'U.S. Classics on eBay - as is' article

U.S. Classics on eBay - as is

Schuylercrap and Ashleigh Islington

Released  1 October, 2001        Last updated:   15 Aug, 2004

Overview of the pitfalls of buying U.S. classics on eBay. It discusses the most common misidentifications and misrepresentations, using examples from the listings of eBay sellers. A special section is devoted to the early activities of an upstate New York group which is taking advantage of collectors by buying, altering and selling early U.S. stamps on eBay.

Related articles

Altered U.S. stamps on eBay - exposed!
Fraud on eBay - exposed!
The Saratoga Fakes
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. Problems facing collectors

recuttings, plate positions and printings in major listings

the genuine rarities - grills, coils and perforation varieties

tampered with stamps
- reperforated, regummed or trimmed "coils" and more

the Mint Never Hinged (MNH) trend

2. eBay

Categories of sellers

3. Misdescription or misrepresentation of various classic issues

undescribed faults

colour misrepresentation

design misrepresentation

trimmed "coils" and "imperfs"

the notorious #315

other tampering on stamps and covers

4. "schuylerac" - part of a stamp alteration group

"schuylercrap"'s exposé on "schuylerac"

"schuylerac"'s early days on eBay - selling SIGCC certificates

stamps bought by "chickfrdstk", altered, then sold by "schuylerac" as high CV stamps

"estate collections" and "pcheltenham"'s listings of altered stamps

low-end altered material offered by "32gyt78" as supposed "duplicates"

sellers who have bought from "schuylerac" who then knowingly offer the items as the high CV varieties

Conclusion

"schuylercrap"'s bidding policy

Index of sellers

"32gyt78"
"5wolves@bright.net"
"ahneve"
"brinerstamps"
"chickfrdstk"
"dbaker@enteract.com"
"dmlengyel1"
"mrpbtm"
"pcheltenham"
"riny218"
"rogernorth"
"schuylerac"/
      "crustaceans"/
      "wackeywood"

"sirwaltersscots"/
      "scottiesz"

"stampcpa@aol.com"
"stamplady99"
"stamps55"
"stamptraders"
"stazy4"/
      "booksnbooks4u"

"tremor111"

Recent updates

24 Oct 04 Seller "dmlengyel1" uses private feedback, has nonexistent returns policy.
15 Aug 04 Link to Counterfeits and Fakes of Confederate Stamps website updated.
19 Apr 04 Link to U.S. 1851 - 1857 3-Cent Imperforate Stamp website updated.
11 Apr 04 Link to G. Kock's Stamp Forgery Links website updated.

Introduction

A well-thumbed copy of the Scott "Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps" takes pride of place on the desk of the collector of U.S. stamps. And in the shelves behind the desk stand albums organised by Scott catalogue number, possibly even the prestige Scott "National" editions, which have spaces for every listed major variety.

Scott catalogue numbers are used ubiquitously by collectors of the U.S. issues, often without reference to the year of issue, denomination or design. This can be seen on eBay, where a search on Scott numbers reveals listings with no other references.

* Tell me more! *

1. Problems facing collectors

1.1 Recuttings, plate positions and printings in major listings

Whatever the type of album used, however, Scott has made it hard for the collector to complete any type of U.S. classic collection because a number of major listed stamps prior to 1869 are really only recuttings, plate positions, and/or different printings of the same issue. Note that major listings in Scott have a capital letter suffix (e.g. 5A), whilst the suffix of minor varieties are in lower case (e.g. 6b).

Trying to distinguish between these is a formidable task for collectors, and even for most dealers, unless they have seen and worked with enough copies to become familiar with the differences. On top of all this, most of the differences between these stamps are at the design's edges. On perfed classic U.S. issues, the margins are very small and usually touch or cut into the design on two sides, and imperf issues often end up cut into the design, so the recutting and varietal characteristics of the print are often absent or partially absent, leading to great ambiguity in many cases.

A certificate is a must for such issues, and even then errors can still be made as top experts differ in their assessments. The relative merits of the various expertisation agencies, such as the American Philatelic Society (APS), Professional Stamp Experts (PSE) and the Philatelic Foundation (PF), for particular issues are beyond the scope of this article. Choose wisely.

* Tell me more! *

  • www.scads.org "Expertization" - details the reasons for and the steps required for using expertizing services
  • G. Kock's Stamp Forgery Links - over 120 forgery and expertizing links, grouped by country, general resources and philatelic experts.

1.2 The genuine rarities - grills, coils and perforation varieties

For the grilled issues, different grill sizes exist for the various stamps, and these are neither cheap nor plentiful. As multiple sheets of stamps were sometimes fed through the grill rollers, some stamps have only a partial grill impression. It would be very hard if not impossible for experts to determine exactly which grill is involved, and so many partial grills are purchased as "space-fillers" by collectors who will never be able to own the real grills.

Some perforation varieties and coils are also costly and hard to find, presenting similar problems for collectors who wish to fill the spaces on their album pages.

1.3 Tampered with stamps - regummed or reperforated stamps, trimmed "coils" and more

The problems are compounded because what appears to be a gem is often discovered to have been reperforated, trimmed (to make "coils"), regummed, repaired, have cancels removed or added, have hidden faults, or even be a forgery or fake. The financial toll is very high when this happens, and refunds are usually not made by the type of people who sell such, unless the stamp has a certificate.

a) "reperforated" stamps

You will see evidence of hand-perforating by various dodgy dealers. A pin is manually poked through a hole to make a perforation. Watch for holes that don't line up too well and straight edges between perforations.

