'Fraud on eBay - exposed!' article

Fraud on eBay - exposed!

George Kopecky, Richard "Nerdman" Doporto, F.P.I. and Sheryll Oswald

Released:  23 June, 2002         Last updated:  14 November, 2004

An exposť of fraud on eBay showing hundreds of before/after comparisons of altered stamps by an upstate New York group of eBay buyers "chickfrdstk", "stazy4" (changed to "booksnbooks4u" then "short369") and "tremor111", and sellers "pcheltenham", "schuylerac" (changed to "crustaceans" then "wackeywood") and "32gyt78".

Related articles

Altered U.S. stamps on eBay - exposed!
The Saratoga Fakes
MSNBC: Cautionary tales of two auctions
U.S. Classics on eBay - as is
eBay buying tips
Expertization

Related websites

Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers (SCADS)
Alterations, Fakes and Forgeries
eBay - forgeries, fakes, dodgy sellers, scams: the tip of the iceberg (TOTI)
Other websites
Feedback comments

Article subsections

Introduction

1. eBay - only a venue

eBay's response to a report on "fraudulent activity"

2. Comparisons of stamps showing alterations made

a) "chickfrdstk"/"schuylerac"

b) "chickfrdstk"/"pcheltenham"

c) "stazy4"/"booksnbooks4u"/     "pcheltenham"

d)"tremor111"/"pcheltenham"

e) "chickfrdstk"/"32gyt78"

f) "tremor111"/"32gyt78"

g) "chickfrdstk"/"tremor111"/     "32gyt78"/"pcheltenham"

3. Reactions by the sellers

a) "schuylerac"

b) "pcheltenham"

c) "32gyt78"

4. Copycat reselling of "pcheltenham" material

mrpbtm

5. Alterations actually lower the value of the stamp

PSE's grading system

6. What can collectors do?

Latest News

In May 2003, an investigation of the group by eBay led to the suspension of the sellers "pcheltenham" and "32gyt78", and also of the buying ID's "chickfrdstk" and "tremor111" later that year.

In October 2003, the buying ID "booksnbooks4u" was changed to "short369". This ID was active in buying damaged and low-end material since March 2004 till its discovery by SCADS and subsequent suspension by eBay in May 2004. A few days later, the dormant selling ID "wackeywood" was suspended and removed from the eBay database.

The Saratoga Ring then resurrected dormant buying ID "12trees1947" for its buying activities. Active since the suspension of "short369" in May, this ID was discovered by SCADS in August and shortly after was suspended.

No more buying or selling activity has yet been seen on eBay. Please report any suspicious activity to SCADS. Visit the SCADS website for a more detailed report.

Introduction

As one of the many members of the eBay stamp collecting community who showed concern for the future of the hobby, I often reported to SafeHarbor some of the blatant misdescriptions and misrepresentations committed by sellers. On occasion, eBay acted on these reports. However, the usual response was of the type:

Although we are commonly referred to as an online auction web site, it is important to realize that we are not a traditional "auctioneer". Instead, our site acts as a venue to allow anyone to offer, sell, and buy just about anything, at anytime, from anywhere, in a variety of formats, including a fixed price format and an auction-style format commonly referred to as an "online auction". We are not involved in the actual transaction between buyers and sellers.

As a result, we have no control over the quality, safety or legality of the items advertised, the truth or accuracy of the listings, the ability of sellers to sell items or the ability of buyers to buy items. We cannot ensure that a buyer or seller will actually complete a transaction.

Which is straight out of Section 3.1 of eBay's User Agreement. But what if eBay were presented with detailed evidence of actual alteration of items between their purchase on eBay and their subsequent sale on eBay? Is this not blatant fraud? And therefore a violation of Section 5.3 of the User Agreement?:

5.3 Fraud. Without limiting any other remedies, eBay may suspend or terminate your account if we suspect that you (by conviction, settlement, insurance or escrow investigation, or otherwise) have engaged in fraudulent activity in connection with the Site.

1. eBay's response to a report on "fraudulent activity"

In May 2002, George reported to SafeHarbor the stamp collecting community's concerns about the proliferation of stamps that have been bought on eBay by the buying ID "chickfrdstk", deliberately altered, then sold on eBay by the selling ID "schuylerac". Similar information for the buying ID "stazy4" and the selling ID "pcheltenham" was provided in follow-up reports. He was prepared to back up his report with over 100 before/after comparisons showing a wide range of alterations. The stamps in some of these comparisons had been independently verified as the same stamps by the original sellers.

eBay's response was, in part:

"At this time nothing further can be done as the seller has not violated any of eBay's rules with regards to their listing of stamps....

There is absolutely no way that you can prove, with just pictures, that the items this person is selling are altered items. No legitimate complaint can be made without anyone actually seeing the stamps that you are saying are altered. Even if you were able to view the stamps eBay would not consider you and [sic] expert on stamps and would not remove them simply because you are saying they are altered or fake. You may ask why that is and the answer to that is because of what I stated above, we do not verify any item on eBay to determine if it is fake or not fake, altered or not altered.

