An indelible stamp on forgeries

“Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there” -Josh Billings

An illustration from the book

Dulshan Ellawela has recently published his MPhil research — ‘Philatelic study during the British colonial period in Ceylon’ with the front page featuring an elegant design. Ellawala is a stamp collector and enthusiast with a keen interest in scholarly works. His collection of stamps, old envelopes, blocks, and other philatelic materials is extensive. He is a former student of Ananda College, Colombo, with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of East London and a Master’s in Philosophy from the University of the Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo.

In his publication, the area of counterfeit stamps intrigued me greatly. The counterfeit stamp may be an exact copy of authentic postage stamps that have been altered to appear valuable or scarce. Most forgeries, particularly of rare postage stamps, are worth only a small fraction of the value of the genuine stamp; however, it is likely that renowned forgers have created certain varieties. Postal counterfeits, or postal forgeries, are frequently used to denote stamps that have been forged to defraud the government of revenue.

Counterfeit stamps issued during the
British colonial period

“Philately study during the British colonial period in Ceylon” examines the philosophical and aesthetic elements used in the design of postage stamps, as well as their incorporation into forgeries. In addition, a deeper mathematical analysis reveals that Ceylon’s postage stamps are counterfeited. Subsequently, the counterfeit stamps are identified by the author by eliminating them from collections of authentic stamps.

Why is it important
to know about forgeries?

The Dull Rose (1859) stamp, which had a face value of four pence when it was auctioned off, brought in a price of $71,875.00 at the Cherrystone auction in January of 2008. This made it Ceylon’s most expensive stamp ever to be sold at auction. Due to the scarcity of stamps, its price rose to an extremely high level. The author has given an in-depth examination of the counterfeiting method that was implemented in the production of the Dull Rose stamp by making use of the four-pence perforated lower catalogue value Ceylon stamps. Due to the value of these stamps, it is extremely important to identify them, as anyone can be conned into buying a fake.

“Counterfeit” stamps published by the Department of Posts (2015) in their publication ‘Postage Stamps of Sri Lanka, Volume 1’ are the subject of an extensive discussion in Chapter 3.2. The chapter is titled “Investigation of the Ceylon counterfeit stamps issued during the British Colonial period.” The reader will be able to gain a better understanding of counterfeit stamps that are currently circulating among stamp collectors and visually identify them after reading this. In his research, the author divides counterfeit stamps into two categories based on their face value: eight pence and four pence. In the eight pence stamp, he mathematically and aesthetically illustrates the forgeries depicted in “Postage Stamps
of Sri Lanka, Volume 1”.

In this evaluation, the author has considered a few significant aspects of the artwork and demonstrated the differences between counterfeit and authentic stamps. In addition, he identified the counterfeit Ceylon Dull Rose stamp depicted in “Postage Stamps of Sri Lanka, Volume 1.”

The beginning of the inscription “CEYLON” on the four pence Dull Rose counterfeit stamp depicted in “Postage Stamps of Sri Lanka, volume 1” is positioned incorrectly. Since this was not previously identified by authorities, Ellawela deserves credit for a significant achievement. Importantly, he also revealed that some of the four-penny stamps in Volume 1 had the same counterfeit artwork. In addition, he outlined the margin-adding and trimming techniques used to forge Ceylon’s Dull Rose stamps.

According to the author, the fake stamp was produced in large quantities as an overprinted stamp. Fake postage stamps are authentic stamps that have been altered so that they can be reproduced in a different format to deceive the public. In his research the author has identified the fake Ceylon CSL262 I/SG361b stamp published by the Postage Stamps of Sri Lanka, Volume 1.In order to illustrate the correct stamp issue, he also depicted the SG361b genuine stamp with the certificate issued by The B.P.A. Expertising Limited London Expert Committee.

An argument is made in this author’s work based on his words, which state “that for an overprinted stamp to be error-free, the surcharge value must conceal the stamp’s initial value.” He has made this statement to avoid confusion among collectors, because, in most cases, the original value was not concealed when the surcharge was imposed. According to the author, “erroneous stamps” are those that need to be brought to attention whenever a stamp displays two different values.

“Philately study during the British Colonial period in Ceylon” contains five chapters. The review was based on the data presented in Chapter 3. Reviewing the complete book is a challenging task but the book is required reading for all philatelists due to its extensive coverage of philately-related topics.

(The reviewer is an expert on philatelic)

Source: Review on the Sunday Times, 9th July 2023


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