Part 4- Expertizing and Forgers

Part IV

Expertizing and Forgers

A significant aspect of the demand for multiple copies of rarities was to create a mar­ket that was fed by a flood of bogus and forged stamps from about October 1863 onward. In the United States S. Allan Taylor (1838-1913) played a key role in generating bogus material, while Ferdinand Elb did the same in Europe. His brother J. W. Elb (18 17-1865) was a pioneer French dealer and subject of the first philatelic auction.

Many of the early dealers, ranging from America’s George Hussey and J. Walter Scott to England’s Stanley Gibbons and Belgium’s J. B. Moens, made a practice of buying orig­inal obsolete plates and selling products printed from them as originals. The Spiro firm of Hamburg churned out so many lithographic forgeries in the I 860s that the Rev. Earée (1846-1928) wrote his ‘Spud Papers,’ published as the 560-page Album Weeds in 1882, to denounce them. While Spiro’s production stopped in 1880, the Senf brothers had picked up the idea in the 1870s and by 1884 were churning out facsimiles in large quantities. Numerous articles were written denouncing the Senf productions, despite a defense of them led by Dr. Moschkau, and they did not stop until 1890.

Dealers such as Mahé and Roussin of Paris held auto de fés of fakes in which collectors joined. It is likely that a number of unrecognized rarities were consumed in these, or otherwise were destroyed by collectors impressed by some authority’s condemnation.

Experts are fallible, however, and we know that some drew incorrect conclusions. For example, Charles Coster (1852-1900), scion of a wealthy merchant family and the financial genius behind the J. P. Morgan firm, termed several U.S. locals bogus in his classic study or else labeled them non-existent. Subsequent evidence has disproved some of his judgments, and he himself revised some over the years he dealt with locals. This continu-ing interest ranged from his 1868 work with Scott and his 1871 exhibit in William Brown’s shop through his rewrite of the English version of his book into French. This latter took place in 1882, after he sold his holdings to Ferrari. Further revisions were made in notes he kept for a final revision when he retired.

A classic case of mistaken opinion involved Westoby’s copy of the famed Spanish 2-reales color error. Respected authorities such as Dr. LeGrand, Pierre Mahé, and Spanish dealer-specialist Hugo Griebert called it bad. However, since Westoby sold it to Ferrari who didn’t concur, it was in the Ferrari estate when Griebert’s 1919 article condemning it appeared. In 1923 Griebert paid more than $10,000 for it at the Ferrari sale; he had learned of confirming examples in the meanwhile.

One result of the facsimile problem was that, at the beginning of 1894, the Royal set up an Expert Committee to examine material for a fee, with Bacon, Castle and Major Evans making up the first committee. Pemberton would have been chosen, but he had died in 1878. Other experts set up shop elsewhere. Emilio Diena (1860-194 1) became a leading expert in Italy, while Sigmund Friedl (1851-1914) expertized in Vienna despite the fact that he made excellent forgeries, which were exposed by M. P. Castle who called him “the most astute swindler of the 19th century…” The Friedl expertizing was continued by his son, Otto (1878-1952), and his brother, Rudolph, and eventually Edwin Mueller (1898-1962) and Herbert Bloch (1908-1987). Bloch melded the Friedl committee into the Philatelic Foundation in the mid-l980s, and he and his associate, Alex Rendon, joined the expertizing services of that New York organization. As noted in Philatelic Literature Review, the Friedl committee was “possibly the world’s most competent and prestigious commercial expertizing organization…”

While not serving as an expertizing service per se, Dr. Herbert Munk (1875-1953) wrote most of the text needed to expertise classic stamps in the Kohl Handbook series, published by German dealer Paul Kohl to supplement his catalogs beginning in 1898. The Handbooks were partially based upon research done by one of Germany’s great philate­lists, Dr. Franz Kalckhoff (186 1-1955). In his personal collecting Dr. Kalckhoff favored back-of-the-book material. Dr. Kalckhoff had been a member of Britain’s Royal since 1890 though suspended twice during World Wars I and II; he was the first German allowed to reapply in 1949. Similarly in 1898 William Westoby published Adhesive Postage Stamps of Europe: A Practical Guide to Their Collection (919 pages), while the American dealers Collin and Calman published a Catalog for Advanced Collectors in 1901.  In the post World War I era Fernand Serrane published his classic Vade-Mecum (795 pages) in 1927-29. It has recently been serially reprinted in The American Philatelist.

For the average collector during the Anglo-German hegemony era, these expertizing services and books provided some protection against some of the era’s best known forgers. These were men such as Georges Fouré (1848-1902), who specialized in postal stationery; François Fournier (1846-1927), who built his forgery business in the pre-World War I era upon the used facsimiles produced by Louis-Henri Mercier (operating in 1890-1904); and Oswald Schroeder. Schroeder was a printer who produced excellent collotype forgeries. He is known to have made more than 55 varieties by 1891. Bacon noted that most large collections formed between 1880 and 1900 had some Schroeder products, adding that Tapling had 10.  A presentation of Schroeder forgeries was made in 1904 to the Royal by the Dresden Philatelic Society, which had studied them; it covered stamps of some 17 countries.

                                             Reprints: Official and Private

Another expertizing problem of the era was the reprint, either by governments or private parties. Julius Goldner (1848-1898), a Hamburg stamp wholesaler, produced enor­mous quantities for dealers. Actually the various postal administrations have to take the blame for the plethora of reprints. Beginning with the French and Finnish administrations in 1862, postal authorities began to ask other administrations for copies of all their stamps to add to their collections. Not having remainders, a number made up new printings (offi­cial reprints) so that some 13 countries had done so by 1867.

Private collectors, such as Baron Nathan Rothschild, also had reprints made, using their contacts. In no case did the governments identify these “new” old stamps as coming from new printings. The following decade saw many governments making reprints to sat­isfy collectors and generate added revenue.

Plates and printing stones also fell into private hands. In the United States George Hussey and others eagerly sought out obsolete local plates and printed from them. Apparently the first private printing from official stones was J. B. Moens’ reprint ofBergedorf stamps in 1868. When the postal authorities no longer had the dies or plates, they made new ones, such as for the American 1847 reprints of 1875. The result was tons of questionable material for expertizers to sort out. Also having to sort out the question­able material were the catalogers, some of whom felt the job of updating their products wasn’t worth their time and abandoned the field.

All four of the major general stamp catalogs we know today were formed either by pioneers, such as Gibbons, or men who were born in or grew up in the hegemony era, such as Scott.  A major catalog begun during the “gilded age” was that published in 1897 by Louis Yvert (1866-1950).  It was closely associated with Parisian dealer and collector Theodore Champion (1875-1954), who edited it practically alone from about 1900 to his death.  Champion had a world-class holding of unused classic stamps.  In 1928 Yvert published a basic catalog of French postal markings, edited by Ferdinand Doe and Baron Renault:  Doe began collecting them in 1890.  Hugo Michel (1866-1911) first published the fourth general catalog as a summation of his life’s working 1910.  It is arguably the best general catalog today.

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