'Modern fake imperforate blocks and sheets on eBay - 'atdinvest'' article

Modern fake blocks and sheets on eBay - "atdinvest"

Sheryll Oswald

Released:  16 February, 2003         Last updated:   23 November, 2004

An overview of the more recent activities of the Florida seller "atdinvest". After selling fake overprints, this seller has from late 2001 listed modern fake imperforate sheets and blocks on eBay.

Related articles and companion articles

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

Fake overprints 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

Introduction

1. Details of listings, sheets and blocks

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

3. eBay's reaction to complaints

4. More articles on "atdinvest"

Introduction

Since late 2001, the Florida seller "atdinvest" turned his attention from fake overprints to selling modern fake imperforate sheets and blocks on eBay. They were described as forgeries, and sometimes brought high prices, particularly from buyers whose command of English was poor and who were unlikely to be aware that the forgeries were recently produced. Many blocks sold have entered the secondary market, having been seen offered by resellers as singles, either as forgeries or as "proofs".

1. Details of listings, sheets and blocks

They are, as were the fake overprints, predominantly from European countries and French colonies, including many from the Pacific region. The seller's location showed up in listings as "Sunshine State/USA/Miami" and later as "Hialeah Gardens", and descriptions were usually accompanied by the grandiose, largely uppercase proclamation:

Extraordinary forgery sheet to be used as reference material. THE FINAL SOURCE FOR TRUE FORGERIES.ALWAYS A MASTERPIECE ART-FORGERY FOR THE KNOWLEDGEABLE COLLECTOR.PRINTED IN EUROPEAN A4 PAPER.

The first listings of imperforate blocks began in August 2001, when they were combined with the fake overprint stamps, covers and "on piece" items which had not as yet sold. They proved to be popular among bidders, with some buying many lots.

a) Overprints handstamped onto sheets

In early November, listings changed to include various imperforate sheets of mainly France and French colonies. Handstamped overprints had been applied to some but not all sheets. Many lots show scans of blocks of these same sheets. They were advertised as MNH with gum on A4-sized sheets.

Take a close look at the overprints on the blocks, and you will see that the overprint is in a slightly different position on each stamp.

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

France and colonies imperforate blocks

This can be seen more clearly on these sample sheets:

Click on a link to see an image in a new window.

Germany "INSELPOST" overprints
Indochina "Tonkin" cancels
France "Grand Liban" overprints

b) Printing technique alleged to be "photorotogravure"

In February 2002, a bidder who enquired when the sheets were printed received the following response from the seller:

"Dear Collector: These sheets were acquired from a big lot that was made in Russia. The information that I got is that most of them were done during the Stalin Era some of them afterwards during the government of Leonid Brezhnev. The print method I was told was the old photorotogravure. The sheets are gummed and appear old. thank you for your inquiry."

No chat board member has yet to come up with a definition of "photorotogravure" from any philatelic reference. After much discussion, this was dismissed as yet another prevarication on the part of the seller.

c) Sheets created with recent computer technology

The sheets appear to be made using recent computer technology. A single stamp image is scanned and manipulated to create the "variety", which is then duplicated to fill up the "sheet".

A sheet of early British stamps listed in June 2002 illustrates this. Here the checkletters (which designate a particular position on the plate) are the same for each image on the sheet, indicating that only one stamp was used as a template for the rest of the sheet.

The layout of stamps on the sheets is of a different format from those of genuine printings. There are no gutters and the margins are very wide. The dimensions of the stamps may differ slightly from those of genuine stamps.

The paper is thick wove, unwatermarked. Sheet dimensions are similar to A4. The sheets curl slightly, indicating that they may have been cut from a roll. The gum appears to have been applied after the sheets were cut to size.

sheet showing the same checkletters in each stamp image

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

Those who bought the sheets (either for reference purposes, as novelty items, or misled into thinking they were getting classical forgeries) have variously described them as cheap colour photocopies, printed on a colour laser printer, or printed by computer-generated thermal transfer. The solid colour shows up under magnification as lines of single dots. I have not as yet heard a definitive answer on the technique used.

The collectors Richard Warren, Peter Elias and David Davies have each examined a sheet purchased for reference, and have published separate articles detailing printing characteristics, paper and gum (see references in main article).

d) Perforated stamps and corner blocks

In late May 2003, perforated stamps and corner blocks were added to the seller's repertoire, in response to "requests from many customers".

Listings of perforated blocks of four and singles attracted bidders, with some lots selling for over $20.

perforated corner single

2. Reactions of the philatelic community

Concerned collectors, appalled at the spread of this bogus material into the collecting community, have brought the listings of the seller to the attention of various discussion groups, and have written articles on items which relate to particular collecting areas (see "Educating the collecting community " and References in main article for details).

Some eBay Stamps chat board members regularly mentioned these fakes to educate lurkers on the board. In May 2003, a new StampChat board was created to enable collectors to discuss these fakes and other fraudulent listings without the censorship that was prevalent on the eBay board. This was superseded by the StampChat+ board in April 2004.

Some board members contacted bidders in an attempt to ensure that they knew what sort of material they were bidding on. In September 2002, the seller reacted by making subsequent auctions private and openly declared that this was to prevent his bidders from being "interfered" with. See the eBay - the good, the bad and the downright ugly article for more discussion of the inappropriateness of private auctions in the Stamps category.

In November 2002, collectors traced the sources of some of the images used to make up the sheets to listings of rare "inverted centre" items in Cherrystone and Shreves auctions, and notified the auction houses.

3. eBay's reaction to complaints

Complaints to eBay SafeHarbor from March 2001 resulted in the response that eBay is only a venue and has no control over the accuracy of the listings. eBay appeared to allow forgeries to be listed as long as there is no fraud intended.

When the seller listed sheets of Canadian internal Currency banknotes in July 2002, collectors informed eBay and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The seller was suspended a day later but allowed to return. In December of that year, when the seller listed Canadian forgeries, collectors alerted the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada, who in turn informed Canada Post, who complained to eBay through its VERO program which protects against copyright violations. The lots were cancelled on each occasion, and the seller thereafter refrained from listing Canadian forgeries.

Since May 2003, eBay has been working in partnership with the American Philatelic Society (APS) to reduce the amount of fraudulent listings on its site. A Stamp Community Watch (SCW) group vets auctions reported to eBay as fraudulent, and refers those found as such to the APS for further vetting.

A new policy page warns sellers not to sell stamps that are fraudulent or misdescribed, and to describe any known alterations to the item. Sellers must also abide by a code of conduct developed by eBay and which is modelled on the rules that the APS applies to sellers in sales circuits and on its online Stampstore site. Collectors who see listings inconsistent with the code are encouraged to report them to eBay using the link at the bottom of the Selling Stamps page.

A notable inclusion in the code pertains to forgeries, fakes, facsimiles and reproductions. They can be sold only if described as such; they must be marked as such on the front or back, and an image of the marking must be shown. This section was specifically added to stop the proliferation of unmarked "Hialeah forgeries" and other computer-generated reproductions. However, it had limited effect.

Shortly after this policy was implemented, collectors reported the seller's auctions for non-compliance. He responded by stating in listings that items were marked "repro" on the reverse, but the accompanying scans showed that the markings were clearly created digitally. The seller since admitted that no stamps were ever marked.

4. More articles on "atdinvest"

Fake overprints on eBay - "atdinvest"
     A companion article dealing with the early activities of "atdinvest" on eBay: selling fake overprints

"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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