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Scott 69 strip of 5-1 - 100

Fake overprint of Scott No. 69

From the day the Provisional Government overprints were released to the public on May 20, 1893, collectors created a buying frenzy. Forgers were quick to enter the scene. Some forgeries are easy to notice but others are quite good. The identity of forgers of this issue has been elusive. Dealers would accuse other dealers of generating them, perhaps out of competitive jealousy. Stories of overprint plates being discovered here or there attracted attention in the philatelic press of the day. However, no solid evidence pins responsibility for any of these forgeries on anyone. Personally, I suspect Brewster Kenyon of complicity in making at least some of them. He produced an early and well known treatise on Hawaiian stamps, but also was a recognized philatelic rogue who forged stamps of several countries.

Meyer and Harris lists overprint forgeries from number 501 to 532 in their detailed list. I have not seen them all.

A quick key to a forgery lies in the first "i" of the word "Provisional." To create enough space between the "i" and the "s" the printer knocked off the right foot of each "i" to make the genuine overprints. Forgers overlooked this detail. Meyer and Harris record a forgery of Scott No. 65 (MH #532 in the list of forgeries) with a correct defective "i" on the old orange stamps (Scott No. 31a). I have not seen this forgery. A couple of easy marks of it are described: the period is half-way up the vertical stroke of the "T" and the "3" is aligned with the right end of the top stroke of the "T". If anyone has an example of this forgery, please send me an image or an E-mail ( A participant on this site sent me an image of a different fake Scott No. 65 with a broken first "i" and it is imaged below. Otherwise, all of the forgeries I have seen have the incorrect full foot on the first "i".

Proof 1st pntg detail 48i 600
Scott 53 msg 3 i 1200

genuine "i" from
proof of first printing

"i" from fake of
Scott No. 53

Another mistake of the forgers was their failure to notice the alignment of rows within the overprint itself. In the genuine overprint frame, "1893" is placed further to the right in each column. This alignment in more or less identical fashion carried through each of the ten rows of stamps. Thus, in the left column, "1893" is beneath the center of the "G" but in the right column, "1893" is beneath the gap between the "G" and the "O." Forgers made their rows uniform throughout the sheets they produced. This test is useful if you are examining a horizontal multiple.

Proof 1st pntg detail 1 150

Horizontal row from proof of first printing
Note how "1893" shifts to the right in relation to "GOVT."

Scott 69 strip of 5 detail - 150

Strip of 5 of a fake overprint of Scott No. 69
Note "1893" is always in the same place in relation to "GOVT."

Genuine overprints were produced on a press using movable type. As with the Numeral issue, movable type made "bite" marks in the paper so indentations from the type can be noticed on the back of a genuine stamp. Because of the thickness of the paper, these indentations can sometimes be hard to detect. Also, the presence of bite marks is not a sure sign of a genuine overprint because some fakes were produced by typography - whether movable type or a cast is uncertain - leaving bite marks.

bite 600

Back showing bite marks
of a genuine overprint


bite detail 1200

Other letters or numbers often were misshapen. Frequently the "P," "al," "G," "O," "T," "8" and "9" are the wrong shapes. For comparisons, here are examples of these letters and numbers from the genuine proof sheet. It is important to recognize there are minor variations among the genuine stamps because movable type was used. However, the misshapen forgeries fail to match a genuine stamp from any position. For comparison, here are details of the various characters in a genuine overprint.

Proof 4th pntg- 41-300

Proof impression
of Position 41
4th printing

Character details of Position 41, 4th printing:

Proof 4th pntg- 41Pro-600
Proof 4th pntg- 41visi-600
Proof 4th pntg- 41onal-600
Proof 4th pntg- 41GOVT-600
Proof 4th pntg- 41G-1200
Proof 4th pntg- 41O-1200
Proof 4th pntg- 41V-1200
Proof 4th pntg- 41T.-1200
Proof 4th pntg- 411893-600
Proof 4th pntg- 411-1200
Proof 4th pntg- 418-1200
Proof 4th pntg- 419-1200
Proof 4th pntg- 413-1200

The word "Provisional" should measure just about 17mm. "GOVT." measures almost 9mm. "1893" measures right at 6mm. Top to bottom (dots above the "i's" to beneath "1893") the overprint measures 8mm. Significant variations (1mm or more) from these measurements will raise a red flag calling for close inspection.


