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...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Serbia and Forgeries

1866 Scott 7 1p green "Prince Michael (Obrenovich III)"
Quick History
Serbia liberated itself from the Ottoman occupation (First and Second Serbian Uprising 1804-1815), and the Principality of Serbia had de facto independence since 1817 (although Turkish troops were still in Belgrade until 1867).

Stamps were introduced in 1866.

Principality of Serbia 1878
A new Constitution in 1869 declared an independent state, and in 1878, the Treaty of Berlin gave Serbia full international recognition.

When Prince Milan (Obrenovich IV) was crowned in 1882, Serbia became a Kingdom. The Kingdom continued until 1918, when it joined with Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slovenia to become the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia).

The Principality/Kingdom was ruled by two dynasties: the House of Obrenovic, and the House of Karageorgevic.

King Milan (Obrenovich IV) was on the throne from 1882-89, when he abdicated in favor of his son, King Alexander (Obrenovich V).

But King Alexander and Queen Draga were murdered by a group of military officers in 1903. (The officers later formed the Black Hand secret military society in 1911, which was partially responsible for the onset of WW I.) The brutal coup d'etat stunned Europe. This enabled the return of the Karageorgevic house, with King Peter on the throne until the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was proclaimed in 1918.

The population was 2,900,000 in 1910, and the capital was Belgrade.

Territorial Boundaries after the First (1912) and Second (1913) Balkan Wars
Serbia was victorious in both Balkan Wars, and its land holdings expanded. Tensions between Serbia and Austria-Hungary increased.

Europe 1914
Allied Powers (grey); Central Powers (dull pink); Neutral Powers (ocher)
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo by the Black Hand of Serbia triggered a chain of events that enmeshed all the major European powers, and WW I began.

During WW I, Serbia provided the first Allied victory in 1914, but by 1915 it was occupied by Austro-Hungarian, German, and Bulgarian troops.

Austrian Occupation stamps were issued in 1916.

In 1918, Serbia merged with Montenegro, then joined with the (unrecognized) State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to form a new Pan-Slavic state: the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia).

Serbia was the leading actor, and the new Kingdom was ruled by the Serbian monarchy.

1901 Scott 57 10p on 20p rose "King Alexander"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Serbia 1866-1920, 224 major number descriptions. Of those, 141 are CV <$1-$1+, or 63%. Clearly, Serbia is an inexpensive country for the WW collector: but with a caveat - one may need to separate out the wheat (genuines) from the chaff (forgeries).

Serbia is a challenge for WW collectors. Not much specific information is available easily. Fortunately, I obtained "The Postal History and Postage Stamps of Serbia" book by Mirko R. Rasic (1979- The Collectors Club). It did not add much about forgeries that I did not have from other sources, but it was a great resource on the various printings, and provided general postal history background.

Let's just say if one wished to specialize in Serbia, and parse the many printings of issues, it would be a worthy challenge! But as WW generalists, we can gloss over that for now, ;-)

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Paras = 1 Dinar
1866 Scott 9 20p rose "Prince Michael (Mihailo Obrenovich III)"
Belgrade printing; Perf 9 1/2
The "Prince Michael" stamps were primarily used on foreign newspapers sent to subscribers in the interior from the Belgrade post office. In Belgrade, subscribers received their newspapers through the Austrian post office.  Recall that Serbia was, at the time, still a vassal state, and could not make postal agreements with other countries. Therefore, the "Prince Michael" stamps were not used for mail abroad. Serbia did not receive authority to handle foreign mail until September 19, 1869.

The 1866 typographed "Prince Michael" design can be found in a Vienna printing (Three stamps-Perf 12), a Belgrade printing (Three stamps-Perf 9 1/2), and on Pelure paper (Three stamps). There was also a 1868-69 two stamp imperforate issue.

Scott: "Counterfeits are common".

Count the pearls. (Suggestion: scan the stamp, enlarge it on the monitor and count- much easier!)

According to the Serrane Guide (APS publication 1998- Translated by Cortland Eyer).....

Genuine: 77 pearls (All values)
Early Forgery: 59 pearls (All values)
Geneva forgery: 80 pearls (1-para) & 74 pearls (2-para).

I counted 77 pearls for my two specimens shown on this blog post- so, although the Belgrade printing stamps appear "rough", they pass the test. ;-)

(June, 2016 Update: There has been a recent discussion on the stampbears.net forum site, where the 59 pearl forgery and a (new to me!) 61 pearl forgery are illustrated. Thanks darkomex!)

