Forgeries of Fiji Postal Stamps

FIJI FORGERIES and other pitfalls for the collector

It is an unfortunate fact that many forgeries of Fiji's early stamps are in circulation. Not all of them were intended to defraud collectors; some were produced as space fillers, to occupy those awkward gaps in printed album pages.

However, nowadays, with some of the genuine stamps being rather expensive, it pays to know how to tell them apart. It is not the intention here to illustrate all of the known forgeries; instead, we will concentrate on those which pose the greatest problems for sellers and buyers. We illustrate the genuine stamps alongside a selection of the forgeries and describe the identifying features of both. In addition, at the bottom of this page, we illustrate a fiscal cancellation which is sometimes found on the King George V issues and which has fooled some dealers and collectors. We also show the two types of the 1882 5/- issue, i.e. lithographed and the variety with the electrotyped frame.

We are indebted to J.G. Rodger and R.F. Duberal ("Fiji - the Stamps and Postal History 1870-75", published by the Hawthorn Press, Melbourne, 1970), for their work in describing the genuine Times Express stamps and identifying the various imitations and forgeries of these and the CR issues. Some of their descriptions have been used in this page.

The Times Express Issue


Both of the above are genuine. There were two printings of this stamp, the first being on quadrillé paper, in which a lattice of lines forming small squares provides a distinctive watermark, as can be seen in the 1 shilling value above. The second printing was on laid bâtonné paper, in which fine vertical lines at intervals of 1 millimetre are interspersed by somewhat more prominent vertical lines at intervals of 8 millimetres. This watermark may be difficult to see.

In both printings the vertical frame lines of the stamps run unbroken from the top to the bottom of the sheet and are approximately 22.5 mm apart. The horizontal frame lines, which are slightly thicker, do not touch the vertical frame lines at the corners and are approximately 18.5 mm apart. The sheets are imperforate; each stamp is separated from its neighbours by "dotted rules".

The height of the figures of value is 4mm in the 1 penny, 3 pence and 9 pence issues, 7mm in the 6 pence and 6.25mm in the 1 shilling. The numeral "1" of 1 shilling is in ornamental type; the numerals of all the other values are in plain type.

The First Imitations


Genuine stamp on the left. After the stamps were withdrawn from use, the owners of the Fiji Times produced two sets of imitations for sale to collectors. The first of these is on white wove or vertically laid paper and rouletted with dotted lines. The horizontal frame lines are continuous across the sheet and approximately 16mm apart. The vertical frame lines are 22.5 mm apart and are not continuous. The figures of value in the pence stamps are in plain type, 3.75 mm high; in the 1 shilling they are in ornamental type, 6.25 mm high.

The Second Imitations


Genuine stamp on the left. The block of four imitations is from the bottom right-hand corner of the sheet; the margins have been reduced in this illustration. Note that the last stamps in the bottom two rows differ from their neighbours; see below for more on this.

The second imitations are on thick, wove, mauve-pink paper and rouletted on dotted lines. The vertical frame lines, which are about 22 mm apart, are continuous down the sheet while the horizontal frame lines are 18.75 mm apart and, except for those at the top and bottom of the sheet, are not continuous. The characteristics of the figures of value are:
  • The 1 penny is in plain type, 5.75 mm high, except that the last stamp in the row is in plain type of a different design, 6 mm high
  • The 3 pence is in ornamental type, 5.25 mm high, except that the last stamp in the row is in plain type, 4.5 mm high
  • The 6 pence is in ornamental type, 5.25 mm high
  • The 9 pence is in plain type, 6 mm high
  • The 1 shilling is in ornamental type, 6.25 mm high

Forgeries


Genuine stamp on the left. The forgery is on thin white wove paper with brown gum.

We don't know how many different forgeries there are; Rodger and Duberal have identified three different types, and at least five other types are known, including the one shown above.

