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December 2017


Ireland goes nuts over CHE!



A famous Marxist revolutionary of Irish descent, and the well-known painting of him by an Irish artist, both came together in a stamp issue in October by the Irish Post Office -  “An Post”.


First the T Shirt, and now.


Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the quintessential left-wing revolutionary, was killed in Bolivia by the CIA backed Army in 1967.  “An Post” chose the 50th anniversary of his death to issue a stamp featuring the famous painting of “Che” by Dublin artist Jim Fitzpatrick - rated among the world’s top 10 most iconic images.

Ernesto (Che) Guevara de la Serna was born on June 14, 1928 in Rosario, Argentina.  His father was a civil engineer - of Irish descent.  A quote from his father features on the official First Day Cover (FDC) produced to accompany the stamp -
”.. in my son’s veins, flowed the blood of Irish rebels.”


Che Guevara - Senior Banker!


Che assisted Fidel Castro in overturning the Cuban Batista government in the late 1950s, and then held key political offices later on.  Che was oddly made President of the Bank of Cuba, hence his simple “Che” signature appeared on millions of banknotes - one is shown nearby.


One word Bank Governor Signature!


The release of a stamp depicting Che generated squawks of anger from many in Florida of all places, and of course many sectors of the Irish political scene.  All this hot air created global publicity - and demand, and the stamps and FDC sold out fast.

The ebay brain dead lemmings all went crazy on cue, and the Bunnies were soon paying TEN times face for the sheetlet of 10 stamps, and near 100 times face for the very attractive Official FDC shown nearby, with a single 1 Euro stamp on it.

Bunnies as usual, never do ANY basic research, and if they did, they’d realise “An Post” had reprinted the stamps and FDC, and as I type this mid-November, both are on sale at face value!  Stampboards has an amusing thread on all this ebay usual clueless madness -


Che is a hero in Cuba.


I’ve been to Cuba a couple of times on holiday over the decades, and as you might expect, Che Guevara is a national hero there.  In La Plaza de la Revolución in Havana - the Ministry of Interior Building is adorned with a massive steel sculpture of Che Guevara.  A photo I took of it is nearby.


Australia’s priciest postage stamp.


I very often type that - “The last word will NEVER be written in Philately”.  I also type even more often these words  - “Knowledge is Power”.   Both those phrases have come true this week!  Let’s look at our priciest regular stamp.

I purchased a unique 1913 £2 Black and Red Kangaroo First Watermark, that was in the Arthur Gray collection.  This value is of course Australia’s very rarest postage stamp in any mode, by several miles, being SG #16 and cat £4,000 used in Stanley Gibbons.

And it is catalogued higher still locally, as ACSC #55 - Cat $6,000 to $9,000 each used, in the Brusden White ACSC catalogue, depending on which of the 3 shades each stamp is.  More detail on my specific unique example follows below, but first, some general background on our rarest postage stamp that many readers might be unaware of.

Mint hinged examples are cat $12,500 to $17,500 depending on shade, and “MUH” copies are listed in ACSC at $35,000 apiece, but only an optimist would assume a super high value from this era could remain MUH, and I am sure regummers have made very good money from these silly “MUH nuts”. 


The World’s MOST expensive selvedge!


This stamp with the marginal printer Monograms are far scarcer still.  I was in the auction room where this one with “JBC” Monogram - creased, a little rusty, and hinged, sold for an amazing $A176,930. “The most expensive piece of selvedge on earth” as I quipped to the buyer Simon Dunkerley.  Glad I did not drop it in my coffee!  Current cat is $200,000.


Missing from near all Collections.


The 1913 £2 Kangaroo is a VERY rare stamp either mint or used, and I get one example into stock each year or two.  It is the single stamp missing from near EVERY Australia stamp collection on this planet.  I almost never buy a collection with this stamp present, in any form.

Near ALL that were printed were used on Telegrams, cost of which were very often several £s, which were later destroyed by PO, under audit.  Some of these sneaked quietly onto the stamp market, but those mostly have massive and ugly auditor’s ‘Cannon Ball’ sized circular punch holes in the centre of them!

Truth be known, it was near impossible to mail anything costing £2 back over a century ago, during WWI, when first class letter post was 1d.  £2 was 480 x 1d stamps i.e. a $A720 relativity, using our current $1.50 first class rate letter stamp.  Even today with Airmail, running up a $720 parcel is near impossible.

The basic wage was introduced in 1907 in Australia, and was set at £2/2/0 per week, so this one stamp from a PO cost near the pre-tax gross weekly wage of a working man - a $1,000 type relativity today.

