By Christer Brunstrom
Danish West Indies introduced its first set of postage due stamps (Scott J1-J4) on Jan. 1, 1902, with the following denominations: 1¢, 4¢, 6¢, and 10¢.
The design was fairly simple, featuring the crowned monogram of King Christian IX (“CR” for Christianus Rex), who ruled Denmark from 1863 to 1906.
The design was the work of artist Nilaus (Niels) Fristrup (1836-1909), who was quite a famous painter in his native Denmark. Fristrup was even made a member of the Danish Academy of Arts. He was no newcomer to the field of postage-stamp design, having been responsible for Denmark’s 1882-1902 Coat-of-Arms type with small and large figures in the corners (Scott 36-54).
The four Danish West Indies postage due stamps, all printed in dark blue on unwatermarked paper, were lithographed by H.H. Thiele in Copenhagen.
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The stamps were line perforated gauge 11½, and no completely imperforate stamps were issued. The major perforation variety involves the 10¢ denomination, which exists with an imperforate right margin. There were three or four printings of the stamps, resulting in minor color shade varieties.
A total of 25,000 of the 6¢ stamps were issued. As this was the smallest printing of any of the four denominations, that figure also indicates the maximum number of complete sets.
The printing plate of 100 stamps was made up of horizontal strips of five different types repeated 20 times. Thus there are five different types of each denomination. However, in most cases the differences are very minor and basically only of interest to specialists.
The major exception is the 4¢ stamp, where the differences are easily noticeable without straining your eyes. Pictured here is a horizontal strip of five 4¢ stamps. What gives the five types away are the differing shapes of the number “4.” Look especially at the top of each numeral.
Locating a complete strip of the five varieties might be difficult, but by using this illustration it shouldn’t be too hard to pick out individual examples of the five different varieties from a dealer’s stock.
Finding the complete set of Scott J1-J4 in very fine, mint never-hinged condition probably will be a bit of a challenge, because the majority of sets on the market will most likely have rested in other stamp collections and albums before reaching yours. A mint never-hinged set is basically worth double the value of a lightly hinged unused set. Used examples are scarce, and stamps genuinely used on cover are very scarce indeed.
However, you need to be careful when adding these Danish West Indies postage dues to your collection. There have been at least two complete-set forgeries, one of which was produced by the master forger Francois Fournier of Switzerland. He forged all four denominations and then marketed them in both perforated and imperforate versions. The final illustration shows an imperforate example of Fournier’s version of the 6¢ postage due, along with a genuine stamp at right.
Now let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of the forgery. First, study the inner circle just above the first “I” of the word “VESTINDIEN.” In Fournier’s forgery, there is a break in this line.
There is a second giveaway to look for: The central line extending down from the base of the left leg of the letter “R” in the middle of the design is much thicker than those surrounding it. A close examination probably will reveal many other minor differences as well.
The second forgery of Danish West Indies Scott J1-J4 is of unidentified origin, and not much is known about it except that its perforation gauge is 12.
The Danish West Indies was sold to the United States on March 31, 1917, for $25 million. The territory is now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Danish West Indies first set of postage dues remained in use for three years before being replaced by a new set of four (Scott J5-J8) in 1905, with a different design.