The "CR" Issues of 1871

Ten different types of forgery of the CR issues have been identified by Rodger and Duberal, a few of which are illustrated here alongside the genuine stamps, with some hints on what to look for. The most commonly found forgeries are those made by Spiro. He copied the design of the one penny CR issue and re-used most of it for his versions of the three pence and six pence values. This mistake (or laziness) on his part makes it very easy to recognise his forgeries of the latter two values. Some, but not all, of the other forgers made the same error.

(a) The One Penny Value


The first stamp is genuine. The second stamp in the row is a forgery by Spiro, the third has been attributed to Louis-Henri Mercier and the fourth is the work of an unknown forger. These forgeries are illustrated individually below, alongside the genuine stamp.


A genuine CR stamp is on the left, with a Spiro forgery on the right.

Characteristics of the genuine stamp (SG10, Scott 15)
Paper: wove, thin and rather brittle, perforated 12.5, line. Some stamps may show part of the watermark FIJI POSTAGE which appears in a straight line across the middle of the sheet. Note: these stamps may also be found on laid paper, probably from the printers' waste which was sold through the Crown Agents in 1889.
Design: There are 60 white "pearls" of uniform size around the central circle. The base of the crown is flat. The central bar of the letter "E" is about half the length of the upper and lower bars.

Characteristics of the Spiro forgery
Paper: wove, but softer and thicker than the genuine, no watermark. This example has irregular pin-perfs gauging approximately 11.5 but they may be found gauging from 11 to 13.5 (compound) and also imperforate.
Design: there are 55 "pearls", uneven and sometimes oval in shape, around the central circle. The base of the crown is rounded. Faint perforation guide lines may be visible.


Characteristics of the Mercier forgery
Paper: wove, similar thickness to the genuine but softer. No watermark. This example is perforated 11 but Mercier forgeries may be found with perforations gauging from 11 to 13 (compound) and also imperforate.
Design: There are 65 pearls. The base of the crown is rounded. All the horizontal bars of the letter "E" are the same length (the middle ones should be shorter).


Characteristics of the forgery
Paper: wove, very similar to the genuine, no watermark. Perforated 11.5 Design: The base of the crown is rounded.

(b) The Three Pence Value


The first stamp was printed from the original plate and is, to that extent, genuine. (Note, however, that this particular example is a deeper shade of green than the issued stamp, which indicates that it is from the printers' waste which was sold through the Crown Agents in 1889.) The second stamp in the row is a forgery by Spiro, complete with forged postmark, the third has been attributed to Louis-Henri Mercier and the fourth is the work of another forger whose identity is unknown. These forgeries are illustrated individually below, alongside the genuine stamp.


Characteristics of the genuine stamp (SG11, Scott 16)
Paper: as for the one penny value, i.e. wove and watermarked "FIJI POSTAGE" once in the sheet. However, one used example has been found on laid paper with a genuine postmark
Design: There are 69 dark rectangles, or "dice" as they have been described, alternating with 69 white ones around the rim of the central circle. The base of the crown is flat.

Characteristics of the Spiro forgery
Paper: same as for the one penny value. This example is pin-perforated 12.5 but they may be found gauging from 11 to 13.5 (compound) and also imperforate.
Design: there are 55 "pearls", uneven and sometimes oval in shape, around the central circle. The base of the crown is rounded. Faint perforation guide lines may sometimes be visible. Note: many Spiros and other types of forgery are cancelled with a killer, either of thin parallel lines or concentric circles, which are unlike any genuine Fiji cancellation of the period.


Characteristics of the Mercier forgery
Paper: wove, thicker than the genuine. This example is perforated 11.5 x 12; Mercier forgeries may be found with perforations gauging from 11 to 13 (compound) and also imperforate.
Design: The central circle (correctly) consists of 69 alternating dark and light rectangles, or "dice", but the base of the crown is rounded. The quality of printing is very poor with an overall muddy appearance.



Characteristics of the forgery
Paper: wove, similar in thickness to the genuine stamp, perforated 11.5.
Design: The base of the crown is slightly rounded and the central circle consists of white pearls. The horizontal bars of the letter "E" are all the same length.