In spite of eBay's statement:

"The seller could have bought the stamps and then made photo copies of them and put a title on them as real. However, in the description he can characterize them as "as is" items and be completely safe as far as our listing policies go. So long as he is not listing the item as a genuine article and then sending a complete fake or alteration he is not listing them in error according to eBay."

eBay did not respond to further explanations that many of the altered items were offered as genuine, and showed no interest in seeing the evidence George was prepared to provide, namely, many detailed comparisons of "before" and "after" pictures of the stamps, showing the extent of the alterations.

Please email me should you wish to read the full text of eBay's responses.

2. Comparisons of stamps showing alterations made

As eBay was not interested in seeing these comparisons, we decided to present them to you, the collector. Take a look at some of these before/after comparisons, and see if you think the evidence speaks for itself.

a) The "chickfrdstk"/"schuylerac" comparisons

The seller "schuylerac" was reported in the 1 November 1999 Linn's article Internet stamp certificate raises eyebrows on eBay for listing items with SIGCC certificates. In that article, he was linked to the user ID "chickfrdstk".

From 2000 till May 2002, "schuylerac" regularly sold on eBay supposed "rarities" in quantities unheard of in philately, usually with a long uppercase "as is" caveat. This has been documented in detail in the U.S. Classics on eBay - as is article, which also describes the connection between this seller and the buying ID of "chickfrdstk".

After over 5 months of inactivity, on October 15th the "schuylerac" selling ID was changed to "crustaceans", with another change to "wackeywood" two months later (on 18 December).

Cheap common stamps bought by "chickfrdstk" were often "enhanced" in some way, then sold by "schuylerac" as possible rare varieties with values of thousands of dollars. Many of the alterations could have be done with as little as a pair of scissors and a black felt marker.

The stamps were altered in many different ways. Some common items were misrepresented as "re-issues". Though many items were altered so as transform one Scott catalogue number into a rarer one, others were altered to increase the value of those sold as the correct Scott catalogue number by improving their attractiveness. And several of the above techniques were applied on many of the items. Note, however, that no items have been found to have been regummed.

Potentially thousands of people could have been defrauded since this seller began listing. Many of the differences between rare and common varieties are esoteric, arcane and minute. Most collectors are not sufficently knowledgeable to tell the difference, and so they are not even aware they have been cheated.

The following before/after comparisons are grouped by major type of alteration and listed by Scott catalogue number:

Adding artwork

Drawing in designs to create rare design varieties.

Grill added
Colour misrepresentation

Representing stamps to be the high catalogue colour variety. Note that the examples below have not been altered with regard to colour, but this misrepresentation is shown for completeness.

Perforations clipped to make rare "coils"
Pen cancel removed
Reperforations
  • reperfing unsightly perfs just slightly to make them more attractive
  • reperfing to remove perf flaws
  • reperfing straight edges
  • reperfing to improve centring and eye appeal
  • #38 - reperfed on all 4 sides, also added cancels
Adding cancels

Cancels added to cover any reperfs, faults or repairs and disguise the original stamp.

  • #72 - also cleaned, repaired (cancel added to cover repair)

Other alterations known by this buyer/seller combination, some of which can be seen above:

  • perfing imperf varieties to make rare coils
  • perfing imperf varieties to make rare perf varieties
  • reperfing one side to make rare combination perf varieties
  • perfing proofs and offering them as "re-issues" or regular issues

  • removing pen cancels and then adding more attractive stamped cancels, which can nearly double the value of any classic


  • cleaning
  • undisclosed repairs

b) The "chickfrdstk"/"pcheltenham" comparisons

The seller "pcheltenham" began operation from the end of April 2002, and used the title "ESTATE COLLECTION" in all his listings. The descriptions all contained the same wording:

THIS SAYS [supposed description on envelope].............................. Take a look at the scan. What you see is what you get. This is a handed down collection comprising of [sic] over 20 boxes. Whenever there are notations on the envelopes they will be given. Some stamps have notations on the back. Wether [sic] these notations are correct or not is your obligation to determine which stamp/stamps this is and its' [sic] condition. The front and back of the stamps are scanned in an aid to identification. No scans have been manipulated...

Listings on 14 September gave the number of boxes as 17, and on 21 September this was changed again to 18.

Many of these lots have been traced to purchases from "chickfrdstk", including some that were subsequently offered by "schuylerac" but which did not sell. Note that "schuylerac"'s last auctions on eBay had completed by mid-May.

This means that the story of the "handed down collection comprising of over 20 boxes" cannot be true, even should this seller have bought the unsold items from "schuylerac"!

The types of alterations seen, therefore, are the same as those of "chickfrdstk"/"schuylerac" above, and focus particularly on large banknote issues, older classics, 1869 pictorials, and Washington/Franklins.

The following before/after comparisons are grouped by major type of alteration and listed by Scott catalogue number:

Adding artwork

Drawing in designs to create rare design varieties.

