Counterfeit Stamps

This discussion was created from comments split from: Persia / Early Iran.


  • 20 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I am just getting ready to load up some Albanian stamps for sale. I purchased as a set Scott 54-68 in an auction years ago and never really checked them closely after receiving them; they were offered as authentic. When scanning them in and getting them ready to list, I noticed that the stamp images didn't exactly match the images shown in the Scott catalog, with some details just "off". Since each stamp individually lists from $2.75 to $20.00, it does not pay to have them sent for an expert opinion (I use the APS and even the lowest cost stamps will incur a $20.00 fee for the expert opinion for each stamp). I do plan on listing them for sale in my store, but they will be offered for sale at $0.05 each with the note that Scott states that "counterfeits abound" and that I am not sure of their authenticity.

    I listed a few Austrian stamps last year that were issued immediately after WWII and consisted of Hitler-head overprints. Again, Scott states that counterfeits exist. While some of these stamps had some nice catalog values, I listed them each at $0.25 and noted Scott's warning about counterfeits. Again, I just couldn't justify spending the money to have the overprints authenticated since the expert opinion would have cost more than what I would have sold them for even if the overprints were authentic.

    I will be listing a few Bangkok, Bushire and Batum stamps in a few months where all have overprints. I have had all them expertized since they have a catalog value that justified the expense.

    I listed a number of French Equatorial Africa stamps last year, with a number of the airmail stamps overprinted. Two of them, C9 and C11, are noted in Scott as having counterfeit overprints. Each in mint-hinged condition has a catalog value of $240. The problem with those was that the APS expertizing committee returned them to me without an opinion; it turned out that they didn't have any experts available that would render an opinion on these stamps. So those I listed stating that the overprint might be counterfeit but that I could not obtain an opinion from the APS. Their overprints looked like the other stamps that also had overprints but were not noted as having been counterfeited, so I priced them as authentic.

    The only other place that I checked out for obtaining an opinion on those French Equatorial Africa stamps was Sismondo Stamps. The only problems that I noted there was that his expert service would cost at least twice as much as the APS and that ol' Sergio promised to scribble his authentication mark on the back in pencil. I consider stamps with pencil marks on the back damaged, so that eliminated him as a possible expert to go to for an opinion. I never pursued using any other expert committees for those stamps.

    If anyone has any issues with how I handled these individual stamp issues, I would like to hear your opinion. I recoil when someone says "destroy" as a way to handle possible counterfeit stamps or overprints, and even for damaged stamps that have a reasonable catalog value in undamaged condition, so please don't go overboard in your condemnation if that is your opinion. Just a simple "I would destroy them" is sufficient.

    Richard Pauls (okstamps)
  • edited February 9 0 LikesVote Down
    Richard, your post shows how someone selling stamps from problematic areas should attempt due diligence before offering such items for sale, and how to place the items on sale when that process has been completed.

    Sellers who state that they don't know anything about what they are offering for sale, and tell potential buyers "caveat emptor" on their own items listed for sale, well I tend to steer clear from those.

    Scott does state that authentication marks on the backs of stamps should not be considered as damage. Of course, there is the problem of forged authentication marks too....
  • Michael,

    I appreciate your response. Having been a buyer for decades, I know how I wished sellers would operate and try to follow through with my own stamp sales.

    I started collecting in the mid-1970's, probably just about the time the Never Hinged craze started. It influenced me to always try to find the most pristine copy of a stamp available, both front and back. I know before that time that the back of the stamp was kind of considered irrelevant; lots of notes in pencil, all kinds of dealer/owner/expert stamps and signatures, hinging and more hinging, etc. I guess my thinking is that if the APS expert committee can provide a nice certificate with a color photograph of the stamp that others offering their expert opinion could do the same. In this day and age I see someone signing the back of the stamp as evidence of their vanity more than anything else.

