US Stamps

The problem of multiple certificates that don’t agree

Jun 1, 2023, 1 PM

Adventures in Expertizing by John M. Hotchner

Linn’s reader Steven Kirpes recently wrote about the frustration he felt when trying to make sense of the United States 2¢ George Washington horizontal carmine coil stamp shown here in Figure 1. It came to him with three certificates from the three most prominent expertizing organizations, which found as follows.

Certificate 1, dated 1991, says the stamp is Scott 353, genuine, original gum, never hinged.

Certificate 2, dated 2003, says the stamp is Scott 332, with trimmed perforations.

Certificate 3, dated 2003, says the stamp is Scott 384, altered with fake perforations added.

In the application for certificate 3, the owner did note the two prior certificates. Of course, we don’t know that the expertizers checked them. The point is that the submitter was not trying to hide anything.

Before we go further, let’s stipulate that Washington-Franklin coils are notoriously difficult. There are so many fakes that expertizers are always suspicious, and with good reason. In this case, what would they be looking for?

First, they check that the design type (Scott illustration A139) is correct for the identification proposed. All three are correct in that regard.

Second, they verify that the watermark — which should be the double-line “USPS” (watermark 191)— is correct. That is not so easy because the watermark is not necessarily one letter to one stamp.

As seen in the illustration from the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers shown in Figure 2, there are some stamps that will have partial letters, and the same is true for the single-line watermark (watermark 190).

On top of all that, the watermarks can be difficult to see on carmine stamps.

Third, expertizers would look at the perforations to determine if they are genuine. Certificate 1 says they are. Certificate 2 says they are, but the top and bottom perfs have been trimmed off to make the coil stamp. Certificate 3 says they are not genuine, but instead they are fake perforations added to an imperf stamp.

For further clarification, let’s look at the three alternatives identified on the certificates.

Scott 353 is perf 12 vertically with a double-line watermark, and is the first design with “Two Cents” at the bottom. The Scott catalog value for an unused stamp is $100.

Scott 332 is the perf 12 sheet stamp with the double-line watermark, the first design. The catalog value is $6.

Scott 384 is imperf with a single-line watermark, the first design. The catalog value is $4.

I preach that it is not possible to expertize from scans, and I have not seen the stamp in person. That said, look at the upper right and lower right corners in Figure 1. For the stamp to be a genuine Scott 353, the imperf sides need to be perfectly straight and perfectly parallel. That is not the case here, so I am inclined to throw out the first opinion. I don’t believe the stamp is a genuine 353.

Now to the perforations. Again, I have not measured them myself, so I can’t say whether they are genuine or not.

To read the rest of Adventures in Expertizing, subscribe to Scott Stamp Monthly.

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