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Monday 16 August 2010

A Very Big Job for Serious Russian - area Philatelists...

The break up of the Soviet Union transformed the philatelic world. Large quantities of material became available in Western Europe and America, as well as in the former Soviet Union itself, much of it never seen before or never in such quantities. But much of what is now coming out - or being recycled from the USA onto ebay - is newly faked but using as the basis genuine stamps, covers and documents which themselves only became recently available. Alongside this material, old fakes have been given a new lease of life: on his new website [see link at bottom of this Blog] Stefan Berger illustrates the quite extraordinary prices being achieved on ebay for dreadful, amateurish old Armenian fakes. Goodness knows what people will pay for the new and better ones!

It is a big challenge for the collector journals. Unfortunately, not all of them realise how serious is the challenge they face. I have now seen articles in three of the heavyweight "academic" collector journals (all of them North American, as it happens) promoting as "discoveries" doubtful or downright forged material. It is precisely because these enthusiastic articles are profusely illustrated that one can reasonably suspect that something is very wrong.

Everyone likes to make a discovery and everyone can think they have made a discovery when they have simply been duped. We shouldn't be too hard on the collectors. But the Editors of the journals need to be much more alert to the current range of problems. "Discoveries" have to be properly researched, put into context, assessed for probability and plausibility. In some cases, very simple "forensic" tests will demolish a "discovery"; the date is wrong, the cancellation does not stand up to comparison with other known examples, the basic stamp is wrong for that overprint, there is a hinge on the back of this rare stamp on this cover .... Those forensic tests are simply not being conducted and it shows.

We need more dedicated sites like Stefan Berger's, which address just one country and one period. We need one for Zemstvos. We need one for Ukraine. We need many for the old Soviet Union!

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