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Taylor 13

The dangerous Taylor forgery of the
1853 13 Boston Engraved stamp of Hawaii

Many forgeries exist of the Boston Engraved Issue but only one is a dangerous piece of work. The others are easy to detect but still cause considerable confusion. To recognize the marks of a forgery, one must know details of the genuine stamp.

Nathaniel Dearborn of Holland Printing Company in Boston engraved dies for the 5 and 13 Boston Engraved stamps in 1852. It is believed he first made a die for the 13 value. The die had several distinct features and accidentally created anomalies we use now to identify forgeries because they are found only on genuine stamps or those based on an image of a genuine stamp and produced by, for example, photolithography or photocopying:

  • the right frame line was doubled.

  • the bottom panel was divided into three sections with two vertical lines running between the bottom of the vignette frame and the bottom frame line of the stamp. Dearborn entered the two lines so they connected to the bottom frame line of the vignette panel.

  • the figure "13" in the lower left box was entered manually on the plate leaving twenty unique plate position variations in the figures "1" and "3." The lower left "13" is a key to plating the 13 value. See Plating the 13.

  • each "3" in the same lower left box grew a tail where the upper and lower parts of the "3" intersect. This "tail" probably was made by the tool used to enter the figures on the plate.

  • in the right side panel, Dearborn placed a dot or short dash between the "S" of "STATES" and the "8."

Dearborn then made a die for the 5 value. It has long been thought he re-cut the 13 die. However, two dies were sent intact to Honolulu around 1869. If a die of each value was sent, then the 5 was created from a master die rather than by re-cutting the 13 die. When the 1889 order was placed with the National Bank Note Company, only the 5 die was usable, so there is no reliable first hand account of what the second die sent in 1869 really was. Probably Dearborn made a blank die with the "POSTAGE" and portrait panels, transferred it to a new piece of steel and engraved the frame lines and lettering for the 13 die. After entering the plate, he probably re-cut the 13 die by burnishing the inscriptions in the side and bottom panels. He then entered new inscriptions suitable for the 5 value design. When Dearborn did the 5, he burnished the doubled right frame line to make it a single line. He created two new anomalies we use today in identifying forgeries:

  • he was unable to burnish completely the evidence of the two vertical lines in the 13 design bottom panel where they touched the frame line of the vignette. Thus, where the two lines dividing the bottom panel of the 13 into three sections intersected the bottom of the vignette panel, two dots appear on the bottom of the vignette panel in the 5 design.

  • he left a remnant of the top stroke of the figure "1" in the upper right value box of the 13 design. In the 5, this remnant appears as a small colored dot just to the right of the left frame line in the upper right value box.

Holland Printing Company produced one order for the 13 (Scott No. 6 in 1853) and three orders for the 5 (Scott No. 5 in 1853, Scott No. 8 in 1857 and the last in 1861, Scott No. 9). In 1868, the firm filled orders for both values (Scott Nos. 10 and 11), using the original plates. Later, the plates and dies were sent to Hawaii. These printings from the original plates exhibit all of the anomalies just described. Illustrations of these anomalies appear at the end of this page with comparisons to the forgeries.

The Taylor 13 Forgery

Taylor 13-300 Taylor 2nd-150 Taylor 13 litho 150 Taylor 13 pstmrk

Taylor 1st Printing

Taylor 2nd Printing

Taylor lithograph

Taylor "postmark"

S. Allen Taylor is responsible for the one dangerous forgery of the Boston Engraved Issue a forgery of the 13 value only. Sometime in 1867, the story goes, Holland Printing was visited by Taylor. Dearborn was still there working as an engraver. Taylor, a notorious rogue of a stamp forger and faker, tricked Dearborn into making a fresh order of stamps to sell as souvenirs. If the timing of this visit is recorded accurately, the original dies and plates were still at the Holland Printing Company. However, Dearborn promised to improve the design by eliminating the earlier mistakes and Taylor apparently liked the idea because his stamps would be superior in quality to the originals. Dearborn may have lead Taylor in this direction because the 13 die no longer existed if it was re-cut to make the 5 die. To make a new die, I suspect Dearborn used the old transfer die with the portrait and the "POSTAGE" panels and engraved new side and bottom panels. Differences between the original die and the forged die abound, particularly in the side and bottom panels. Some prominent differences are:

  • Dearborn made sure the right frame line was a single line.

