlikely ever to have a stamp valuable enough to deserve a certificate, so its always going to be a do-it-yourself job to keep weeds out of the album.

  2. An excellent and highly useful write-up, reminds me a lot of the trouble I went in finding out the background/history of these Persian items

    I'm sure I'll come back to dig some advice sooner or later, as I've got two fat envelopes full of classic Persia waiting to get sorted.

  3. Thanks James for the nice comments. :-)

    I agree that we, as general classical collectors, are on our own checking for forgeries, as the cost is too high to get a certificate for the stamps we usually have.

  4. Hi Keijo

    Thanks for the appreciative comment. :-)

    The blog post did entail a lot of investigative philatelic work- which, by definition, is fun! ;-)

    And you have fun with the classic Persia!


  5. Jim
    Appreciate this focus on forgeries. I see that you used Tyler's "Focus on Forgeries" to identify Persian issues. I don't own any real resources on identifying forgeries (I would probably get depressed knowing how much of my collection is actually fake). What resources to do you own and use, and what would you recommend for the classics collector?


  6. Hi Michael

    Much prior forgery research is locked up in the specialty philatelic journals. One might be able to obtain access though- I have used the APS research library- they will send you a scan or even the journal. Of course, one will need to know what one is looking for. ;-)

    But there are general references that classical collectors may want to have on their bookshelves.

    • Tyler's book (2nd edition 2000) is very good as it focuses on common inexpensive forgeries- the kind that a general collector will have. They also have an image of the genuine and forgery stamps side by side- makes it clear what to look for.

    • The Serrane Guide- published in French in 1927, and published by APS in 1998 in book form (translated into English) is valuable for the classic forgeries. Also,if one can find the APS monthly journals in a philatelic library -they were originally published in the journal during the 1970s I believe. The Serrane has drawings of the differences for many stamps.

    • Album Weeds 3rd edition by Earee.
    Covers the 19th century forgeries in a written descriptive format. Tough sledding, as no drawings/images.

    Of course, there are internet resources- so a good search may yield some information on a particular issue.


  7. Jim,
    Can't thank you enough for this page about Persian forgeries. My initial web search led me straight up the garden path and into the bushes... It identified my 4 x 1881 & 1882s as genuine, using a totally separate suite of characters. As I was very dubious about the authenticity (just a little to good to be true!), I continued my research and came across your informative page which I have now bookmarked as a favourite and now I also know some good reference books to purchase.


  8. Joanne

    Thanks for the nice note, and glad to be of help. :-)

    As a general classical WW collector, awareness about the common and relatively inexpensive forgeries is invaluable. Otherwise, we are lambs to the slaughter. ;-)

  9. Found this highly useful when purchasing one of the 1882s shown above. Thanks for the tips.

  10. I'm glad it was useful to you Albert.

  11. hello;

    today I stumbled upon you excellent blog. The Iran Philatelic Study Circle catalog and bulletins are also a good source of information regarding Persian Philately and the various forgeries. Some comments on your blog:

    the second Nasser-eddin shah stamp you have shown as scott 46, is actually not genuine and is a reprint made in Paris by Boital.

    in your observations you mentioned that the unauthorized reprints are one of the main issues. Sadly this was not the case since all of the reprints were actually authorized by the postal authority to make some extra money. the reprints were ordered by the postal authority and delivered directly to stamps dealers in Europe. Most of them went to Mirza Hadi in Paris.

    on Scott 235-239, as you mentioned both of the scans you have shown (all caps and first character caps) are forgeries. you are correct that all type II are forgeries, but there are numerous of type I forgeries as well. the most common forgery is the one you have shown which has a clean machine printed overprint on ungummed buff paper.

    thank you
    Behruz Nassre

    1. Behruz Nassre-

      I truly appreciate your comments as a specialist of Persia.

      I changed the "Scott 46" Nasser-eddin shah stamp information to reflect your comment.

      I agree that if one has more than a passing interest in Persia, then one will want to join the Iran Philatelic Study Circle, or obtain their catalog.

  12. I wonder if you might be able to help me with a Blue Persian/Iranian stamp I have, I'm suspecting it's a forgery as I can find many similar photos on the internet but none exactly the same! I thought I saw (some of) it in one of your photos but the top right writing seems to be different!
    Thanks, Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny

      I couldn't find an example either on a quick review. If I find something more, I will post here.

    2. scott#92. probably not a forgery, as its a very inexpensive stamp with a CV of $0.25

  13. Jim,
    I want to thank you personally for the ease and layout of your web page and the information about forgeries. I just acquired an old collection that stopped in 1942. Among the items was an Honor-Bilt stamp envelope depicting Persia 5 sets #50-52 1882, Complete which contained 4 specimens of each #50-52 stamps. 3 of these sets were MNH while the 4th set was mint hinged. Learning from your site, I realize these are reprint-forgeries. The truth hurts but I am glad to know the difference. Thank you very much

  14. You are welcome. :-)

    I haven't changed the layout in several years, because I like it, and it is easily navigable - even though there are some 300 country posts published.

    Those "Sun" stamps (Scott 50-52) are frequently found with reprint-forgeries, but, now that you know the difference, keep an eye out for genuines lurking in feeder albums.

  15. Hey Jim!

    Just thought I'd share some info on a new Specialized catalog I purchased. Just received the Farahbakhsh "Stamps Of Iran" 2015 edition from Vera Trinder in the UK. It's over 400 pages, bilingual in English and Farsi, and for the classical era has all sorts of information on varieties as well as how to detect forgeries of Iranian stamps from the Qajar era. Paid about US$50 for it, but think it will be worth every penny (but then I have a love for Specialized catalogs in general. Also just got the Unitrade Canada 2016 edition, OMG what a gorgeous catalog that is. Specialist dream come true!) Gene aka DJCMH

    1. Wow! I would like a copy of that catalog! I will check into it. Thanks Gene! (aka DJCMH)

    2. I posted a review of it (with images) on my blog, which btw now has a new address...as I had a glitch with my browser that prevents me from accessing my old blog. the new address is

      djcmhphilately2.blogspot.com (basically just put a 2 after djcmhphilately in the old address).