So You don’t think forgeries affect your stamp collecting area?
You put your financial resources into stamps, not references.
You are covered. Your dealer, auctioneer, collector friend, APS / eBay rules for sellers…they will all protect you.

Unfortunately, many collectors and dealers have the opinion that keeping a forgery reference library is a waste of money, and their resources are better spent buying stamps.

Take a good look at the three stamps below.

Would you buy any of these? Three collectors recently did just that. They trusted the auctioneers who are at the top of their profession to ensure that what they were buying was genuine. In turn, the auctioneers trusted their years of experience, and the expertise of the expert commitees that issued certificates of genuineness for at least two of the stamps. Take a good look at them before reading further.

Van Is 10c genuine - small


Sperati sold as genuine Harmers $8000 72 dpi - small


Van Is 10c Sperati sold as genuine Harmer 2984 May 22, 08 72 dpi - small


If you suspected that all are genuine or all are forgeries, you are incorrect both times. One is genuine, and two are superb forgeries, and I guarantee you the two forgeries would fool any auctioneer, dealer, expert committee or advanced collector who did not have the appropriate literature.Can you now determine which is which ?
Stamp 1 is a superb genuine Vancouver Island No. 4 – William H. Gross collection.Recently sold for $1900.00 US, Spink Shreves Galleries, November, 2009. Money well spent.
Stamp 2 is an excellent forgery that in 2008 sold as a genuine by one of the world’s leading philatelicauction firms for $10,250 US. Value as a forgery – $500. A $60 reference (Release 1 – Series II) would have saved the buyer $10,250!
Stamp 3 is another excellent forgery that also sold in 2008 for as genuine by the same reputable auction firmfor $1250. It even came with two expert certificates! Again, a $60 reference (Release I – Series II) was considered an unnecessary expense or bother by both the seller and the buyer.
While most forgeries can be detected with a reference collection of genuine stamps to compare – not these. In fact, the papers and watermarks are genuine.
Unnecessary expense …. a bother …. trust …. It won’t happen to you ….The reality is that many sellers often rely on the buyers to be able to tell if the stamp they are buying or bidding on is genuine, AND most buyers are trusting the sellers to have screened their stock for forgeries. Both often rely on expert certifications.Dangerous and costly assumptions, especially when expert certifications have been forged.There are many sellers who go to great lengths to screen their stock for fakes and forgeries.
They have built up their own reference collections of both stamps and literature. They are often authors themselves, have written reference books, and publish articles in the society journals such as BNA Topics, The Canadian Philatelist, and Maple Leaves.These dealers and auctioneers have both knowledge and integrity, and not only would never knowingly sell a fake or forgery as genuine, but they try their utmost to be kept informed. Who are these sellers? Ask around, and when you do, ask about their personal reference collections of genuine stamps, covers and literature on forgeries. One of the Vancouver Island forgeries came with two certificates of genuineness. One of these was issued by one of the oldest and most experienced national expert committees! I am assuming the certificates are genuine and not forged themselves. To put 100% of your trust in the seller’s experience, reputation, and expert certificates is not enough. Both expert committees should have caught the following.

Sperati 5c flaw detail - small

Sperati Forgery

Van Genuine 5c detail - small


On the forgery, there is a faint white dash extending from the right side of the fourth oblong from the left to the fifth oblong.
You can hardly see it! On the genuine, there is no such dash. For $10,250 US buyer, seller, and expert committee should have known this.
The Pugh Reference Manual No 1 also describes three other flaws to identify the Sperati forgery.

Van Sperati 10c detail - small

Sperati Forgery

Van Sperati 10c genuine - small


Notice the white dot above the “NC” of “PENCE”. It is there in all the Sperati forgeries, and not there in the genuine.
The BNA Reference Manual No. 1 also points out five other flaws to help you tell the difference … and make informed purchases. Two examples where a lack of knowledge has a severe consequence. No one really wants to unknowingly wants pay thousands of dollars for a forgery, yet I can illustrate literally thousands of recent examples. But … are all fakes and forgeries targeting expensive stamps?
Centennial Fight 100 dpi - small
The title page of this site illustrates a 1959 Anniversary of Canadian flight commemorative stamp with a “NYGREN SASK” cancellation.
If you collect Western Canada town cancels, you would want this cancel. It sold on eBay for about $1.50 along with 850 other lots of similar cancellations from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. All of the 850 lots sold as genuine, and all were fakes!I shut the seller down, and arranged for him to repay each of his buyers. The story and description of all 850 fake cancels and how to identify them and others is in the Pugh Reference Manual No. 3 – Western Canada Cancellation Fakes.
Nfld 8c genuine - small Nfld 6 half genuine - small
Not all the stamps and cancellations in the Reference Manuals are descriptions of fakes and forgeries.
Reference Manual No. 4 describes the genuine stamps of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, all in large size images. There is not a fake or forgery in the book, but there are images of thousands of dollars worth of genuine stamps to guide you when you are at a stamp show, or buying on-line.On many occasions genuine stamps are often misidentified as forgeries! The auctioneer who sold me the Newfoundland 1857 8 pence Sperati for $100 years ago should have checked it out before selling it in his auction. It was nestled in my Sperati collection for years until I examined it more closely to describe in the text of Release I. Turned out it is a genuine with a catalogue value of $800.I was actually disappointed, as I wanted it for my Sperati reference collection. It had a mate – an 1857 6 ½ pence ‘Sperati’. It was checked out too, and it also turned out to be genuine. With a catalogue value of over $3000.
Good thing the auctioneer didn’t follow the insane rule the A.P.S. now has for sellers to mark the back of forgeries (or what they think are forgeries), with “FORGERY” in indelible ink! Marking in ink the backs of what you “think” is a fake or forgery assumes that you are 100% certain that it is.One can not imagine such a presumptuous stand to take! Fact is, expert committees and authors of references (myself, certainly included) make mistakes. To mark our judgements in ink is just pure folly. Fact is, new information is being uncovered every day, some of which changes our opinions as to what is genuine and what is a fake. Release 9 involves research into the Ottawa and British Columbia crown cancellations. Most of what we know for decades was based on the set of proofs entered into The Proof Book. Below are the only proofs recorded for the Ottawa “Outline” Crown and the Victoria Crown. For years, the determination if a crown cancel was genuine or not, depended upon if the crown in question was a close match to the two crown cancels below.