  • at least some letters in the word "POSTAGE" were re-cut, seen most clearly in the "S" and "A" where the top of the "S" is shorter and fatter and the left leg of the "A" is thicker so it almost equals the right leg and the cross bar is lower.

  • in the lower left box, the figure "13" was engraved so it made proper contact when entering the plate (assuming there was a plate of more than one subject), the tell-tale "tail" is gone and the figures "1" and "3" are uniform in all the stamps instead of the twenty unique plate varieties.

  • in the upper right value box, the figure "3" is dropped and at a slant and the "1" stops well short of the frame line.

  • vertical lines dividing the bottom panel boxes were drawn just short of the bottom frame line of the vignette so they would not interfere with making a new 5 die (Dearborn promised to make 5 stamps next but why he needed to make a new 5 die is unclear since the old die was still in Boston and presumably was available to him).

  • the dash between the "S" and "8" in the right side panel of the original was not carried forward into the fresh die [but it was re-entered as a dot for later Taylor printings].

  • in the left side panel, the horizontal line separating the upper left value box is a single line where it was double on the original die.

A plate of multiple subjects may have been produced for Taylor's engraved stamps, but the number of subjects and arrangement are unknown. Multiples of this forgery have not come to my attention and the examples I have studied show no definite plate position differences I have been able to detect.

At night in the Holland Printing shop, Dearborn worked with Taylor to print new 13 stamps until Dearborn heard Taylor and his friends brag about their trick. Dearborn tried to seize the plate, but Taylor got away with the stamps, the plate and probably the die. Dearborn refused to produce 5 stamps for Taylor although Taylor tried to press a contract claim. Taylor's 13 stamps printed at the Holland Printing Company are known as the "first printing" of this forgery and stand out as one of the most dangerous forgeries ever produced in the annals of philately.

Parts of the story are confusing and seem inconsistent, as would be expected in a scheme of this sort. [Generally, see Eckhardt, W. J., "The Boston Forgery," Stamps, February 21, 1948, p. 319, for the most complete account of the Taylor forgery.] In particular, Dearborn's innocence is sometimes hard to accept. If he thought the contract was honest, why was work done at night after everyone else left? Why all the trouble to make new dies since the original plates were at the Holland Printing Company (they were used a year later to produce the 1868 re-issue) unless Dearborn lacked access to the old plates. Perhaps Holland Printing was unaware of Dearborn's contract with Taylor and Dearborn would face awkward questions if he tried to requisition the old dies and plates. Was the old transfer die Dearborn used among the assortment of odds and ends at his work desk instead of in the vault? Why did neither Dearborn nor Holland Printing notify the Hawaiian authorities of the mis-use of a die? Was Dearborn's claim of being shocked when he discovered the trick a convenient smoke screen to escape punishment when Taylor's forgeries flooded the European and East Coast markets and the finger of blame pointed to Dearborn? Answers to these questions are of course lost in the thirteen decades separating us in time but the fact of these remarkably dangerous forgeries still exists.

Questions also surround the production method. Was a plate made for engraving the stamps? One certainly would think so. If not, then exactly how were they engraved? My theory of an old transfer die is my own. Is it a good one? The outer boxes of the Taylor forgery contain many differences when compared to the genuine stamp. Seventeen years after making the original die, Dearborn may have been able to imitate the outer boxes fairly well so it is plausible to think he did so if he had an example of the genuine stamp to use as a model. However, it is implausible to suppose he could duplicate the intricate portrait flawlessly and yet there are no discernable differences between the portrait in the genuine stamp and in Taylor's forgery. I therefore conclude he must have made a transfer die in 1852 and still had access to it in 1867.

Taylor and his cronies, the infamous "Boston Gang," made additional printings using Dearborn's plate and die. Engraved stamps from the "second printing" have a lighter background in the "POSTAGE" panel. A lithograph stone of a single subject also was made, using the forged die to enter the image on the stone. Later productions sometimes appear on laid paper instead of the wove paper of genuine stamps and some exhibit a slipped print appearance. Finally, in some of the Taylor late printings a dot is restored to the space between the "S" and "8" in the right side panel. Some Taylor productions from all printings were "postmarked" with a fake Honolulu postmark. The fake postmark was a fairly well executed imitation of a recognizable Honolulu postmark but Taylor used black ink instead of the red ink always used at Honolulu during the period of time when the genuine Scott No. 6 was in use.

