How to identify a fake stamp

Paul, I've recently started collecting stamps and I'm having a little trouble telling whether those I find on the internet and at auction are fake (i.e altered) or or not. Any tips? - S. Begum

In the confusing world of stamp jargon, fake stamps are genuine stamps whose characteristics have been altered to make them more attractive to buyers. It's a nefarious practice that is the bane of the industry.

The biggest issue is re-gumming. This is when a stamp has its gum replaced in order to enhance its value. Of course, original gum examples are far scarcer than those that have been hinged and it can be difficult to tell if you are being duped.

However, there are a few tricks to tell an original…

My number one tip would be to hold the stamp face down on the palm of your hand. A re-gummed stamp will often curl at the corners, whereas original gum examples will usually stay flat.

On watermarked examples, hold the stamp up to the light. On a re-gummed stamp, the watermark will be more visible in weaker light and may even be impressed into the gum. Original watermarks are much harder to see, becoming visible only when dipped into special fluid used by the postal authority or in very strong light.

Another common technique used is re-perforating. A seller may re-perforate a stamp to repair the existing perforations, improve the centring of the stamp or add them to an imperforate. These additions are usually easy to spot, though I suggest carrying a magnifying glass whenever you are buying in person.

Look out for oddly shaped or spaced perforations, as this is always a tell-tale sign that the stamp you are looking at is a fake. Sometimes, the seller will put in the extra effort and the perforations are unusually cleanly cut, while an official stamp will usually be a bit rougher round the edges (especially in older examples).

And finally, there can be repairs that have been carried out which the seller will not always disclose. These are perhaps the most difficult defects to spot, as they are often hidden behind a cancellation.

Unfortunately, until you gain the keen eye of a seasoned collector, the only real way to tell if your stamp has been repaired is to consult a professional, who will be able to used advanced scanning techniques that will soon pick up any damage to the original condition.

Buying on the internet is obviously very difficult as you won't get to see the stamp face to face until it arrives at your door. Only buy from reputable dealers, ask for certification (from a respected source) and check the internet databases for existing fakes.  

Of course, all of our stamps are genuine and of the highest quality. If you have any questions regarding fakes and forgeries we will be happy to discuss them - something that all dealers should be willing to do.

Paul Fraser. 

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