Saturday, 3 June 2017

Stamps Which Don't Exist

This would make an interesting Exhibit. Here are some categories of stamps which don't exist:

(1) Stamps which did once exist but of which all copies have been lost or destroyed and only descriptions or photographs remain. You can always hope ...

(2) Typographical errors in catalogues which tell collectors to look for a 1 Dollar Blue when they should be looking for a 10 Dollar Blue. Dealers who accept Wants Lists soon discover these catalogue errors.

(3) Chinese Whispers. In the past, not every stamp issuing authority had a philatelic bureau or even answered the telephone. Collector A is looking at a set (?) of stamps in the same design and with values 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9,10. Puzzled, A asks B Is there an 8? Says B, Probably. So A asks the local stamp dealer for a copy of the 8. Is there one? says the stamp dealer. Oh, I think so, says A. The dealer does work for a stamp magazine, helping list New Issues and so includes in the next list sent off a set containing  1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 values.

(4) The Fraudsters. In the old days, you could send stamps to weekly magazines or catalogue makers, giving details and they would get listed. So you could write:

Dear Philatelic Paper,

I enclose four stamps which have just been issued here. In addition to the 5, 10, 20 and 50 overprints on the old stamps, there are also overprints of 100 and 200 which I could not afford to buy but the details of which are these ....

When the Philatelic Paper duly prints the details, the fraudster starts to produce the 100 and 200 high values which everyone will now be looking for. Similar scams still occur. In the 1990s, fraudsters (in California, I think) noted that four values of the 1920 unissued set of Chassepot stamps of Armenia were overprinted in 1923 for fiscal use. The fraudsters saw an opportunity: they decided that all ten values of the set had been overprinted and set about producing the missing scarce values for gullible collectors. It's really that simple.

(5) Catalogue Fraudsters. This is the one that interests me at the moment. Suppose you are a company or  organisation which both produces catalogues and sells stamps. Why not insert a few extra stamps into the sets you are listing, and in particular ones which you could easily produce using surplus stock and even handstamps which have found their way into your offices? I have a suspicion that something very much like this occurred in the Soviet Philatelic Association in the 1920s and 1930s, with or without official sanction. More on this in a future Blog ....

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