(c) The Six Pence Value


The first stamp is genuine. The second stamp in the row is a forgery by Spiro, the third is attributed to Louis-Henri Mercier and the fourth is the work of another, unidentified, forger. These forgeries are illustrated individually below, alongside the genuine stamp.


Characteristics of the genuine stamp (SG12, Scott 17)
Paper: as for the one penny value.
Design: there are 39 dark-coloured zig-zags around the central circle, and a faint hexagonal outline can be seen inside this circle. The base of the crown is flat. The three lines on each side, which form a triangle above the value label and support the central circle, appear to the naked eye to be made up of white dots.

Characteristics of the Spiro forgery
Paper: same as for the one penny value. This example is perforated 13 by approximately 12.5, but they may be found gauging between 11 and 13.5 (compound) and also imperforate.
Design: the central circle consists of 55 "pearls", uneven and sometimes oval in shape. The base of the crown is rounded, and the hexagonal outline is missing. The triangles between the central circle and the value label are solid white lines instead of dotted. Faint perforation guide lines may sometimes be visible.


Characteristics of the forgery by Mercier
Paper: Wove, thin and brittle, similar to the genuine, but toned. This example is perforated 10.75, but they may be found with perforations gauging from 11 to 13.25 (compound).
Design: The central circle has 56 irregular pearls. The "S" in "SIX" is regular in shape. The triangles between the central circle and the value label are solid white lines instead of dotted. The base of the crown is rounded. The colour of the stamp is almost brown.


Characteristics of the forgery
Paper: Wove, thicker than the genuine. Perforated 10.5
Design: The central circle has zig-zag lines, but these are darker and more pronounced than in the genuine stamp. The middle bar of the "E" in "POSTAGE" is too long, and the base of the crown is rounded. Despite these faults, this is a better attempt than most!

Surcharges and Overprints on CR Stamps

The 1872 surcharges, and those of 1874-75, have also been forged. We will not go into much detail here because, if the basic stamp is a forgery, any surcharge which has been applied to it will also be a forgery. Two examples are shown below.


Both of the above are forgeries by Spiro; note the pearls around the central circle instead of dice or zig-zag lines. The surcharges have been forged more cleverly than the stamp, and it is known that genuine stamps exist with forged surcharges. These are outside the scope of this page. Collectors are advised, if buying what appears to be the genuine article, to obtain an expert certificate if possible.

The One Pound Value of 1903


Genuine stamp on the left. A few examples are known of the King Edward VII one pound value, forged, but on genuine paper with the "Crown CA" watermark. The difference is obvious; in the genuine stamp the value is white on a blue (lined) background, while in the case of the forgery it is blue on a white background. Also, the colours of the forgery are paler than the genuine stamp.

The Pacinsco Cancellation


The Pacific Insurance Company used a circular cancellation, about 26.5mm in diameter, reading "PACINSCO" at the top and "SUVA" at the base, with short arcs in between and no date. This was used to cancel stamps which had been applied to legal documents for revenue purposes and has no postal significance. It has been noted on various of the George V issues; when found on the five shillings or one pound values, this cancellation is dangerous.

Varieties of the 1882 5/- Issue


Used examples of the 1882 5/- issue are, more often than not, found with a "remainder" cancellation. This is because, in about 1906, the remaining stock of 264 sheets (13,200 stamps), along with other values still on hand, were cancelled and sold to a stamp dealer. The most commonly found date for these cancellations is 15 DEC 00, but others exist. An unused example of the issued stamp, which was lithographed and perforated 10, is illustrated on the left, above.

Among the 5/- remainders was an unknown quantity of stamps with an electrotyped frame which had never been issued for postal use. These stamps are decidedly scarce, and an example is illustrated above, on the right. The colours of the electrotyped variety are pale compared with the issued stamp and the perforations may differ - the example above is perf 11.8. There are other differences in the electrotyped version: the circular frame line around the Queen's head appears thicker and the star at lower left touches the frame near to the F of Five.

It should be noted that, also among the remainders of the lithographed 5/- stamp, there was a quantity of imperforate examples, often with badly misplaced centres.