When you look over the last forty years and bemoan all the things in the world that are not as good as they used to be one of the things you can’t put on the list is that there are more forgeries hobbling our hobby than there were. When I was entering professional philately, we were one generation removed from the age of the great forgers. Ferrari and Fournier worked in the teens, twenties and thirties, and de Thuin up until about 1960. Once they were gone and their working plates bought up by the Royal Philatelic Society of Great Britain and the American Philatelic Society here in the US, there was no new generation of forgers to take their place. There are three main reasons. First, changes in printing technology have made it more difficult to print imitations of older stamps. Engraving, especially intaglio, is a largely forgotten process in the computer printing age and it is very difficult to get modern processes to imitate line engraved stamps which is how most of the stamps that are worth counterfeiting were printed. Second, most of the counterfeits in the earlier era were of stamps from political jurisdictions that had died out and were not going to enforce their anticounterfeiting statutes. Germany would come down hard on a current counterfeiter but didn’t really care in the 1920’s if someone reprinted the stamps of Bremen. And third, the economics of collecting have made it less lucrative to reproduce rare postage stamps. Today, generally, rare stamps sell for much less than they sold in 1950 compared to a hypothetical basket of other goods and services, so that it just doesn’t make as much economic sense to risk counterfeiting. All is not great-we still have alterations to quality, and some of the photoengraved stamps of PRC and Germany have convincing imitations, but the era of real counterfeiting is gone.

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