Grill added
  • 15c (bought 15 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003)
  • #65 (bought 10 February 2002, sold 26 January 2003)
Perforations clipped to make "imperfs"
  • 5c (bought 29 December 2002, sold 23 February 2003) - perfs clipped, cancels added
  • 10c (bought 18 July 2002, sold 25 August 2002) - also cleaned, cancels added
  • 10c (bought 29 December 2002, sold 23 February 2003) - perfs clipped
  • #29 -> #12 (bought 5 January 2003, sold 16 February 2003) - perfs clipped, cancel added to cover tear
  • #29 -> #12 (bought 5 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - perfs clipped, cancels added
  • #36 -> #17 (bought 28 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cleaned, perfs clipped, cancels added
  • #36 -> #17 (bought 29 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cleaned, perfs clipped, cancels added
  • #36 -> #17 (bought 26 January 2003, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed, perfs clipped, hole filled
  • group of 4 stamps (bought 5 July 2002, sold 23, 25 August 2002) - also stamp reperfed, two stamps tied to "piece" with fake cancels
Cancel removed
  • 2c (bought 3 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • 2c (bought 3 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed, reperfed at left
  • 5c (bought 9 July 2002, sold 25 August 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • 5c (bought 30 December 2002, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed
  • 10c (bought 7 August 2002, sold 22 September 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • 10c (bought 29 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • 10c (bought 19 January 2003, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, poor cancel removal, reperfed at top
  • 10c (bought 19 January 2003, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed
  • 30c (bought 22 September 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed, reperfed at right
  • #7 (bought 24 November 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - cleaned, failed pen cancel removal
  • #68 (bought 26 May 2002, sold 30 June 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • #68 (bought 1 December 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - cleaned, pen cancel removed, reperfed at top and left, perfs recut at right and bottom
  • #68 (bought 24 November 2002, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed, reperfed at left
  • #68 (bought 15 December 2002, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed, fancy cancel added
  • #68 (bought 12 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed, grill may also have been added
  • #68 (bought 2 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed
  • #72 (bought 9 November 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - pen cancel removed, filled thins not disclosed, reperfed at right and bottom, perfs recut at left
  • #73 (bought 19 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003)
  • #76 (bought 23 June 2002, sold 25 August 2002) - also reperfed at right and bottom
  • #76 (bought 16 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - bad bleach job, pencancel removed
  • #93 (bought 27 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - also perfs recut at right
  • #113 (bought 24 June 2002, sold 14 July 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • #113 (bought 3 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - pen cancel removed, perfs recut all 4 sides
  • #115 (bought 14 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • #116 (bought 14 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • #119 (bought 16 April 2002, sold 26 May 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • #119 (bought 12 September 2002, sold 1 December 2002) - cleaned, pen cancel removed
  • #119 (bought 1 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cancels removed
  • #165 (bought 22 November 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cleaned, poor pen cancel removal
  • #188 (bought 22 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed
  • #211 (bought 12 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed
  • officials (bought 13 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - pen cancels removed
Proofs perforated
  • #47P3 (bought 29 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - perforated proof
  • #68P3, 69P3, 70P3, 71P3, 76P3 (bought 29 January 2003, sold 16 February, sold 23 February 2003) - perforated proofs misrepresented as rare re-issues
  • #72P3 (bought 20 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - perforated proof
  • #272P (bought 15 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - perforated proof pair
Reperforations
  • reperfing unsightly perfs just slightly to make them more attractive
  • reperfing to remove perf flaws
  • reperfing straight edges
  • reperfing to improve centring and eye appeal
  • 5c (bought 16 October 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - reperfed at left and right, top perfs recut
  • 5c (bought 17 December 2002, sold 30 January 2003) - deep cleaned, reperfed at right, cancels added
  • 10c (bought 2 November 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at top, cancels added
  • 10c (bought 29 December 2002, sold 23 February 2003) - reperfed at right
  • 12c (bought 20 September 2002, sold 20 October 2002) - also cleaned
  • 15c (bought 23 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - reperfed at right
  • 24c (bought 17 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - reperfed at right, cancels added
  • 30c (bought 29 December 2002, sold 16 February 2003) - reperfed at top, cancels added
  • 90c (bought 29 December 2002, sold 23 February 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at left
  • 90c (bought 6 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - reperfed at right and bottom
  • #24 (bought 5 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - reperfed at right
  • #32 (bought 17 March 2002, sold 5 May 2002) - also cancel added, cleaned
