This page last updated: 9 September 2021

::: Numeral Forgeries :::

Back to Numeral Issue.

1¢ photo
Plate 6-A-VII - 300

Fake Scott No. 19
Plate 6-A-VII

Genuine Scott No. 19
Plate 6-A-VII

Fakers "appreciated" Hawaiian Numerals almost from the time these stamps first appeared. Their home-made, simple design seemed easy to copy. Thus, we are "blessed" with a variety of counterfeits and one entirely bogus stamp, some dating from the dawn of stamp collecting in the 1860's. Thornton Lewes and Edward L. Pemberton railed against worldwide fakes including Numerals in "Forged Stamps - How To Detect Them," published in Edinburgh in 1863. Pemberton continued his attacks on fakes after Lewes died. He teamed with Rev. R. Briscoe Earée to write a series of articles on fakes entitled "The Spud Papers" for The Philatelist (the Hawaii section appeared in the January, 1873 edition). Earée went on to publish the classic "Album Weeds, How to Detect Forged Stamps," in 1882. Meyer and Harris updated the list of Numeral forgeries in 1948 (see list starting at page 387 of Meyer and Harris) but even that list is now known to be incomplete. For me, Meyer and Harris is the most useful of the prior lists.

Fortunately, genuine Numerals prove quite difficult to copy because each of the ten plate positions in each of the twenty-five plates has individual characteristics. Most fakers failed to appreciate the distinct typographical marks of a genuine stamp and just copied the general layout and design. Unfortunately, some fakers did replicate genuine stamps by photolithography, photocopying or other photographic reproductions and dangerous forgeries therefore do exist among the weeds.


A genuine Numeral must plate and must be printed by movable type. Take either of these requirements away and you have a fake. For purpose of this discussion, we need to assume a patient (expert services often refer to submitted items as "patients") satisfies basic criteria for paper type, paper color and ink color. Scrutiny is unnecessary to reject a patient printed on photographic paper, printed in green ink or printed in black ink on blue paper. Similarly, a 5¢ value printed on laid paper can be rejected summarily. Where a patient gets past satisfying basic criteria and seems "good" it must plate and it must be printed from movable type.

Plating a Numeral is discussed at Plating Study. If you are unfamiliar with how to recognize a stamp type made from a genuine cliché, please review Step A on the Plating Study page (or the illustrations at Westerberg, pages 12-13) before continuing. When a patient fails to match one of the sixteen distinct stamp types it is a fake.

Collectors use different tricks to tell whether a stamp was produced by movable type but no single trick does a complete job. These three tests seem to work:

  • Turn the patient over and look for "bite" marks on the back. Relief printing, including movable type, indented the paper. This "bite" is visible on the back of the stamp. Usually, tiny spots of ink exuded through the paper when it was pressed by the type face.

Bite Marks

Bites 1200

Ink spots on the back
of a genuine Numeral where
ink exuded through the paper at a bite mark
made when the stamp was printed

  • If there are bite marks, study the face of the patient and look for edge lines at the edges of numbers and letters. Ink forced outward at contact built up around the edges of the type face causing these lines, best seen under magnification.

Edge Lines

Plate 3-C-VIII Tbatnum

Plate 3-C-VIII
Ink is thicker at the edges of the large numeral

  • When a patient passes the first two tests (and plates), study the paper and ink to be comfortable it is genuine. I also review my own reference collection of forgeries and genuine stamps to confirm my opinion.

Most other printing methods produce neither bite marks nor edge lines. Neither test is infallible by itself or even together. For example, edge lines will image in well executed fakes produced by photography or photocopying but these methods produce no bite marks. Indeed, some fakes will pass both tests but fail on the quality of the image. Specifically, printing from any other relief printing process such as a cast can produce "bite" impressions and show edge lines but the printed image lacks the clarity of a genuine Numeral. When a stamp is stuck to something, it may be difficult to examine the back. In those cases, look for edge lines and examine the paper and ink closely. Bite indentations can be seen from the front of a stamp using a stereo microscope. Even under ordinary magnification, a type-set Numeral will seem three dimensional and anything produced by lithography or photocopying will seem flat.

If a stamp plates to a stamp type and was produced by moveable type, it is genuine - or at least I have never identified a fake type-set platable stamp. New technological innovations undoubtedly will only serve to make the job of detecting Numeral forgeries more difficult in the future as better imaging devices are invented. Hopefully new devices to detect forgeries also will be invented.


