Counterfeit stamps facilitate fraud primarily by inducing purchasers to pay too much for a collectible or investment. Others make or pass counterfeit postage stamps to avoid paying for mail items. With technology that includes sophisticated printers and design apps, scammers can recreate what may seem at first to be authentic pieces. Below are some tips to help you spot a fake stamp.
How to Check for Fake Stamps
1. Proof Read
In some cases, counterfeit postage stamps readily reveal themselves. This is because the perpetrator makes obvious errors. For instance, the year 2015 can appear as 2105. Others display their amateur status as counterfeiters by printing the incorrect postage rate.
2. Check the Colors
Notice the colors when you’re attempting to detect counterfeit stamps. For example, the brightness of the blue on phony American flag 44-cent stamps gives away their nature as fake stamps. The real ones issued by the US Postal Service appear as a darker blue or even in a purple hue.
In 2017, Linns reported that counterfeit “Love Skywriting” stamps glow bright blue when placed under shortwave ultraviolet rays rather than in a light-yellow green. This signals that the counterfeiter used non-tagged paper to print the stamps. The tagging compounds allow the Postal Service to process mail automatically.
3. Examine the Coils
Coil stamps come in a single line rolled into a “coil.” Comparing the size of perforated holes in the coil can help you determine whether you have fake stamps. According to the Philatelic Foundation, “pressure ridges” find themselves on genuine coil stamps because the ridges for the perforations were produced by the government’s printing machines. Edges that show the use of razors, scissors or paper cutters also signal that you may counterfeit stamps.
4. Examine the Adhesive on the Back of the Stamp
In stamps, gum is an adhesive. When you moisten the back of the stamp, it sticks to the envelope.
Regumming is evidence of counterfeit postage stamps. Scammers regum stamps to make them appear more authentic in order to inflate the value. To detect such a stamp, look for texture and dullness. You should notice that the thickness of the stamp is not consistent throughout.
The ability to detect a watermark without special fluid can also tell you that the step has been regummed. Stamps with the original gum have watermarks that can only be noticed by a tray of watermark fluid or another detection method other than the naked eye – but more on that in the next tip:
5. Check for Watermarks
Watermarks are applied to stamps by the maker or issuer indicate their authenticity. You can detect a fake stamp by comparing the watermarks of genuine stamps as depicted in stamp catalogs with any watermark on your stamp. To do so requires the use of watermark fluid or other devices. One such is a dark blue ink filled pouch that you place over the stamp with pressure. With this, you should exercise considerable care so it’s not to get ink on the stamp itself.
This video shows another method of checking the watermark on possible counterfeit stamps:
These represent a sample of ways to spot counterfeit stamps. To avoid unwittingly coming into fake ones if you’re mailing, get your stamps from the Post Office. A trusted stamp expert can advise you on the authenticity and value of stamps if you need help.