Home > Current Issue (Fall 2001) > Modern Indian States postage stamp forgeries
 Introduction | Alwar to Duttia | Faridkot to Kishangarh | Las Bela to Wadhwan

Modern Indian States postage stamp forgeries: an illustrated checklist
- David Heppell

Introduction

In a series of editorials and subsequent correspondence during 1995 and 1996 the India Study Circle, through the pages of its journal India Post (Vols. 29-30) lamented the flood of forgeries of Indian States stamps, produced in India, which were finding their way onto the market, many in sheetlets of 9 or 12. DeschI (2000), in a letter to the Editor (India Post 34 (146): 131-132), warned members about these modern 'fabrications' which included covers and State crests as well as stamps. He provided the further information that they had been printed in Allahabad, that the printer (after representation from the India Study Circle) no longer produces these 'facsimiles', and that he had sold his stock in hand to a dealer in Calcutta and another dealer in Bombay. It was no small scale enterprise as they are still being offered in lots of up to 300 different (this number includes different colour versions of the same stamp). They are also found in mixed packets of Indian and States forgeries which include a range from Scinde Dawks to the Gandhi 'Service' issue and Indian fiscals 'used abroad' (but apparently bogus). I see these offered regularly on eBay on-line auctions, in most cases offered cheaply as forgeries or 'Cinderellas', but individual items may be offered as genuine (or sometimes as essays or colour trials) by unsuspecting or inexperienced dealers. One can't expect every dealer to be an expert in the stamps of all countries. Collectors are especially warned to be vigilant at stamp shows and bourses, and when buying on the Internet. Apart from the Indian sources, forgeries have surfaced in auctions and dealers' stock in the Netherlands, the U.K., Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.A.

Two quite distinct types of forgeries are likely to be met with. The first is by far the most dangerous, as it can be difficult to tell the forgery from the genuine stamp without very careful examination. This is the type where a fake overprint (and sometimes a fake postmark) has been printed over a genuine Indian or Indian States stamp. In some cases a bogus stamp is produced for which there is no known genuine equivalent (for example Indian KGV stamps overprinted 'PAKISTAN'!), but more usually the intention is to produce one of the rarer errors of the Convention States stamps. I have been told that there are such forgeries of the Jaipur high values overprinted 'RAJASTHAN', but I have seen no examples. According to the India Study Circle, the rarer items have normally been offered for sale through smaller, provincial auctions, infiltrated in small numbers so as not to arouse suspicion - but when six or seven copies of a rare stamp all appear at the same time in different auctions suspicions are aroused. Most of the stamps involved are high values which are much scarcer in used condition than mint, to which forged postmarks have been added. Remember that there are no bargains among these high-value stamps. They are very scarce to rare and if you want a genuine one it will cost a lot of money. Cheap ones are almost guaranteed to be forgeries. My advice is to be suspicious, especially if a stamp with a high catalogue value is being offered at a low price. If the stamp is being offered as genuine, make sure you get a full money-back guarantee if it proves to be forged; for an expensive stamp most reputable dealers will offer to refund the expertizing fee in such a case. Stamps offered 'as is' are, of course, purchased at the buyer's own risk.

The modern productions listed here are of the second type, imitations of the typographed, lithographed, or hand-stamped issues of the Princely States. Most are very easily recognized and would not fool anyone at all familiar with the genuine stamps. Generally the forgeries are imperf. even when the originals are perforated, but a few sheets (Charkhari, Sirmoor) have been seen perforated, possibly by a sewing-machine. Various methods have been used for their production. Many are copied from the illustrations in the Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth Catalogue (e.g. Bhopal, early Bundi, rectangular issues of Jammu and Kashmir), reproduced in various colours, and some are copied from genuine stamps (e.g. the Bundi 'Sacred Cows' issues). Consequently these are correct in the details of the design, as they are produced by some 'facsimile' process, but the fine detail is lost and they usually have a blurred appearance. The limited palette of somewhat garish colours usually bears scant resemblance to those of the genuine stamps, although the green of the Jhalawar forgeries is close. For Poonch the red and black forgeries seem to have been produced individually by means of a rubber stamp, and the circular issues of Jammu and Kashmir were probably made in the same way, with ink of several different colours, as some of the impressions overlap. The forged early issues of Charkhari seem to have been set up by typography, as they are not exact copies of the originals, while some issues of Bamra and Duttia show evidence of a combination of typography (for the value) and a catalogue illustration (for the design). One soon becomes familiar with the paper on which the majority of the forgeries are printed (a thin, buff-coloured, unwatermarked, coarse wove paper). Where coloured paper is used (Bamra, Duttia, Indore, Poonch) the shades are generally too bright, although one or two resemble some less common papers. In some cases there are portions of handwritten inscriptions over the design, perhaps intended to suggest fiscal use!