Some reperfing is so good it can only be determined by actually checking the stamp's plate position from a plating study, and only if the stamp could be shown to come from the edge of a sheet that normally had a straight edge. And plating can be impracticable and sometimes even downright impossible as, of the many stamp designs that were printed with straight edges, only a few (1c-12c stamps of 1851-60) have ever been plated.

Some high-end unethical dealers use reperforating machines to make their money. Each machine is calibrated to a different perforation gauge, such as 10, 11, 12, 14 or 15. Some of these machines may be twice as large as the one shown (4" high without counting the lever). They are expensive to acquire or have made, but are devastatingly realistic in terms of the holes they punch, and are virtually infallible to detect unless the stamp is plated. If you see one of these in a dealer's shop, well....... (I am speechless at the thought).

* Tell me more! *

b) "trimmed" stamps

Common flat plate stamps are often found with perforations trimmed off to make the more expensive "coil" version. Sometimes they are obvious (as in this example), as the remnants of perforation holes can be seen. There is a wealth of information available on the detection of trimmed stamps, and I hope to present some of it here in due course.

* Tell me more! *

c) "regummed" stamps

Collectors who buy stamps that may have been regummed must depend on a good returns or expertising policy, as there isn't much that can be done in advance. One sure sign of regumming is sharp, stiff perf tips.

* Tell me more! *

d) other tampering and fakes

* Tell me more! *

1.4 The Mint Never Hinged (MNH) trend

The desire for some collectors to own stamps that have complete original gum with not even the faintest trace of a hinge mark has added to the demand for such stamps.

Scott caters for this by listing catalogue values for unused stamps as follows:

  • 1847 - 1889: Prices are for stamps assumed to be hinged, with original gum (separate prices for NG)
  • 1890 - 1934: Separate prices are specified for hinged and never hinged (both with original gum)
  • 1935 - Present: Prices are for stamps assumed to be never hinged (with original gum)
  • A few key stamps such as the $5 Prexy and the $5 Hamilton have a hinged value as well as a MNH value listed

As traces of hinging can be difficult to detect, many MNH collectors will want to have some of the more expensive stamps certified as such. As an example, this 1870 3c Washington #136, offered on eBay as MNH, came back from certification as "previously hinged".

However, some expertising agencies have become very strict as to what they will certify as MNH. Many stamps which probably have nothing more than slightly disturbed gums or an inconveniently-shaped gum skip are classified as "previously hinged" by PSE, when PF or APS would let them go. This could possibly be a case of expertisers in that agency erring on the side of caution, and so not certifying a stamp as MNH if they see anything at all out of the ordinary.

It is difficult to be a MNH purist on eBay, because even when a stamp is listed as MNH, many dealers will neglect to mention skips, creases, and other flaws. Even if you don't see anything, there is still a good chance that PSE will reject it anyway. In general, for gem U.S. material, especially MNH material, the best bet is to simply not risk a "too good to be true" offering and find four or five regular sellers with solid return policies and whom one can trust. As it is, even with such a dealer, the certificate failure rate will usually be 33% or more. Outside of trusted dealers, you can count on a much higher failure rate, and much poorer return/expertising policies.

2. eBay - a range of sellers and a range of stamps

Sellers of expensive or rare classics, whether singly or as part of collections, are likely to use one of the reputable auction firms, which have a large clientele and where they will get a fair price. But what do people do with the picked over collections? Or the collections that lack the rarities? Many buy them only to break up and sell them on eBay.

It is worth bearing in mind that there are many sellers on eBay who specialise in the sale of quality stamps, and back up their listings with sound return and expertising policies. Some sellers deal in such volume that the occasional weed will slip through. They are also likely to have a good returns policy to cover these occasional misdescriptions on their part.

eBay has also become a convenient place for small-time dealers to sell or break up collections acquired from estate sales, stamp shows or auctions. The provenance of these collections is not always known, and the tendency of collectors to fill holes at the expense of getting the right stamps, or not to upgrade the stamps with better copies as time and money allows, may mean that the stamps are second-rate when it comes to condition or even authenticity.

In addition, many stamps are bought on eBay by sellers, and then resold for a quick profit. These sellers may not have the expertise to be able to properly identify their recent purchases and to detect small faults such as creases, thins or surface scrapes, by using watermark fluid and a magnifying glass.

Lastly, many collectors who are continually upgrading their collections use eBay for selling off their surplus copies, which may therefore be lacking in condition and high grading. These sellers, being intimately acquainted with the faults of the stamps, are likely to give detailed and accurate descriptions of them. They may also sell items not in their area of interest to fund their purchases.

3. Misdescription or misrepresentation?

Compare the terms of sale listed by the seller of your prospective purchase with the Code of Ethics adopted by American Philatelic Society (APS). Do they measure up? Would you feel confident that you could return an item that is found to be not as described?

The temptation is there for sellers to sell stamps as the more expensive variety. Sadly, there are always buyers willing to be taken in, thinking that they might be getting a bargain. Some of these sellers are unsure of what they are selling. Others believe what they are selling is what was described to them when they purchased it. And then there are those who know very well what they are doing.....

