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...

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Certs are back and Reality Bites

"Portuguese Guinea 1881 Scott 6  200r orange" 
Triple play: Forged Stamp, Overprint, Cancel
Into the Deep Blue
Two years ago I published a post under the title Bad Certs - Part A, in which was shown a group of stamps that returned bad news: namely the Certs revealed forgeries and other shenanigans.

Well, I have more from the cache to show today.

There was a bit of confusion with the title of my original post. I've changed the title to reflect that these are not literally  "Bad Certs", but rather the underlying stamps are "bad".

What I said in my original post....

"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..."

A closer look

Portuguese India Scott 131 Cert

OK, here is a "Portuguese Crown" design stamp from Portuguese India. The CV for the Scott 1t on 10r green is $325. The other 27 stamps in the 1881-82 issue are CV $9-$160, so this is the most expensive stamp in the group, if genuine.

Portuguese India Scott 131 Forgery

Caution!: ALL of the Portuguese Crown design stamps for ALL of the Portuguese colonies were forged by Fournier! The forgeries were all off of one template design, so the forgeries are fairly easy to detect.

It is a very good idea for the WW collector to check for these common Fournier forgeries before sending off for a cert and spending hard earned money.

The Fournier forgeries are ubiquitous, and checking my own 1877 and 1880-81 "Portuguese Crown" stamps for Portuguese India, I harvested three forgeries out of eleven stamps. :-( 

The genuine....

"Crown" design stamps Portuguese Colony- Genuine

Note the "scallop" shell shape in the right upper quadrant? There are seven scallops. And the colored outer circle below the "CORREIO" tablet barely touches the lower horizontal line of the tablet. There are other signs, but this should probably be sufficient.

The Fournier Forgery...

"Crown" design stamps Portuguese Colony
Fournier Forgery

The shell "scallop" in the right upper quadrant is cruder, with, at most, six scallops, with the large central one divided partially by a thick line. The colored outer circle below the "CORREIO" tablet  abuts and clearly touches the lower horizontal line of the tablet along the "RR"'s. 

No doubt the overlying 1...T overprint is also a fake, but I don't have to try to check it, as the basic stamp has already been shown to be a forgery.

It might be wise to check all of your Portuguese colonies "Crown" stamps, as the Fournier has a way of sneaking into collection holdings. I know I plan to put that on my to-do list. ;-)
France Scott J23 Cert

Sergio Sismondo Certs are a favorite of dealers and collectors that want results from multiple countries at a reasonable price. He can usually provide a Cert for most major WW countries. He clearly must have detailed genuine/forgery comparison holdings and a large philatelic literature reference collection  in order to provide his services. He is well known to readers of the APS journal, as he frequently has major articles in it. 

I think he presents a good counterargument to the often expressed idea that one should only seek Certs from the expert(s) of a philatelic society from the country in question.

 In many cases, it is not necessary.  

If I, as a WW collector can figure much of this out on my own, a guy with the resources of Sergio Sismondo can certainly provide judgement in most cases! (Granted, for very tricky stamps, very minefield stamps, very obscure stamps, very expensive stamps, or as an absolute necessary "seal of approval" for selling purposes, the recognized expert(s) in the field might be the way to go.)

France Scott J23 1fr black Forgery

The "Duval Noirs", the typographic black postage dues of France (perforated) and French Colonies (unperforated) of 1882-1892, can be expensive in the higher denominations. Unfortunately, our old nemesis, Fournier, did some rather good lithographic and photogravure forgeries.

This 1 Franc black (unused) has a CV of $750, if genuine. How can we tell? Although I appreciate Sismondo's Certs, he only gives his judgement, and not the reason why.

So a bit of sleuthing is in order. The Serrane Guide (American Philatelic Society, 1998) provides the answer.

Let's look at a genuine "Duval Noir" close-up...

France Scott J22 60c black Close-up Genuine

Although there are multiple subtle signs, I'm going to present what I found helpful. Below "E" of "CHIFFRE" is a double line. And below the double line is an ornament that almost touches the double line, but a very small gap remains. (diagnostic genuine) There is also a close horizontal line just above the black "CHIFFRE" tablet.

