'Fake overprints on eBay - 'atdinvest'' article

Fake overprints on eBay - "atdinvest"

Sheryll Oswald

Released:  16 February, 2003         Last updated:   13 November, 2004

An overview of the early activities of the eBay seller "atdinvest". From late 2000 till late 2001, this seller from Hialeah, Florida sold fake overprints, before listing modern fake imperforate sheets and blocks.

Related articles and sub-articles

"atdinvest" - fake overprints and modern fake blocks and sheets on eBay

Modern fake blocks and sheets on eBay - "atdinvest"

Related websites

Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers (SCADS)

eBay - forgeries, fakes, dodgy sellers, scams: the tip of the iceberg (TOTI)

Other websites
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Article subsections

1. Introduction

2. Details of listings and overprints

3. The reactions of the collecting community to these overprint auctions

4. The reactions by eBay and postal authorities

5. An analysis of the seller's claims about the fake overprints

6. Marking stamps known or found to be forged or fake

7. More articles on "atdinvest"

1. Introduction

From as early as November 2000, the seller "atdinvest" of Hialeah, Florida listed a large quantity of fake overprints on eBay. This seller also used the user IDs "unlimitedstamps", "futete" and "cclan" to sell the overprints, and listed his location as "Hialeah" or "Sunshine State/USA/Miami".

The fake overprints were offered as classical forgeries. They were predominantly from European countries and French colonies, and included many from the Pacific region. Listed with low starting prices, nearly all were sold, with some realising quite high prices. The overprints appeared to be made from rubber stamps applied to genuine stamps, and were poorly and carelessly done. Many were philatelically inappropriate, being applied to stamps of the wrong country or during the wrong time frame.

2. Details of listings and overprints

Most of the early listed overprints were from European or French colonies of the WWI/WWII period. Some examples of Pacific overprints include a fake New Caledonia 1917 Red Cross double overprint, and a variety of fake German Samoan overprints.

Fake Wallis and Futuna 1943 "France Libre" overprint shown at left.
Genuinely overprinted stamp at right.

Click on thumbnail to see a larger image in a new window.

Wallis and Futuna forgery compared with genuine

Some of the overprints are on cover or piece, including a large number of German Feldpost covers, as well as German Samoa overprints on piece or cover, such as this fake 1910 Ponape handstamp tied to a Caroline Island bisect on piece. A purchaser of some of the Wallis and Futuna overprints on piece informed me that the "pieces" appeared to be just that - pieces of paper.

Fake Specimen overprints in varying fonts using black or red ink were listed from April through to August 2001, when they were then combined into bulk lots to get rid of the remainders. None of these specimen overprint formats have ever been seen on stamps genuinely overprinted "Specimen".

The sans serif "SPECIMEN", seriffed "SPECIMEN" and seriffed "Spécimen" overprints were added to stamps of a wide variety of countries, ranging from as early as 1903, 1953 and 1898 to as late as 1982, 1991and 1990 respectively.

These examples show the seriffed "Spécimen" font overprinted on Canada 1948 stamps and a Russia 1989 minisheet. Some stamps were overprinted with "ESPECIMEN" or "MUESTRA" using the same fonts as the Specimen overprints.

These Great Britain 1936 King Edward VIII definitives were never officially overprinted specimen.

GB 1936 King Edward VIII 1/2d with fake specimen overprint GB 1936 King Edward VIII 1d with fake specimen overprint

Yet they were overprinted with both seriffed and sans serif fake specimen handstamps.

Click on thumbnails to see larger images in a new window.

GB 1936 King Edward VIII 1 1/2d with fake specimen overprint GB 1936 King Edward VIII 2 1/2d with fake specimen overprint

In August 2001, the seller combined unsold stamps, blocks, covers and "on piece" items into bulk lots. They proved to be popular among bidders, with some buying many lots. Some of these lots contained a variety of new overprints on New Caledonia and New Hebrides stamps, including this assortment of genuinely overprinted New Hebrides 1941 "France Libre" stamps with additional fake overprints which were never used on New Hebridean stamps.

3. Reactions of the collecting community

The release of such large numbers of them onto the market was a cause for concern to many in philatelic circles. They felt that these overprints had been recently produced for sale on eBay, and designed especially for collectors who were encouraged to believe they were buying classical forgeries.

The activities of this seller were mentioned regularly on the eBay Stamps chat board since March 2001, with the intention of educating bidders as to the worthlessness of these bogus overprints as classical forgeries.

