How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting?

(ORDO NEWS) — There are many ways to protect banknotes from forgery – watermarks, security threads, Omron rings, etc.

But what about a postage stamp? It is also a sign of payment and must be protected from counterfeiting – while its area is much smaller than that of a bill, and printing is much cheaper. But there are ways to protect.

There are two types of philatelic fakes – to the detriment of the postal service and to the detriment of collecting.

In the first case, ordinary stamps of standard issues are forged; fakes are pasted on the envelopes, and the forger avoids paying for the postage.

In the second case, valuable and rare stamps are forged, for which you can earn significant amounts from collectors. Counterfeits to the detriment of mail are fought by various methods.

How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting 2Bhutan: record stamps, the world’s first “talking” stamps; they contain the anthem of Bhutan, folk music and information about the country in English.


In the 19th century, when mail was quite expensive, canceled stamps were stripped from envelopes, the stamp was peeled off, and resold for reuse. To avoid such fraud, in 1865, the specialist of the American Banknote Company, Charles Steele, proposed the use of so-called lattices.

How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting 3 1                                                                                                          Reverse side of the stamp with bars (1869)

The lattice was a heavy corrugated stamp, which pressed through the stamp after printing. A barely noticeable relief formed on the paper, into which, when passing through the mail, the ink of the stamp was eaten tightly, so that it was impossible to clean it off without damaging the stamp.

The 1868 one-cent stamp with a Z-type grille (there were 11 types in total) is today one of the ten most expensive stamps in the world – in 1998 it was sold for almost a million dollars.

How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting 4                   USA: 1867 three-cent piece; in the area where the ink has eaten into the grating, “cells” are visible.

Water marks

Like banknotes, a significant number of postage stamps are watermarked. In the 19th – the first half of the 20th century, they were present on almost every stamp, but today they are almost out of use due to cheaper postage and a decrease in the circulation of stamps.

Typically, watermarks on stamps are simple symbols – geometric shapes, letters, simplified coats of arms of the issuing countries.

How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting 5                                                                 Crown CA, the watermark used on the stamps of the British colonies

Non-standard materials and images

Despite the fact that stamps are most often printed on paper, at different times – both for anti-counterfeiting and aesthetic purposes – unusual materials were used for stamps.

For example, aluminum, steel, palladium or even platinum foil, silk, wood planks, ceramic plates, nylon , etc. Iceland printed stamps with paint containing microparticles of Eyjafjallajokull ash, and Morocco with paint with grains of sand from desert dunes.

How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting 7                                                                                                                                    2004 Swiss wood stamp

In most cases, such exotics attract collectors, but on the other hand, counterfeiting such stamps is extremely difficult and unprofitable. Another method of protection against counterfeiting is the complication of the drawing itself: for example, printing stamps with a 3D effect or the illusion of movement when the image is rotated.

How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting 6           Portugal. A stamp printed on a thin plate of cork (about a third of all cork trees are grown in Portugal)


Official correspondence at various times was franked not with ordinary stamps, but with official ones, purchased in large quantities and intended for departmental correspondence.

Most often, service stamps were made from ordinary ones by overprinting or piercing a series of holes that formed a specific sign or abbreviation. In the latter case, the so-called perfin was obtained.

How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting 8            North Borneo: REVENUE perfin on a 1909 North Borneo stamp; perfin turns the mark into a fiscal one

The meaning of this technique was that if a perforated official stamp fell into private hands illegally, a person could not use it to pay for regular postage or sell it.

How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting 9                                                                                                                  Varieties of perfins for service stamps

Fake in a million

Forgery of stamps is practiced not only for the free sending of letters, but also for serious earnings. Rare and unique stamps can fetch millions of dollars at auction – virtually every rare stamp has been counterfeited at least once in its history.

How are postage stamps protected from counterfeiting 10The era of famous counterfeiters came at the beginning of the 20th century. The most famous was the Italian Jean de Sperati (1884-1957), who sold more than 5,000 fake stamps in 40 years and was caught only in extreme old age

In June 2014, an 1856 British Guiana one-cent stamp, known in the philatelic business as British Guiana 1c magenta, was sold at Sotheby’s.

The total cost was $ 9,480,000. This stamp, which exists in a single copy, was forged several times. The most notorious forgery was by counterfeiter Peter Winter, who made it in 1999 from a more common but similar four-cent stamp from the same period.

Experts recognized the forgery as brilliant and revealed the falsification only after a multi-week study. The belief that it was a fake was based on Winter’s negative reputation – if the stamp had come from other hands, the fake might not have been detected.


Contact us: [email protected]

Our Standards, Terms of Use: Standard Terms And Conditions.