US Stamps

Counterfeit Fruit stamps discovered in format that doesn’t exist for genuine issues

Oct 17, 2023, 8 AM
The United States 2016 1¢, 2018 2¢ and 2017 3¢ Fruit stamps were printed only in large coil rolls. In early September, counterfeit examples of those stamps were found in panes of 20 (shown overlapped), a format in which genuine examples were not issued.

By Charles Snee

In the ongoing saga of counterfeit United States postage stamps, a new chapter was written in early September when counterfeit examples of three coil issues in the low-denomination Fruit definitive (regular-issue) series were discovered in panes of 20, a format that doesn’t exist for the genuine stamps.

On Sept. 6, Robert Thompson of Texas, a specialist in plate number coils, informed Linn’s Stamp News that he had found counterfeit examples of the 2016 1¢ Albemarle Pippin Apples (Scott 5037), 2018 2¢ Meyer Lemons (5256) and 2017 3¢ Strawberries stamps in panes of 20. All three of those stamps were issued only in large coil rolls.

Thompson also reported counterfeit panes of 20 of three additional Fruit stamps that were issued in that format: 2022 4¢ Blueberries (Scott 5652), 2017 5¢ Pinot Noir Grapes (5177) and 2017 10¢ Red Pears (5178).

Those three stamps also were issued in coil rolls in 2022 (4¢ Blueberries, 5653) and 2016 (5¢ Pinot Noir Grapes, 5038; 10¢ Red Pears, 5039). As of early October, no counterfeits of the 4¢, 5¢ and 10¢ Fruit coil stamps have been reported to Linn’s.

When viewed under shortwave ultraviolet light, the counterfeit panes of all six Fruit stamps show block tagging over the stamps that glows a distinct yellow green.

Tagging is a phosphor material used to activate automatic mail-handling equipment. Tagging on stamps can be lines, bars, letters, part of the design area or the entire stamp surface.

Genuine U.S. stamps with denominations less than 10¢ are not tagged.

Six-digit plate numbers prefixed with either a P (1¢, 2¢, 3¢ and 5¢) or a B (4¢ and 10¢) appear in the four corners of each counterfeit pane. The letters represent Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd. and Banknote Corporation of America, respectively, the two printers that produce stamps under contract for the U.S. Postal Service.

The back of each counterfeit Fruit pane (not shown) bears the barcodes, pane position diagram and other markings that appear on genuine panes.

During the past few years, the number of U.S. stamps being counterfeited has exploded. Almost without exception, the quality of these fake stamps is remarkably close to the real thing.

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