  • #35 (bought 30 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at left, right and bottom
  • #35 (bought 27 January 2003, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at right
  • #37 (bought 18 July 2002, sold 24 August 2002)
  • #37 (bought 29 December 2002, sold 23 February 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at right
  • #38 (bought 19 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at right and bottom
  • #63 (bought 2 October 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at left
  • #63 (bought 8 January 2003, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at right, grill may also have been added
  • #68 (bought 23 June 2002, sold 22 August 2002)
  • #68 (bought 24 November 2002, sold 23 February 2003) - reperfed at top
  • #68, #73 (bought 23 August 2002 (#68), 12 August 2002 (#73), sold 15 September 2002) - also both cleaned, cancels added (#73)
  • #69 (bought 22 June 2002, sold 25 August 2002) - also cleaned
  • #69 (bought 13 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - also cleaned, cancels added
  • #70 (bought 15 July 2002, sold 21 August 2002) - also bleached
  • #71 (bought 14 July 2002, sold 25 August 2002)
  • #71 (bought 11 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at top
  • #72 (bought 17 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - reperfed at right, perfs recut at left
  • #72 (bought 12 January 2003, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at right and bottom
  • #76 (bought 8 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - reperfed at right
  • #77 (bought 27 March 2002, sold 12 May 2002) - also cancel added, cleaned
  • #77 (bought 21 April 2002, sold 12 May 2002) - also cleaned
  • #77 (bought 14 July 2002, sold 23 August 2002)
  • #78 (bought 19 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - reperfed at left
  • #86 (bought 8 October 2002, sold 17 November 2002) - reperfed at bottom
  • #89 (bought 14 July 2002, sold 25 August 2002) - also cleaned, added cancels
  • #90 (bought 19 August 2002, sold 3 November 2002)
  • #96 (bought 7 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - also cleaned, cancels added
  • #96 (bought 15 December 2002, sold 16 February 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at right, cancels added
  • #96 (bought 13 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - reperfed at bottom, cancels added
  • #97 (bought 7 July 2002, sold 25 August 2002) - also cleaned, added cancels
  • #97 (bought 17 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002)
  • #97 (bought 27 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - also cleaned, cancels added
  • #97 (bought 18 August 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at left, top and bottom
  • #99 (bought 15 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - reperfed at bottom
  • #112 (bought 7 May 2002, sold 25 August 2002) - also cleaned
  • #112 (bought 12 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - reperfed at right
  • #114 (bought 7 May 2002, sold 25 August 2002)
  • #115 (bought 6 October 2002, sold 17 November 2002) - reperfed at right
  • #115 (bought 30 December 2002, sold 23 February 2003) - reperfed at right
  • #116 (bought 20 September 2002, sold 20 October 2002) - also cleaned
  • #116 (bought 12 September 2002, sold 20 October 2002)
  • #116 (bought 11 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - deep cleaned, reperfed at left, top and right
  • #116 (bought 5 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - reperfed at left and bottom
  • #116 (bought 21 December 2002, sold 23 February 2003) - reperfed at top, right and bottom, cancels added
  • #116 (bought 5 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at left, cancels added
  • #117 (bought 24 August 2002, sold 20 October 2002)
  • #117 (bought 22 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at top and right, cancels added
  • #117 (bought 2 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - reperfed at top
  • #118 (bought 27 January 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at top
  • #119 (bought 16 September 2002, sold 20 October 2002) - also cleaned
  • #119 (bought 6 October 2002, sold 17 November 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at left and bottom
  • #121 (bought 4 July 2002, sold 25 August 2002) - also repair covered with new cancels, tied to "piece"
  • #121 (bought 21 September 2002, sold 20 October 2002)
  • #122 (bought 29 December 2002, sold 9 February 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at left
  • #149 (bought 15 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - reperfed at right, cancels added
  • #166 (bought 3 November 2002, sold 1 December 2002) - reperfed at right and bottom
  • #166 (bought 24 October 2002, sold 1 December 2002) - reperfed at left, perfs recut at right, cancel added
  • #191 (bought 5 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002)
  • #191 (bought 10 November 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at top and right
  • #209 (bought 18 October 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at top and right
  • #215 (bought 17 November 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - reperfed at left
  • #215 (bought 7 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - reperfed at top
  • #217 (bought 29 December 2002, sold 16 February 2003) - reperfed at top and right
  • #217 (bought 29 December 2002, sold 23 February 2003) - reperfed at left
  • #217 (bought 28 January 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - reperfed at left and bottom
  • #221 (bought 1 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - reperfed at left
  • #254 (bought 9 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - reperfed at top
  • #290 (bought 9 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - reperfed at top, tear not disclosed
  • #310 (bought 25 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - reperfed at bottom
  • #E8 (bought 21 July 2002, sold 3 November 2002)
Tied to fake "pieces"

