On March 1st, Linn's Stamp News featured a front-page story written by Senior Editor Rob Haeseler about the stamp pictured below (interested readers can read the story at http://www.linns.com/print/archives/19990301/news1.asp). And, although Mr. Haeseler wrote a great story and gave due credit to me and to my book for exposing this fraud, many aspects of the story did not make it into that Linn's article.
This story begins around a year ago when I saw an offer on the Internet for a fake copy of a Mint U.S. #2 for around $10.00. Given my interest in fakes and altered stamps, I immediately ordered the stamp. What I received was a stamp that was very well engraved, obviously done by a professional printer, but with paper and gum that bore absolutely no resemblance to a real #2--or even a real #4, which is actually what the stamp was copied from, despite the erroneous description in Scott that Chad #C77 depicts a U.S. #2. It may well be that the postal authorities of Chad also believed that they were depicting an example of one of our first 1847 issues. However, one of the most obvious distinctions between the 1847 original (Scott #2) and the 1875 reprint (Scott #4) is in the lips. On the original, the lips are longer and thinner, whilst on the reprint they are much shorter and slightly puckered.
Of course, when I originally examined the stamp, I had no idea about the existence of Chad #C77, and thus was posed with a rather intriguing riddle. In today's world of high tech copying and printing, one could easily and cheaply produce a photocopied or laser-printed version of the #4, particularly since its colour is black. The stamp I had in my hand, however, obviously came from engraved metal plates--a very expensive proposition. After the Civil War, many of the printing plates of the Confederate stamps were taken by soldiers and others. Consequently, numerous fake Confederate issues were later printed--and bore a good resemblance to the real stamps since they came from the original plates. Of course, the paper and other details do not match, and these stamps easily are identified as fakes.
The abundance of these Confederate fakes came from the fact that the plates had already been made, and at that point, printing is relatively cheap. In the case of United States #2 or #4, the plates have been destroyed, and no one could reprint engraved versions without creating new metal plates--a very expensive proposition. Now, if one were out to produce fake #4's that were going to be sold as REAL copies of the stamp, the $1,000 price tag on the individual stamps would probably make the proposition profitable. To produce a sheet of stamps that will sell for $10 apiece is a totally different matter, and many thousands of the stamps would have to be sold to cover the cost of the initial printing process.
Little did I realize back then that I had touched only the surface of a whole area of potentially fraudulent activity that had far-reaching serious consequences both for today's collectors, and even more so, for future generations of collectors.
Next week: The conclusion of "The Inside Story of the Fake #2's."
The Reverend Doctor Philip Alexander de Rochambeau attended a Methodist seminary and holds a Master's Degree in Theological Studies and a Doctorate of Divinity. A stamp dealer for over 20 years, and a published writer for the last 25 years, presently, the Reverend is a frequent contributor to the editorial pages of the Salt Lake Tribune and the Daily Herald. He entered the stamp business at the age of 12 and remained a part-time or full-time dealer for the better part of 25 years, dealing in a wide range of stamps. Over the past 10 years, he has exposed numerous frauds in the philatelic industry. His last two books, "How to Regum Stamps," and "An Easy Guide to Regummed, Altered, and Faked Stamps," have greatly enhanced the hobby by exposing how stamp alteration is done, and how to easily detect these alterations. His latest philatelic book, "A Simple Guide to Detecting and Understanding Regummed, Reperforated, Altered, and Faked Stamps--Including an Insider's Account of the 'Organized Crime' of Philately," is available at: http://www.users.uswest.net/~michaeltaylor/.