The very first Barbados stamp was issued in 1852 and fairly shortly afterwards the first Barbados stamp forgery appeared. The first stamp was a green halfpenny stamp (SG1 and SG2) and was in use for around four years. Sometime during the period 1852-1856 forgeries started to appear and these continued up until the introduction of better perforating techniques in the 1870’s.
The bulk of the forgeries that appear on the market are imperforate Barbados stamps and as such that places them in the range of stamps produced and used between 1852 and 1860. The most forged items appear to be the numbers SG1-SG12a, primarily because they are the early imperforate range.
As soon as perforations were introduced it seems to act as a disincentive for forgers as it added another step to the forging process and as such probably greatly reduced the likely profit margin.
Over the years we have seen a great many forgeries and the majority appear to be these early stamps. As soon as the printing contract for Barbados stamps changed from Perkins Bacon to De La Rue, and the issue in 1875 of the first De La Rue stamps, the forgeries appear to peter out.
It is fairly straightforward to differentiate between the Perkins Bacon and De La Rue printings, mainly because the latter are far crisper, sharper and clearer. Perhaps this accuracy of printing was enough to deter forgers?
How to spot a Barbados Stamp forgery
This might sound strange but the best way to spot a fake is gut feeling. Sometimes when you look at a stamp something just doesn’t feel right and over the years this intuitive feel is generally good enough to spot the forgeries.
The next thing to look for is the clarity of the printing. Almost invariably the fakes are either vague and fuzzy or too sharp. The forgers seemed to have difficulty reproducing the exact graininess of the early Perkins Bacon stamps and generally went one way or the other.
The third clue is often the colours. Most likely the colour is all wrong and in some cases wildly out.
Finally the detail will be wrong. Whilst they have all the right elements roughly in the right order, when you examine the majority of the fakes under a magnifying glass they are typically lacking in some of the finer detail.
Remember that these stamps were originally line engraved and almost all of the forgeries are printed using a photogravure or lithographic process.
Fake Barbados stamps
The following are the stamps that have arrived over the years, sometimes billed as fakes and sometimes as oddities in auction lots, mis identified or simply marked as unknown.
Below are the real stamps and the fake stamps side by side so you can see the difference yourself.
This pair are clearly not the same with the forgery displaying most of the characteristics outlined above. On top of these there is also the cancel which is definitely wrong. The lines of the ‘bootheel’ cancellation should be straight and the ones at the top of this cancel are clearly not.
As with the first pair these are clearly different but in addition with this forged stamp the cancellation is wrong for the period. Barbados Britannia’s almost invariably have ‘bootheel’ or parish number cancellations during this period, not circular date stamps. The earliest recorded Circular Date Stamp (CDS) is 1855, three years after this stamp was issued.
Again this forgery could look convincing from a distance but in this detail is is apparent that it is not real. Clearly the forgers efforts improved as time went on and the detail in these stamps are now getting more like the real thing. Just look at the lines in the bales on which Britannia is sitting and the improvement is noticeable between this and the SG2 above.
These three stamps are used examples but the forgery clearly lacks the detail, particularly in the background ‘milled’ effect which is characteristic of these stamps. The one other detail that forgers appeared unable to get right at any point is the star that appears in Britannia’s hat. In all the genuine examples it is clearly visible but in the forgeries it is noticeably absent. This stamp is a target for forgers as a used example like the one on the left currently catalogues at £275. One of these forgeries is all the more wrong as it is clearly out of proportion; they couldn’t even get the measurements right!
Genuinely used on the left, you can see a great example of one of the early parish cancels with the ‘1’ signifying that it came from the GPO in Bridgetown in the Parish of St Michael. Again the forgery lacks the detail and actually appears as if Britannia is looking down rather than straight out.
Looking slightly more like it by this stage but again with that looking down characteristic and general fuzziness, the stamp on the right is a more convincing fake but when compared to the real thing clearly wrong. The giveaway as always is the star on the cap which is noticeably absent on the fake. As an additional indicator the paper is also the wrong colour.
Various unspecified forged Barbados stamps
Sometimes it is hard to see what the forgers were trying to copy and all of the following fall into that category.
If you feel that you are looking at a stamp and it might be forged then there is a fabulous resource at Stamp Forgeries of the World where you can compare your stamp to forged items and see whether you have the genuine article or not.
The good news however is that the majority of stamps out there are genuine and in many cases not worth forging, but early stamps from many countries, particularly where the catalogue value is in the hundreds of pounds, are always a target for the forgers.