Postally used copies are hence near unknown, with any cancel.  I see one each few years.  The CTO copies from collector and Presentation and UPU sets are more readily buyable, but are also scarce. The ACSC lists the 4 different known types of CTO cancels from $5,500 to $7,500 each, so all those are also out of most collector’s financial reach.

About 2,169 of this £2 was sold handstamped to collectors with the word “Specimen” in upper and lower case.  Even these are not common today, and ACSC catalogue is $850 a stamp.  The handstamp was often at an angle, and often weakly applied with the rubber stamp, and the PO quickly reverted to bold black metal printed capital letters.


Cleverly disguised “Specimen” handstamp.


I bought the example above this year, which looked to me like the ugly parcel branch cancel at first glance, but someone had cunningly applied a fake parcel cancel over a “Specimen” overprint, on very close inspection.  Most collectors would have no idea.

Whether this fakery was done at the time of issue, to defraud the PO of £2, or sometime later to fool a dealer or collector, who knows, but it was a more than acceptable way to fill that super elusive gap for a client of mine, for a few $100, sold by me as a doctored “Specimen”! 


How did you score?


Few collectors would notice this clever job I’d suggest - did you?!  On the reverse it was clean and flat, and the stamp had excellent perfs and centering for any 1913 high value, as can be seen.  On ebay it would be trotted out to the Bunnies as “Superb FU Baahgeen at $3,000” and would be hoovered up in days, I have no doubt.

This £2 stamp exists with both Large and Small “OS” punctures - also both incredibly rare, and indeed the Large “OS” is cat $70,000 used.  And that catalogue figure has firm grounding, as a copy sold for about $A60,000 at a large public auction.

Any stamp with an SG listing gets a huge international support base in most cases.  I saw that truism in action first hand in New York at the Arthur Gray “Kangaroos” sale, where a New York dealer was bidding on behalf of a very wealthy American client.

The client was collecting “Official” stamps of the British Commonwealth, as listed by SG.  He had told the dealer to “go buy these items at any price” re all the SG listed “Official” stamps in the Gray Auction, that he did not already have.  A very, very dangerous instruction to give to your auction bidder, unless you are VERY wealthy!


LARGE OS perfin ----    Gladiator Special!

  The resultant bidding war was often like a scene from “Gladiators”!  I was sitting a metre behind the hammer and tongs bidding battle between two dealers.  The most hotly contested lot was a £2, 1913 First Watermark Roo, with large “OS” perfin - which is illustrated nearby.  Estimate was ‘only’ $5,000-$7,500.

One bidder was John Zuckerman, Vice President of the prestigious Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, bidding for his wealthy client.  The other bidder was Paul Fletcher, then owner of Millennium Auctions in Sydney, and then owner of the ACSC catalogues.  Fletcher was apparently bidding for his own collection. 

Six Times Catalogue

  The bidding battle was intense, and stopped in the room at $US40,000 - which when invoiced out with the nasty commissions, and bad exchange rate at that date, was near enough to $A60,000 - or six times the full $A10,000 catalogue value at that time.

All for a used Roo!  I asked Zuckerman during the next break what he client would think when hit with that kind of massive bill. "I have just phoned my client, and he is very pleased with the purchase"  Zuckerman told me with a smile.

Michael Eastick in Melbourne had a very similar looking Large “OS” £2 stamp on his website not long afterwards, also with the same corner cancel of “Public Offices Melbourne” which is the type of cancel one would expect on a stamp used for Government parcels.  And probably only Melbourne was supplied with such a mega face value.

Zuckerman's bidder paddle number 247 also paid incredible prices at the same Gray sale, for the same client.  He bought the 1929 10/- and £2 used Small Multiple watermark "OS" punctures - at $US15,525 (then $A19,905) and $US26,450 ($A33,912) respectively, along with other pieces.

I certainly did not believe the used 10/- offered in that sale was genuine, and several others there shared my view.  I sold a FAR more convincing and believable looking used example this year, at a small fraction of that figure.  For decades, the £2 of this Small Multiple watermark set was deemed not to have existed with genuine “OS” perfin. 

A UNIQUE “OS” pair.


I discovered a still unique, mint £2 Small Multiple watermark perf "OS" in the USA about 30 years ago, and paid very little for it.  This had an exact matching perfin position, and perfs and centering to the fine used Gray example, that he had likewise owned for many years.

Editor Dr. Geoff Kellow refused to ACSC list the either 10/- and £2 Roo Small Multiple “OS” for decades as he could find no official records of them being done.  Very admirable, but in “The Great Depression” that the 1930 Small Multiple watermark series were printed and issued in, many things were not “normal” at all!