Back to history: Prince Michael (Mihailo Obrenovich III) was assassinated in 1868 (The reasons behind the plot are still unclear), and his cousin, Milan Obrenovich, became Prince.

1869 Scott 23 40p violet; Earlier Printing 
"Prince Milan (Obrenovich IV)"; A3 design
I was convinced I had some forgeries of this typographed issue because of the large differences in appearance among my collection.

The 1869-78 issue of Prince Milan (nine stamps) can be found with Perf 9 1/2, 12, and compound. The many printings during the 1869-75 years left wide differences in design clarity- as we will see in a moment.

There were also different settings: 2-2 1/2 mm apart (1869) and 3-4 mm apart (1878).

Prince Milan Forgery
But the lithographed forgery (Perf 12 1/2) for this issue (according to Focus on Forgeries- Tyler c2000)  shows a very distinct and obvious white line beginning at the back of the head near the part of the hair, continues down the back of the head and neck, and curves underneath and ends at the pointed front of the neck.

In contrast, the genuine (40p violet two stamps above) only has a thin white line along the back of the head in parts (most obvious- the back of the head behind the ear), and very minor or absent elsewhere.

(June 2016 Update: There has been a recent discussion on stampbears.net where the Prince Milan forgery featured in Tyler c2000 is shown. Thanks darkomex!)

1878 Scott 18 10p orange "Prince Milan"
Worn Printing
Yes, this is not a forgery- just a very worn printing. !!!

1869 Scott 20 20p gray blue "Prince Milan"
Earlier Printing vs Worn Printing
Hard to believe- No? Even if one doesn't want to specialize in Serbia, collecting different examples of the printings- as shown above- should not be difficult for the WW collector.

1879 Scott 26 2p black, thin paper
"Prince Milan"
In 1872, an imperforate 1p yellow "Prince Milan" of the preceding A3 design was produced. Subsequently, another imperforate "Prince Milan" stamp, but an A4 design (shown above), was issued. The A4 design stamp can either be found on thick paper (1873) or thin paper (1879).

1880 Scott 32 1d violet "King Milan"
In 1880, a nice typographed six stamp set depicting "King Milan" was issued. CV ranges from <$1-$6.

(Prince Milan was nor crowned King until 1882, but the stamps were used through 1889, so he was King most of the time during the stamp issue life.)

King Milan was actually not very popular with the people because of his autocratic ways. And his Queen (Natalija) could not stand him (He was a philanderer), and left him. 

1890 Scott 34 10p rose red
"King Alexander (Obrenovich V)"
The young King Alexander had his own seven stamp set issued in 1890. CV <$1-$2+ for six stamps.

He was only fourteen years old, and had to serve under a regency. But, when he was sixteen, he dismissed the regents, and took full royal authority (This move was popular with the people).

 1894 Scott 46 1d dark green 
"King Alexander"; Granite Paper
This "King Alexander" design comes in two flavors. The 1894-96 eight stamp set is on granite paper. I see lots of red threads.

1898-1900 Scott 48 1p dull red
"King Alexander"; Ordinary Paper
The 1898-1900 seven stamp issue, in contrast, is on ordinary paper. It is quite easy to spot the difference.

1901-03 Scott 61 15p red violet
"King Alexander; Genuine vs Forgery
A nine stamp typographed issue for King Alexander was produced between 1901-03. The three higher denominations (Scott 65-67) are in a larger format.

The lower denomination stamps are quite inexpensive (CV <$1-$1+ for Scott 59-65),  but that did not prevent Lucian Smeets and the "Belgian Gang" from producing forgeries for the packet trade around 1912.

(Forgery information from "Focus on Forgeries -Tyler- c2000)

The forgeries are quite good, but the forgery shows a distinct curve from the shading dots on the King's cheek from below the eye to the sideburn.

Open end of "C": 7 mm vs 9 mm
Genuine vs Forgery for Scott 59-64
An even better clue (in my view) is the more open "C" on the forgery. 

1903-04 Scott 74 50p gray & black, Red Overprint
"Arms of Serbia on Head of King Alexander"
The 1903-04 issue has the visage of King Alexander, but that is blocked out by an "Arms of Serbia" overprint. What happened? A coup occurred, which benefited the rival house of Karageorgevich, and King Alexander of the Obrenovich house was killed. He was only 26 years old.