A. Broken "E" Forgeries: The Spiro Brothers Lithographed Fakes

Most abundant among the forgeries are the so-called "Broken E" fakes with their tell-tale broken top stroke on the "E" in "POSTAGE" in the left panel. Meyer and Harris list these broken "E" fakes as types 101 to 193. Given the abundance of Broken "E" fakes in the market place, they will be addressed first. These fakes are attributed to the Spiro Brothers of Germany (although some say S. Allen Taylor made them) and date to the 1860's and 1870's. Fournier offered some for sale, but whether he produced any from the Spiro stones is unclear. None of the Broken "E" fakes plates to any genuine stamp and as they were lithographed, none have bite marks. No genuine Numeral has a broken "E." If your patient has a broken "E" you need look no further to say it is a fake. They come in values of 1¢, 2¢, 5¢ and a bogus value of 13¢.

1¢ Spiro period bkn E 1200

Broken "E" on a Spiro fake

Click Here for a detail study of the "Broken E" fakes.

B. Forgeries Imitating Genuine Stamp Types:

Using typography as the only tool will fail to detect a forgery imitating a genuine stamp type. Fakes imitating genuine stamp types are the most dangerous counterfeits. Detection of these fakes must rely upon identifying the printing process used to produce them.

1. Sperati Photolithographs

Most dangerous among the Numeral forgeries are those made by photolithography and, in particular, the masterpieces made by Jean Sperati. Fortunately, Sperati fakes command at least as much and sometimes higher prices than the equivalent price for a genuine stamp. Thus, if you get "stuck" with a Sperati, your investment at least is intact. Sperati was a prolific forger of postage stamps in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Because his production technique began with a photograph of a genuine stamp, his fakes match the stamp type for a genuine stamp. Anyone who plates Numerals strictly by typography will be fooled. However, because his fakes were made by lithography, no type "bites" will be found on them. A trained eye can detect subtle differences in paper and also in the ink color of blue inked stamps. The come in 1¢, 2¢ and 5¢ values.

Click Here for images and more detail about Sperati Forgeries.

2. Other Forgeries Imitating Genuine Stamp Types:

In addition to the Sperati Forgeries, I have found other Numeral forgeries matching genuine stamp types. Because these forgeries will "plate" to a genuine stamp, they must be considered more dangerous. Some are better than others.

a. Paid Oval "Used" Forgeries

These two forgeries cause much mischief. The markings look so "good" the problem with the "stamps" might be overlooked. From a typographical examination, one would conclude the stamps are genuine. However, they were produced from a kind of photocopy or photolithograph process. Close inspection reveals them to be clever and quite dangerous fakes. First, there are no type "bites" and their absence should always be cause for alarm. Under magnification, the type impressions are fuzzy and the paper has a strange mottling. The PAID in oval mark is also a forgery. I have found only these two so far and they are unlisted in Meyer and Harris or in any prior literature:

1¢ photo
2¢ photo plate 3-F-VIII

1¢ Fake Type 6-A-VII

2¢ Fake Type 3-F-VIII

Plate 6-A-VII detail

1¢ photo detail 600

Top of large numeral shows a fuzzy impression in the forgery (lower image), compared to the genuine (upper image). Notice the absence of ink edges at the edge of the type impression in the forgery.

Plate 3-C-VIII Tbatnum

2¢ photo plate 3-F-VIII Tbatnum

Fuzzy impression (lower image) compared to sharp impression in the genuine stamp (upper image)

paper UR, genuine 3-F-X

paper UR forged 3-F-VIII

Paper of the forgery (lower image) is mottled where the genuine (upper image) reveals a plain white wove

PAID oval genuine-300


PAID in oval - blue - 2


PAID oval fake-300


PAID oval fake-300-1


The PAID oval of the genuine (left two images) is quite different than the forgery (right two images). The cross-bar of the "A" is one tell tale difference and the letters are cleaner in the forgery.

b. Party Favors:

Hawaiian Numerals were a favorite subject for dinner souvenirs and favors at other philatelic events. Generally, they were lithographed and produced on an incorrect paper to avoid confusion. However, they often reproduce an exact stamp type so it is important to be aware of them. The pair illustrated below is representative of this class of reproduction.

