eUSC Logo 6.4.  The Saratoga Ring

6.4.  The Saratoga Ring

Background

It all started in 1999 when upstate New York seller schuylerac offered SIGCC ceretificates on eBay. eBay user Lyn Viles reported him to Linn's, who published an article in Linn's Stamp News in November 1999. After that, he stopped offering the certificates and instead began selling faulty and low end material.

Descriptions were in capital letters offering the stamps as possibly the rare variety or with scarce grills. And of course they never were. But people bought them. In spite of the "as is" caveat.

Parody auctions

Board members were disillusioned at seeing these "as is" listings. One ran parody auctions using the name schuylercrap to raise awareness .

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eBay Item 1268083928 Scott #103 Reissue w/BPS Cert CV $4,500

It was generally known from the Linn's article that buyer ID chickfrdstk was connected to schuylerac. However, positive proof that stamps bought by chickfrdstk was altered and then sold by schuylerac was serendipitous.

Matched images showing alterations

Until late January 2002, when gkop80639 came to the board with many matched up bought and sold images from chickfrdstk and schuylerac showing the alterations that had occurred.

This provided the impetus for some board members and concerned collectors to form Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers (SCADS), an independent watchdog group which worked behind the scenes to fight fraud. SCADS published the "before and after" images of the chickfrdstk/schuylerac combination (and from April chickfrdstk/pcheltenham) on exposť webpages and in an online educational article, with a view to removing the alterations group from eBay and, if possible, taking the case further.

The alterations included:

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  • added artwork
  • added grills
  • perforations clipped to make "imperfs"
  • cancels removed
  • perforated proofs
  • reperforations
  • tied to fake "pieces"
  • regumming
  • misrepresented stamps
  • repairs
  • added cancels
  • perforations recut or tidied up
  • cleaning/bleaching

pcheltenham used the term "estate collection" in his listing titles, and "what you see is what you get" in his descriptions. As some of the stamps had been traced to chickfrdstk, the story of the "estate collection" was seen to be bogus.

Emails sent to schuylerac in March prompted the seller to add a long arrogant "as is" caveat to subsequent listings. One sent to pcheltenham in June received a similarly arrogant response.

In May, gkop80639 made a detailed report to eBay, offering to augment it with over a hundred comparison matches, with no success. eBay's response was, in part, as follows:

More publicity on the alterations

In the months that followed, name changes and new buyer/seller IDs continued to be discovered and documented by SCADS, who gave the upstate New York alteration group the name "the Saratoga Ring". The PBS Jim Lehrer NewsHour aired an interview with SCADS member anerdman as part of a report on fraud on eBay. This was also aired in other countries. In October that year, the activities of the Saratoga Ring were publicized in an MSNBC report. At the same time, SCADS published a detailed article about the group on the SCADS website. As the year drew to a close, sheryll-oswald added yet another article about the group to her website.


6.3.  Florida Forgers: Dialogue        eBay Users' Stamp Club        6.5.  Board Censorship: Dialogue