By Jesse Robitaille
This is the first story in a two-part series on the expertization of a mint block of three-cent Admiral stamps with a fake inverted ‘2 CENTS’ surcharge.
After being certified as genuine by a U.S. expertization service, a 94-year-old block of four “Admiral” provisional stamps with an unlisted inverted surcharge has been deemed fake by the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation.
The mint block of four 1926 two-cent-on-three-cent carmine “Admiral” provisional stamps (Scott #139) was apparently first discussed in 1978, when Montréal philatelist George Marler showed it to a few fellow collectors, Carl Mangold, Hans Reiche and Ariel Hasid.
Hasid recalled the meeting 42 years ago in a two-page article, “Potential new Admiral variety reappears after 42 years,” published this April in Maple Leaves, the quarterly journal of the Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain.
Marler was “apparently … offered the opportunity to purchase a complete sheet of 100 subjects with the inverted overprint,” Hasid writes. But because of “very poor handling … many of the stamps were creased and some badly torn and out of the full sheet he managed to find a sound and clean block of four.”
The offer – $2 for the whole sheet – came from a retired captain of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (Montréal Police Service) with the surname Bernier.
Marler, however, only took the block of four, and the price was $1, Hasid said.
The block was believed to be unique owing to its four inverted “2 CENTS” surcharges, one on each of the stamps. After reappearing this year, it was certified as genuine in June by the U.S.-based American Philatelic Expertizing Service (APEX), a division of the American Philatelic Society (APS).
The block was submitted to APEX on behalf of its anonymous owner by Florida dealer Ariel Hasid, the owner of WIP Stamps. Experts examined each of the four stamps individually, comparing them with two genuine examples from the APEX reference collection. The block was certified on June 24 with the certificate number “233049.”
Unbeknownst to APEX, the block was previously examined – twice – by the Toronto-based Greene Foundation. The APEX submission form submitted by Hasid earlier this year was falsely completed to indicate there were no previous certifications.
The first examination began in August 2018, when the Greene’s expert committee determined the stamps were genuine but deemed the overprint suspicious and “probably a favour or a private overprint,” according to the foundation’s final report, published in late October.
The report is authored by Greene Foundation Chair and President Garfield Portch, who’s also a member of the group’s expert committee.
Scientifically unable to perform a spectrographic analysis of the overprint’s black ink, the experts focused on the ink’s appearance while trying to match the submission with known genuine examples.
That September, experts also took the block to BNAPEX, the annual convention of the British North America Philatelic Society, where it was shown to “a number of dealers and knowledgable collectors,” according to the Greene’s October report.
“Not one of those considered the item to be genuine.”
Days later, the expert committee issued certificate #F5149, which stated the block included a “fake 2 CENTS surcharge.”
The block and certificate were then given to Hasid, who requested the expert committee re-examine the block and reconsider its original opinion.
“Nothing was found to justify a change in the opinion of the Committee,” reads the report.
In February 2019, the submission and original certificate were once again given to Hasid with a covering letter explaining the experts’ latest decision.