How to tell the difference? And more importantly, how not to get burned as a buyer? Read these eBay buying tips, that I have picked up since I was an eBay newbie.

And read up on the types of misdescriptions and misrepresentations that follow. I will not attempt to pigeonhole any sellers mentioned into any of the above categories, but knowing the misdescriptions and misrepresentations that have occurred may educate buyers and prevent similar future mistakes by sellers.

3.1 Undescribed faults

Sometimes lots that are listed with no faults in the description turn out on close examination to have thins, creases or other faults. For example, this 1855 10c Washington #15 was offered on eBay with no faults, yet it came back from certification as "genuine with a vertical crease at right and a small thin spot".

What recourse does a buyer have? It will depend on the exact wording of the description, whether it is being sold "as is", and the terms of the seller's returns policy. Sellers who stand by what they sell will allow lots to be sent for certification and, if the stamp comes back not "as described", will refund the buyer's money plus the cost of certification. Indeed, clause 13 of the APS Code of Ethics states, in part:

Requests for extension of time to return purchased material while awaiting expert opinion is not an acceptable reason to hold up payment for same. Prompt refund shall be from the seller should the material submitted for opinion be deemed other than as offered or described by the seller. Unless otherwise previously agreed, the seller shall also bear reasonable costs for obtaining the opinion if material is other than as offered or described.

The wise buyer will also learn to examine lots not sent for certification closely, using tools such as magnifying glass, watermark detector fluid and a UV lamp to detect watermarks, faults or tampering.

a) "stamptraders"

"stamptraders" came to eBay in July 2001, having previously sold extensively elsewhere on the internet. Note that this is just an eBay user Id, and is in no way connected with www.stamptraders.com, the StampTraders.com Falkland Islands and Metrocard website.

The listings of "stamptraders" came to the attention of board members soon after he had enlisted and received their aid in setting up the correct HTML for his auctions.

Much of the material this seller advertises is best bought with a certificate, and he has stated in emails and on the Stamps chat board that the cost of a certificate is the generally the buyer's. Provided the certificate shows the "STAMP TO NOT BE GENUINE, and for no other reason whatever", the purchase price will be refunded. Concern was raised that should the stamp be found to be genuine but with undescribed faults such as thins, then it cannot be returned and the buyer is stuck with it.

This seller's listings are also documented in the following sections:

b) "brinerstamps"

The seller "brinerstamps" offered a 1914 5-cent blue Washington (#428) as mint, never hinged, but neglected to describe the very large paper wrinkle that a less experienced collector may not have recognised in the scan.

This seller's listings are also documented in the following sections:

3.2 Colour misrepresentation

* Tell me more! *

a) "stamplady99"

"stamplady99" is known to have advertised many common U.S. classic stamps as high-premium colour varieties. The opening bid on these was set at two to three multiples of the catalogue value of the actual (low-value) stamp, thus it appears to be a bargain for the high-catalogue-value colour variety it is advertised as. There was almost always a bidder, and lots were sold at about four to six times what the stamp is worth, assuming that U.S. classic stamp values are actually depressed to about half their published catalogue value.

"stamplady99" has frequently advertised the 1851-57 3-cent imperforate #11's (CV $10) as #10's (orange brown, CV $100), receiving about $20 for each sale. Since #11's are abundant and cheap, this is probably the most common misdescription in eBay classic U.S. stamp auctions.

This 1861-66 24c #78 was advertised as #70c (1861-62 violet variety). This is a common lilac shade, and it can be seen from the scan that it is not a thin paper variety such as #70c, which is very scarce and appears much different to the others with regard to the print due to the difference in paper. A VF #78 is worth about $95, but this lot was listed and sold for $239.99.

In October 2001, "stamplady" became aware of the references to her auctions in this article. She was informed of a misdescribed #10 among her listings at the time, and took action to terminate the auction early. However, information given to her during a 3-day auction of a #70b showing the listed stamp beside a certified #70b was ignored.

It is interesting to note that in the month following the release of this article, there were no auctions of misdescribed #10's in her listings. However, she has since been seen to regularly misdescribe the occasional issue as the high-value variety.

b) "rogernorth"

"rogernorth" is another seller who has been found to advertise the common U.S. 1851-57 3-cent imperforate #11's (CV $10) as their high-premium colour varieties #10's (orange brown, CV $100). I was informed that he has refused to respond to e-mail inquiries asking for assurance of the stamp's identity, and that he re-advertised one of these #11s, shown in centre with grid cancel (after the winning bidder was notified and refused to complete the transaction), as a #10, and sold it a second time.

This seller contacted me on release of this article, saying that he does respond to emails, adding:

"..... I am more than willing to entertain expert opinions about my lots and even to remove such lots, as long as the person contacting me first presents qualifications as being an expert on the subject."

In spite of two polite requests to him, I never did hear back what constitutes "qualifications as being an expert". It is my view that those who have studied an issue in depth and can point sellers to the relevant publications (literature, websites or their own findings) should qualify as expert enough for their opinions to be taken seriously by sellers. See also the relevant section in the "Selling a possible fake on eBay?" article, where being amenable to changing or amending descriptions of items found to be misdescribed is detailed as a part of good selling practices.

