Various words are used to describe Confederate fakes: Counterfeit, fake, forgery, fraudulent, facsimile and fantasy. There are semantic differences in the meaning of the first five, while fantasies are a completely different category. Many times the first five terms are used interchangeably and in this discussion the term fake will be used. In Confederate philately fake means a stamp, postmark or cover that was prepared to resemble an authentic item with the intention of defrauding a collector. A Fantasy, on the other hand, is a stamp of a design that never existed.
Fakes of Confederate stamps date from 1862 when Samuel Upham prepared fakes of Confederate provisionals and general issues. From that time until today fakes a have been a curse of Confederate collectors. The following warning appeared in Henry Collin’s 1885 edition of his Price Catalog of Postage Stamps, “Collectors should be very careful in buying these stamps [Confederate provisionals] (as numberless imitations were made), and buy from responsible parties only.”
Until the advent of computers and printers and scanners the number of fakes was limited and new ones normally soon became well known. Since the 1990’s the situation has continually worsened. Today the Confederate collector encounters all kinds of fakes and fantasies.
Below are examples of different types of fakes that the Confederate collector is likely to encounter.
General issue fakes range from the crude to the dangerous. The 5-cent and 10-cent stamps below are easy to detect Springfield facsimiles. These stamps can easily fool the less experienced collector and even the experienced collector when tied to a cover by a fake postmark. The third stamp, the TEN cent stamp is a Sperati fake. The Sperati fakes are probably the most dangerous of the general issue fakes.
Fakers do not stop at stamps. Postmarks and cancels are also fair game. During the 1960s John A. Fox prepared many covers with genuine copies of the rarer general issues tied by dangerous fake postmarks. Other fakers used what was at hand to cancel the rarer general issues on covers. One gifted faker hand drew postmark and markings on covers. Such fakes require a strong light to detect.
Fakers also prepared a large number of Provisional fakes. These can be particularly dangerous because in most cases they are very rare and most collectors are not familiar with them.
Fake covers offer the faker higher financial reward because of the increased value over off cover stamps.
Fantasies are another type of item the Confederate collectors needs to watch for. If a stamp is not familiar, check a catalog to be sure it is an actual design.
To help the new Confederate collector a compilation of Dietz’s studies of fake general issues is available. These studies date from the late 1940’s but provide very useful information on fakes of the general issues. Click here to view the primer.
For those interested in a more detailed study of fakes, the book Confederate States of America Philatelic Fakes, Forgeries, and Fantasies of the 19th and 20th Centuries by Peter W. W. Powell and John L. Kimbrough MD is recommended.