Arthur Gray and I persuasively proved to Geoff, via the weirdly high “OS” placement, and same centering, of his £2 used copy he’d owned for decades, and my mint copy, that I'd bought for a song in the USA in the 1980s, from a genuine collection untouched since WW2, were both clearly from the same sheet, as can be clearly seen on the photo nearby!


£2 Small Multiple now listed.


This new information finally led to both mint and used copies being finally listed and priced in the ACSC, and then in SG only a few years later.  These listings consequently led to Gary’s unique used copy of the £2 shown nearby, selling for near $A34,000 in New York to Siegels, when his Kangaroos were auctioned!

The unique mint copy was auctioned by Prestige Auctions (“Kevin Nelson” sale) for $A13,225 way back in 2002, and please excuse the slightly fuzzy pix of both, as both sales were very long ago.  Today’s value easily double or treble that, so someone made a great buy.  Until 1993 neither type were listed or priced in ACSC.

In the 1996 edition the £2 (mint only) was priced and listed in ACSC, based on my discovery, matching Gray’s copy in positioning of the “OS” - which was unusually high on both stamps.  Both stamps matched exactly as can readily be seen on the photo nearby.

My US discovery Mint copy I sold for a song - for just a couple of $1,000 to Kevin Nelson, or about the same level as non-OS, as it was not then catalogued in ACSC or SG.  To this day these are the only two examples known or recorded.  If that mint copy of mine re-appeared on the market somewhere, it would fetch $50,000 easily, is my guess.

“Provenance” is super important with these major pieces, as forgers have been active on “OS” issues in recent decades.  Experienced dealers etc can generally sort the wheat from the chaff pretty readily, but buying anything of high cat of this “OS” material on ebay is a total mug’s game - it really is.  Donate your money to charity instead.


Can you read the cancel?


Back to my new discovery £2 1913 Kangaroo.  Take a look at the used stamp nearby and tell me what you see.  Remembering my mantra “Knowledge is Power”.  And digesting my comment above, that it was near impossible to spend £2 on a parcel in 1913 - no airmail services anywhere, and surface mail costs were then low. 


Study the stamp carefully.


The stamp has a neat circular cancel, and many collectors would look no further than that, and gladly pop it in their used stamp collection. The more discerning collector might try and read what the wording on the cancel is.  Granted it is not immediately obvious, what it is, and this is where ”Knowledge” comes in!

The cancel reads when you look at it upside down - PAQUEBOT - POSTED AT SEA - RECEIVED - 1 DE 1? (LIVERPOOL).  This is a very common cancel, and I show a full strike of it nearby from a postcard, which is what one finds them on most times.


“POSTED AT SEA” cancel common.


What mail received these cancels?  The TSUNAMI of letters and postcards that passengers on the regular long cruises mailed in this era.  Remember - no phones, no emails, no text messages, no Facebook, no Twitter etc.  Just days, often weeks, of boring open ocean to write to everyone you knew, telling them you were on holiday and having a great time!

In 1892 the Universal Postal Union (UPU) decided that all ships were quote - their “own Sovereign Territory while on the high seas, and outside territorial waters” and decreed that a passenger could write a letter, add a stamp of the country the ship was registered in, and put the letter in the ship's on-board mailbox.

From there it was taken to the ship side post office in the next port of call by The Purser, and a "Paquebot" postmark of that city and arrival country was added to the letter, usually cancelling over the stamp.  The GB 1½d above was addressed to New York, and handed to dockside PO in Liverpool.
“Arriving England Sunday, having a nice time.”


Common cancel on letter rate items.


So, locating Australia Kangaroo stamps with a range of different PAQUEBOT cancels on them is not unusual at all, as the sea journey in the WWI era to the UK was typically six WEEKS for the long 10,000 mile cruise - so LOTS of postcard writing took place!

HOWEVER, one sees them in face values of ½d,1d, 2d or 2½d, as those covered all the global postcard and letter and printed newspaper rates relevant then in WWI.  A £2 stamp was 240 pence.  You could have mailed a 25 kilo box to Europe from Australia for that, and had much some left over!

Could you lodge a 25 kilo carton on board a cruise boat franked with an Aussie stamp?  Absolutely not.  NO way.  So HOW did a £2 stamp manage to get a “PAQUEBOT POSTED AT SEA” cancel when arriving in Liverpool?  Answer - when the stamp is a FORGERY

Well a part forgery to be accurate!  The “£2” stamp you see shown above has genuine perforations, genuine First Watermark paper, and indeed has totally genuine cancels.  But it started life as a humble 1d red Kangaroo stamp on a postcard like the one above.  So many will say -
how come it is now in black and red, and inscribed “TWO POUNDS”?