The seller's two listings of misdescribed #10s, current at the time of our correspondence and which I mentioned to him, received no bids at all. However, when one of these lots was relisted, the scan showed a distinct "colour change", compared to that of the preceding unsold lot, even though they are the exact same stamp, which appears from the scans to be a classic example of a plate 4 impression (faint left frame line) which identifies it as a #11.

As with "stamplady99" above, in the month following the release of this article, "rogernorth" did not list any #11s misdescribed as #10's. Stay tuned for more about "rogernorth", though.

c) "stamptraders"

The seller "stamptraders" is in no way connected with www.stamptraders.com, the StampTraders.com Falkland Islands and Metrocard website. He regularly lists the 1851-57 3-cent imperforate #11's (CV $10) as their high-premium colour varieties #10's (orange brown, CV $100) with a starting bid of $24.99. When contacted with advice on the misdescription of this particular listing, the seller admitted that he was "helpless" when it comes to determining #10's from #11's, and is ignorant when it comes to plating the issue. He further stated that he will continue to offer orange-brown stamps as being #10's.

Because of the dogged resistance of this seller to study and understand the issue, informed collectors will continue to buy his misdescribed #11's and uninformed collectors will pay a premium for #11's, thinking they have purchased #10's.

This seller's listings are also documented in the following sections:

d) "brinerstamps"

In early July 2002, the seller "brinerstamps" was politely advised that his listing of an 1851-57 3-cent imperforate #10 (CV $100) was in fact a #11 (CV $10) from plate 6, 7, or 8, and that another #10 was similarly misidentified (#11, from plate 8), and supported the advice with references to three websites dedicated to the subject of this issue. The seller replied in an abrupt manner, stating:

I don't know why you're bothering us, but you can't even bid on our items so go and harass someone else who wants to hear your opinion, it's a #10 whether you like it or not.

Ironically, even though the first supposed #10 was sold on 10 July (receiving two bids), it was relisted as an #11 on 23 July. See also the relevant section in the "Selling a possible fake on eBay?" article, where being amenable to changing or amending descriptions of items found to be misdescribed is detailed as a part of good selling practices.

This seller's listings are also documented in the following sections:

3.3 Design misrepresentation

a) "dmlengyel1" (formerly "dmlengyel1@aol.com")

This seller is known for selling misdescribed U.S. classics on a regular, although relaxed, frequency. You may find the odd #11 misrepresented as a #10 among his listings.

In May 2002, he sold an 1857-61 10-cent #35 (type V, plate 2, CV $65) with trimmed perforations as an 1851-57 10-cent #14 (type II, CV $225). The designs can be distinguished by (among other characteristics) the three pearls, which are present in the #14 but have been cut away from that of the #35.

Another bidder wisely did his research when he saw an 1851-57 5-cent #12 (type I, CV $1,100) listed (Item 1355368243), and identified it as a 1857-61 5-cent #30 (type II, CV $1,100) or #30A (type II, CV $260), as the top and bottom projections are cut away. An email to the seller with this information brought the response that the item had a certificate (this was not mentioned in the listing), and the seller left the auction to complete normally.

Bidders have reported having trouble returning misdescribed lots to this seller. One bidder, who was unable to return two misdescribed lots, found that the correct identification on the envelopes containing the stamps had been crossed out!

In early July 2002, the seller changed his listings to private auctions, stating:

".....you cant harrass or interfere with any more of my aucitons because they are private the identy of the bidder is hidden and you will never know who bought an item."

As at 3 May 2003, the seller was no longer using the private auction format. However, on 17 October 2004, chat board members noted that the seller had made his feeedback private. Private feedback, like private auctions, should be a warning to potential bidders. In this case, it prevents them from reading the many negative comments from buyers who have discovered the stamps they received were other than described, and have received negative responses to their requests for refund upon return of the items.

This seller's returns policy was presented on his "me" page, as:

All sales are final, I try my best to describe the items, the people who do certifications, they only render an opioion. From this point foward July 8, 2004, all sales are final with no returns."

This was reported to eBay as a violation of the eBay code of conduct, which states:

"I agree to promptly refund the purchase price for any item which has been deemed by any expertizer approved by eBay as other than as offered or described by the seller."

On 22 October 2004, he amended his "me" page to state his returns policy as simply "Good LUCK bidding."

b) "brinerstamps"

The seller "brinerstamps" sold a 1857-61 3-cent imperforate #26 (type II, CV $75) as its higher value #26a (type IIa, CV $225), listed as Item 1363836417. Inspection of the scan shows that the frame lines run unbroken from top to bottom of the plate, whereas those of the #26a extend only to the top and bottom of the stamp design, and therefore are broken between the stamp vertically.

The seller misrepresented an 1881 1-cent Franklin #206 (CV $80) as an 1873 1-cent Franklin #156 (CV CV$95). The #206 can be easily identified from other 1-cent Banknotes by its grey blue colour, soft paper and re-engraving of upper left corner balls and descending acanthus.

This seller's listings are also documented in the following sections:

c) "5wolves@bright.net"

This "as is" seller has misrepresented common stamps as their high-value design variety counterparts, using very poor scans that don't allow potential bidders to see a clear image of the stamp. Only with high scrutiny can the viewer hope to see the traits that determine the design type, and thus determine the true value.