    Richard Pauls (okstamps)
  • Hmm... I would be asking HipStamp first if it is okay to list these as you've suggested, as I would be very worried about this in their Terms:

    The listing of replica stamps is not permitted on our Site. If we receive reports or identify listings that are replicas (whether they purport to be replica or legitimate), we reserve the right to suspend your account.

  • Rod,

    Since the management of this site does monitor these posts, I guess I will find out soon enough. If my posts to the Forum cease and my store disappears, you will know what happened. In the meantime, those who profess ignorance and leave the entire process of detecting forgeries up to buyers without warning (caveat emptor) will continue on their merry way.

    I read that paragraph several times in the Terms for this site. I took that to mean the individuals who sell what they call "replica" stamps, stamps that they have produced by modern reproduction methods (good copiers) that are meant to be substituted for authentic stamps that would be too expensive for most collectors to purchase. I have seen offerings of such "replica" stamps on other sites and took that to mean what was being described in the paragraph copied above.

    I do hope that someone from HipStamp management does comment on this to set the record straight.
  • edited February 10 0 LikesVote Down
    In general, we do not allow counterfeit stamps to be sold on HipStamp. If you believe the items you have may be counterfeit stamps, they should not be listed on HipStamp and would be subject to removal.
  • edited February 11 1 LikesVote Down

    So as a seller, the perfect course to just feign ignorance, list such stamps without any mention as to being a possible forgery, price them as authentic, provide a good image and to let the buyers figure things out. This would definitely be a good example of the law of unintended consequences. After all, your statement above is only if I myself believe they may be counterfeit would you remove the items from my store. You are giving a huge advantage to sellers that are unscrupulous and will just list all possible forgeries as authentic and price them as such.

    So should I remove those two French Equatorial Stamps that I have listed (C9 and C11) because I don't know for sure that the overprints are authentic even though they probably are? Are you going to make this determination for me?

    I have oodles of used German stamps from the inflation period of the early 1920's. The used stamps are rare, CTO examples are plentiful. Because I can't determine myself whether the cancels are authentic postal cancels or are CTO examples I can't sell them because I can't determine for sure which is the case?

    I have many used early West Berlin issues where again the stamps that are canceled with authentic postal cancels are worth in some cases quite a bit of money while those with manufactured cancels are not. I am planning on having the most expensive ones expertized to make sure, but most of the issues even with authentic cancels are not priced high enough to make expertization cost effective. So I can only list the few high priced ones and must not list the lower priced ones?

    I have a number of sets of lower priced Batum stamps. Scott states that counterfeits abound of all Batum issues. Does that mean that I can't list these stamps because I am not sure that they are authentic? By the way, I just checked the first page of the Batum listing and one early stamp had been authenticated. Does that mean you are going to remove all the others? Or you are not going to remove them because in no place in their description do the sellers state whether what they are offering is authentic or could be possibly counterfeit? Will you remove all these Batum stamps that have been posted for sale now that I have brought this to your attention?

    I can go on and on like this with examples.
  • Many months ago, I reported a large number of counterfeit stamps that I found listed here from several sellers Mostly they were early Iranian stamps. The response I received was that I should contact the sellers and ask them to remove the listings from their stores. I didn't see that as my job, so I no longer take the time to notify this site when I find counterfeit items for sale here.

    That tells me that the buyers need to know what areas are problematic, and it is up to them whether they want to take the chance with buying something from that seller. I for one, if I were to buy counterfeit items from a seller, AND the item was not so described (meaning possible fraudulent activity), would contact PayPal and file a dispute against the seller.
  • Richard - In general, we do not allow counterfeit stamps to be sold on HipStamp. If a Seller lists counterfeit stamps, regardless of if they have identified them as such or not, we will take appropriate action.

    While each case is, of course, different, in general, if a Seller believes they have a counterfeit stamp, and lists it as such, we would end the listing, and contact the Seller to ensure they're familiar with our terms. On the other hand, if a Seller is routinely selling counterfeit stamps, and not describing them as such - they would be suspended from our site.

