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. Interested? So into the Blues...

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bad Certs Part A

Switzerland  1850 Scott 2 2 1/2r black & red
APEX Cert: The news is not good
Into the Deep Blue
You come across an interesting stamp in one of your feeder albums, check the CV, OMG!, I've hit the jackpot!

You send away for a Certificate of Genuineness ( a "Cert") from a reputable expert organization or person, and...

Bad Cert. A Fake, forgery, counterfeit, alteration, or you misidentified the stamp in the first place.

In the drawer it goes, not to be mentioned again. (People generally only like to mention winners.)

But for the WW collector, there is much to be learned from Bad Certs.

I have a dealer acquaintance, very ethical, who sends away for many certs. He is rewarded with many good ones, but the bad ones (and the stamps) are pulled, and put into a reference folder. At times he sells the folder, having no further need of it, and that is how I acquired a cache of bad certs, with the accompanied stamps.

Let's pick over the Cert rejects, and see what lessons can be learned...

Switzerland "1850 Scott 2 2 1/2r black & red"
Forgery: Note two lines for the circular portion of the posthorn
If genuine, this Swiss Federal Administration 1850 Scott 2 (used) has a CV of $1,600. One can understand why a dealer or collector would send a way for a cert: at those prices - it is expected. And there are forty types of each stamp, and, of course, many counterfeits created over the years.

1850, Poste Locale, 2½rp Black & Red, With Frame Around Cross, Zumstein #14 I
Has Genuine Cert; Scan from Internet
But for the WW collector, there is a lesson to be learned. One can check for oneself, and, if fake, never send for a cert in the first place (money saved).

I recommend getting The Serrane Guide - Stamps Forgeries of the World to 1926 (My copy translated from French, and published by APS 1998).

There, it states that genuines have three lines for the circular portion of the posthorn as the genuine (from internet) above shows. The "Bad Cert" example only has two lines.

APEX note that accompanies Bad Certs
Well, what a downer when one gets a bad cert.

Looking at the silver lining, the American Philatelic Expertizing Service (APEX), an arm of the American Philatelic Society (APS), sends a soothing note with the bad cert suggesting one donates the fake materials to the APS Philatelic Collection for reference, thereby removing the fake materials from circulation to avoid fooling more collectors.

Spain 1851 Scott 8a 2r deep orange red "Isabella II"
Sismondo Cert: A Forgery
There were only 1,432 2 Reales stamps produced for the 1851 issue, so one already knows, if this stamp is genuine, it is worth a lot. In fact, for the "deep orange red" minor color Scott 8a variation ( major color is "red"), the CV (used) is $15,000!

This is a Sergio Sismondo Cert, one of the individual experts who covers the stamps of the early classical era. He not infrequently has articles in the APS journal on the characteristics of early European issues.

"1851 Spain 8a 2r deep orange red Isabella II"
But the WW collector now has resources on the internet, that, in many cases, will show the classic forgeries.

I checked the superb stampworld.ca website which has a great side by side review of the early Spanish forgeries, and this stamp is a Torres forgery (very thin paper, down-turned mouth, wide spacing between the "1" and "8" of "1851"). Note: I have permission from Falschung (Nelson), the owner, to directly link into his site.

?1859 Argentina Buenos Aires Scott 9 4r green'bluish "Liberty Head"?
APEX Cert: "a counterfeit with a fake cancellation'
A Buenos Aires Argentinian 1859 Scott 9 4r green/bluish "Liberty Head" can be found with fine or blurred printing. CV (used) is $100 (blurred) to $275 (fine).

?1859 Argentina Buenos Aires Scott 9 4r green'bluish Liberty Head?
Forgery with Fake Cancellation
O.K, here is the stamp. Before sending it off for a cert (costs money), is there a way to check its authenticity, even if the (usual) internet forgery sources do not show this stamp?

1859, Liberty Head, 4r green on bluish (Scott 9)
Genuine - Scan from Internet
Sure. Type in a search for the stamp, and often an auction site or other resource will show a genuine stamp. Now compare. The stamps are remarkably different. The heads do not look similar in the least.
Clearly, my example is a forgery if the internet scan example is genuine. I also checked The Serene Guide, and it mentions that genuines have a hyphen between Buenos Aires (look carefully), while the fakes do not.

1850 Austria Scott 4a? 6kr brown "Coat of Arms"
Ribbed paper?
Sismondo Cert: Common stamps occur commonly
If this Austria 6kr brown is on ribbed paper, then the CV is $2,450; if not - CV $6 - quite the difference!