This image shows three 1857-61 10-cent #35's (type V, plate 2, CV $65) recently sold by this seller in separate lots as #13 (1851-57 type I, CV $800) and #31 (1857-61 type I, CV $850). All of the stamps have pieces missing (trimmed perfs in the case of the first stamp), bringing their true retail value down to just a few dollars each. However, these three sold for a combined $172.35 because of their misrepresentation.

3.4 Trimmed "coils" and "imperfs"

Many perforated issues were also available as coils and imperforate issues, and buyers need to heed the warnings in Scott concerning trimmed versions of the cheap stamps being passed off as the genuine more expensive counterparts.

The 1908-10 Washington-Franklin coils in particular are high-catalogue stamps which are trivial to manufacture from cheaper issues. Scott #348-356 can theoretically be manufactured from trimmed versions of #331-338 (same perforation, same watermark, same plate). Likewise, the #387-398 stamps can theoretically be manufactured from a #374-376 (again, same perforation, same watermark, same plate). A #356 catalogues for $4500. Its counterpart, a #338, is valued at only $115. On the low end, a #352 catalogues for $145, whilst its counterpart, a #331, catalogues at $7 or so. See the reference table at the Croton Stamp Co. website for more details.

Such stamps should never be purchased without a certificate or a good extension policy. A typical example of a misrepresented coil stamp is this 5c Washington, offered as a #355 on eBay, which came back from certification as a #335 "altered with perforations trimmed off".

a) "stamptraders"

The seller "stamptraders" is in no way connected with www.stamptraders.com, the StampTraders.com Falkland Islands and Metrocard website. He states in all descriptions that "we strive mightily to answer Emails quickly", but some who have written with questions on his lots have not received answers.

This seller has offered coils such as #350 (1908-10 4c orange-brown), #351 (1908-10 5c blue) without certificates. A listing in September 2001 showed this used #388 (1910-11 2c carmine) "coil". Inspect the top edge and you can see the remains of eight perforations. Two board members independently politely notified the seller of this, but received no reply. The lot remained unsold, as hopefully buyers used their own eyes.

This seller's listings are also documented in the following sections:

b) The notorious #315

The #315 (1908 5-cent blue imperforate Lincoln, CV $260 mint, $600 used) was issued in sheets of 400 and was sold to private vending machine coil manufacturers. The few collectors and dealers who learned of the sale of this issue to the vending machine companies managed to purchase a total of no more than 10 sheets and possibly only up to 5. They cut up the sheets to make up the predominantly mint copies, but also the very few used copies, that exist today. Virtually all that were used are cancelled to order out of period or bear fake cancels. Only one cover is known.

The #315 is best bought as a pair and with a certificate. If a copy doesn't have full margins all around, it can't be certified as a #315. A genuine copy (mint or used) will always have large, evenly spaced margins because it will have been cut from a sheet by a stamp collector or dealer who knew these were rarities. See this set of two examples of a #315 mint block of 4 with a test single superimposed over one of the stamps. This will give you an idea of the size of the margins required for your #315 candidate to pass certification. Use this scan of the #315 mint block of 4 to carry out your own tests.

All #315's with smaller margins have been "made" by trimming the perforations from their cheap perforated counterpart #304's (1903, perf 12, CV $1.50 used). The warning is there under the listing in the Scott catalogue for all to see:

"Beware of copies of No. 304 with perforations removed."

Not surprisingly, "used #315's" are commonly found on eBay offered as singles by various sellers. And bidders take their chances, hoping to pick up a bargain, or a reference copy, or perhaps they just want to fill a hole in their album pages. Fake copies are likely to be smaller than the normal #304 with perforations removed. But don't discount the likelihood that the #315 on offer has been created from a #304 margin copy or from an oddly perforated "jumbo" stamp.

The following sellers have offered #315's with narrow margins without certificates on at least one occasion:

* Tell me more! *

3.5 Other tampering on stamps and covers

Undisclosed faults, such as repaired tears, may be detectable by the naked eye, under magnification, in a scan of at least 600dpi, or under a UV lamp. Expertising agengies will note these on certificates. Other tampering to watch for include reperforating, regumming, removal of cancels, fake cancels and the addition of stamps on covers.

An example of tampering is this 1860 90c Washington #39, offered as genuine on eBay, but returned from certification as "a plate proof on cardboard fraudulently shaved and perforated". Many US fakes and forgeries purchased on eBay are explained in detail by a collector who has been burned. See the discussion below on "schuylerac" for other examples.

There are many advocates for restoration of stamps, but others believe some restorers step over the line between restoration and fakery. A discussion of the pros and cons of restoration is beyond the scope of this article.

a) "stamps55"
i) Adding perforations to coils to make "coil waste"

Since at least January 2002, "stamps55" has been offering various rotary press "coil waste" issues, such as the 1923 1c #578 and 2c #579. They are, in reality, hand-perforated versions of the commonly found rotary coil issues #597 and #599. Look closely at the top and bottom perforations of these examples (two of many for this seller) to see the signs (small or uneven holes, straight edges between perforations).

* Tell me more! *

  • "Fake Reperfed 546" - a detailed exposé of a fake "coil waste" reperf from the "Buonocore Reperforations"
  • "Fake Reperfed 508c" - a detailed exposé of a fake perf 10 from the "Buonocore Reperforations"
ii) removing pen cancels, reperfing and regumming

On 13 April 2002, the seller "stamps55" bought three signed duck stamps for $22.01, only to offer them 6 days later as "NH, possibly regummed". They sold at $23.57 , $76.00 and $204.52. The pen cancels had been removed from all three stamps. Look closely at these comparisons (RW4, RW5 and RW6) and you will see remnants or ghost images of the pen cancels. The RW5 has also been reperfed at bottom. These stamps would certainly have been regummed, but the seller knowingly offered them as only "maybe regummed".

