Early Stamps from Japan.

My eyeballs cannot deal with this, I am assuming that they are fake, but i am getting nowhere. Can someone help me ID these stamps from japan, Sorry if I put to much up, just want to get this over with


  • 24 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Japan Dragon stamps. Printed from 1871 - 1872, there are tons of forgeries. Also, #2 in your set is upside down.
    The kanji in the center is the printed value.
    I don't know a lot about them, but I get the sense they are similar to postmaster Provisionals. There are no Scott listings for these.
  • edited October 2022 4 LikesVote Down
    This might help - not the best scan though.. Maybe Scott can translate. As you can see you have the sets mixed. We need Philatarium - that's his expertise.


  • I am still not very good at this, but:

    Look at the very bottom character in the middle on numbers 5, 8, and 10. Do you see the small characters to the left and right of that bottom character? These mean that it's a reference or specimen, a.k.a. forgery. Whenever you see that, you can rule those out immediately. They are forgeries.

    The others take more work to identify.

    (And Scott is correct, number 2 is upside down.)
  • "Reference" and "Specimen" are NOT forgeries. The term reference means an original of a stamp, but usually the condition is very poor. It's not "collection grade". But is fine for a reference collection, so that it may be compared to other copies to assist in determining authenticity.
    A Specimen is real stamp that is sent from printers to the post office for final approval, and often overprinted "Specimen", or similar. If it is overprinted "Facsimile" than it is not intended to be a full representation (forgery or counterfeit) of the stamp, rather is intended to "Fill empty spaces" in collections, because collectors don't like "Holes" in their collection. These are usually for higher value stamps that are scarce, and out of the reach of the average collector.
    Forgeries and Counterfeits however are intended to look as close to the original as possible, in order to either serve as a) high quality, but lower cost space filler (in the case of forgeries) or b) fool the postal service into the belief that it is a real stamp, and is equivalent to currency counterfeit, carrying similar penalties (in most countries).
    There are also "reprints" which are made from original plates, sometimes with slight alterations, or different colors again for the purpose of space filling, or sometime die comparison.
    But that definition of "specimen" in particular is not the case.
  • My understanding is that 'Specimens' of any stamps are examples of issues sent by one postal administration to various foreign postal institutions, particularly those in the UPU, so they have visual records of stamps they may come across in the mail stream. The overprint essentially invalidates the stamp while designating its purpose.
    Your definition seems to fit 'Proofs' more accurately.
  • edited October 2022 6 LikesVote Down
    The ISJP (International Society for Japanese Philately) considers early Japanese stamps bearing the characters for 'reference', 'imitation', or 'sample or specimen' to be forgeries:


    Here is the simple explanation of these on their website:


    I think it is correct to classify these as forgeries. I am reasonably sure that all other major philatelic expertizing organizations would consider them as forgeries as well.
  • And, reviewing again the stamps posted, numbers 6 and 7 have those characters at the top of the value column.
  • And interestingly more suspicious that san ko are in reversed order.
  • Here is what I think is a genuine Mihon Specimen Marking on the first issues. Notice they are handwritten. Any printed addition to the centers can only be classified at best as Reprints or Imitations.
  • Nice one Harry. You can easily see how much darker the strike is compared with the others. They are very thin lines compared to these.
  • I would like to thank everyone's input, and thank you Scott for your explanation on "Reference" and "Specimen", I am a little bit more knowledgeable today thanks to you guys. :-)
  • My pleasure Bonaparte. The more we all know, the more enjoyable it becomes, I find.
  • edited October 2022 4 LikesVote Down
    I just want to clarify one thing: for early Japanese stamps, there is no meaningful difference between 'reference', 'imitation', 'sample', or 'specimen', when discussing early Japanese stamps showing the 2 kanji characters. (I'm not talking about the "mihon" specimen stamps that Harry showed.)

    As George mentioned, ordinarily, with other countries, and at other times in Japan, 'specimen' or 'reference' could mean reference copies created by the post office or issuing agency, and are official.

    But the ones with the 2 kanji characters were never issued by the Japanese post office. They were produced by private forgers, and they are forgeries.

