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::: NUMERAL ISSUE - Sperati Numeral Forgeries :::

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Sperati 1 4-A-V - 300

"Used" Sperati reproduction of Scott 15, Plate 4-A-V

Sperati produced facsimiles using photolithography printing from negatives of genuine stamps. His reproductions thus copy the characteristics of genuine stamps. Many Sperati imitations in the marketplace bear a purple handstamp on the back, put there by the British Philatelic Association after it bought his stock in 1953. Some imitations have his signature in light pencil on the back. Imitations produced in his so-called "die proof" format have extremely wide margins and bear his penciled signature in the margin. A few of his imitations have a large advertising yellow handstamp Sperati placed there. However, many Sperati forgeries in the marketplace have no marking to indicate their origin - either they are cut down from die proofs or their owner removed Sperati's lightly penciled signature or they were made and sold without any marking and before the BPA acquired Sperati's stock. For more information on Sperati's imitations of Numerals, see "Pigs With Wings" by Fred Gregory, The Collectors Club Philatelist, Vol. 84, No. 5 (September-October, 2005) and No. 6 (November-December, 2005).

Sperati 5c Inter - back

Back of a Sperati 5 forgery showing a BPA mark

Sperati 1 proof back
Back side of the "die proof" forgery showing Sperati's own stamp in yellow and the British Philatelic Association stamp in purple.
Sperati 1 11-A-VIII sig-600
Sperati's signature
Sperati 11-A-VIII 1200 die proof
Sperati "die proof" of Plate 11-A-VIII

The challenge is to identify correctly a Sperati "reproduction" (narrow margins comparable to a genuine stamp) in either "used" or "unused" form and having no marking identifying the source as Sperati. In these cases, collectors can be fooled easily. Included in the BPA's 1953 purchase were negatives of ten Numeral stamps. Forgeries have been recorded for eight of the ten Numeral positions represented by the negatives. Fortunately the negatives allow us to narrow the field of suspicion to just ten of the 250 or more Numeral positions recorded by Westerberg.

Sperati print-1
Print from negative used by Sperati to produce forgeries of Plate 10-A-VIII. No forgery of Plate 10-A-VIII (Scott No. 26) has been recorded.

The essential test is to determine whether the example being discovered was produced by loose printer's type on letter press. This test is best performed by observing the back of the item being examined. A type-set Numeral will almost always show a "bite" on the back of the stamp where the type pressed into the paper. A lithograph will have no "bite" but instead will be utterly flat. Both of the following images were taken of the backs from identical areas of the printed stamp.

Sperati 12-A-VIII 1200 back detail
Detail of back of Sperati forgery of 5 Scott No. 22 showing absence of bite marks
Detail of bite mark on genuine type-set Numeral

From the front, a lithograph has a flat appearance but a type-set stamp will be slightly three dimensional.

A common test of a lithograph is the absence of ridge lines at the edges of type pieces. This test is at best marginal for Sperati reproductions because his negatives reproduced the ridge lines.

Sperati 1 11-A-VIII Tbatnum

Note the edge lines in this detail image of the large numeral of a Sperati counterfeit 11-A-VIII

A useless method for identifying Sperati imitations is to identify the specific plating characteristics described by Westerberg. No other forger replicated the plating characteristics but in Sperati's case, his forgeries accurately reproduce those characteristics.

Plate 11-A-VIII large numeral
Sperati 1 11-A-VIII large numeral

Genuine large numeral of Plate 11-A-VIII (left image) compared to Sperati forgery (right image)

Plate 11-A-VIII Tpanel 600
Sperati 1 11-A-VIII Tpanel

Top panel of genuine (left image) and Sperati (right image)

Plate 11-A-VIII Bpanel 600
Sperati 1 11-A-VIII Bpanel

Bottom panel of genuine (left image and Sperati (right image)

Sperati 1 4-A-V - 300
A "used" 1 Sperati forgery with forged manuscript pen "cancels." This forgery imitates Scott No. 15, Plate 4-A-V.
Sperati 5
A Sperati forgery of the 5 Scott No. 21, Plate 9-A-1. There is no marking on the back to identify it as a forgery. The absence of bite marks proves it is a Sperati but it will fool all but the most advanced specialists. The ink color is a tad too dark.
Sperati 5 Inter
Sperati's 5 "INTERISLAND" forgery of Scott No. 22, Plate 12-A-VIII. The paper color is a little lighter blue than what is seen in genuine stamps.


Sperati made negatives of ten of the 250 Numeral types identified by Westerberg and reproductions are known from eight of the ten. The ten types are:

  • Plate 4-A-V; the 1 Scott No. 15

  • Plate 4-A-VII; the 1 Scott No. 15

  • Plate 5-A-III; the 2 Scott No. 18

  • Plate 5-C-VI; the 2 Scott No. 20

  • Plate 7-A-IV; the 2 Scott No. 24 - the forgery is on wove paper

  • Plate 8-A-VI; the 1 Scott No. 23 - the forgery is on wove paper

  • Plate 9-A-I; the 5 Scott No. 21

  • Plate 10-A-VIII; the 2 Scott No. 26, "INTERISLAND"

  • Plate 11-A-VIII; the 1 Scott No. 25, "INTERISLAND"

  • Plate 12-A-VIII; the 5 Scott No. 22, "INTERISLAND"

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