When alerted to the origin of his stamp, one of the bidders asked for a refund of all his purchases, and sent out a "heads up" to other bidders. This determined action on his part seems to have won him not only the promised refund, but also an assertion from the seller that he will no longer sell stamps on eBay. In spite of this statement, the seller continued to list auctions for the next two months.

* Tell me more! *

b) "brinerstamps"

The seller "brinerstamps" offers a variety of stamps which have been cleaned or bleached to remove pen cancels. Examples include:

  • #9 - removed pen cancel
  • #26 - removed pen cancel
  • #68 - removed pen cancel (bleached)

This seller's listings are also documented in the following sections:

4. "schuylerac" - part of a stamp "alteration" group

"schuylerac" was the most notorious seller of these on eBay, and his listings included partial "imperf" or "imperf" revenues that could not be guaranteed as such. Thanks to Schuylercrap for the following exposé.

* Tell me more! *

4.1) Early days on eBay - SIGCC certificates with multiple stamps

"schuylerac" appeared almost two years ago to eBay with the wonderful SIGCC certificates as reported in Linn's Stamp News (1 November 1999). Lyn Viles, who is mentioned in the article, apparently was interested enough in them to report them to Linn's.

After criticism from the eBay Stamps chat board visitors and from Linn's, "schuylerac" stopped listing his wonderful offerings with "certificates" and started listing his faulty and low-end material.

4.2 Listings of "rare" grills and perforation varieties

Since I only collect U.S., I have not reviewed any of his non-U.S. material, even if he has listed any.

Until the last year or so, the schuylerac offerings were just that: faulty and low-end material. Since then, his offerings have been bordering on the bizarre, from massive listings of the rarer high-value grilled issues to the "used" U.S. reissues to the rare "error" perforations on the Washington/Franklin issues to the unofficial perforation 12 1/2 #9.

I know of no dealer in the United States or the world who has the inventory of rare and high catalogue value stamps such as that of "schuylerac".

* Tell me more! *

4.3 Descriptions with detailed caveat for "as is" listings

All of his offerings of these high catalogue value stamps are sold "as is" as mentioned in his descriptions:

"AT TIMES, WE MAY SELL AN ITEM "AS IS". THIS WILL BE A STAMP/STAMPS IN WHICH WE DON'T HAVE THE FULLEST OF CONFIDENCE IN THE MANNER IN WHICH IT REPRESENTS ITSELF, OR IT MAY BE A STAMP WHICH DOES NOT, IN OUR OPINION, HAVE ENOUGH DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS TO POSITIVELY PASS CERTIFICATION AS GENUINE."

It is interesting to note that in the descriptions of "schuylerac"'s offerings, he states:

"PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING. IT REMAINS CONSTANT FOR ALL LOTS LISTED. YOU ONLY NEED TO READ IT ONCE."

If you were to actually attempt to read his descriptions, you will notice that no two descriptions are the same. <snip>

4.4 Why do people bid in spite of the warnings in the catalogues?

The Scott catalogue specifically states:

"Beware of stamps offered "as is" as the gum on some unused stamps offered with "original gum" may be fraudulent, and stamps offered as unused without gum may in some cases be altered used stamps".

This holds true for the rarer Washington/Franklin stamps. A common stamp catalogue warns people to beware.

Yet, the number of bidders on "schuylerac"'s material continues to amaze me. It seems to me that people are more skeptical of giving a panhandler in Boston a few bucks for fear that he will not use the money for what he is advertising (food) than giving the schuyster "schuylerac" $25 to pay his bills and send him to the Caribbean.

4.5 "Parody" listings provoke a response - is "chickfrdstk" "schuylerac"?

Some time ago I started listing common stamps such as U.S. Scott #73 as a U.S. Scott #103 with a parody description of "schuylerac"'s offerings. I received many e-mails asking what I was trying to communicate. Some people understood and some people were totally clueless. Several times I was contacted saying "thank you" for helping to expose this seller. Here's one message:

"You gave me a great laugh with this listing, having bought a Scott#96(haha) really a #68 with a created grill from the real schuylerlock. Thanks for the laugh."

After my first listing I received an e-mail from whom I believe to be the "schuylerac". It was from the eBay user "chickfrdstk". I did not save the e-mail. The message read:

"P.T. Barnum. Move over, you've been outdone".

I was very proud of that e-mail.

I believe the user "chickfrdstk" and "schuylerac" are the same person or ring. "chickfrdstk" buys the material on eBay and "schuylerac" sells it using his misleading descriptions. The mailing addresses given by "chickfrdstk" and "schuylerac" are about 10 miles apart. "chickfrdstk" currently is bidding on more than 100 items.

4.6 Low CV stamps bought by "chickfrdstk" are altered then sold as high CV varieties by "schuylerac"

Purchases by "chickfrdstk" were altered in various ways, then offered by "schuylerac" on eBay only weeks later. Concerned collectors who have been following eBay auctions have over time discovered links between more buying and selling ID's.