1999 BPA Photo certificate.



The one word answer to that is - ”SPERATI”.   Jean de Sperati was a master stamp forger - the greatest the world has ever seen.  His technique was alarmingly simple.  Take a common stamp like a 1d Kangaroo and bleach out the stamp colour.  And then simply print the “new” stamp over the top, via photo-lithography!


A 5¢ stamp becomes $5,000!


Sperati was a trained chemist and was very meticulous with his forgeries, and devised a way where he could print the new colours of the high value stamps, yet made it appear the original cancel was over the top of that new work.  As you can see nearby! 

So, the stamp paper, watermark, perforation, size, and cancel are all 100% genuine to anyone who examines things carefully.  Hence a 5¢ common 1913 1d stamp becomes a $5,000+ rare £2 used Kangaroo after Sperati had finished with it.

Jean de Sperati is universally regarded as the finest and most dangerous stamp forger ever to have lived.  He was born in Italy in 1884 and died in 1957, living most of his life in France, and was clever - he made VERY few fakes of most items, and focused mainly on the high value stamps.

His material was so dangerous that stamp legend Robson Lowe, acting in conjunction with the British Philatelic Association, decided to protect philately.  They purchased Sperati’s “stock” and printing blocks and proofs etc in 1953, for a sum said to be $US40,000
- an absolute fortune 64 years ago.

As a valid comparison of what $US40,000 would buy in that era, Harmers of London sold the entire “T.E Field” collection of Australian Commonwealth in 1948 for £7,500.  It contained masses of proofs, essays, and mint £1 and £2 Kangaroos by the bucket load - block after block after block -  pages of them, and many scores of used £2’s.   


Massive collection bought as job lot!


“FIELD” was the finest collection of the Australia Commonwealth ever offered to that time, and today it would be a mega blockbuster sale.  It would readily sell for about TEN $ MILLION today if offered for the first time.  Sydney dealer Ken Baker bought it “As a Job Lot” before the Auction took place, and passed it intact onto Jack Kilfoyle!

He had asked Kilfoyle which lots to bid on, and Jack replied: “just buy it all for me Ken - some very nice stamps in there.”  Ken kindly left me all his files, and I have all his Telegrams to Harmers, bank receipts, and the sale Catalogue, and the letter to all annoyed Harmer clients globally, saying the sale was cancelled!                                    


Jean Sperati and wife Marie-Louise in 1915


Sperati was so good, a mailing of 18 forgeries addressed to Spain was seized in 1943 by French Customs who had them assessed as being all genuine.  He was arrested on a charge of 'exporting capital' estimated at being worth 300,000 Francs without a permit, and was summonsed to appear in court.

Exporting forgeries was at the time legal if sold and identified as such, and free of duty or taxes. 
He would “sign” each very lightly on the reverse “facsimile” with easily erasable pencil, thus complying with the law!  Sperati made fools of the Authorities in the long court trial by forging three more identical sets of the same 18 stamps, and tendered them to the court!  


“Disrupting the Customs Service”!


The French Judges were impressed with the clear and convincing evidence he offered, and dismissed all the “capital export” changes, but levied a token fine on Sperati for “disturbing the normal routine of the French customs service.” ( !! True !! )

So, we get back to the £2 I bought from Arthur Gray.  It was his second copy.  I bought his more “conventional” example at the Shreves Auction sale in New York.  The demand for all things Sperati from this neck of the woods is immense. The ACSC lists the Sperati Forgery as #55c, cat $7,500 - higher than a GENUINE used copy of our rarest postage stamp!

The £2 Kangaroo was the only Australian stamp Sperati ever forged.  However, a very few WA 1901 £1 Oranges, 2 x Tasmania 1892 £1 QV, and a single BNG 2/6d 1901 Lakatoi exist, all of which I have owned and sold. These sell for 10-15 times more than the cost of a GENUINE used stamp of these 3 already scarce issues!  And all sell fast.

I have bought and sold far more Sperati forgery stamps and proofs from this region, than any dealer in Australia.  They are something I like handling, as this guy was a true craftsman.  Some I’ve sold several times.  Folks seem to track me down whether buying or selling them, as most dealers do not have much idea about the material, as it is generally not in catalogues! 


A second Tasmania fake emerges.


It was believed only one Tasmania QV £1 existed, and I have sold that several times over the decades.  In the £20 MILLION UK stamp estate of the super secretive Sir Gawaine Baillie, another emerged, and I bought that from Sotheby’s as you can see.  Sperati did not think he matched the colours well, and made no more!