Ottawa Crown B - small

Ottawa Crown B

BC Crown A - small

B.C. Crown A

Problem is … most of the crown cancellations that appeared on correspondence that had an impeccable provenance did not match the two ‘Proof Crowns” above. Many B.C. postcards from Victoria (1881-1886) and Esquimalt (1904-1907+) bore the B.C. Crown Cancel B below.

BC Crown B 100 dpi - small

B.C. Crown B

Ottawa Crown C - small

Ottawa Crown C

An explanation had to be found, and the most logical was that Pritchard and Andrews who made the B.C. Crown, obviously made two hammers, and only one was sent to be proofed. The same situation presented itself for the Ottawa crown. When I examined a number of covers from the Morgan and Bell correspondence I observed that they appeared with crown cancels that differed from the “Proof Crown” Ottawa Type B”.They originated from sources that were absolutely unquestionable, so the same conclusion was drawn. The Post Office proofed only one crown of a batch made by Pritchard and Andrews. How many? BNA Release 9 illustrates and describes a total of five Ottawa crowns, and two B.C. Crowns that must be considered genuine. Let’s hope that none of the five new genuine types have been inked on the back “Fake”! Basing a decision whether a stamp is genuine or a fake based on limited information can be dangerous. In 1981, I assisted the R.C.M.P. in examining over a million dollars worth of O.H.M.S. perfins. These fake perfins were in the hands of three Vancouver stamp dealers as well as the author of the Perforated Initials catalogues, Roy Wrigley. After the dust of the trial has settled, there was a tendency to label every O.H.M.S. perfin on the market a fake if it did not conform to a rigorous and arbitrary criteria. Some dealers and advanced collectors wisely obtained a 4-hole and 5-hole perfin that had been certified as genuine. There were two types of 4-hole perfins, so the average reference of genuine perfins contained three genuine control samples. Any perfin that deviated from the alignment of the ‘control’ group were declared as fakes.

The reality is that there are five different hole settings for the 5-hole perfin, and twenty different settings for the 4-hole. To this day, some decisions as to the whether a O.H.M.S. perfin is genuine or not is based on comparing with an incomplete set of reference settings.

For your complete protection, BNA Forgery Release 5 illustrates all 25 genuine settings.Every dealer, every auctioneer, and every advanced collector would benefit financially by obtaining the B.N.A. Reference Manuals that cover their collecting or selling areas! There is no reason for fakes and forgeries to continue to be sold as genuine. Having a forgery reference library of the stamps you sell or collect is as important as having anti virus protection on your computer, or home insurance. We don’t often think we need it until it’s too late!

Expertization Certificates – Trust … but Verify

As mentioned previously, both sellers and buyers often rely on an expert certificate to determine the status of a philatelic item. This is good practice, and in most instances, everything works well. However, it is not a perfect world, and situations do arise that cause problems that should be addressed.

Unfortunately, blank certificates from many expert committees have been stolen and fraudulently filled in. To add the necessary photo, expert signature and embossed seal is nothing to a skilled forger. Even security paper is commercially available, and with modern scanning and printing equipment an entirely new and complete production of a fake certificate is technically possible.

Older certificates that accompany a philatelic item on the market should be automatically verified by the issuing committee or expert. All modern certificates have a number, date, photograph and provenance. It is good practice for dealers and auctioneers to include the certificate source and number in the item description.

The age of a certificate is important, especially for the classic period. Certificates issued in the 1950’s and 1960’s often bear the signature of experts of great philatelic experience and knowledge. These experts, often dealers and auctioneers themselves and had great reference collections and libraries to consult. They were well acquainted with the nuances of colours, papers and perforations, and they handled rare material on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many of these experts are now deceased, and expert committees are having difficulty replacing them.

Many of our modern experts are often separated by greater distances making the traditional ‘examination by committee’ model more difficult to put into practice.

Certificates issued more recently have the advantage of new information and improved technology. Dan Brown in The Lost Symbol stated, “Every generation’s breakthroughs are proven false by the next generation’s technology.” Today, there are infrared luminescent photographic and digital techniques that detect 100% of physically or chemically altered fakes. Older certificates or new certificates issued without the use of these new IR and UV techniques are simply invalid in assessments of physical or chemical alterations.

Certification by an expert or committee requires an extensive research collection of stamps, postal history and literature. The reference collection is either centralized, available to a group of experts or part of each experts holdings. Gaps in the reference collection, either stamps or literature, are a serious problem that effects the validity of any certificate.

Certificates are an important component in the philatelic marketplace, but be aware that not all certificates are what they may claim to be.
As Dzerzhinsky so aptly put it, “Trust … but verify.”

The Pugh Expertization Service

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