See the "Fraud on eBay - exposed!" article for the latest updates of the activities of this upstate New York group of buyers and sellers. It shows over 200 detailed "before/after" comparisons of stamps that have been purchased on eBay by "chickfrdstk", "stazy4" (now "booksnbooks4u") and "tremor111"), altered in some way, then offered for sale on eBay by "schuylerac" (now "wackeywood" after a brief change to "crustaceans"), "pcheltenham" and new seller "32gyt78".

Or compare these early "chickfrdstk"/"schuylerac" examples, which are not included in the above article:

a) Grill added

In early September 2001, "chickfrdstk" won a U.S. #75 graded F and 3 #76's graded VG-VF offered on eBay. Five weeks later, the stamp on the left was listed by "schuylerac" as a #95. Note that the stamp appears to have been cleaned, and is now attributed to have a grill, where there was none before! The other stamps in the lot bought by "chickfrdstk" were also tampered with in some way, before being offered by "schuylerac" some weeks later.

On 10 February 2002, "chickfrdstk" bought a block of five 3c rose stamps (#65) unhinged with original gum (item 1330968366). Six weeks later on 19 March, the upper left stamp on the block was listed by "schuylerac" with grill as a #79 (item 1340569273). Compare the very unusual lower corner perfs shaped like little x's, on the 79 and look at those same perfs on the one on the block (left and right). Then the top perfs are all nibbled, except three. Look at the picture of the back of the block, and you will see every perf on the top of that one also nibbled except the same three.

These scans prove that grills are added to stamps, as the "before" scan shows the ungrilled back of the stamp. A small tear at the top was mentioned in the lot "chickfrdstk" bought, but "schuylerac" attributed it to the making of the grill:

THERE IS AN ALL OVER GRILL OF LINEAR ROWS WITH GRILL POINTS IN STRAIGHT LINES. THE GRILL IS INTERRUPTED AT SPOTS AND LOOKS VERY REALISTIC. THE GRILL DOES NOT BREAK THE PAPER AS SCOTT SAYS IT OFTEN DOES, BUT IT HAS CREATED A SMALL TEAR AT THE TOP.

[The links in the tables under the "Alterations Made" column show "before" and "after" pictures in one scan.]

Alterations Made Item No. chickfrdstk Item No schuylerac
cleaned, grill added 1329472144 #71 used CV 150$ 1339932569 100 UNUSED GRILL CAT$2500
grill added 1334493281 #153 used 1339952766 142 USED GRILL CAT$6500
b) Perf 10 reperfs

Alterations Made Item No. chickfrdstk Item No schuylerac
reperfed to 10 at top 1329420764 USA Lot Washington 1345679387 506c CAT$3250 USED
reperfed to 10 at top 1329419071 USA Lot Franklin Mostly 1345679556 508c CAT$3250 USED
reperfed to 10 at top 1329418409 USA Lot Franklin 1345679837 511a CAT$2250 USED
reperfed to 10 at bottom 1329418409 USA Lot Franklin 1345680134 514a CAT$6000 USED
c) Other reperfs

Alterations Made Item No. chickfrdstk Item No schuylerac
reperf, cancel added 1332675247 #71 - 30c Franklin CV $160.00 1339949136 110 USED REISSUE CAT$12,500
reperf, cancel added 1334949706 #9 used 1340575233 23 USED TYPE IV CAT$700
reperfed at left 1329474307 #77 used Cat 150$ 1339948623 108 USED REISSUE CAT$9,000
reperfed at right, cancel added 1329472043 #71 used Cat 150$ 1340554222 71 USED SUPERB BEAUTY CAT$150
d) Other stamps

The other stamps which they acquired but found not amenable to alteration, or on which the alterations were not sufficiently believable, ended up in his "Treasures Waiting to be Discovered" lots, groupings he regularly offered. Many more "before" and "after" pictures clearly link individual stamps from purchases to "Treasures...", including both items which were altered and those which were not.

4.7 "schuylerac" stops listing on eBay, replaced by "pcheltenham" and "32gyt78"

"schuylerac"'s last auction on eBay finished in mid-May 2002, but with this dormancy have come ID changes to "crustaceans" (15 October 2002), and now "wackeywood" (18 December 2002). Replacement sellers "pcheltenham" and, more recently, "32gyt78" have taken over the listing of the altered material.

"pcheltenham", who began listing at the end of April 2002, uses the title of "ESTATE COLLECTION" on his listings to draw bidders, and describes stamps not by Scott catalogue number, but by esoteric notations such as "type IV" or "secret mark" which are supposedly written on the outside of envelopes contained in 20 boxes. And it works! In spite of a "what you see is what you get" caveat on the scans of the back as well as the front of each stamp. All his lots sell, to bidders likely hoping to pick up a bargain.

"32gyt78" began listing a supposed pile of duplicates at the behest of his nagging heirs on 5 November. These stamps appear to be of a lower quality than those of "pcheltenham", and after a rocky start with auctions cancelled by bidders and having received several emails connecting lots offered to those bought by "chickfrdstk", the seller listed subsequent auctions as private, and an additional clause was added to descriptions, stating that lots "...WILL HAVE SOME SORT OF FAULT OR REPAIR."