Forged Plate 12-A-VII & IV

Plate 12-A-VII and IV reproductions on cream color paper

c. Fakes Produced From Casts

A copper cast was made of a 2¢ plate from the Fifth Setting. It appears to be a reproduction of Plate 5-C, possibly done as a party favor. It was done from a photograph of a full pane and then a cast was made, probably by electrotype. The facsimiles replicate the stamp types of genuine stamps, but the overall impression is crude compared to a genuine stamp. However, a cast impression makes type bites so the presence of type bites cannot be accepted as positive proof of a genuine stamp.

bkn toe 5-A-IV - 300

Cast impression of the Broken Toe
Fake Plate 5-C-IV

bkn toe 5-A-IV UL 1200
Plate 5-C-IV marks 1200

Detail showing crude impression (left image)
compared to genuine (right image)

C. Dangerous "Non-Platable" Forgeries:

All of the following fakes fail to match any of the stamp types. Using the basic requirements for detecting a forgery, these examples can be rejected without even considering the paper, ink color, type bites, edge lines or other tricks of the trade. Nonetheless, they create confusion because their general appearance "looks" so good. Most have other tell tale imperfections to distinguish them from genuine stamps.

a. 1¢ Vertical Line In Large Numeral
Meyer Harris 221

This forgery (MH type 221) causes much confusion. It should be less troublesome than it is because it fails to plate and was done by lithography. However, the paper is quite similar to a genuine Scott No. 15 and some people are fooled. Paper used was either a thin gray wove (some examples are so thin the paper is said to be pelure), very pale gray wove or a thin bluish gray wove. One key to this forgery is the vertical line almost always showing in the large numeral. Further, the large numeral is noticeably too thin. Also, the small "1" in the bottom panel is unlike any type piece used in the genuine plates. A single pen stroke, or a double pen stroke either parallel lines or a cross, usually is seen on this forgery, again adding to the confusion because it looks "good." Other "cancels" used on this forgery are bogus.

1¢ vert line forgery

1¢ vert line forgery-1

This forgery usually is seen with a single pen mark.

1¢ vert line forgery large 1
1¢ vert line forgery-1 large 1

The large numeral in this forgery has a vertical line but sometimes it is difficult to see.

1¢ vert line forgery-1 Hawaiian
1¢ vert line forgery Hawahan

In the left panel, "HAWAIIAN" is sometimes spelled "HAWAHAN."

1¢ vert line forgery-1 small 1

The small "1" with its elongated and steeply angled serif is unlike any genuine.

1¢ vert line forgery grid

1¢ vert line forgery sq grid

Other cancels noted on this forgery are bogus

1¢ Thin Large Numeral
Meyer Harris 222 or 228

Similar to type 221 and also done by lithography, this forgery has an even thinner large numeral and "HAWAIIAN" is spelled "HAWAHAN." At the bottom right corner, the right vertical frame line extends below the bottom horizontal line. The fake is done in black ink on thin yellowish white wove or light gray wove paper (MH 222) or in blue ink on medium white wove paper (MH 228).

1¢ black forg-4

Black ink (MH 222)

1¢ round grid-1

Blue ink (MH 228) "used"

1¢ black forg-4 HAN

"HAWAIIAN" is spelled "HAWAHAN"

1¢ black forg-4 LR

Lower right corner where vertical frame line extends beneath horizontal line

1¢ black forg-4 T panel

1¢ black forg-4 nt

Lettering is crude

b. 1¢ Outward Pointing Rule Ends
Meyer Harris 224 or 227

Another rather dangerous lithograph (MH type 224) does not plate it so should cause no confusion to those who are careful. However, the paper is gray wove and seems "like" a genuine Scott No. 15 and the typography makes an overall good impression.

Earee 6

Earee 6 no serif

Missing top serif on large numeral, perhaps an effort to imitate Plate 4-B-IV

Earee 6 LETA break

A break is in the inner line of the outer rule above the "L" of "LETA

Earee 6 dot

There is always a dot between the "O" and "S" of "POSTAGE"

Earee 6 used

"Used" with a fake of a mark used by the Kahului Railroad

Earee 6 UL


Earee 6 LL


Earee 6 UR


Earee 6 LR


The lines of the outer rule point outward at the corners

c. 1¢ Crazy R

This black ink lithograph fake on a gray blue wove paper fails to plate and the paper and ink combination is wrong. The lettering is also wrong. Most noticeable are the crazy shape of the "R" in "INTER" and a dot before the "A" in "HAWAIIAN." I am unable to match this example with any Meyer Harris type.

