US Stamps

Quality of modern counterfeit U.S. stamps keeps improving

Aug 19, 2019, 10 AM
In both of these images, a counterfeit 2018 American Flag coil stamp is shown at left and a real example at right. The two stamps at right were photographed under shortwave ultraviolet light. Images courtesy of Robert Thompson.

Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke

The quality of modern counterfeit United States stamps keeps improving, which is bad news for the U.S. Postal Service and stamp collectors.

In just the last week, I was contacted by at least three individuals who had bought booklet panes or coils of Flag stamps through different online websites. These stamps were purchased in large quantities at a substantial discount from face value.

At first glance, the stamps appeared to be legitimate. In one case, the local post office even told the person that the stamps were real; they were not.

Shown nearby is the 2018 American Flag forever coil stamp printed by Ashton Potter (Scott 5260) at right with a counterfeit at left. At right are the same stamps photographed under shortwave ultraviolet light. The real stamp glows green. The glow of the counterfeit is more blue, showing off brighteners in the paper (which could trigger cancellation machines).

The fakes even have microprinting. After examining an entire roll of these, I noticed that the ink seems “wet” and smears every once in a while, making the year date illegible.

Rather than give a full playbook to counterfeiters on how to make things better, I want to encourage collectors to be cautious when buying discount postage online. Many counterfeits exist of modern issues, and those varieties are listed in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.

There are legitimate sellers of discount postage out there, so do your homework before buying.

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