London Electrotypes:

So-called London Forgeries or London Electrotypes came to light by August, 1894, when E. W. Holdsworth wrote about them in Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal. Whether they actually emanated in London was never proven. Some writers claimed they were from the "West" and an advertisement by Brewster Kenyon (a proven faker) in Mekeel's Weekly Stamp News in December, 1893 described several "varieties" known only among the London Forgeries. In any event, the London Forgeries were all of Scott No. 53 and are quite common today. C. W. Richards defaced many of them with a star paper punch.

Scott 53 no period shade

Detail from a large block of "no period" forgeries of Scott No. 53.
The star punch used by Richards is seen here.
Whether by accident or intent, fading caused some stamps to turn "pale mauve."
Genuine overprints on "pale mauve" stamps may have resulted from fading.

MH #501

Scott 53 no per 150

No period; the genuine no period is found only in position 6 and these stamps are positions 11 and 16 on the sheet

MH #502

Scott 53 invert 150

Bogus inverted overprint

MH #504

Scott 53 dble 150

Bogus double overprint, both heavy

Scott 53 dble i 1200

Detail "i":

MH #505

Scott 53 dble one weaker

Double overprint, one weak and without period; the strength of the weak overprint is much stronger than a genuine Scott No. 53f (See Provisional Government - Printers Errors)

MH #506

Scott 53 msg 93 strip

Strip of three with bogus missing "93"; note the "18" is stationary in relation to "GOVT."

MH #507

Scott 53 msg 3 150

Missing "3"


Scott 53 msg 3 detail 600

In the genuine missing "3" the top of the "9" failed to print (See Provisional Government - Loose Type Flaws)


Scott 53 invert detail 600

The ink is too red in these fakes

Scott 53 msg 93 back

Back of a London Forgery showing counterfeit marks and Richards's star punch; the London Forgeries have no bite marks

Scott 53 msg 93 i 1200

The first "i" always has a full right foot

Other Forgeries:

The following image illustrates a detail from a fake No. 65 with a broken first "i" with a rather modern looking appearance on Scott No. 31a:


Some of these forgeries are more dangerous than others, but all have the full foot on the "i."

Missing period
Scott No. 53b

Scott 53 unka 150


Scott 53 unka i 1200

Scott 53 unka GOVT 600

Bogus missing period for Scott No. 55

Scott 55 150


Scott 55 detail 300

Scott No. 56

Scott 56 150


Scott 56 visi 600

Scott No. 61

Scott 61 detail 300


Scott 61 detail-1 600

Scott No. 61B

Scott 61B 300


Scott 61B is 1200

Scott No. 63

Scott 63 - 150

This overprint was made with a rubber stamp

Scott No. 65

Scott 65 300


Scott 65 i 1200

Scott 65 period 1200

Scott No. 65b
MH #515
Missing period

Scott 65-1 300

The period ended up after 1893!

Scott No. 65b
MH #515
Missing period

Scott 65-2 detail 600

Detail of a different example

Scott No. 66

Scott 66 150


Scott 66

Bogus Scott No. 66 inverted

Scott 66 invert 150

Scott No. 66

Scott 66-3 150

Another example

Scott 66-3 P 1200

Scott No. 66d

Scott 66 dble detail 300


Scott 66 dble detail 600

Scott No. 66C

Scott 66C detail 150


Scott 66C visi 600

Scott 66C onal 600

Note the strange "l" at the end of "Provisional"

Scott No. 68

Scott 68 - 150


Scott 68 visi 600

Scott No. 69

Scott 69 detail from 5 - 300


Scott 69 visi from 5 - 600

Scott No. 69
Other Examples

Scott 69 detail from 5 - 1 300

Scott 69 visi from 5 - 1 600

Scott No. 71g
Pair, one with and one without overprint

Scott 71 1wopnt 150


Scott 71 1wopnt visi 600

Scott 71 1wopnt GOVT. 600

Scott No. 71d
Double overprint, both heavy

Scott 71 dble - 300


Scott 71 dble detail 600

Study 1: Printing and Printing States

Study 2: Quantities

Study 3: Loose Type Flaws

Study 4: Printer's Errors - Inverts and Doubles

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