By Charles Snee
Yet another new counterfeit United States stamp surfaced in early March, from the same source who alerted Linn’s about the counterfeit 2015 Love stamps reported on Linns.com Feb. 10.
On March 8, Uttam Singha of New York contacted Linn’s, asserting that the Diwali forever stamp issued Oct. 5, 2016 (Scott 5142), had been counterfeited — just five months after the real stamp made its official debut in New York City.
Singha provided, via email, several characteristics that led him to believe the panes of 20 Diwali stamps he had purchased from a seller on eBay were bogus.
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Counterfeits are a special type of forgery, which is a completely fraudulent reproduction of a postage stamp.
Forgeries are of two types: counterfeits, which are intended to defraud postal authorities of revenue; and bogus issues, which are intended to fool collectors. Here, the terms counterfeit and bogus are used interchangeably.
Singha also included a link to the eBay “Buy It Now” listing he used to purchase five counterfeit panes for $43, approximately 88 percent of the face value of $49.
As of March 13, the seller, whose eBay moniker is “cardrushinc,” had sold 38 lots of five Diwali panes, with an initial buy-it-now price of $45, or about 92 percent of face value. Potential buyers have the option to “Make Offer” for a lower price.
A Linn’s editor tried making offers of $40 and $42.50. Both were immediately rejected. Linn’s did not attempt to purchase any counterfeit panes from the seller.
Like their genuine counterparts, the bogus Diwali stamps were printed using offset lithography, an indirect printing method easily susceptible to counterfeiting because the technology is readily available and affordable.
That yet another counterfeit of a U.S. stamp came to light should not come as a surprise. An active supply chain, operating out of China or Taiwan (or both, perhaps), has been funneling bogus U.S. stamps into the country for at least the past decade or so.
Of the new counterfeits Linn’s has reported during the past month or so (of the 2015 Love stamps, Scott 4955 and 4956; and of the 2014 Flag and Fireworks coil, 4868) the bogus Diwali stamps come closest to exactly replicating their genuine counterparts.
The long history of counterfeit U.S. stamps: The “highly convincing counterfeits” that recently surfaced on eBay are certainly not the first stamp fakes.
They’re so convincing, in fact, they fooled a Linn’s editor and an editor for Coin World (Linn’s sister publication, also owned by Amos Media). When each examined a genuine pane and a bogus pane side by side, both misidentified the genuine pane as the counterfeit.
Nonetheless, careful examination reveals key characteristics that allow the observant collector to separate the fake from the real.
1. Genuine Diwali stamps are die cut gauge 11, while the counterfeits have die cuts measuring 11¼.
2. Die-cut peaks of bogus stamps are shorter and rounder than those of genuine stamps. On counterfeit panes, there is slight misalignment of the horizontal and vertical serpentine die cuts in some locations where four stamps come together.
This is due to the lack of a short straight-line break in the horizontal and vertical wavy-line die-cutting pattern that is characteristic of genuine panes. The break occurs where stamp corners meet.
3. Panes of real Diwali stamps have a single large tagging block over the stamps, which causes the stamps to glow yellow-green under shortwave ultraviolet light. Bogus Diwali panes are printed on paper without any tagging; the paper glows a bright blue under shortwave UV light.
4. Counterfeit Diwali stamps have a bold, dark “2016” year date at bottom right; there is no bottom serif on the “1.” On genuine stamps, the year date is much lighter, with noticeably thinner numbers. The clear impression of the year date of the bogus stamps suggests that it was applied in a separate step from the printed design.
5. Under high (60x) magnification, the lithographed dot pattern of bogus Diwali stamps is much coarser in comparison to the much finer dot structure of genuine stamps.
6. Genuine Diwali panes have rouletting on the backing paper that allows for easier separation of individual stamps, along with serpentine slits on the backing paper, centered on the middle of each stamp, to facilitate removal of the backing paper from a single stamp. Bogus panes lack this rouletting, and the serpentine slits are misaligned in relation to the backs of the stamps.
7. The pane position diagram on the back of bogus Diwali panes always shows the top-right position in the eight-pane (four panes by two panes) press sheet colored in.
8. In the text printed on the back of bogus panes, the vertical pipe is missing between “USPS.com/stamps” and “© 2016 USPS”. This line appears on genuine panes.
Linn’s attempts to contact the seller of the counterfeit Diwali panes were unsuccessful.
A quick Internet search revealed that “cardrushinc” is Card Rush, based in Westminster, Calif.
According to the firm’s website, Card Rush was founded in 2000 as an “internet retail business devoted to offering all the best Trading card games.”
A review of the seller’s recent (within the past month) feedback on eBay shows that two buyers other than Singha reported receiving counterfeit Diwali stamps.
In both cases, the seller was offering individual buy-it-now lots of 100 Diwali stamp panes (described as a “brick” in the seller’s description on eBay) for $795, or about 81 percent of the $980 face value.
As of March 13, “cardrushinc” had sold 13 lots of 100 panes each, with nine still available for sale.
“Counterfeit stamps! Failed UV light tests, no phosphorescent glow,” wrote one disgruntled buyer in negative feedback posted “during the past month,” according to eBay.
“Fake, counterfeit, replica stamps! Opened case, returned for refund! Beware!!” warned the second buyer, who also left negative feedback during the same eBay-stated time frame.
Linn’s ongoing investigation into the murky origins of the Diwali and other recent counterfeits suggests that the problem is larger than initially thought.
However, the powers that be in the Postal Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seemingly don’t have the time or inclination to dig more deeply. This, in turn, puts the onus on collectors and dealers to make the discoveries and get the word out.
Linn’s welcomes reports of the appearance of counterfeit stamps in the online marketplace, as well as examples of postal use.
Please send information to Linn’s managing editor Charles Snee via email, or write to him at Box 4129, Sidney, OH 45365-4129.