    In your first example, where you have stamps from Albania, and the images do not exactly match what's in the Scott Catalog, and something is "off", and you believe they're counterfeit, then no, they should not be listed.

    That's entirely different than listing a stamp, which you believe to have an authentic cancel, but it hasn't been expertized.
  • edited February 10 1 LikesVote Down
    Michael - While we do recommend that members contact Sellers directly with any questions about specific listings, we do also offer a "Report this Item" feature to bring items to our attention when there is either an issue you can not resolve directly with the Seller, with regards to the listing, or in the event that you believe the item does not comply with our terms and conditions. We always review these reports in detail. While I am not sure of the exact interaction you're referring to, I apologize for any error on the part of our team, because you're correct, you shouldn't be asking Sellers to remove listings. I'll follow-up on this internally as well.
  • edited February 10 0 LikesVote Down
    Richard - Please note that I have removed your last comment, as it does not meet our Community Forum Policies.
  • Hi Mark, when I do these simple searches, loads of listings show, which, to be honest, are all mainly confusing to me as a novice in the dark world of counterfeits:


    These generally appear to be legit replicas (does the wording 'replica' in the Terms need to changed as aren't replicas a different animal to counterfeits?)





    Overall, I get the feeling that there is a whole lot going on here under the radar of the HipStamp staff.

    What do you think can be done?
    PS: I commend you for the position HipStamp has regarding counterfeits.

  • Mark, thanks. I did use the "Report this item" feature. (Maybe I used it too much?) This was done earlier in 2018, so it has probably been forgotten by now.
  • Rod, Just hit the BLOCK SELLER button. :wink:
  • Oh boy, being a very advanced seller and collector of Persia/Iran I could just about close down 60% of the Persia/Iran listings here on hipstamp.
    It's kind of like going to the circus, you got to see one or two clowns along with the lions..
  • Lee it's not only Persia many sellers don't even attempt to do diligence.
  • Richard--It is the buyer's AND the seller's personal responsibility to educate himself to the point where he has reached a level of expertise in the stamps and postal history of any country/countries he collects. This fact was the most important lesson that I learned from Dr. Varro Tyler's courses on fake and forgeries, a fact that he emphasized at the end of his classes. (BTW: I broke down and described Dr. Tyle'rs 110-volume private reference collection of forgeries for its sale at auction during the Word Stamp Show in Washington, DC in 2006).

    There is no excuse whatsoever for one to "feign ignorance" about whether the stamps one buys or sells are genuine when there is a plethora of philatelic literature available to borrow from the American Philatelic Research Library as well as several legitimate online studies of stamps (e.g. Batum, classic Japan); identification and verification of expert's marks; and more, available FOR FREE on the internet.

    It is especially irresponsible, and fraudulent, for any seller to "feign ignorance" about the authenticity of his offerings by pricing them "as if" they were indeed genuine. If you are uncertain about the status of your Germany inflation era cancels, or West Berlin issues, or FEA C9 and C11, or Iranian stamps, or whatever stamps, the proper thing to do is not list them at all, on Ebay or on any other venue--ever. Instead, choose to educate yourself about them by researching them--entirely at your own expense, of course--and discussing them with their collectors and noted experts at stamp shows and club meetings.
  • No reply from Mark to my post, and I know he will have read it. :(
  • edited March 12 3 LikesVote Down
    It's appalling to hear sellers claim they don't know if a stamp is a forgery or not. Either don't list it or give the buyer a warning.
  • What's even worse is sellers who say they don't know if it's genuine or not and still price it as if it were genuine.

    It's easy for the small number of unscrupulous sellers to fool many collectors. Why? Because a large percentage of collectors don't READ and study the catalogs. They only LOOK at the numbers, values and pictures. The constant barrage of requests for ID of a simple, and usually common, stamp when the answer is easily found, and often even pictured in the catalogs. (I'm not talking about the tough ones that drive people nutso) shows this to be true.
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