The overprints come in two types, and the first type overprint can be either found typographed or lithographed. The stamps are found perf 13 1/2 or perf 11 1/2. (For details, consult the Scott catalogue.)

There are thirteen major numbers for the ten denomination stamps.

1904 Scott 80 10p rose red
"Karageorge and Peter I"
The typographic issue of 1904 shows "Karageorge and Peter I" on five stamps, and "Insurgents" on three stamps. Peter I was the new king from the house of Karageorgevich, and the issue celebrates his coronation, and the centenary of the Karageorgevich dynasty.

The "Karageorge and Peter I" design, by the famous French stamp engraver, Eugene Mouchon (He was responsible for the French Colony "Navigation & Commerce" stamps, among others), is known more notoriously as the "Death Mask" issue. When the stamp is viewed upside down, it purports to show the death mask of King Alexander Obrenovich V.

I won't repeat the story here (It is a good one!), as I did a blog post published on a Halloween Eve past that tells the tale.

The postscript is Mouchon supposedly was so incensed that people had accusing him of being complicit in the scheme, that he refused to do any more stamp design engraving commissions.

1904 Scott 84 1d bister "Insurgents"
Genuine vs Forgery
Lucian Smeets and the "Belgian Gang" also counterfeited the 1904 coronation issue. The photolithographic forgeries, released prior to WW I, are blurred compared to the typographic genuines.

Compare backwards "N" and "J" letters
Genuine vs Forgery
Also, if one examines the Cyrillic script, there is what appears to be a backwards "N" and a "J" letter in the upper right portion of the stamps (Scott 79-86). The forgery appears to have the hook of the "J" impinging on the backwards "N" compared to the genuine. (Focus on Forgeries-Tyler- c2000)

1905 Scott 88 5p yellow green & black; wove paper
"King Peter I Karageorgevich"
Genuine vs Forgery
We are not yet done with forgeries. ;-)

The 1905 King Peter typographed definitive issue (eleven stamps) is on wove paper, and can be found with thicker paper ( Perf 12 X 11 1/2) and on thin paper (Perf ~11 1/2).

But up to 1960, the notorious forger Mirza Hadi of Monaco and Paris offered counterfeit lithographed sets to stamp wholesalers (He called them "genuine reprints"). The forgeries are Perf ~ 11 1/2- (more about that soon), and on thicker, whiter paper.

These Hadi forgeries are ubiquitous in collections- I have at least dozen. ;-)

So, how can one tell the difference?

For one, the forgeries tend to be unused (All of mine are).

Notice how vivid (colors brighter and more intense) the forgery appears? Counterintuitively, the collector is more likely to have a genuine with a more subdued stamp than a bright one.

Forgery- Horizontal Frameline break
Top-Right corner of stamp
Also, look for a gap in the right upper horizontal frame line: forgery. (Some of my forgeries are missing the entire right upper corner horizontal frameline.)

1905 Scott 88 5p yellow green & black
Genuine (Top) vs Forgery (Bottom)
Both reported in the literature as Perf 11 1/2
But Perfs do not line up
Now, as far as perforations...

If one has a Perf 12 X 11 1/2 thicker paper stamp, it is likely to be a genuine, as the forgeries are Perf ~ 11 1/2.

And the reason I have been writing ~ 11 1/2 Perf for the Forgeries is because they are not exactly that. ;-)

Keijo of Stamp Collecting Blog fame has carefully measured the Forgery perforations, and they are 11.6-11.7 X 11.7-11.8.

He has, in addition, found printing differences between the typographic genuines and the lithographic forgeries- check out his post- it is a good read.

One more thing- look at the 5p green & black examples above- doesn't the forgery look longer ?

"1905 Scott 95 1d bister & black" Forgery- 29 mm
1905  Scott 92 25p ultramarine & black- 27 mm
Reading Rasic, he mentioned the lithographic forgeries, which initially appeared after WW II, are a larger size to do wider spacing. He states the size of the stamps, measuring to the perforation, are 23 mm X 27 mm for the genuines, and 24 mm X 30 mm for the forgeries. (From top to bottom, the stamps above measure (for me) more like 29 mm vs 27 mm, but still obvious.)

1908 Scott 100 10p red & black; laid paper
In 1908, there was another issue (eight stamps) of the King Peter I definitives, but on laid paper. One will need to distinguish this issue from the 1905 wove paper issue.

