World Stamps

Fraud of the century: mystery of the 1872 Stock Exchange forgery has never been solved

Oct 1, 2019, 8 AM
Four examples of the plate 5 Stock Exchange forgery. The two examples at top have corner lettering — CL and EB in the lower corners — that could have appeared on genuine stamps, while the two at bottom show impossible lettering: KM and FS, combinations that never appeared on genuine stamps.

Great Britain Philately by Matthew Healey

What constitutes the perfect crime? More than one that just can’t be solved, it’s an event that no one even realizes has taken place: a crime whose victim never feels the loss.

The mystery of the Stock Exchange forgery, in which Britain’s Post Office was defrauded of tens of thousands of pounds, is a prime candidate for the title of “perfect.”

Someone — it was never conclusively determined who — applied thousands of counterfeit 1-shilling stamps to telegraph forms at the London Stock Exchange for at least a year between 1872 and 1873 and pocketed the money they represented. Incredibly, nobody was any the wiser until a sharp-eyed young philatelist spotted the fakes for the first time a full quarter-century later.

Subsequent discoveries suggested the full extent of the racket may have reached £50,000 over the many months it went on, equivalent to £5 million to £6 million today.

The above is an excerpt from Matthew Healey’s fascinating account of Great Britain’s 1872 Stock Exchange forgery. To read the whole feature, subscribe to Linn’s Stamp News today.

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