In this case, a common stamp.

?1850 Austria Scott 4a? 6kr brown Ribbed paper?
Genuine but common (Scott 4)
I'm not showing the back of the stamp, as the front also shows the paper texture - to me, a wove paper. Bur someone thought this could be a "ribbed paper" type, which is a rare variant when it was first printed on rough hand made paper. In fact, "ribbed paper" was written in pencil on part of the back of the stamp. "Ribbed paper", by my reading, is difficult for most philatelists to determine.

Scan from internet of 6kr brown "ribbed paper"
It would be doubtful that the 6kr brown submitted for certification would have ribbed paper anyway, as it is a Type III, which almost entirely exists on machine made paper.  (See my Austria 1850 Coat of Arms post for more information.)

This illustrates another scenario for the WW collector: submitting a "common" stamp for certification when one thinks one has an exception. The odds are not good.

?1856 New South Wales Scott 32 1p red "Victoria" Imperforate?
APEX Cert: "Scott 35 altered with perforations trimmed off-"
A not unusual situation for the WW collector is determining if an imperforate stamp is truly imperforate, or if it is one that was trimmed down from a perforated example.  

1860 Scott 35 1p red
Perforations trimmed to resemble a 1856 Scott 32 Imperforate
The stamp was submitted as a 1856 Scott 32 imperforate (CV $350), but was judged to be a cut down 1860 Scott 35 (CV $160).

It is unclear to me how APEX made that determination, other than perhaps the default choice to the least expensive possibility. Are there plate flaws to look for, or plating differences? Are there color shades to look at (probable)? In order to be labeled an imperforate of the 1856 issue, is it necessary that the stamp be cut wide in order to rule out a perforated example?

1914 Austria Offices in Crete Scott 22 25c ultramarine/blue "Franz Josef'
Sismondo Cert: No, this is not legitimately cancelled
The temptation to "cancel" an unused stamp by the unscrupulous is especially high when there is a large difference in CVs. Here, an unused example is $2.15, while $150 if used!

1914 Austria Offices in Crete Scott 22 25c ultramarine/blue "Franz Josef'
Stamp Genuine; Cancellation Not
The "Beirut" cancel was judged bogus. The experts often have reference materials, or knowledge of philatelic literature, that lets them determine this.

Evaluating "used" stamps is a major problem for WW collectors. The WW collector almost always does not have immediate resources to judge if a cancellation is legitimate or not, other than common sense.

A cancel is more suspicious to me if the the cancel is blurred, the date is not there, if a town or city is not readable, or if the cancel look "CTO". And if the cancellation looks too good (SON), that can be suspicious too!

As a matter of self protection, if I am buying a "used" stamp from another collector, and there is a large difference in price between unused (low CV) and used (high CV), I will only pay a fair unused price.

APEX Application
Is the 1923 Estonia Scott C8 Genuine?
Well, lets say you have this Estonia Scott C8, and you would like to determine if it is genuine (CV $525 used). And Scott says "C1- C18 counterfeits are plentiful. Forged surcharges abound. Authentication is required".

If you were submitting it to APEX, you would fill out a form similar to this. (The form has been updated, and can be downloaded from the APS site.) You would indicate which Scott number you thought (hoped?) it is,  Under the section "The following information is desired", you would write "Genuine?".

The cost to you as an APS member (effective 2010) is $20 for CV $200 or less; $25 for CV $201-$500; $30 for CV $501-$1000; 3% CV for CV $1000 or more. Maximum fee is $400. Cost to non APS members is about twice the cost to APS members.

?1923 Estonia Scott C8 20m on 5m-5m Rough Perf 11 1/2?
Pairs of C1 Surcharged
APEX Cert: No, a Fake
Unfortunately, the judgement from APEX is you have a counterfeit.

?1923 Estonia Scott C8 20m on 5m-5m Rough Perf 11 1/2?
All of the early air mail stamps of Estonia have been extensively forged, usually by forgers within Estonia. And then, even if the underlying stamp is genuine, the surcharges have been forged.

It is much easier, as one can imagine, to counterfeit a stamp issue by applying a bogus overprint or surcharge than to create a counterfeit stamp.

And that is a very large problem for WW collectors.

If you think that detecting stamp fakes is challenging, detecting fake overprint/surcharges is even more so - and they are more common.

I'm aware of one advanced WW collector with extensive holdings, that refuses to collect overprint/surcharged issues on a serious basis, because of the difficulty in detecting forgeries.