1¢ 3

Black ink

1¢ 3 R

The bottom of the "R" in "INTER" has a crazy shape

1¢ 3 A

There is a dot in front of the "A" of "HAWAIIAN"

1¢ 3 LR

The bottom right corner resembles a type X stamp on casual examination, but does not on close inspection

d. 1¢ Broken T

A rather crude lithograph, in black ink on white wove paper, fails to plate. However, the overall appearance can fool someone into thinking it is a No. 15. A break in the shaft of the "T" in "INTER" is a noticeable flaw. I am unable to match this example with any Meyer Harris type.

1¢ 2

Black ink

1¢ 2 Tpanel

Note the break across the shaft of the "T"

1¢ 2 Rpanel

There is a break in the inner rule beneath the "L"

1¢ 2 large numeral

Poor printing is evident in the large numeral

1¢ 2 Bpanel

Sloppy printing is also evident in the bottom panel

e. 1¢ Small "INTER ISLAND"

Lithographed in a bogus combination of dark blue ink on white wove paper, this forgery has small lettering, particularly noticeable in the words "INTER ISLAND." I am unable to match this example with any Meyer Harris type. The spread out "HAWAIIAN POSTAGE" is reminiscent of a type IX stamp.

1¢ dk blue

Dark blue ink on white wove paper

f. 2¢ Hook Rule Tips

A reasonably close approximation of Scott No. 13 (or No. 17 - take your pick) is identified by the hook ends of the inner rules. The paper is too bluish, but most importantly the patient fails on typography and was printed by lithography. I am unable to match this example with any Meyer Harris type.

2¢ blue period - 300 - 1

Blue ink on bluish paper

2¢ blue period Tpanel 600

"IN" raised in "INTER"

2¢ blue period Bpanel 600

2¢ blue period LL 1200

Inner rules have hook ends

g. 5¢ Fournier

Fournier offered an imitation of a Plate 12 (Scott No. 22) stamp among his facsimiles. It "looks" good and was done by relief printing, so it has bite marks, but fails to plate. The outer rules are too thick, the design is a little shorter (25 mm compared to 26.5 mm for a genuine stamp), the rules are too thick and the lettering is somewhat ragged. The white wove paper can be confused with Scott No. 22b, the paper variety of the genuine stamp.

5¢ Fournier

Fournier's 5¢ "INTERISLAND"

D. Some Others, Not So Dangerous

Other forgeries include some fanciful designs or colors. These forgeries should present no confusion with genuine stamps.

a. One Cent Forgeries

All of the following forgery examples have rather obvious design errors. They all attempt to imitate a stamp from Settings 2, 4, 6 or 8.


1¢ 5

Black ink on gray wove paper; typographed (MH 211)


1¢ 9 blue

Blue ink on white wove paper, engraved


1¢ 1 black
1¢ 1 blue
1¢ 1 orange

Black, blue or orange ink on white or blue-gray wove paper, lithographed; note the odd shape of the small numeral, from a series of 1863 illustrations (MH 225)


1¢ green forg

1¢ green forg detail

Green ink on white horizontally laid paper


1¢ yellow

Black ink on yellow paper; engraved; "HAWAHAN"


1¢ red forg

Red ink on white wove paper, electrotype cast

Two Cents Forgeries


2¢ 9 grey - 300

Black ink on white paper - this forgery has the extended vertical right frame line of the 1¢ MH 222


2¢ square forgery

Black ink on white paper


2¢ 6 blue gray crude

2¢ 6 blue gray crude large numeral

Crude blue-gray and large numeral detail (MH 232); no period after "Cents"


2¢ 7 blue gray flat large numeral

Blue ink on bluish wove paper, flat bottom large numeral, engraved
(MH 204, except MH reports it in black ink on white wove paper)


2¢ greenish blue

Blue onion skin pelure paper; no periods

Another Bogus 13¢

Another example of a 13¢ bogus "numeral," this one produced by someone other than Spiro, has been noted. This one lacks an "s" in "Cents" and imitates the wording of the first eight Plates and has an unbroken "E" at the end of "POSTAGE." Spiro's bogus broken "E" 13¢ shown above imitates the wording of Plate 9. The grid "cancel" is also bogus.

13¢ bogus - used

"Used" no "s" after "Cent"
and UKU LETA is in right panel

Back to Numeral Issue.

Copyright © 1999 - 2021 POST OFFICE IN PARADISE. All rights reserved.