Severely damaged stamps are often put on fake "pieces" to prevent close examination of the damage. The damaged areas and/or any repairs are covered up with new cancels, which also serve to make the "piece" appear genuine.

  • #38 (bought 29 December 2002, sold 9 February 2003) - upper left corner and bottom margin added, tied to phony piece with fake cancels to hide repairs
  • #72 (bought 24 June 2002, sold 14 July 2002) - also cancels added, repaired, cleaned
  • #72 (bought 4 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - repair covered with new cancels
  • #72 (bought 19 December 2002, sold 9 February 2003) - cleaned, holes filled, tied to phony piece with fake cancel to hide missing lower right corner
  • #72 (bought 13 December 2002, sold 16 February 2003) - entire right side added, tied to fake piece with phony cancels
  • #155 (bought 4 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - corner repair repositioned and covered with new cancels
  • #166 (bought 15 December 2002, sold 9 February 2003) - tied to phony piece with fake cancels to hide damage on lower left
Regumming
  • #185 (bought 19 October 2002, sold 1 December 2002) - white flecks coloured in, has acquired "original" gum
Misrepresented stamps
  • #88 (bought 11 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - undisclosed altered grill
  • #156 (bought 28 January 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - undisclosed regum
  • #349 (bought 27 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - misrepresented fake coil
Repairs
  • 15c (bought 9 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - cleaned, perfs recut at top and left, undisclosed repair (perf added at top)
  • 90c (bought 24 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - added perf, cancel added to cover repair
  • #39 (bought 29 December 2002, sold 9 February 2003) - crudely rebacked, reperfed at right, lower right corner reattached
  • #71 (bought 1 January 2003, sold 23 February 2003) - undisclosed repair, cancels added to hide repair
  • #115 (bought 21 August 2002, sold 20 October 2002) - undisclosed repair - filled thin
  • #227 block of 4 (bought 21 December 2002, one sold 21 January, three sold 26 January 2003) - scrapes coloured in on each stamp
  • #241 (bought 28 December 2002, sold 9 February 2003) - lower right corner added, cancels added to cover repair
  • CSA #1 (bought 24 September 2002, sold 3 November 2002) - trimmed at left to remove ragged edge
Added cancels

Cancels added to cover any reperfs, faults, repairs or failed removal of pen cancels, and disguise the original stamp.

  • 1c blue (bought 22 September 2002, sold 19 October 2002) - also removed from piece
  • #9 strip of 3 (bought 30 May 2002, sold 14 July 2002) - failed pen cancel removal
  • #77 (bought 17 April 2002, sold 5 May 2002)
  • #119 (bought 19 August 2002, sold 20 October 2002) - cancel added to hide tear
  • #120 (bought 6 February 2003, sold 9 March 2003) - cancel added to hide repaired tear
  • #151 (bought 17 April 2002, sold 29 May 2002)
  • #LO2 (bought 24 September 2002, sold 3 November 2002) - also trimmed at top, right and bottom
Perforations recut or tidied up

Existing perforations are recut or tidied up to make them more uniform and attractive:

  • #71 (bought 30 March 2002, sold 8 May 2002)
  • #65 (bought 5 January 2003, sold 26 January 2003) - perfs recut at top, left and right
  • #98 (bought 1 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - cleaned, perfs recut
Cleaning/bleaching
  • #77 (bought 5 August 2002, sold 22 September 2002)
  • #87 (bought 9 September 2002, sold 20 October 2002) - used stamp cleaned, misrepresented as unused
  • #113 (bought 16 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - cleaned, poor cancel removal
  • #117 (bought 2 December 2002, sold 26 January 2003) - deep cleaned
  • #165 (bought 15 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - cleaned to remove cancel
  • #217 (bought 7 September 2002, sold 25 September 2002)
  • - bleached
  • #237 (bought 8 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - cleaned
  • #239 (bought 8 December 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - deep cleaned
  • group of 3 stamps (bought 14 July 2002, sold 21, 23, 25 August 2002) - one stamp also reperfed)
  • group of 8 stamps (bought 7 July 2002, sold 20, 25 August 2002)

Other alterations known by this buyer/seller combination:

  • many of the "grills" look very suspect (especially when a little dark smudge is put over the "grill" to make it stand out, but the description does not say it's grilled)

c) The "stazy4"/"booksnbooks4u"/"pcheltenham" comparisons

After the departure of "schuylerac" from eBay in May 2002, many items bought by "stazy4" began to appear in the listings of "pcheltenham". Some items were bought by "stazy4" after "pcheltenham" began listing (end April), and their inclusion in "pcheltenham"'s listings is further evidence that the story of the "handed down collection comprising of over 20 boxes" cannot be true.

A bidder notified "pcheltenham" of the existence of this article on 25 July 2002. Interestingly, "stazy4" ceased bidding soon after this, with the last auctions won being around 10 August 2002. On October 19th the "stazy4" buying ID was changed to "booksnbooks4u", and on 8 Novermber this ID began bidding on non-U.S. material.

The following before/after comparisons are grouped by major type of alteration and listed by Scott catalogue number:

Perforations clipped to make "imperfs"
  • #36 -> #17 (bought 7 April 2002, sold 8 May 2002) - also cancel added
  • #36 -> #17 (bought 9 November 2002, sold 12 January 2003) - also cleaned
Pen cancel removed
  • #89 (bought 8 June 2002, sold 30 June 2002) - also cleaned and reperforated
Reperforations
  • reperfing unsightly perfs just slightly to make them more attractive
  • reperfing to remove perf flaws
  • reperfing straight edges
  • reperfing to improve centring and eye appeal
  • 30c (bought 29 July 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at top and bottom
  • #37 (bought 16 May 2002, sold 21 July 2002) - reperfed at left and also slightly at bottom, added cancel
  • #68 (bought 4 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002)
  • #69 (bought 7 April 2002, sold 12 May 2002)
  • #69 (bought 10 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - also cleaned
  • #69 (bought 18 June 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - also cleaned, cancels added
  • #72 (bought 7 April 2002, sold 8 May 2002) - also cancel added, reported to the SCADS team by the buyer
  • #77 (bought 20 June 2002, sold 14 July 2002) - also cancel added, cleaned
  • #90 (bought 12 June 2002, sold 21 July 2002) - reperfed at right
  • #91 (bought 23 April 2002, sold 9 June 2002)
  • #91 (bought 23 April 2002, sold 16 June 2002) - also cancel added
  • #94 (bought 11 May 2002, sold 9 June 2002)
  • #98 (bought 28 April 2002, sold 14 July 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at top and left
  • #117 (bought 9 November 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - reperfed at bottom, top perfs recut
  • #121 (bought 23 April 2002, sold 25 August 2002) - also cleaned, tied to "piece"
  • #152 (bought 20 April 2002, sold 19 May 2002) - also cancel added
  • #161 (bought 21 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - also cleaned
  • #165 (bought 14 April 2002, sold 26 May 2002) - also cleaned
Tied to fake "pieces"