The “LAUNCESTON TASMANIA” Barred oval duplex cancel on this Tasmania 1892 £1 “Tablet” is, like the Roos, the original cancel, and Sperati printed right over the top of it.  Again, such a cancelling head was found only on bulk letter handling machinery for postcards, letters etc, and could never have been used on a heavy parcel.

The Sperati £2 Roo I bought this week has a 1999 BPA Photo Certificate, confirming it is a Sperati forgery, with a “Posted At Sea” cancel.  So far, a lovely looking VFU example of this rare forgery, with Certificate, ex Arthur Gray.  But better still, this one is UNIQUE, as it does NOT come from the Sperati printing plates that all the others known are made from!

So, a new discovery.  The Sperati forgeries we had recorded before, all came from an photographic image he took off  a genuine £2 Kangaroo, and made his plates from that.  The stamp he used was from the left pane, stamp number 50. That unit has a constant plate flaw - a fine white vertical hairline scratch, running from Melbourne Victoria, to the “UN” of Pounds.

That is (or was!) always a sure test any stamp is a Sperati forgery.  It can clearly be seen on the BRISBANE cancel stamp nearby. The many totally implausible cancels are an added proof level.  The Sperati forgery illustrated nearby has a Brisbane GPO machine cancel as you can see. 


The Sperati “UN” scratch - showing clearly on 2 different forgeries.


As only letters and postcards were cancelled by these high volume GPO machine cancels, it is clear a 25 kilo carton to England etc, bearing a £2 stamp, could never receive one!  That was Sperati’s only fatal error - not realising that reality.  And “POSTED AT SEA” was even more impossible!

The Sperati Kangaroos all have a very slightly “fuzzy” print look to them, that you do not see in any genuine £2 Roo.  As I have sold many genuines over the years, you can ID them from that alone, but most collectors have never handled a genuine 1913 £2, so cannot comment.


A unique Sperati Roo confirmed.


Dr. Geoffrey Kellow, RDP, is the ACSC Editor, and agreed 100% with me this is a definite Sperati Forgery, and has the “fuzzy” print quality, and confirmed today he will make a listing of this interesting new unreported sub-type in the next ACSC.  I’ll try and pen a piece for the ACCC Journal, to update the data base on this stamp.

The ACSC notes say “about two dozen” £2 Sperati used forgeries are recorded.  They generally sell for $5,000 and up, depending on condition - many are defective, as the heavy bleaching Sperati did, weakens the paper fibres of course. This new discovery I sold already at a rather modest price, but being unique, it clearly should be a ~$15,000 ACSC listing.

Geoff showed me today a £1 Brown and Blue Kangaroo, with a similar looking but different date UK “POSTED AT SEA” cancel that Arthur Gray owned.  Arthur told me a few years back he had this, and felt it must be a Sperati.  Gray also owned a £2 CofA watermark Sperati fake that was also hitherto unrecorded.  I have a CofA with the same flaw, I am checking into further.

Until this year it was believed the only Sperati forgery was one specific £2 type on the 1913 First Watermark paper.  Now, we have a confirmed second plate on £2, a 100% Kellow confirmed £2 Sperati forgery on CofA watermark paper, and a likely £1 Brown and Blue Sperati, all reported in a limited time period.

So once again I must repeat - “The last word will NEVER be written in Philately”.  Open and enquiring minds can and do still turn up exciting and valuable new finds, even a Century after they were created.  I love my job - EVERY day is different to the previous one!  FAR more info on Sperati fakes here -


Slogan cancel surprises.


I admit that if I saw this cover nearby in an estate box of odds and sods, I'd leave it in there, and allow zero for it when pricing the box.  This cover as can be seen, is rather crumpled and creased and foxed looking window faced envelope would appear to have nothing much at all going for it.


This boring thing sold for $268.


It was Lot 91 in the Phoenix Stamp Auctions of November 3rd in Melbourne.  Estimate was $200 and invoice ran to about $268, well above estimate.  Pretty amazing to me anyway, and the auction notes point to a similar cover getting $525 in another auction.  The auction wording said -

Scouting: 1948 (Sep 6) window envelope cancelled by very fine strike of rare Melbourne Paid slogan cancel 'PAN-PACIFIC/SCOUT JAMBOREE/VIC- DEC 29/JAN 9” in red. (An off-centre strike realised $525 in a Sydney auction.)”

So, the moral of this story is, that even boring looking window faced post war envelopes with unremarkable appearing meter like cancels, in pretty rough shape, cannot be assumed to be just 10¢ items as I would have pegged this cover $268 as being worth.  That is more than the price of a CTO 5/- Sydney Harbour Bridge stamp!







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