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::: Bank Note Forgeries :::

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48 Sperati used 200

Fake Scott No. 48

Two kinds of forgeries involving the Bank Note Issue have been made. First there are the attempts to copy genuine stamps. Second, there are the efforts to create an imperforate or bisect varieties from a genuine stamp.


Only Sperati's forgery of the 50¢ Scott No. 48 will cause anyone confusion among the various forgeries attempting to copy genuine Bank Note Issue stamps. Sperati's worldwide forgeries have been studied extensively. His "trademark" technique was to photograph a high value genuine stamp. Then, using chemicals, he would remove the stamp ink from a used low value stamp but leave the postmark. Finally, he lithographed an image of the high value stamp onto the genuine paper. Fortunately, his only venture into Hawaiian Bank Notes was No. 48, the 50¢ value. Except for three lithograph flaws, the visible differences between lithographed and engraved products and a tell-tale grayness of the paper, his imitation is excellent.

Sperati's 50¢ Forgery

48 Sperati used 200

"Used" Sperati Forgery,
signed by him on the back.
This forgery was reproduced on a genuine
stamp with a genuine postmark

48 Sperati proof

"Proof" impression of the Sperati forgery, signed by Sperati

Scott 48

Genuine Scott No. 48

48 Sperati print

Print from Sperati's negative of the 50¢ stamp

48 Sperati print - A - 1200

48 Sperati print - A - 600

Note the break in the left leg of the "A" seen in two resolutions, one lower than the other. This flaw is common to all Sperati prints of this forgery.

48 Sperati proof A

The left leg of the "A" shows on the finished product. Compare this "A" to the genuine, below

48 genuine A 600
48 Sperati proof L5


48 Sperati proof R5


Two other flaws appear in the frame at the top of the forgery. Above the left "5" is a break in the frame and above the right "5" there is a short line extending up from the frame line. These flaws are not found in the genuine stamp, shown below.

48 genuine L5 1200


48 genuine R5 1200


48 Sperati used back

Back of the "used" Sperati shows a gray appearance from the chemical alteration. Note Sperati's signature. Compare the grayness to the genuine, below.

48 genuine back 150

Gallery of Other Forgeries

Most other forgeries of the Bank Note Issue are from illustrations used in stamp albums or philatelic journals and appear to be based on woodcut dies and lithographed in colors intended to resemble the genuine stamp. "Cancels" are seen frequently. Some are perforated and others are imperf. Frame lines suggest there may have been multiple images entered on a small stone but I have not seen multiples of these forgeries. Spiro Brothers are often credited with many of these fakes.

Frame lines Spiro 30

Frame lines on a Spiro forgery

Forging the Bank Note Issue seems to have diminished after the 1871 Issue (Scott Nos. 30, 33 and 34). Stamps starting with the 1875 Issue (Scott Nos. 35 and 36) were available to collectors in larger quantities and distributed more quickly and widely to European collectors who clamored for worldwide new issues. Spiro and others could sell facsimiles so long as genuine stamps were unavailable cheaply but they could not compete with genuine stamps. Nonetheless, some of the later issues were faked. Sperati's fakes of the high value 50¢ stamp were placed on low value stamps so his cost left plenty of room for profit.

Forgeries of Scott Nos. 30-34

Scott 30
30 Spiro

Scott No. 30 and forgery

31a 200
31 Spiro

Scott No. 31a and forgery

Scott 32
32 Spiro - 1

Scott No. 32 and forgery

32 unknown - 1
32 unknown

These two may have emanated from someone other than Spiro

Scott 33
33 unknown

Scott No. 33 and forgery

33 unknown - 1
33 unknown -2 brown

These two were not Spiro products.
The right example was an event favor.

34 Spiro

Scott No. 34 and forgery

Forgeries of Later Issues

Scott 46
46 unknown

Scott No. 46 and forgery

Scott 49
49 Illustration

Scott No. 49 and forgery

A good guide to the Bank Note forgeries is:

Earée, Rev. R. B., Album Weeds, How to Detect Forged Stamps, First Edition, "Sandwich Islands", pgs. 412-425, Stanley Gibbons & Co., London, 1882; reprinted as "Genuine and Counterfeit Stamps of the Sandwich Islands" at The American Philatelist, Vol. II, No. 1, p. 1-5, Oct. 10, 1887; No. 2, p. 15-18, Nov. 10, 1887, with letters from readers at No. 3, p. 44, 46-47, Dec. 10, 1887; Second Edition, "Sandwich Islands", p. 555-568, Stanley Gibbons & Co., London, 1892; Third Edition, "Hawaii", pgs. 461-491, Stanley Gibbons & Co., London, 1906-1907, reprinted at Weekly Philatelic Gossip, October-November, 1933 and by the Gossip as a pamphlet; reprinted in several paperbound volumes, Part III, "Hawaii," p. 461-491, Canberra.


