Monday 21 May 2007

Fakes and Forgeries

The problem of faked, forged and repaired stamps has existed for more than a century and more than once I have during recent conversations with elderly, experienced collectors heard the remark: “Here they are again, those forgeries; But there is no reason getting nervous! Collectors know them and will not get cheated.”

The stamps shown above could be such forgeries. As far as I know they were produced by the brothers Spiro in Hamburg as early as in the 1880’ies. That is about 30 years after the issuance of the originals from Schleswig-Holstein. It is probably true that looking back just 10 years collectors would have been thoroughly familiar with these forgeries. But are they today. I don't think so.

The many new stamp auctions on the Internet have made the problem resurface because those auctions reach out to buyers, who are not able to benefit from of an experienced group of collectors in their neighbourhoods and therefore risk getting cheated. Having said this, I regard the development that is taking place on the Internet to be a highly positive one, because it gives collectors lots of possibilities to expand and diversify their interests for philately which simply did not exist in the past.

Unfortunately the efforts made by the big auction houses to secure dealings among collec­tors without getting cheated are insufficient. E.g. in accepting so-called ”private auctions”, which hinders experienced collectors in giving the less experienced collector a friendly hint that the item he or she is bidding on is probably a forgery, some auction houses close their eyes to the problem. However, one must not generalise, because some houses do handle the problem through their return policy. I pity those firms who do not attend to the problem, however, because a lack of effort to secure safe dealings will hardly attract more satisfied customers.

Attention towards the problem is growing, however. Efficient countermeasures are homepages devoted to well known forgeries whereto collectors can turn when they feel they are faced with a possible problem. is such a site having been developed on an entirely voluntary basis with the help of observant collectors, who has experience in a specific field or know where to find relevant information about forgeries.

As stated at : “The purpose of FakeBase is to provide a forum, where it is possible to get and exchange information on falsifications, reproductions and 'improvements' of Danish philatelic material. Its main database contains images and descriptions of registered objects. Users can add their own objects and comment on the existing. It also has an alert database, which contains active online auction objects, which are believed to be fakes etc, and where the information does not explain this clearly. New objects added will get the status of 'not evaluated', until the users of this site add their evaluations. Based on these inputs, the objects will be marked as good or bad.”

Michael Appel, the conscientious “father” of fakebase, deserves great praise for his initiative, which maybe ought to be a task for the Danish Philatelic Society. I hope that Michael will continue to be able to keep up his very popular site in the years to come and with a continued broad support from collectors.

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