ProPhil Forum 13 Forgery

Prophil 13 - 150

ProPhil Forum 13 Forgery

In the last 20 years a Swiss firm going by the name ProPhil Forum produced a photo lithographed forgery of the 13 stamp. Because the image used for producing this forgery was a photograph of a genuine stamp, it exhibits all of the anomalies in the original stamp. As noted above, the value in the lower left panel was engraved poorly and failed to make proper contact when the original plate was produced. Dearborn was thus forced to enter the figure "13" manually creating small differences used today to plate the different positions of the 20 stamps on the plate. ProPhil Forum's forgery shows it was made from a photograph of a stamp printed from position 11 on the original plate. Assuming the work was done from a single image, all examples of this forgery should show the "13" characteristic of position 11. I have examined only one example and seen a color image of one other. The color is wrong in addition to being lithographed.

Spiro Brothers Forgeries of Both Values

During the 1860's and 1870's Philip Spiro, who headed the lithography printing firm Spiro Brothers, was forging stamps of all nations at the company's print shop in Germany. Among the "stamps" they made were both values of the Boston Engraved Issue. Their work was carefully executed, but many details give away their products as imitations of the real stamps so there is much less risk of confusion than with the Dearborn forgery of the 13. Supposedly, these products were promoted as facsimiles to collectors who were unable to obtain genuine examples. Tyler, Varro A., Philatelic Forgers: Their Lives and Works, 1991 revised edition.

The 5 Spiro Bros. forgery

5 red forgery Spiro 5 Spiro 5-postmarked

Spurious red



Many differences can be seen. In the upper panel, the letters of "POSTAGE" are cruder, the word is set more to the right, so the letters fall at different places compared to the sun rays and there is no dot to the left of the number 5 in the right panel. In the face, the puckered shape of the mouth, the misshapen head and the "deer-in-the-headlights" appearance of the eyes give this forgery away at a quick glance. Looking at the breast plate, notice the exaggerated curvature in the center line of the tunic of the forgery. Also, the Spiro Bros. forgery gives the king five buttons where the original has six. In the left shoulder panel, the forgery tops the epaulet with a single dash where the genuine has two dots and the inner line of the Honolulu frame angles in at the bottom. In the bottom panel, the two dots extending from the top frame line in the 5 are missing in the Spiro Brothers forgery. Finally, cancels used by the Spiro Brothers to produce "used stamps" are fantasies. The spurious red forgery might actually be a Spiro "knock-off".

The 13 Spiro Bros. forgery

Spiro 13-300 Spiro 13-150 blue paper Spiro 13

Spiro Brothers

Bluish paper


As with the Taylor forgery, the right frame line is single rather than double. Also, many differences noted between the Spiro Bros. 5 forgery and the genuine 5 stamp carry over to the 13 value. In the face and breast, the same mistakes were made. In the upper panel, the letters of "POSTAGE" are cruder and set to the right. For the 13, it is also important to note the "tell-tale tail" on the "3" in the lower left panel. In the genuine stamp, a tail sticks out of the right side of the "3" near the mid-point where the top and bottom join. There is no tail in the Spiro forgeries. Different plate positions of the genuine 13 exhibit varying forms of the tail, but it is present in all positions. It should also be noted for those who study stamp details, that the shape of the "1" in the lower left panel also changes from one plate position to another.

Illustrations to Compare the Genuine with the Forgeries:

The 13 Value

Of this value, five forgeries cause sufficient confusion to merit discussion:

A. Genuine 13

B. Taylor Forgery
First Printing

C. Taylor 2nd Printing

D. Taylor Lithograph

E. Spiro Brothers forgery

E. ProPhil Forum

6 Taylor 13 Taylor 2nd-150 Taylor 13 litho cut 150 Spiro 13-300 Prophil 13 - 150

Engraved on thick, white wove paper; dark carmine red (No. 6) or medium wove, dull rose or salmon (No. 11)

Engraved on medium thick, yellowish-white wove paper; dark vermilion red, sometimes chemically changed by Taylor to brown-red

Engraved on very thick, hard, yellowish toned white wove paper; bright vermilion, bright orange-vermilion

Lithographed on medium white wove paper

Lithographed on white wove paper varying from medium to thick

Lithographed on medium pale pink wove paper. This paper and the lithography give away the forgery


