US Stamps

Counterfeit high-denomination Stellar Formations Priority Mail stamps discovered

Apr 24, 2024, 12 PM
Highly convincing counterfeits of the United States Stellar Formations stamps for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express were discovered about two months after the stamps were officially issued on Jan. 22.

By Charles Snee

Roughly two months after they were issued on Jan. 22, counterfeit examples of the new United States high-denomination Stellar Formations stamps for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express were reported to Linn’s Stamp News.

Robert Thompson of Texas, a specialist in modern U.S. plate number coil stamps and recent counterfeit U.S. stamps, told Linn’s on March 18 that he had acquired counterfeit panes of four of the $9.85 Pillars of Creation Priority Mail stamp (Scott 5827) and the $30.45 Cosmic Cliffs Priority Mail Express stamp (5828).

Thompson subsequently sent an intact pane of each counterfeit issue to Linn’s for examination.

According to Thompson, he purchased the counterfeit Stellar Formations stamps from an online seller on March 11.

“Several other people have them listed [online] now,” Thompson said.

When examined under shortwave ultraviolet light, both panes show tagging that is similar to that seen on genuine panes.

Linn’s editors also noticed other subtle differences related to the inscriptions on the stamps, color intensity, die-cutting, and the appearance of the backs of the panes (not shown).

Overall, the two bogus panes convincingly mimic their genuine counterparts.

During the past few years, the number of U.S. stamps being counterfeited has exploded. In addition to creating fake stamps of current issues, the counterfeiters are now targeting stamps issued during the past two decades.

Almost without exception, the quality of these counterfeits is remarkably close to the real thing.

The counterfeiters have solved the challenges associated with printing stamps: paper, ink and printing quality, die-cutting and, most recently, tagging.

Collectors can still spot the bogus issues, but the typical purchaser of stamps cannot. That might explain why counterfeiters aren’t concerned about producing a larger version of a genuine issue, as happened with the 2010 44¢ Love stamp (Scott 4450).

Counterfeit stamps are widely available on the internet at substantial discounts (often up to 50 percent) below face value.

In many cases, the ads feature the U.S. Postal Service’s familiar eagle logo to make it look like the stamps being sold are products of the nation’s postal service.

Beginning in 2021, the number of counterfeit issues began to accelerate. Because of this unfortunate development, the Scott editors decided to stop listing counterfeit forever and nondenominated postcard-rate stamps issued from 2007 to date in the Postal Counterfeits section of the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.

Complete listings of all U.S. counterfeits are now provided in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Counterfeits, first published in 2022.

The 2023 edition is available from the Amos Advantage website. An updated edition is scheduled for publication later this year.

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