1911 Scott 112 10p carmine
"King Peter I Karageorgevich"
The so called "King Peter with Cap" issue typographed definitives (22 stamps) were released between 1911-14. They all feature a portrait of the king as shown. The sixteen lower denomination stamps are quite inexpensive (CV <$1). The six higher denomination stamps are CV $3+- $150. Of interest, the usual 1914 15p slate black was printed in error in a red color (Scott 115a), and has a CV of $900.

1911 "Scott 126 3d lake" 
Hadi Forgery
Unfortunately, Mirza Hadi sold large quantities of counterfeits of this issue to the wholesale trade as recently as the 1970s. Much to my surprise, while preparing this blog post, I discovered five of them in my collection.

 1914 Scott 115 15p slate black (genuine)
"1911 Scott 114 15p red violet" (forgery)

Hadi issued forgeries for the 1p-30p denominations, and a cursory inspection will probably not reveal the counterfeits.

But there are signs when one knows where to look. ;-)

To begin with, the genuines are Perf 12 X 11 1/2, while the forgeries are Perf 11 1/2.

Forgeries have a shorter horizontal line under "APA"
Forgeries have an obvious "nick" in the right frameline
Tyler (Focus on Forgeries-c2000) points out two signs for the forgeries.

The horizontal line under "APA" in the right upper portion of the stamp is shorter in the forgeries (1.2-1.4 mm vs ~1.5 mm).

And there is an obvious "nick" in the right frameline 6 mm below the top right corner. All my forgeries show this.

There is a thick vertical curved white line, separated in the middle,
Seen on the jacket of the forgery
I found a another "good" sign in addition. On the jacket design of the forgery, there is a thick vertical curved white line separated in the middle. This is not seen with the genuines. All of my forgeries show this quite clearly.

1915 Scott 133 10p scarlet 
"King Peter and Military Staff"
In 1915, a seven stamp set was prepared, obviously in support of the war effort. Of interest, Scott has a note that the higher denominations (Scott 134-138) were not issued for postal use, but were permitted to be used as wartime emergency currency.

1915 Scott 132 5p yellow green
Close-Up: "King Peter and Military Staff"
A weary King?
What I find remarkable is the scene, which has a monochrome bareness to it. The king is sitting on a stone, and all the weariness of war appears to be on his shoulders.

(True, the stamp depicts Serbia's October 1914 one and only victory over the Austrians, but the rest of the battles went badly, and Serbia was occupied by Central Power troops in 1915.)

"King Peter and Prince Alexander"
1918 Scott 156 2p olive brown, Ordinary paper
1920 Scott 170 2p olive brown, Pelure paper
The last regular issue for Serbia (15 stamps) was produced between 1918-20, and showed King Peter and Prince Alexander.

The Serbian government actually spent the last years of WW I in exile in Corfu. But anticipating the liberation of their country, this issue was ordered and the first printing was produced in France. It is therefore know as the "Corfu" issue.  They reached Corfu on October 5, 1918. The remaining printings were done in Belgrade. The general public in Belgrade could first buy the stamps on June 30, 1919.

Under Serbia, the leading actor, the surrounding lands then became the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia)King Peter I was proclaimed the first King of Yugoslavia, and his son Alexander was Prince Regent, and then King beginning in 1921.

CV for the stamps is <$1-$1+. Be aware that the 1p and 1p denominations can also be found on pelure paper.

For more about the region, see my Yugoslavia 1918-20 post and Yugoslavia 1921-40 post.

1895 Scott J2 10p blue "Coat of Arms"
The postage due issues of 1895-1914, which have this design, were produced on various papers (granite, wove, laid) and perforations (13 X 13 1/2, and 11 1/2).

The 1895 issue (five stamps) was on granite paper, which is illustrated above.

1918 Scott J20 50p chocolate "Coat of Arms"
The 1918-20 typographic postage dues (six stamps), are a busy design indeed. CV is <$1.

1916 Scott 1N15 60h brown violet
Stamps of Bosnia 1912-14, Overprinted
Issued under Austrian Occupation
Found in the Scott catalogue are two issues of stamps (which vary by type of overprint) that were produced during the Austrian occupation in 1916.

The issue shown here has 21 stamps, and the CV ranges from <$1-$2+ for 20 stamps.

1916 Scott 1N27 10h rose carmine
Stamps of Bosnia 1912-14
 Overprinted "SERBIEN" Horizontially
Issued under Austrian Occupation
The second type of overprint is illustrated here, and is found on 21 stamps. The CV is fairly expensive, with 19 stamps ranging from $10+-$50+.