6-300 POSTAGE-1 A
Taylor 13c-300 POSTAGE B
Taylor 2nd-300 POSTAGE C
Taylor 13c litho - 300 top panel D
Spiro 13c-300 POSTAGE-1 E
Prophil 13c - 300 postage F

Letters in POSTAGE were retouched in the Taylor forgery. The effect is noticeable easily in the "S" and "A." In the genuine stamps (type A in the illustrations), the "S" has a long, narrow top and the "A" has a narrow left leg and short cross bar. These letters are fatter in the Taylor forgery (Types B, D and D). In C, the 2nd Taylor printing, the background color of the POSTAGE panel is pale by comparison. This panel is the best executed part of the Spiro Brothers forgery (type E) but still the differences are easily noticeable (for example, the spacing between the "S" and "T" is wider in the Spiro and the "G" looks strange. ProPhil Forum (type F) used an original stamp as a model for photolithography so the image appears the same.

Right side panel


6-300 R side panel


Taylor 1st 13c-300 R side panel


Taylor 2nd-300 Rside panel


Taylor 13c litho - 300 right side


Spiro 13c-right panel


Prophil 13c - 300 Rside panel

The genuine stamp (type A) has a doubled outer frame line. So does the ProPhil Forum forgery (type F). The others have a single outer frame line.

"S" "8" in right side panel


6-600 R side panel S-8


Taylor 1st 13c-600 S 8


Taylor 2nd-600 S-8


Taylor 13c litho S 8


Spiro 13c- S 8 600


Prophil 13c - S 8 600

There is a dash between the "S" and the "8" in the right side panel of the genuine stamp. In the Taylor first printing (type B), there is a blank space. There is a dot in the Taylor second printing (type C) and in the Taylor lithograph (type D). The Spiro forgery (type E) has a blank space. The ProPhil Forum forgery has a dash.

Upper right 13 box


6-300 UR13


Taylor 1st 13c-300 UR 13 box


Taylor 2nd-300 UR 13 box


Taylor 13c litho UR13


Spiro 13c-UR13


Prophil 13c - 300 UR13

The 1 and 3 are level in the genuine stamp (type A), but in all of the Taylor types (types B, C and D), the 3 is dropped and tilted. Both the Spiro (type E) and ProPhil Forum (type F) have level numbers.

Left side panel


6-300 L side panel


Taylor 1st 13c-300 L side panel


Taylor 2nd-300 Lside panel


Taylor 13c litho - 300 L panel


Spiro 13c-left panel


Prophil 13c - 300 Lside panel

In the genuine stamp (type A), the 5 has a curved flag and the line beneath the upper right 13 box is thick and appears doubled. All of the Taylor types (types B, C and D) have a straight flag and the line beneath the upper right 13 box is single. Spiro (type E) made a hash of the left side panel, misspelling "HAWAIIAN" and omitting the dash between the "N" and the "5." ProPhil Forum (type F) is true to the original.


A. 6-300 face
B. Taylor 1st 13c-300 face
C. Taylor 2nd-300 face
D. Taylor 13c litho - 300 face
E. Spiro 13c-300 face uncanceled
F. Prophil 13c - 300 face

King Kamehameha III has a short, unsmiling mouth and a vacant expression in the eyes in the genuine stamp (type A). For Taylor (types B, C and D), the mouth and eyes were re-touched so the king has a smirk and more expressive eyes. Spiro's king (type E) has a more haggard look, the hair is shorter and the mouth is puckered. ProPhil Forum (type F) reverts to the original.


A. 6-300 breast

B. Taylor 1st 13c-300 breast
C. Taylor 2nd-300 breast
D. Taylor 13c litho - 300 breast
E. Spiro 13c-300 breast uncanceled
F. Prophil 13c - 300 breast

Very little re-touching was done to the breast area in the Taylor forgeries so the genuine, the Taylor and the ProPhil Forum (types A, B, C, D and F) differ very little. Spiro (type E) got the curve of the tunic's center line and leaf ornaments wrong and it is hard to pick out the buttons.

Left shoulder


6-300 LLshlderpanel


Taylor 1st 13c-300 L shldr


Taylor 2nd-300 Lshldr


Taylor 13c litho L shldr


Spiro 13c-Lshldrpanel


Prophil 13c - 300 Lshldr

In the genuine stamp (type A), the left strand is crooked and there is a narrow line on top of epaulet. Taylor's forgeries (types B, C and D) have a fatter line at the top of the epaulet. Spiro (type E) made a straight left strand and the line at the top of the epaulet is tilted at the wrong angle. ProPhil Forum (type F) is the same as the original.