Be warned that many of the stamps sold by these sellers can be shown to have been altered in the same way as those sold by "schuylerac". See the "Fraud on eBay - exposed!" article, for more information on the activities of this seller, including many detailed comparisons linking their items to those bought by chickfrdstk", "stazy4" (now "booksnbooks4u") and "tremor111".

4.8 The secret to "schuylerac"'s success?

I think that a major factor in these deceptive sellers' success is the constant marketing of TV shows such as the antiques roadshow here in the U.S., and other treasure hunter antique shows that lead a person to believe there are massive treasures out there if you know what you are looking for. That "know what you are looking for" part is the part most people forget.

4.9 Resellers of stamps bought from "schuylerac" or "pcheltenham"

a) "mrpbtm"

On 25 September 2002, the seller "mrpbtm", who has purchased many stamps almost exclusively from "pcheltenham" (see his feedback), listed 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.

b) "ahneve"

The seller "ahneve" has bought the occasional "high value" stamp from "schuylerac", only to offer some of these on eBay "as is" or even as genuine. In the process, she has taken in novice bidders, who have bid high prices for the items.

The seller bought a #122 (Item 1347356428 - #122 UNUSED CAT$4500) from "schuylerac" on 21 April 2002 for $202.50, and sold it without any "as is" caveat (Item 1350812428) for $805. Fortunately, the bidder was alerted to the provenance of the item, and cancelled the transaction.

More than half a year later, this item has turned up again, listed on 13 January 2003 as US #122 MNG Beauty with a starting price of $1,250, and described simply as "See picture". The private auction format chosen was undoubtedly to prevent bidders from being contacted.

The seller bought a #5 (Item 1343411903 - 5 USED TYPE I CAT$45,500) from "schuylerac" on 4 April for $91, and offered it for sale on 4 May with a starting price of $9.99 (Item 1350905147). As bids were very low near the auction finish time, the seller ended the auction early.

This seller is known to terminate auctions early should the bid price not be high enough near auction end. For example, the 20 April auction of a #233a (Item 1347768847 - #233a BLUE ERROR Used $15,000 Cat.) was terminated an hour before it was due to close and the bids cancelled. Only days later, it was relisted with the same description (Item 1349962886). However, even this auction was terminated early. Listing it with the same description for a third time on 4 May (Item 1350855964) proved lucky for the seller, as bidders upped the price to $511. This time, the auction was left to complete normally.

The seller then changed her descriptions of her high CV offerings to read:

See photo. No certificate. I am not an expertizer and don't know how to go about getting a certificate.

The photo supplied on a #233a (Item 1353940329 - #233a SCV $15,000+) was far too small for prospective bidders to adequately view such a high catalogue value stamp. A chat board member emailed the seller with information on having stamps certified. The stamp didn't sell, so the seller relisted it (Item 1350812428) using the same excuse, and added the following:

Please note: eBay has a transactional interference policy to which all members agree. Anyone contacting a bidder before or after an auction for transactional interference purposes will be suspended under eBay rules. Anyone failing to report the same can also be suspended.

The addition of this statement should be a warning to bidders to avoid these supposed "high CV" items. Chat board members took this opportunity to remind the seller of the various methods of getting a certificate.

The #233a surfaced again on 26 December 2002, offered as 233a BLUE ERROR MOGNH Cat $27,000+. It has not as yet sold, despite being relisted on 7 January.

c) "sirwaltersscots"/"scottiesz"

ON 17 May 2002, the seller "sirwaltersscots" listed an "estate collection" (Item 1353744816)on behalf of a widowed grandmother. At the bottom at the list of "rarities" supposedly included were #103, #104, #108, and #109 re-issues, all with an extremely small number of known copies. On page 5, several stamps were shown, one of which was a 24ct with a very distinctive cancel. A stamp with the SAME EXACT CANCEL as this was sold as a #109 on 12 May (Item 1353744816) by "schuylerac" to the bidder "scottiesz". This bidder also won a #103 (Item 1351981715), #104 (Item 1351981839) , and #108 (Item 1351982478) on the very same day from "schuylerac". All of these stamps matched the stamps on page 5 (see this comparison). In addition, "scottiesz"' had also recently purchased the 8ct Columbian block of 6 on page 2 (see comparison), plus many other items such as those seen in these comparisons of page 3 and page 6 that were salted in this collection.

Conclusion

Collecting classic US stamps on eBay can be rewarding both for the beginner collector and the specialist. But there is more than a fair share of misrepresented, low quality or tampered with material on offer.

Schuylercrap presents his bidding policy. How does it compare with yours?

If I am interested in a stamp, I always ask if I can have an extension for the return of a stamp for certification purposes if the stamp comes back "not as described" and if the cost of certifying is paid by the seller if "not as described". If the seller is willing to extend the return privileges until the stamp is certified by an expertising agency AND pays for the cost of certifying if "not as described" I will bid on the stamp. If any of these criteria are not met, I will not bid.

This question alone will often be enough to be able to judge the confidence a seller has in his or her material. If you don't take these precautions before you bid, you have Buckley's chance of getting an "as described" stamp and more likely end up getting a Clayton's <snip>.

In your quest to fill holes, whether it be in Scott National album pages, your own specially designed pages or for those of an exhibit, pay particular attention to your next eBay purchase. Is it really the bargain you think it is?

© 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



Top of page       eBay - forgeries, fakes, dodgy sellers, scams: the tip of the iceberg



Free counters provided by Honesty.com.