Now, let us look at the 1 Franc in question...

"France Scott J23 1fr black Close-up Forgery
Probable Fournier ("Geneva") (first cliche) -Lithographed

Note the ornament below "E" and the double line has a large gap (.25 mm) from the double line. (Diagnostic - Forgery Fournier first cliche) Also note there is no close horizontal line visible above the black "CHIFFRE" tablet.

Now--- a bonus! I happen to have another "Duval Noir" forgery in my collection....

"1884 France J25 5f black"
"Probable Forgery"

I labeled this stamp as a "probable forgery:, as, no doubt, it was so labeled in the feeder collection. If genuine, the stamp has a CV of $1,600. But which forgery is it?

"France Scott J25 5fr black Close-up Forgery
Probable Fournier ("Geneva") (second cliche) -Photogravure

I think this is the "Geneva" "second cliche forgery (Fournier) as described in Serrane.

Note the ornament below "E" and the double line, is smashed up against the double line (diagnostic).  Compare/contrast with Fournier first cliche and the genuine. 

Spain Scott 15 Cert

Spain is a veritable minefield when it comes to early era forgeries. In fact, I have heard some opine that early Spain has the most number of printed forgeries of any country on earth. ;-)

The CV for the 1852 Scott 15 5r yellow green (unused) is $2,750 if genuine. But this example is a forgery, according to Sismondo.

Spain Scott 15 5r yellow green Forgery

As I mentioned, Sismondo's Certs provide a judgement, but not a why. So, can I figure this out?

There are many forgeries of early Spain because, during 1850-56, new issues were published yearly, and only valid for one year: in this case 1852. That meant the higher typographic denominations in the 1852 five stamp set had limited production and were scarce: the 5 reales 79,000 stamps vs 6 cuartos 11,250,000 stamps. Demand from collectors exceeded supply. The Forgers were happy to oblige. ;-)

1852 Scott 12 6c rose "Queen Isabella II"
Typographed; Thick Paper

Lets look at a genuine 1852 stamp: in this case the 6c rose...

Closeup 1 Genuine

1) Shading lines in the eyelid (actually this example it is difficult to determine).
2) Four increasingly longer lines in the hair band.
3) Note the markings for the nose.

Closeup 2 Genuine

4) Note the ribbon end in the lower center has a double layer (seldom done right with the forgeries).
5) Note the neck markings are more dashes than dots.

Now.let's look at the 5r yellow green forgery close-ups...

Closeup 1 Forgery

1) No shading lines on the eyelid
2) Four shading lines in the hair band do not reach as far as the genuine (compare).
3) Note the different markings for the nose.

Closeup 2 Forgery

4) Note the ribbon end in the lower center only has one layer (compare).
5) Note the neck markings are more dots than dashes.

So, what forgery is it?

It is a Segui forgery printed with typography on thick yellowish paper. (Thanks to SForgca for providing the information resources, in which I could determine that this was a Segui forgery. !!)

From The London Philatelist, Volume 15 (Google ebook (free))...

"We have received a pamphlet issued at Barcelona on Christmas by Senor Miguel Segui, in which he details the indignities suffered at the hands of Messieurs A. Maury and Yvert and Tellier, the well known French dealers, who have denounced the wares of M. Segui as forgeries, and have refused to accept his advertisements. It appears that M. Segui has made and is selling "at thirteen of the principal establishments of Barcelona" imitations of the complete series of Spain 1850-54, but in his pamphlet he states that these reproductions all bear the words "fac simile". We are, however, informed that this statement is open to modification."

Poland Scott 21a ? - No, Scott 21 Cert

Sometimes one wants a cert, not because of the stamp per se, but because of a unique color. 

For Poland, the occupation stamps Scott N6-N16 were overprinted/surcharged between 1918-19. The Scott 21 20pf blue is CV $1 in that color. But Scott 21a is described as "ultramarine", and has a CV (used) of $2,250!

Poland Scott 21a ? and Scott 21

The stamp in question (Is it the ultramarine variety?) on the left was submitted for a possible genuine cert. The submitter also included a Scott 21 (on the right) in the common blue color.