The India Study Circle has recommended that these forged stamps should not knowingly be bought, even for 'reference' purposes, to discourage their production by effectively cutting off the profits that the forger expects. In his editorial (India Post Vol. 29 (124): 41), Max Smith, in 1995, made the point that "the wholesalers and auctioneers have a greater responsibility than they will no doubt admit to. It is not good enough for them to say that the material is handled 'in good faith', or that it is not intended to deceive because it is described as forgeries or 'reprints'. They handle it, and pocket the profit. The profits from selling forgeries are no less valuable than those from genuine items. . . . The smell of forgery taints everyone connected with it." He realised, however, that despite the damage to an interest Indian philately "when the potential collector sees stockbooks and auction catalogues full of Indian forgeries, whether described as such or not, . . . we are victims of our own inquisitiveness." Every time a collector makes a small purchase of a few forged items, on the grounds that, if he does not have them for reference, he may be taken in by something else at a later date, it adds up to make the whole exercise worthwhile for both the forger and the handler. That is why we will never get rid of forgeries—because we buy them. It is to be hoped that this illustrated checklist will serve not only to make the collector more aware of the extent of forged material currently available but also to enable him to be more confident in recognizing it for what it is and thereby diminish his need to add it to his album. When collections are broken up and come back onto the market, there are no guarantees that forged items will still be clearly identifiable as such.

There has been debate as to whether the flood of forgeries on the market will push up prices of the genuine stamps, as reputable dealers expend more time checking their material or cease trading in areas in which they have insufficient expertise, and collectors compete for a shrinking supply from the dealers they feel they can trust; or whether it is more likely to cause the market to collapse, once confidence goes. In these days of advanced copying techniques the problem—particularly for the more unsophisticated States' material and for overprints—is likely to get worse, but dealers cannot plead ignorance if potential buyers draw suspected forgeries to their attention. The more of us who act in this way, the more effect it will have. From my own experience the dealer's reaction ranges from a polite smile (and the forged item returned to their stock) to a withdrawal of the item for sale, at least until it can be redescribed for what it is. One Australian e-mail dealer wrote: "When I offer any of the Indian States I am almost certain that there will be forgeries among them—but not being an expert I cannot tell for sure; all these lots are offered on a money back guarantee and there is no intention to defraud nor deceive anyone". That is a step in the right direction, but the description of the item was not modified after my information was received (that item, incidentally, received no bids). When I advised a Canadian dealer that the blue block of four Jammu, advertised (with a note that collectors are warned by the Scott catalogue that 'official imitations' exist) on their on-line bidboard, was one of the modern forgeries churned out by the thousand in India, and suggested that it be withdrawn from sale, the dealer responded that "'As is' is 'as is'. Consignors bring me many different lots and I feel I described the lot properly. Many people like to accumulate forgeries and reprints." Some luckless bidder forked out $17 for that worthless forgery!

This checklist records, for the Princely States (other than the 'Convention States' issues), those stamps of which forgeries have been noted. The States are listed in alphabetical order, and within each State they are arranged where possible in the order of the Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth Catalogue, according to whichever genuine stamp, or range of stamps, is the 'best fit', disregarding shades, perforation, watermark or type of paper. For each entry the catalogue number(s) (and the equivalent number(s) from the Scott catalogue) is noted, together with the recorded basic colours and, usually, an illustration. In many cases an illustration of the corresponding genuine stamp is given, and some explanatory notes are also provided. All forgeries are imperf. on coarse buff wove paper unless otherwise stated.

In order to make this Checklist as complete and up to date as possible further examples should be notified to the Editor. Illustrations of genuine stamps in addition to those included here would be especially welcome for use in a possible future update of this article.

 

 Introduction | Alwar to Duttia | Faridkot to Kishangarh | Las Bela to Wadhwan
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