Severely damaged stamps are often put on fake "pieces" to prevent close examination of the damage. The damaged areas and/or any repairs are covered up with new cancels, which also serve to make the "piece" appear genuine.

Repairs
  • #288 (bought 24 August 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - pulled perf now present
Added cancels

Cancels added to cover the reperfs and/or repairs and disguise the original stamp, or to raise the catalogue value.

  • #149 (bought 15 April 2002, sold 15 May 2002)
  • #L02 (bought 21 July 2002, sold 15 September 2002) (used is worth more than unused)
Perforations recut or tidied up

Existing perforations are recut or tidied up to make them more uniform and attractive:

  • #L06 (bought 21 July 2002, sold 15 September 2002) - perfs recut all 4 sides
Cleaning/bleaching
  • #98 (bought 17 April 2002, sold 2 June 2002)
  • #RW5 (bought 29 July 2002, sold 24 September 2002)

d) The "tremor111"/"pcheltenham" comparisons

The user ID "tremor111" registered on eBay on 20 April, about a week before "pcheltenham" began listing.

The following before/after comparisons are grouped by major type of alteration and listed by Scott catalogue number:

Pen cancel removed
  • #7 (bought 27 October 2002, sold 1 December 2002) - failed pen cancel removal - described as "small fault"
  • #116 (bought 26 October 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - cleaned, pen cancel removal, perfs clipped at left
  • #153 (bought 2 March 2003, sold 23 March 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removal
  • #240 (bought 21 July 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - pen cancel removal, colour added to scuff mark
Reperforations
  • reperfing straight edges
  • reperfing to improve centring and eye appeal
  • #88 (bought 16 November 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - removed from cover, reperfed at right, cancels added
  • #38 (bought 2 March 2003, sold 23 March 2003) - reperfed at left
  • #93 (bought 28 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - reperfed straight edge at right
  • #151 (bought 31 August 2002, sold 29 September 2002) - reperfed straight edge at right
  • #190 (bought 15 July 2002, sold 24 August 2002) - reperfed at bottom to improve centring
  • #234 (bought 14 July 2002, sold 20 August 2002) - reperfed straight edge at bottom and at left to improve centring
  • #234 (bought 19 November 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - reperfed at right
  • #570 (bought 28 July 2002, sold 20 October 2002) - reperfed at left
  • #E6 (bought 5 November 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - reperfed at left and bottom
Misrepresented as having original gum
  • #113 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 29 December 2002)
Cleaning/bleaching
  • #150 (bought 21 July 2002, unsold 20 August 2002) - misrepresented as mint

e) The "chickfrdstk"/"32gyt78" comparisons

The New York based selling ID "32gyt78" registered on eBay on 29 October 2002, and began listing 5-day auctions on eBay on 5 November. Many of these lots were found to have been altered after having been bought by "chickfrdstk" and "tremor111" from August through till October. Like "pcheltenham", this seller used the private auction format for later listings, most probably because many bidders from the first set of auctions, alerted to the fact that they were bidding on altered stamps, chose not to go through with their transactions.

The story line used by this seller was that of an older person selling off duplicates at the behest of his nagging heirs. However, the purchase of these supposed duplicates by the buying IDs in this group a matter of weeks ago is evidence that this was just another fabricated story to lure collectors into thinking they were getting genuine stamps at bargain prices.

The spelling errors in the story line (e.g. "My family keeps telling me I'm getter on" and "This is a trail run") are reminiscent of the style of "pcheltenham". The seller's description of his strategy as "those items without a reserve and a nominal starting price do get sold" is also based on the rationale of "pcheltenham".