Fake Imperfs

Some people succumb to the temptation to improve the value of an ordinary stamp by trying to create a "variety." Finding jumbo margin copies of a stamp, particularly Scott Nos. 35, 38 and 43 with straight edges, is fairly easy. Trimming the margins just inside the perforations makes a nice "imperforate" stamp. Whether these fakes are created for fun or profit is unimportant because they were made and probably continue to be made and find their way into the market. Imperforate fakes have been reported made from Scott Nos. 31, 33, 35, 38, 39 and 43. They could exist in any one of the Bank Note stamps.

43 imperf

Fake Scott No. 43 "Imperf"

Are there any genuine imperforate Bank Note stamps? Maybe. Irrefutable evidence proves imperforate stamps of the 6¢ stamp, Scott No. 33, once existed, but all of the other reported imperforate Bank Notes have proven to be either fakes or proofs.

When T. G. Thrum's Collection was sold to the Bishop Museum in 1899, descriptions of the collection mentioned an imperforate pair of Scott No. 33. My good friend and mentor Wally Beardsley was fortunate to gain access to this collection and reported the pair was still in the collection in the mid 1980's. Wally identified the pair as the blue-green shade, Scott No. 33a, printed in 1878. Wally's discovery of the shade is surprising because an imperforate sheet was discovered in Hawaii in 1876. Mail originating from Lahaina was franked with imperforate stamps and this aberration was noted at the Honolulu Post Office. The Postmaster General had the balance of the sheet returned to Honolulu, suspecting it was a forgery. After deciding it was genuine, he is said to have distributed examples to friends. Correspondence corroborating discovery of the sheet and demanding the balance be returned to Honolulu is among the Postmaster General letter books in the Archives of Hawaii.

Thus, an imperforate sheet of Scott No. 33 was discovered in 1876, some of the stamps from that sheet were sold at the Lahaina post office (and used, presumably) and some were recovered by the PMG. But where are they now? Did PMG Brickwood in fact distribute them to friends (Brickwood was fairly strict on postal matters so it would have been unlike him) or did he destroy the remainder? If they were discovered in 1876, how can the Thrum example in the blue green shade of 1878 be genuine? Matching the blue green shade to the 1878 printing is corroborated on surviving covers showing the shade showed up in 1878. Is the Thrum pair a proof? The reputed Scott No. 31a imperforate turned out to be a proof. The Advertiser Sale included a reputed pair (shown in black and white) and two reputed imperforate used singles of Scott No. 33. One single, the yellow-green, was more convincing to me than the blue green, but I refused to certify either one. I have not examined the pair. Until I see an example I can accept with confidence, the question will remain unanswered for me. If any of the 6¢ stamps from the proof Brickwood found in 1876 have survived, it may be difficult to prove their origin.

The most comprehensive study of "imperforate" Bank Note stamps is:

Beardsley, Wallace R., "Hawaiian Headache: Is This Stamp A Genuine Imperf", The Philatelic Foundation Bulletin, Vol. VII, No. 2, July-December, 1989, p. 3-7; Vol. VIII, No. 1, January-March, 1990, p. 3-6; reprinted at Opinions VI, p. 103-112, The Philatelic Foundation, New York, 1992.

Fake Bisect Stamps

Another trick of fakers was to cut a genuine stamp in half, making a purported "bisect." Only one genuine bisect stamp was ever authorized. In 1870, fearful of running out of 2¢ stamps, the Post Office authorized use of a 5¢ stamp (Scott 32) and a 2¢ stamp (Scott 31a) cut in half to make the 6¢ Convention Period rate effective July 1, 1870. New 6¢ stamps (Scott 33) were issued February 11, 1871. These bisects of Scott No. 31a are genuine, if found on a cover or on a large enough piece to show a genuine use in the second half of 1870 or the first quarter of 1871 (usages are recorded from August 25, 1870 to March 2, 1871). See Hawaiian Stamps on Foreign Mail In the Convention Period.

All of the other purported bisects are fakes. Most of these fakes are seen on pieces of paper cut square and postmarked in Central Maui or on Kauai. They are seen cut h orizontally, vertically and diagonally. Postmarks are recorded on Scott Nos. 35 (postmarked with Kahului 238.42), 38 (postmarked with Kealakekua 282.016), 43 (postmarked with Waimea, Kauai 253.61), 44 (postmarked with Kahului 281.01 I) and 52 (postmarked with Kahului 281.01 I). These cut square bisects probably were canceled and handed back to their creators. I have even found one "bisect" of Scott No. 52 postmarked before the stamp was issued!

52 bisect 8-15-91

August 15, 1891 postmark on
stamp issued November 7, 1891

Bisects of Scott Nos. 52 and 57 are known used on full covers apparently allowed to pay for carrying a letter locally. See, Philatelic Domestic Covers. Presumably, some local postmasters (Spreckelsville, Maui, is one place noted) cooperated to ignore binding postal regulations. Query: does an illegitimate use become legitimate if a local postmaster allowed it in direct violation of postal regulations. These covers tend to be classed as philatelic covers.

For a short study on these bisects, see:

Hogan, Col. Pat, "The Hawaii Bisects", Po'Oleka O Hawaii, No. 21, p. 7-8, Oct., 1980.

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