Counterfeits continue to enter U.S. philatelic market

While Canada enjoys a time of relative peace in regards to counterfeit postage stamps, a steady flow of counterfeits has been hitting the philatelic market south of the border.

According to a story published by Linn’s Stamp News on April 14, two versions of the 2012 non-denominated Four Flags coil stamps (U.S. Scott #4637-40) have “fallen victim to counterfeiting.”

Robert Thompson, president of the Plate Number Coil Collectors Club, told Linn’s he first found the “crude” counterfeits on eBay in early 2014.


The counterfeit Four Flags coils are the fourth counterfeit stamps reported by Linn’s this year.

On March 8, New York resident Uttam Singha contacted Linn’s claiming the U.S. Diwali Forever stamp issued on Oct. 5, 2016 (U.S. Scott #5142) was already being counterfeited and sold.

In February, Singha also alerted Linn’s about counterfeit 2015 Love stamps (U.S. Scott #4955-56) being sold on eBay.

Last July, Thompson told Linn’s he also found an intact roll of 100 counterfeit 2014 Flag and Fireworks coil stamps (U.S. Scott #4868).

Linn’s ongoing investigation into the murky origins of the Four Flags and other recent counterfeits, which began in early February, suggests that the problem is larger than initially thought,” writes Linn’s managing editor Charles Snee. “However, the powers that be in the Postal Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seemingly don’t have the time or inclination to dig more deeply. This, in turn, puts the onus on collectors and dealers to make the discoveries and get the word out.”

Any information regarding counterfeit U.S. stamps being sold online or used postally can be sent to Snee via email.


Like their genuine counterparts, both types of counterfeit Four Flags coil stamps were printed using offset lithography, which is “easily susceptible to counterfeiting because the technology is readily available and affordable,” according to Snee.

“That yet another counterfeit of a U.S. stamp came to light should not come as a surprise. An active supply chain, operating out of China or Taiwan (or both, perhaps), has been funneling bogus U.S. stamps into the country for at least the past decade or so,” writes Snee.

While one of the counterfeit Four Flags coil stamps is an “easily spotted mimic of the genuine issue,” the other example is described by Snee as a “dead-on lookalike that would fool many collectors.”

According to Thompson, the low-quality counterfeit coils feature a grainy appearance even without magnification; however, the high-quality counterfeits are more sophisticated.

“It took someone with some skills for the quality of the printing, the continuous paper and the die cutting,” Thompson told Linn’s. “The die cutting was smooth, clean and regular.”

Thompson reportedly acquired two rolls of the high-quality counterfeit coils from a stamp dealer in October 2015.

He said the coils were “both rolled and wrapped” like their genuine counterparts.

According to Linn’s, both counterfeit types have not seen extensive use in the postal system. Thompson has found only two on-cover examples of the low-quality counterfeits and two on-cover examples of the high-quality counterfeits.

Canada Post Director of Stamp Services Jim Phillips said Canada’s definitive stamps use the most security features.


On March 25, at a seminar held at Trajan Media’s National Postage Stamp and Coin Show, Canada Post Director of Stamp Services Jim Phillips said of all Canadian stamps, definitives use the most security features.

“The reason for that is we’ve yet to see any commemorative stamps counterfeited. I believe the reason for that is because, for one, they’re harder to counterfeit. There are a lot more colours to them, they’re more complex, they could have foil or embossing, plus they’re a small run and they’re on sale for a certain period of time.”

Phillips added: “In order to counterfeit something, you have to have someone who’s going to buy it.”

“If they’re commemorative stamps and people are bringing them into small shops and trying to sell them, they’re not going to want them if they don’t know them; but if they’re Flag or Queen or UNESCO Heritage … those are workhorse stamps that are printed in the tens of millions and hundreds of millions, and so they’re easier to sell for the counterfeiters.”

Although the goal is to limit and prevent counterfeiting, Phillips admitted the Crown corporation can’t stop it entirely.

“There’s no way to stop it; whatever you do, they can do, so what we try to do is stay one step ahead of them. That’s why you’ll see us change things up.”


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