If you would like to work on your own on these genuine vs counterfeit stamps, check out...



?1883 Grenada Scott 14a (Unsevered pair) 1/2p orange & green?
Revenue Stamp Overprinted "Postage" in Black
Denomination & Crown in 2nd Color
Sismondo Cert: Forged Overprints
A Grenada 1883 Scott 14a (unsevered pair) has a CV of $5000.

But Sismondo states that this stamp has two forged overprints.

?1883 Grenada Scott 14a (Unsevered pair) 1/2p orange & green?
Revenue Stamp Overprinted "Postage" in Black
Denomination & Crown in 2nd Color
Nope, your Ship has not come in: Forgery Overprint
When faced with a high CV stamp of unknown authenticity, a good approach for the WW collector is finding an identical stamp with a cert on the internet (google is your friend).

1883, Queen Victoria, 1/2p orange & green
APS Cert in 2016
I can find some differences between the forgery and the genuine overprints, but are they significant? That is where an expert's opinion would be helpful.

?1902 Iran (Persia) Scott 317 2c brown & yellow Type II?
Handstamp Overprinted in Black
APEX Cert: It's Iran (Persia)..what did you expect?- Forged Overprint
Scott has this general cautionary note for Iran (Persia): "Beware of forgeries and/or reprints of most Iran stamps between the years 1870-1925. Forgeries can outnumber genuine examples by a factor of 10 or 20 to one."

A good rule to follow for Iran (Persia) is to assume forgery unless proven otherwise.

?1902 Iran (Persia) Scott 317 2c brown & yellow Type II?
Handstamp Overprinted in Black
Forged Overprint
If this stamp is a genuine Scott 317, the CV (unused) is $250.

How to tell? I haven't been able to find any good resources on the internet that are helpful for Iran forgeries (except for my own blog post that covers a few examples).

If one would really like to know more about the stamps of Iran, a good place to start would be the Persiphila website.

? 1892 Benin Scott 18 75c on 15c blue?
"Benin" handstamped on Stamps of French Colonies
Additional Surcharge in Red
Sismondo Cert: Nope, a Forged Surcharge
Stamps of the French Colonies, especially those with overprints/surcharges, are likewise a target for forgers.

? 1892 Benin Scott 18 75c on 15c blue?
Forged Surcharge
This possible 1892 Benin Scott 18, if real, has a CV of $600. Only 500 were printed. But Scott has an ominous note: "Counterfeits exist".

But before sending it off for a cert......

BENIN, 1892, 75c on 15c Blue, Red Surcharge (Scott 18; Yvert 16)
The WW collector can do the google search, and here is a genuine example.

There are differences between the overprints - clearly not a good sign.

1855 Cuba Scott 1 1/2r  p blue green/blue paper "Queen Isabella II"
APEX Cert: "altered, with remainder pen stroke removed"
Out of the Blue
Obviously, if one sends away for certs, there will be disappointments at times.

But one can increase the odds by checking the internet for forgeries, and finding genuine stamps to compare. Also posting a scan image at one of the major stamp forums, and asking fellow collectors about it sometimes yields good answers. Then one doesn't need to spend unnecessarily.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip into bad certs. I have quite a few more, so I will be probably returning to this topic at a later date.

Note:The genuine scan images were mostly from auction sites on the internet, and appear to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Kind of interesting to see so many APS certificates for non-American countries. But I guess it must be one of the upsides/downsides of APS being such a big player in the US.

    Here in Europe the certs are usually considered good only if they come from the issuing or related country (for example pretty much all better Estonian stamps at auctions come with either Estonian or Finnish or German certificate), and are recent (say past 5-10 years). All others certs (such as these by APS) are easily frowned upon unless they are by some very well known expert/collector.

    But I'm definitely looking forward to sequel ;)


    1. APEX certs in the US are usually considered "gold".

      But if I was in Europe, I would prefer a local country expert too. ;-)

  2. When I saw the title for this post, I thought you were going to expose fake certs for fake stamps rather than comment on genuine certs for fake stamps. I suppose there are fake certs; certainly fake "signatures" on the backs of stamps are plentiful, as is the case with the Hungary occupation issues.

    I used a disappointing cert in my "Bud's Big Blue Introduction and Index." I'm sure the collector who ordered the cert wanted it to be US #366 (CV $11,000+) and not US #340 (CV negligible).

    1. Yes, when the “Bad Certs” post came out, I thought that it could be interpreted differently to mean a cert that states “genuine” for a stamp that turns out to be fake.