Bottom panel

A. 6-300 btmpanel

B. Taylor 1st 13c-300 btm panel
C. Taylor 2nd-300 btm panel
D. Taylor 13c litho - 300 btm panel
E. Spiro 13c-btm panel
F. Prophil 13c - 300 btm panel

There is a period after "Cts." in the genuine stamp (type A). Taylor's forgeries all have no period after "Cts" and several letters are different. Importantly, the vertical dividers stop short of the bottom vignette frame line, an "improvement" Dearborn made in anticipation of using the 13 die to make a die for the 5 value. Spiro (type E), did a better job on this part than in the other parts, staying closer to the genuine and the differences are minor. ProPhil Forum (type F) is true to the genuine.

Lower left 13 box


6-300 13


Taylor 1st 13c-300 LL 13 box


Taylor 2nd-300 LL 13 box


Taylor 13c litho LL13 box


Spiro 13c-LL13 box


Prophil 13c - 300 LL13 box

In the genuine stamp (type A), each 1 and 3 are different for each plate position and every 3 has a tail, but some are faint. For the Taylor forgeries, the 1 and 3 are all the same and there is no tail on the 3. In the Spiro forgery, the "3" is slightly dropped.

The 5 Value

Only the Spiro Brothers forgery presents any risk of confusion and even it is a far cry from the genuine stamp:

A. Genuine 5

B. Spiro Brothers forgery

10 Spiro 5

Engraved on thick white wove paper (No. 5), medium white wove paper (No. 10), thin white wove paper (No. 8) or thin bluish paper (No. 9)

Lithographed on medium thick white wove paper

upper panel detail

A. 10-300 right 5 POSTAGE

B. Spiro 5c-300 POSTAGE

Differences between type A (the genuine stamp) and type B (the Spiro forgery) are fairly clear and apparent, particularly in the letters where none of the letters in the Spiro forgery matches the genuine. In particular, the letters "P" and "G" are quite different. Also, the colored center of the "O" is very different.

upper right "5" detail

A. 10-300 right 5

B. Spiro 5c-300 right 5

Notice the exaggerated curve of the flag in the Spiro forgery (type B). Also, in the genuine stamp (type A) there is a blue colored dot against the left frame line of the box, parallel to the mid-point of the straight shaft on the "5" and this dot is missing from the Spiro forgery.

face detail

A. 10-300 face

B. Spiro 5c-300 face

Spiro (type B) made a bad hash of the face. There is little resemblance to the aristocratic face engraved by Dearborn (type A).

breast detail

A. 10-300 breast

B. Spiro 5c-300 breast

Notice the exaggerated curve in the center line of the tunic in Spiro's forgery (type B). Also, Spiro placed five buttons on the left side of the tunic where Dearborn (type A) put six for the genuine stamp.

left shoulder detail

A. 10-300 Lshldrpanel

B. Spiro 5c-300 Lshldrcorner

The right curving epaulet strands and large colored mark at the top of the epaulet distinguish the Spiro (type B) from the forgery (type A).

bottom panel detail

A. 10-300 btm panel

B. Spiro 5c-300 btmpanel

Lots of things are different. The Spiro portrait vignette (type B) fails to meet the bottom frame line of the vignette, there is an outward curve at the bottom of the left vignette frame line, the two dots dropping from the bottom vignette frame line in the genuine (type A) are missing in the Spiro. These differences clearly separate the Spiro forgeries from genuine stamps.

Other forgeries of the Boston Engraved Issue exist. None of the others should cause confusion with the genuine stamps. Probably the most common forgery of this issue one is likely to encounter is the facsimile of the 5 made by J. Walter Scott. It is unlikely Scott ever intended the stamp to pass as genuine and, indeed, it was produced in a strip with facsimiles of the Missionary stamps. This forgery served as the image in Scott Catalogue until about 1990. In addition to Scott's forgery, other, even less convincing, forgeries were produced. Here is the Scott forgery along with the crude product of an unknown forger:

Scott's 5 Forgery

Crude 5 Forgery (unidentified faker)

Scott 5c 5c forgery-300

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