Fakes News!

A column by Larry Oliver

As the (supposedly) ancient Chinese proverb goes: “May you live in interesting times”. The news media (I grew up in it) was once revered for its objectivity and factual reporting. So much for history! We have been introduced to obstruction, even obliteration or ignoring of facts in today’s reporting. While this is not a political statement, the proliferation of the phrase “Fake News” and its iteration in many news sources, has become a byword of our times.

Not to be outclassed or obscured by the commercial media, we philatelists have our own version of “Fake News”. My intention is to explore (but not exploit!) the presence and detection of fakes, forgeries, and fantasies in our philatelic world. I hope you enjoy the series, however long it may be, and be assured that I welcome comments, ideas, and suggestions, whether they be opposing or supportive – learning about our hobby is the goal.

This first article is about one of the early exposers of forgeries – a reverend, yet.


This month:

Album Weeds – How to detect Forged Stamps
by Reverend RB Earee

The Reverend Robert Briscoe Earee was the Rector of Miserden, Cirencester, England, and a devoted philatelist. He lived from 1848 – 1928, and wrote extensively on forgeries. He and two others were the authors of a lengthy series of articles called the Spud Papers, focusing on the forgeries of Phillip Spiro (Spiro called them “reproductions” and claimed he was not intending to defraud collectors or cheat the postal services. None of his stamps were marked as reproductions, however.)

In 1882 he published the first edition of Album Weeds, or, How to Detect Forged Stamps, which was primarily a summary of the Spiro forgeries. Two more editions came out each having many additions from many other forgers which had been discovered in the interim. The third edition is eight volumes, and is an extremely valuable reference for the person interested in, or concerned about, forgeries. That edition has been reprinted and is affordable.

The descriptions includes details of both the genuine stamps and the forgeries, so a visual comparison is easily, and accurately, done. He also describes forged cancels, when they are known to him. The forgeries are ascribed to the forger as well, so one can identify the origin and often the extent of the forgeries. A small portion of the Bahamas section is reproduced here as an illustration of the style and completeness of his work. RB Earee signed the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1921.

Album Weeds – How to Detect Forged Stamps, by Reverend R.B. Earee, Third edition reprint, pub. The Manuka-Ainslie Press, Acton,
Canberra, Australia.