The following before/after comparisons are grouped by major type of alteration and listed by Scott catalogue number:

Perforations clipped to make "imperfs"
  • 1c (bought 30 November 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - perfs clipped
  • 10c (bought 30 September 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - perfs clipped, cleaned
  • 10c (bought 11 November 2002, sold 28 December 2002) - perfs clipped
  • #24 (bought 5 December 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - cleaned, perfs clipped
  • #32 -> #14 (bought 9 November 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - perfs clipped, cancels added
  • #33 -> #15 (bought 9 November 2002, sold 29 December 2002) - perfs clipped, pen cancel poorly removed and covered up with extra cancels
  • #36 -> #17 (bought 5 September 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - perfs clipped, cancels added
  • #36 -> #17 (bought 19 December 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - cleaned, perfs clipped, cancel added
Pen cancel removed
  • #63 (bought 3 November 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - cleaned, poor pencancel removal
  • #68 (bought 13 December 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed
  • #68 (bought 29 December 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - cleaned, pen cancel removed
  • #161 (bought 7 September 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - pen cancel removed
  • #188 (bought 28 November 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - poor pen cancel removal
Reperforations
  • reperfing straight edges
  • reperfing to improve centring and eye appeal
  • 5c (bought 5 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed at top
  • 10c (bought 29 December 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - reperfed at left and right
  • 12c (bought 9 October 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at top, repaired at bottom
  • 90c (bought 30 September 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed at right
  • 90c (bought 29 December 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - reperfed at bottom, perfs tidied at left
  • #29 (bought 21 August 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed at left
  • #37 (bought 5 July 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - reperfed at left, repaired tear, put on fake "piece", phony cancels added
  • #67 (bought 12 October 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - reperfed at top, left and right, piece added
  • #72 (bought 13 September 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - reperfed on all four sides, tear not disclosed
  • #112 (bought 18 August 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at top
  • #116 (bought 2 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at left, corner added, cancel added to hide repair
  • #191 (bought 26 October 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - reperfed at bottom, cancels added
  • #240 (bought 5 January 2003, sold 19 January 2003) - cleaned, reperfed at left
  • #E2 (bought 14 October 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - reperfed at top, scuff filled in
Tied to fake "pieces"

Severely damaged stamps are often put on fake "pieces" to prevent close examination of the damage. The damaged areas and/or any repairs are often covered up with new cancels, which also serve to make the "piece" appear genuine.

  • #14 (bought 9 November 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - trimmed at left, bottom right corner added, tied to phony piece with fake cancels
  • #37 (bought 9 July 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - bottom corners added, tied to phony piece
  • #38 (bought 15 September 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - cleaned, corner added, tied to phony piece, fake cancel added
  • #72 (bought 14 December 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - tied to phony piece, fake cancel added to hide missing upper right corner
  • #72 (bought 29 November 2002, sold 19 January 2003) - tied to phony piece, fake cancel added to hide damaged upper right corner and major tear
  • #112 (bought 9 November 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - cancel added to hide hole, tied to phony piece with fake cancels
  • #115 (bought 16 October 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - cleaned, tied to phony piece with fake cancels to hide piece missing at upper left
  • #116 (bought 16 October 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - cleaned, tied to phony piece with fake cancels to hide tear at lower right
Repairs
  • #30A (bought 19 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - perf added at top
  • #91 (bought 24 October 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - cleaned, repair not disclosed
  • #293 (bought 5 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - missing perfs replaced, not mentioned in description, cancels added to hide repair
Added cancels

Cancels added to cover the reperfs and/or repairs and disguise the original stamp, or to raise the catalogue value.

  • #36 (bought 9 November 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - cancel added to cover tear
Undisclosed faults
  • #158 (bought 19 October 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - reperf and thin not disclosed
Cleaning/bleaching
  • #73 (bought 29 December 2002, sold 19 January 2003)
  • - deep cleaned

f) The "tremor111"/"32gyt78" comparisons

The selling ID "32gyt78" described above offered lots altered after being purchased by "tremor111" as well as "chickfrdstk".

The following before/after comparisons are grouped by major type of alteration and listed by Scott catalogue number:

Perforations clipped to make "imperfs"
  • 1c (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - perfs clipped, cleaned
Proofs perforated
  • #37 (bought 18 October 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - perforated proof
  • #69 (bought 26 October 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - perforated proof
Reperforations
  • reperfing straight edges
  • reperfing to improve centring and eye appeal
  • 12c (bought 1 November 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - cleaned, reperfed at left and top
  • #69 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed at right and bottom, cleaned
  • #75 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed at top
  • #76 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed at right
  • #89 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed at left and top, cleaned
  • #115 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed on all four sides, cleaned
  • #116 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed at bottom, perf added, cleaned
  • #117 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - reperfed at top and right, cleaned
Tied to fake "pieces"

Severely damaged stamps are often put on fake "pieces" to prevent close examination of the damage. The damaged areas and/or any repairs are often covered up with new cancels, which also serve to make the "piece" appear genuine.

  • 5c (bought 11 October 2002, offered 10 November 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - put on fake piece, cancels added
  • 120 (bought 1 November 2002, sold 22 December 2002) - crudely rebacked and tied to phony piece with added cancels
Margins trimmed to remove faults
  • CSA4 (bought 11 October 2002, offered 10 November 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - cleaned, trimmed to remove faults
Repairs
  • 5c (bought 11 October 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - cleaned, repaired, cancel added to hide repair, perfs recut
  • 90c (bought 18 September 2002, sold 30 November 2002) - re-repaired at top left and right corners
  • #99 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - perfs added at top
  • #118 (bought 11 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - entire bottom of stamp added
Added cancels

Cancels added to cover the reperfs and/or repairs and disguise the original stamp, or to raise the catalogue value.