I am going to conclude with a remark found in The Serrane Guide about these Austrian occupation issues:

"Forged overprints are more numerous than stars in the sky. Specialize, or leave them alone. No middle ground."


Deep Blue
1880 "King Milan I" issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has thirteen pages for the stamps of Serbia, and naturally includes a space for all Scott major numbers. But, because of the numerous forgeries one will inevitably accumulate for Serbia, I've found one needs to add quadrilled pages.

1903-04 Scott 73 25p blue & black; black overprint
"Arms of Serbia on Head of King Alexander"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on three pages, has 104 spaces for regular, postage due, and occupation stamps. Coverage is 46%.

The 1940s editions have similar coverage, except the 1940s editions include the 1873 imperforate 2p "thick paper" black (by dates), which is now a minor number (26a) and CV $2+.

The 1940s editions do not have a space for the 1p yellow ( Scott 16 or 25).

As befits an inexpensive country, there are no stamps with CV 10+ that have a space.

BB ignores paper differences.  Hence, the 1894-1900 issue (granite vs ordinary), and the 1905-08 issue (wove vs laid), will only have one space.


16,17 or 18,20,21,22,23,24,

27,28,29,30a* or 30,31,32,


48,40 or 49,41 or 50,42 or 51,43 or 52,44 or 53,45 or 54,46,



Next Page

69 or 75A,70,71,72,73,74 or 75B,


87 or 98,88 or 99,89 or 100,90 or 101,91 or 102,92 or 103,
93 or 104,94 or 105,(95),


Next Page



155 or 169,156 or 170,157,158,159,160,162,

Postage Due
J1 or J6 or J9,J2,J4,J5,

J15 or J16,J17,J18,

Occupation Stamps


A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): None
B) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.
C) *30a or 30: BB specifies 25p blue (30a- now a minor number), but 25p ultramarine (Scott 30) can also be put in.
D) *1894-1900: choices are granite vs ordinary paper. Minor color differences were allowed and admitted.
E) *1905-08: choices are wove vs laid paper.

1918 Scott 160 20p red brown 
"King Peter and Prince Alexander"
Out of the Blue
I've enjoyed the Serbian issues- but one better be prepared to recognize the numerous forgeries.

Note: Maps appear to be in the common domain. Prince Milan Forgery stamp (From Internet) is used for educational purposes.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Great stuff, as usual, and I am reading all your postings. The Balkans provide some very interesting, complex early stamps from this era with a great deal of history behind them and offer an alternative to the more mainstream and far more popular western European countries. Thanks for the research.

    1. Drew - Glad you found it useful, and entertaining. I agree the Balkan area has great stamps- and history.

  2. Fascinating reading but, please excuse my ignorance, but why would anyone create a forgery of a stamp that is, according to the catalogue, pretty much worthless anyway? I have a 15 Napa 1905 King Peter that, based on your article info, appears to be genuine.....but, surely it's only worth pennies anyway?

    1. The wholesale trade and the packet trade enabled forgers to still make money even if the individual stamp was worth little.

  3. Thank you for the reply Jim, although I'm still slightly confused. The 15 Napa, King Peter I have seems to be genuine but is unmarked, unlike most/all of the others you've mentioned. On that basis.....is my stamp worth millions? lol Regards Martin

  4. Great refresher before I tackle moving Serbia into its final (for me) home. In general collections I gave up long ago worrying about fakes. However in specialized collections, of which I presently have three, I DO seek only genuine stamps. Kind regards. David

    1. Yes, and for Serbia it is not too difficult to have genuine stamps if one knows what to look for....All the best David!

  5. Hi Jim, are you on Facebook? We could do with your expertise on YuRePublic (Philately) page.
    I put some imperf. part sheets there yesterday and told they are fakes. (I think I already knew that.) They are 1905 series, 5, 10, 30.

    1. Hi Rick

      Well I am on Facebook, but I use it only to keep track of family members. I will take a look at the Facebook site you mention, though.

  6. Thanks for your great explication of the 1904 Karageorge and Peter I issue. I compared my copies to the illustrations on Scotts and was leaning towards them being forgeries. Your article put a nail in it. When looking at the Scotts illustration I noticed that the forgeries had given Peter a double chin. It's easy to forget that stamp collecting was once a major hobby and a forger could pick up a pretty penny, especially on the high values. I don't think anyone would bother today except on high end stuff.

    1. Al - thanks for the interesting observation.