US Stamps

Discover the latest in the expertizing world with Vol. 17 of ‘Fakes Forgeries Experts’

May 12, 2014, 2 AM

The weekend’s mail brought a pleasant surprise to my in basket: Vol. 17 of the popular Fakes Forgeries Experts series that gives the reader an insider’s view of the fascinating world of expertizing.

These large-size softcover books gather a broad selection of essays detailing new discoveries of fakes, developments in the methods used to detect forged stamps and postal history, as well as the history behind the creation of these deceptive objects.

In his introduction, editor Jonas Hallstrom provides an overview of the subjects to be discussed, noting that of the 22 authors represented, 13 are making their first appearance in this latest volume.

Hallstrom emphasizes how much more accessible technology is today, which makes it much easier for collectors to learn and apply expertizing techniques to their own material.

“In the past collectors very often needed philatelic experts to assist in order to detect material restored or forged,” Hallstrom wrote. “The technology revolution has really changed this and today we can very often practice and build knowledge ‘independently’ from experts. Reading FFE is one way of building knowledge.”

Among the more fascinating discussions is Paul Linde’s review of using digital microscopes and UV light to detect hidden repairs to stamps, such as repaired perforations or paper replacement.

In a similar vein, Robert Odenweller unveils retroReveal, a free online program that can be used to reveal hidden images, such as erased markings or very faint cancellations.

John Barwis dilates even more on the technology theme, with what he calls “a general overview of the analytical methods now available for detailed study of philatelic materials.”

Barwis focuses first on paper, a subject he has studied for many years. He explains how various equipment can be used to study paper characteristics such as thickness, stiffness, permeability and composition.

Also highlighted are several nondestructive methods for determining ink composition on stamps.

Forgeries take center stage in a number of articles. Among the more interesting are John Horsey’s review of the forgeries of the well-known £5 orange Queen Victoria of Great Britain, and Jaromir Petrick’s summary of the forgeries of the 1876-78 Small Tiger Head issues of the Kingdom of Kabul (Afghanistan).

Most of the articles focus on stamps from the classic period. However, this does not mean that fakes and other altered stamps aren’t a problem in the modern era. Quite the contrary.

Linn’s U.S. Stamp Notes columnist John Hotchner weighs in with a look at counterfeits of the 1967 13¢ John F. Kennedy sheet stamp. He discusses “information on the record about how the [Kennedy stamp] counterfeits were discovered, and how the counterfeiters were tracked down and prosecuted.”

Likewise, Gunnar Dahlstrand showcases the forged stamps of Sweden during 2003-13.

Fakes Forgeries Experts Vol. 17 is available for $85 plus $3 postage from Leonard H. Hartmann, Box 36006, Louisville, KY 40233; or visit Hartmann’s website at, e-mail

Additional volumes in the series also are available from Hartmann.