    The link I posted above, and will repost again here, explains this:


    It may also be worthwhile to bore down one level on the dragon stamps (which these are):


    So, to summarize, in the original post, stamps 6-10 are 'signed forgeries', meaning that they bear those 2 kanji. Stamps 1-5, if forgeries (and statistically, they likely are), are called 'unsigned forgeries.' You will find these terms referenced in the webpages I linked.

    Finally, by way of background, if it's helpful, I have been collecting Japanese stamps since about 1990, and have been a member of the ISJP since the early 1990's. I've been fortunate to study directly with the chief expertizer in the US, who is one of the authors of the of the major English-language reference on the subject, and who also prepared the website I linked to. (We both live in Southern California.)

    I am no expert, and I still have much to learn, but I know what I know and know what I don't know. I can say with confidence that stamps 6-10 are forgeries, manufactured by forgers, to sell to the souvenir and stamp collecting markets, and are not references, specimens or proofs.
  • Phil.
    I have had these Specimen stamps for some time and have been unable to find a price. Also If you would be kind enough to take a look at Scott No. 6 or Possibly 6d to tell me which one it actually is.
    I thank you in advance for any help.
  • Harry, I'm just about to be away for the afternoon, but I'll check into this and try to reply later on this evening or tomorrow. Thanks!

  • Harry, one follow-up question already:

    Do you have a larger image available of your top image (with the 4 stamps)? I don't know if HS stepped down the image size. If it did, we can talk off-thread and I can give you my email address.

    There is someone I have in mind (not the person I mentioned above) who may know something about them. (I'm not sure, but it's worth asking him.)
  • Phil,
    Sorry to put you through the trouble I managed to Plate numbers 1 through 4. They are all Plate I except for Scott 2 which is Plate II. You can email me at hpatsalos@aol.com and I will get better scans to you.
    Best reagrds,
  • Thanks, Harry! I'll shoot you an email in just a minute.
  • In looking over this thread again, and particularly in looking over the original images, I found one error of mine, and noticed something else.

    Earlier, I said that stamps 6-10 were signed forgeries. I should have said stamps 5-10.

    Then, in looking at the images again, I can also see those characters at the top of the value tablet in stamp 4. So, stamps 4-10 are signed forgeries.

    My apologies for my error.
  • I love the knowledge here on the forms
  • totally agree
  • Here's a very nice video from Stanley Gibbons, that gives a great little overview of forgeries of classic-era Japanese stamps:

    I note that he says 95% of early Japanese stamps in a collection are forgeries. I've met a couple of Japan expertizers over the years, who've said that they think the ratio of forgeries to genuine stamps is approximately 100:1.

    Whenever I've cited that example, I've been told I'm full of ____, since no one wants to believe that's what they might have in their collection, so I'm pleased to see that the SG specialist describer describe a ratio that is in the same range.

    Just produced in late October. Well worth the 4 minutes!
  • edited November 2022 3 LikesVote Down
    Someone message me the following info on the stamps, i thank him for the info and told him I would post it.
    Concerning Your Japan Dragon Stamps in the Forum 10/28/2022 23:20:54
    Dear Mr. Moore,

    I happened to be visiting the Hipstamp Forum this evening when I noticed your 10 examples of Japan Dragon stamps. I am unable to leave comments in the forum, so I am reaching out to you this way.

    Unfortunately, all 10 stamps are imitations/forgeries. Most of them have the two characters that read "Mozo" or "Sanko" alongside the center inscription. The stamps that do not have those characters have had them removed, for I could see the telltale thinned or scuffed spot left behind after their removal. Varro Tyler's and Lois Evans de Violini's studies of Japan's classic stamps are very helpful in identifying their forgeries. Also, The International Society for Japanese Philately sells a CD-ROM "Monograph No. 1, Forgeries of the Dragon, Cherry Blossom and Koban Postage Stamps of Japan" that includes all known forgeries as of May 2002. Price: 49.95 for non-members ($39.95 for members). I have it, and I have found it extremeley helpful. Updates for the CD ROM are available on ISJP's website.
  • Thank you for posting this, Bonaparte!
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