Royal Mail’s recent security efforts haven’t stopped the flow of counterfeit stamps. In his “Machin Watch” column in the October Gibbons Stamp Monthly, John Deering notes that over four million fake British postage stamps were seized last spring in Istanbul, Turkey, prior to them being shipped to the U.K.
Many of these counterfeits are crude and don’t stand up to even cursory examination. However, others are quite well done. Deering pictures a first-class gold stamp with an excellent reproduction of the iridescent overprint; it even has a source code of MSIL (which would normally indicate that the stamp is from a booklet of six stamps). It has no year code, which is true of stamps issued in 2009, so this looks like a valid overprint. The overprint is even shifted slightly to the right, as sometimes happens on genuine stamps.
The perforations also look realistic, as do the U-shaped slits, which even have the small slits at top and bottom.
Deering says there are two indications that the stamp is a forgery, though these can’t be determined from the photograph. One is that the stamps are printed by lithography, whereas the genuine stamps are all printed by gravure. The other is that the bands on the sides are simply a varnish and do not have any phosphor at all.
The pictured stamp was clipped from an envelope and has a typical ink-jet cancel. Part of the orange-dot address code that Royal Mail overprints on the envelope can be seen on the stamp.
This raises an interesting question. Since this stamp has no phosphorescence, why didn’t the canceling machine reject it as unfranked? If the canceling machine can’t sense the stamp, is it just coincidence that the cancelation hit the stamp?
Royal Mail is making efforts, including a new color palette, to insure that the sensing equipment works correctly with Machins. Yet here’s a stamp that doesn’t have the slightest trace of phosphor, and the equipment passed it right through.
Something doesn’t add up here.