There clearly is a difference in shades.  (Heart rate up to 120 ;-)

But the Sismondo cert says the stamp falls within the common Scott 21 shades.

A clue perhaps is Sismondo describes the shade as violet-blue. I checked my own collection, and sure enough, I have both a blue shade stamp, and a clearly violet-blue shade stamp. 

Scott states in their catalogue that Scott 21 "blue" exists in a number of shades, and a suspected Scott 21 "ultramarine" needs to have competent expertization. Also, counterfeits exist.

Scott also states the Scott 21a comes with a German overprint that is very glossy.

"Forgery" says Sismondo
1881 Portuguese Guinea Scott 6 Cert

Here is another "Portuguese Crown" colony stamp, in this case a Portuguese Guinea Scott 6, submitted for a cert. If the stamp, an 1877 Cape Verde 200r orange stamp with "Guine" overprint, is genuine, the CV (used) is $475.

Remember, though, we talked about screening for the common Fournier forgeries for the "Portuguese Crown" colony stamps?

Portuguese Guinea 1881 Scott 6  200r orange Forgery
Stamps of Cape Verde 1877, Overprinted in Black
Triple play: Forged Stamp, Overprint, Cancel

Let's glance at the upper portion  of the stamp....

Right Upper Quadrant - Fournier Forgery

Note the "Scallop" design has, at the most, six scallops (it is supposed to have seven complete scallops), with the large central heart shaped scallop partially divided by thick line. The colored circular area abuts heavily on the "CORREIO" tablet along "RR". Both signs are diagnostic of a Fournier forgery.


Note the genuine "Portuguese Crown" stamp has seven scallops in the right upper quadrant, and a colored circular area that barely touches the "CORREIO" tablet.

Sismondo also notes that the cancellation and the "GUINE" overprint are counterfeits. That determination is above my pay grade, as I would need to have reference material on counterfeit cancellations that were used, as well as a genuine "GUINE" overprint example to compare.

It makes sense, though, that the cancellation and the overprint would also be forgeries if the underlying stamp is a forgery - a triple play!

Out of the Blue
Well, I hoped you enjoyed viewing these Certs that turned out to not have the answer that was hoped for by the submitter. (And I have more of these, so expect future posts on this topic.)

And, as was demonstrated, a little investigation on the stamp specimen might yield the answer and not require spending money for a cert. Of course, a dealer does not have the time to run down all the possibilities, and, for them, it is just easier to submit an expensive CV possibility for a Cert (they will need one anyway if the Cert shows genuineness for an expensive stamp).

Comments appreciated!


  1. While reading this blog, I received my eBay order for several Portuguese Crowns from Angola and Cape Verde. Utilizing your handy "Reality Bites" Guide, the Cape Verde Sc 1 checked out genuine. However, the Angola Sc 1 & 2 were both Fournier Forgeries (with presumably fake CDS's). At least, I now have the proper criteria for sorting out the Crown Issues. Thank you for this invaluable tool, and I feel a bit more empowered today. :)

  2. Good Gina. :-)

    Yes, there will be some rotten ones among any group of Crowns.


  3. The Portuguese India ovpts. of Fournier are by far the most prevalent and they all have a base stamp forgery. But each value has 3-4 Fake ovpts.some on GENUINE stamps and others on crown stamps NOT forged by Fournier. Some lithod. and others hand stamped. These non Fournier are not common. A few bogus overprints on wrong stamps also exist - blog coming "eventually??"

    1. Thanks Ron for the information and insight on the Port India overprint stamps.

  4. Hi Jim,

    I wonder if you can help me. I am sure I remember reading somewhere in your blog posts of a website that lists the certification marks seen on the back of many European and British Commonwealth stamps, but I cannot find that info anywhere. Any ideas?

    Many thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Tyrannus
      You are right- I did supply a link to information about certification marks. I don't know which blog post I did that for - darn! If I do come across it, I will post a reply here.

    2. I found it!


      It was in the Lubeck post.

  5. That was fast. Thanks so much Jim!