Fakes & Forgeries from the PF Reference Collection
By: Robert Rose

Oct 16 , 2017

At our October 16 meeting, Bob Rose shared with us the history of cover faker John A. Fox, tracing his rise as a New York dealer in the 1940s and his downfall after his fakery came to light in the 1960s.  As the Philatelic Foundation played an essential role in outing Fox’s cover creations, this presentation from Bob Rose, currently chairman of the Foundation, was most appropriate. Bob supported his talk with frequent references to the Chronicle, which over the years has covered Fox’s activity more closely than any other publication.

After a brief historical overview, Bob passed around 26 Fox fake covers, part of the SCRAP archive that the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society turned over to the Philatelic Foundation earlier this year.  All in attendance were dazzled by the beauty and persuasiveness of the covers. Every handstamped postmark on these covers was fake, created from zinc-etched marking devices made by a photo-engraving process that was widely available in the days of hot-metal typesetting. While the stamps were genuine, the 1847 stamps had pen cancels removed before being fraudulently affixed to the covers.

Bob noted that it was not the markings but the handwriting that first cast doubt on the authenticity of the Fox fakes. Fox was never able to replicate successfully the bold and flourished Spencerian handwriting that was commonplace during the 19th century.

To conclude the meeting, Bob unpacked a cardboard box containing 60-odd examples of actual fake marking devices used by Fox to create covers.  Bob had also brought with him some blank sheets of paper and two ink pads which he also passed around.  The meeting quickly descended into chaos, as attending members, with all the enthusiasm of first-graders around a play table, scrambled to create proof impressions of these fake postmarks. (Notes provided by Michael Laurence)