  • #WV11, WV12 (bought 16 October 2002, sold 10 November 2002) (used is worth more than unused)

g) The "chickfrdstk"/"tremor111"/"32gyt78"/"pcheltenham" comparisons

The combinations by these buyers and sellers became more and more complex, as we found them linked in several different ways. Here we document comparisons which link at least three of the buyers and sellers.

i) The "chickfrdstk"/"32gyt78"/"pcheltenham" comparisons

Many of the high bidders from "32gyt78"'s first series of auctions (ending 10 November) cancelled their transactions, probably because they were alerted that many of the stamps offered had been altered after being purchased just weeks earlier.

Items from these auctions were later found among the next batch of "pcheltenham"'s private auctions (ending 1 December):

  • officials (bought 11 October 2002, offered 10 November 2002, sold 1 December 2002)
  • #37 (bought 11 October 2002, offered 10 November 2002, sold 1 December 2002)

ii) The "tremor111"/"32gyt78"/"pcheltenham" comparisons

Items bought by "tremor111" followed the same path as those of "chickfrdstk" above, due to the high bidders cancelling their transactions with "32gyt78" in his initial series of auctions in November 2002:

  • 5c (bought 11 October 2002, offered 10 November 2002, sold 1 December 2002) - perfs clipped, cleaned, cancels added

iii) The "tremor111"/"chickfrdstk"/"32gyt78" comparisons

The seller "32gyt78" has combined items purchased by both "chickfrdstk" and "tremor111" into one lot:

  • officials (bought 18 September 2002, bought 24 September 2002, sold 10 November 2002) - heavy cancels applied to cover "SPECIMEN"

3. Reactions by the sellers

a) "schuylerac"

In March 2002, many eBay users questioned "schuylerac" about lots such as those shown above. See the seller's response here.

b) "pcheltenham"

In June 2002, one buyer informed "pcheltenham" that all the certificates requested for the "high value" stamps showed that the stamps had all been forged or altered in some way, and suggested that the seller strengthen his disclaimer to include that previous lots have been certified as forgeries. See the seller's response here.

On 16 August, "pcheltenham" changed his listings to private auctions, where bidders' identities are protected. Buyers are therefore unable to be notified that they are bidding on altered items.

On 31 August and 1 September 2002, "pcheltenham" received negative feedback comments from a "0" feedback bidder who no doubt had read this article and wished to warn other bidders. See the seller's response here. These feedback comments have since been removed.

The reasons for running private auctions was included in the first of 14 3-day auctions listed on 5 September, all of which contained a lengthy caveat:

One more unanswered question. Some have asked why I've gone to " hidden bidders". With the current Justice Department and several States Attorny General Offices investigation of bidrigging and violations of The Sherman Anti-Trust Act within the Philatelic Industry, I feel it only prudent for all involved.

Please email me if you have any inkling as to the reasoning behind this baffling (to me) statement.

c) "32gyt78"

In November 2002, when "32gyt78" began listing, bidders and chat board members asked for an explanation for why stamps purchased recently on eBay by others, then altered, could be part of the seller's duplicates. See the seller's response here.

4. Copycat reselling of "pcheltenham" material

On 25 September 2002, the seller "mrpbtm", who till then had purchased almost exclusively from "pcheltenham", began listing stamps from an "estate collection". The descriptions and disclaimers were very similar to those of "pcheltenham", and appeared to violate eBay's Authenticity Disclaimer Policy.

5. Alterations actually lower the value of the stamp

Soundness is one of the major criteria for grading stamps. The PSE (Professional Stamp Experts) lists a faultless stamp as graded at 100 for soundness, a reperf as a major fault (only 25% sound), and any alteration as damaged/restored and only 10% sound. So these added "grills", for example, instead of adding value, actually reduce the value to even less than the original item.

And why are the large margins of stamps being reperfed? According to the PSE, the most important thing about centring is even margins on all sides. This increases eye-appeal. So the larger margins of stamps are reperfed to increase their apparent attractiveness. Even a jumbo stamp, with the picture off-centre, is apparently not as attractive as a smaller one with even margins.

But the irony is that the act of achieving this centring (by reperfing) lowers the value as much or more than the new (phony) centring increases it. If the reperfing is discovered, that is.

6. What can collectors do?

Thousands of these altered stamps are out there somewhere. If you have bought from these sellers, then you have more than likely bought an altered stamp. These comparisons and quite a few more have been documented on Richard Doporto's website as A Gallery of Bogus Stuff. Maybe you will recognise your stamp somewhere on those pages.

The collectors who bought from these sellers and who since have learned that the items are altered have had to put down their experiences as hard lessons to be learnt. Let's hope they have educated themselves further in their area of interest and have taken a more cautious and informed attitude in subsequent purchases in online auctions.

Have a read of Ashleigh's buying tips for collectors, so that you too will be less likely to be taken in when looking for that elusive bargain down the track.

 

© 2002, George Kopecky, Richard Doporto and Sheryll Oswald, All Rights Reserved.
Material from this article may be reproduced only with the written consent of George Kopecky, Richard Doporto and Sheryll Oswald.



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