The fakes, commonly referred to as "Hialeah forgeries", were discussed in specialist discussion groups when related fakes were listed. Articles in philatelic journals were published to spread the word, and a number of collectors published webpages with details of the fakes encountered in their areas of interest. (See "Educating the collecting community" and References in main article for details).

4. Reporting the seller to eBay and postal authorities

Many members of the eBay community reported the seller to eBay SafeHarbor on the grounds of selling forged, fake or counterfeit material, as well as various misleading descriptions. eBay twice cancelled the seller's auctions, but in both cases allowed the auctions to be relisted after only a week. The seller listed items at the alternate auction site Yahoo in May and July during the periods of suspension from eBay.

These fake overprints did not fall under eBay's list of prohibited items, according to the company. It responded that it was only a venue, and as such it couldn't be held responsible for the sale of forgeries as their sale was not breaking any laws. There was more success in getting the seller to change the descriptions, which thereafter included the word "forgery" in listing titles, though words such as "rarity", "extraordinary" and "reference material" were still used in many subsequent listings.

The operation of the seller was reported to the American Philatelic Society, area US Postal Inspectors in Miramar, Florida, the main US Postal Service office in Washington DC, Consignia investigators in Great Britain and the FIP Fight Against Forgeries Commission. At that time, nothing came of these investigations, and the seller continued to list at eBay.

5. Analysis of seller's claims about forged overprints

a) Inspection of overprints

Richard Frajola conducted an independent analysis of some of the fake overprinted items in an effort to determine the age of the ink and the method of overprinting. In all cases, the overprint appears to have been applied by a rubber or wooden handstamp. While it appears that the Wallis and Futuna "France Libre" overprints may have been made from ink used in the 1950s and 1960s, the ink of others, including that of the seriffed "Spécimen" overprints and all handstamps on "pieces of paper", is of a more modern type. The paper used for these pieces is also recently made, and of a type readily available from rubber stamp supply houses. The additional handstamps are also of a type easily produced from devices supplied by these same rubber stamp supply houses.

b) Validity of "forgers" cited in listings

In some of the listing descriptions, the seller made attributions to specific forgers or collectors to give some provenance to the forgeries, even going so far as to send "chronicle newsletters" on some of these people to high bidders. Many of these attributions proved to be erroneous and apparently only a marketing ploy to generate more sales. One forger attributed to some of the lots, Dr Rabinowitz, has been identified as a forger from the first half of the 20th century. However, Dr Alejandro Martinez, Antonio Jorge, Colonel Serghei Ulianovich Kerchenko and Andy Thomas are unknown to chat board members.

The Jamaican Andy Thomas was credited with some of the Specimen forgeries when they were listed in June 2001. This story is inconsistent with listings of the overprints, which were seen on issues up to 1991, as according to the chronicle he stopped producing forgeries in the early 1960s.

The chronicle of the Russian collector Kerchenko is "historically inappropriate", according to knowledgeable philatelists. That of the Spaniard Antonio Jorge would make a good movie! All of the seller's stories about famous forgers appear to be as fictional and fake as his overprints.

6. Marking stamps known or found to be forged or fake

The issue of marking known forgeries and fakes as such was hotly discussed in the Third Reich Stamps Group and on the eBay Stamps chat board. The consensus was that known forgeries, and stamps found as such from expertisation, should be marked with the words "faux", "facsimile", "replica" or equivalent on the back of the stamp with indelible ink . Where there is some legitimate doubt about whether an item is a forgery, a reasonable argument could be made that the item should not be marked as such. Collectors were more loath to have classical forgeries such as Sperati and Spiro marked, but the much more dangerous recent forgeries in many countries were prime candidates for marking.

Given that the Hialeah seller advertised his items as fakes, it was felt that the stamps should be marked, as people who buy these items down the track may lack the current level of certainty that they are fake. "atdinvest" was banned from the Third Reich Stamps Group in June 2001 after refusing to mark all stamps offered.

7. More articles on "atdinvest"

Modern fake blocks and sheets on eBay - "atdinvest"
     A companion article dealing with the more recent activities of "atdinvest" on eBay: selling modern fake imperforate blocks and sheets.

"atdinvest" - fake overprints and modern fake blocks and sheets on eBay
     The main article on "atdinvest": complete with references to other articles and websites which have published information on this seller.

© 2001, Sheryll Oswald, All Rights Reserved.
Material from this article may be reproduced only with the written consent of Sheryll Oswald.

Any further comments, corrections and questions may be emailed to sheryll at sheryll dot net



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