|On January 24 in Melbourne, Prestige Philately sold a “used” Sperati forgery of the £2 Kangaroo for over $4,000.This is a very high price for a stamp that only a few short years back would etc….etc……
Most stamp forgeries are worth LESS than the genuine stamps they copy. Jean Sperati is the main exception to this general rule.As far as I am aware there were only four Sperati reproductions that came from this part of world. They all sell for MORE than the genuine stamps, and indeed in the cases of 3 of the 4 stamps – about TEN times the cost of the genuine stamp.
Sperati fake Original stamps
This £2 Kangaroo is by far the most “common” of the four as several dozen exist – mostly “used”. The other three forgeries…etc…etc…….
I have been privileged to have handled 2 of these 3 in recent times, and given the renewed interest in Sperati at Auction thought I’d outline for a wider readership a little more about this amazing man and his fakes.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.
Sperati holding purchased for a fortune by BPA.
His material was so dangerous the late Robson (“Robbie”) Lowe – on behalf of the British Philatelic Association decided to protect philately and purchased his “stock” and printing blocks etc in 1953. They paid a sum said to be $US40,000 ….etc…etc…..
As a valid comparison of what $US40,000 would buy in that era, Harmers London sold the entire ‘T.E Field’ collection of Australian Commonwealth in 1948 for £7,500. This amazing collection contained masses of proofs, essay, and £1 and £2 Kangaroos by ….etc….etc……..
I am proud to have a copy of that “Field” sale catalogue – kindly given to be by veteran Sydney dealer Ken Baker. The finest collection of the Commonwealth ever offered to that time. I predict ….etc….etc………
Baker purchased it on behalf of wealthy Australian grazier J.A. (Jack) Kilfoyle. Ken told me he showed the auction sale catalogue to Kilfoyle when it arrived. Kilfoyle said: “buy them all for me Ken – I want the lot -…etc……etc………
I also have the letter from Harmers to other bidders dated 5 November 1948 advising the whole collection had been sold to Baker for £7,500. “We hope that clients etc…..etc………..
Sold in 1961 for £250this sold last year for $217,898
There were high value roos there by the THOUSANDS. There were no less than 500 of the £2 Roos 1st and 3rd watermarks alone – many mint, monograms, imprints etc. There were 27 albums purely of Kangaroo stamps! Proofs, essays, Monograms, sheets, and major printing errors etc.Sperati is best known in Australia for his excellent 1913 £2 Kangaroo forgeries of which dozens are in collector hands. Despite the relatively large number of this particular fake, they still sell for many $A1000s each and are highly sought whenever they are offered.
Interest in Sperati continues unabated. The Royal Philatelic Society London has published two excellent books on this man’s masterpieces, authored by Robson Lowe and Carl Walske. The last volume of 218 pages published in very recent times. New discoveries were reported in these volumes after examining the holdings of the Musee de la Poste in Paris who held material hitherto not seen by collectors.
Sperati fools the authorities.
Sperati was so good, a mailing of 18 forgeries addressed to Spain was seized in 1943 by French Customs who has 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. Sperati would “sign” each very lightly on the reverse “facsimile” with easily erasable pencil, thus complying with the law!
Jean Sperati was a master craftsman, and produced very small numbers of meticulous masterpieces, rather than the masses of low quality JUNK quality material manufactured by Panelli, Spiro Brothers and Fournier etc. He had an intense interest and background in chemistry and associated areas, so he was able to make his fakes from GENUINE stamps. This is a very dangerous technique, as the paper, size, cancel, perforations and indeed some of the design were all then 100% genuine.
They are catalogued in the now HOPELESSLY out of date ACSC “Kangaroos”volume at $2,500 “used” which is MORE than a genuine
1913 £2 Roo is catalogued at – and that is of course Australian’s most valuable regular issued postage stamp. (‘Mint’ Sperati Roos are in ACSC at $4,000 and also would now sell for well over this sum. $7,000-$10,000 for the next one to be offered would not surprise me one bit.)
a heavy parcel!
This was originally a ½d Green Kangaroo which had the green colour bleached right out – but he left the postmark intact. And of course the perforations, paper and watermark are also all genuine.
This £2 Kangaroo was the ONLY stamp of the Australian Commonwealth ever forged by Sperati.
The differences from the genuine, as in all Sperati forgeries, are microscopic. The forgery is just so good it would be accepted by 99.9999% of dealers and collectors without comment as the genuine article. It was indeed so good it fooled the RPSL and Sir John Wilson!
Jean de Sperati was very incredibly clever in that he faded or bleached all of the design (or in this unique example, part of the design) of a genuine but low value stamp, and then printed his new design over the top. This way he ended up with the correct paper, size, perforations, watermark, and cancel (Although on this copy, the barred numerical cancel is understood to be a superb fake as well!)This stamp was sold with the RPS Certificate verifying (wrongly) that this is a genuine stamp.
Possibly unique Tasmania £1 “Tablet” Sperati.
The only copy of this forgery I have seen.
As a shameless plug, I’ll mention that the stamps dealer have in stock the Sperati forgery of the Tasmania £1 1892 green and gold Queen Victoria “Tablet” issue. It is “used” with a genuine circular cancel “Hobart Tasmania APR – 1901”, and is the ONLY example of this stamp ever seen by myself or most large dealers I have mentioned it to.
This exact stamp the stamps dealer have in stock is illustrated in the BPA superb book on the Sperati forgeries, and the Harold Bynoff-Smith Forgeries volume. It is believed to have been a “one-off” attempt and Sperati it seems abandoned the idea of making more copies, after this absolute perfectionist decided he could not 100% accurately colour match the “real thing”.
The stamp is back-stamped with the violet BPA horseshoe: “Sperati – Reproduction” and is reference stamp numbered “169” also on reverse. The stamp is also signed/autographed in pencil diagonally on reverse – “Jean Sperati.” The appearance and centering is most attractive.
The Stamp dealer have bought it years ago when Bynoff-Smith dispersed his collection, and had “lost” it for years in my 3 stories of junk here. It only surfaced this week – almost got tossed into a junk box along with some 1980s FDC actually! Some things are better misplaced, especially things in the high end of Australian stamps, as the market is red hot for these now, as recent magazines have outlined.
The stamp dealer had no real idea on how to price it. Gary Watson’s Prestige Philately in Melbourne auctioned a normal used £2 Sperati Kangaroo for over $4,000 on 24 January 2004 as mentioned above. Dozens of those exist. The possibly unique Tasmania £1 might well be a $10,000 hammer item the way Prestige Philately is setting records lately, but I almost never auction anything.
The stamp dealer settled on the same price the Sperati £2 Roo just sold for, and for a possibly unique Sperati, think that is a pretty sensible level.
Western Australia £1 Orange Sperati
The only other known Sperati forgery from this part of the world is the Western Australia £1 Orange Queen Victoria, 1902-1911 V over Crown watermark.
This is a stamp I have never seen offered, even at auction. Rodney Perry told me years ago it would readily sell for TEN times a genuine £1 Western Australia – itself a fairly scarce and expensive stamp. Today I would not be surprised to see it get 15 or 20 times a normal £1 if one were offered.
The Western Australia Sperati is SO good there is one way to tell it from the genuine – it is BETTER printed!
The superb WASG handbook “Western Australia – The Stamp and Postal History” covers this forgery on page 296.
Sperati was such an perfectionist he took a clear image off a genuine £1 stamp and then RETOUCHED out minute colour spots found on all genuine £1 Queen Victoria copies.
Therefore the GENUINE show six specific little solid colour pinpoint dots that were meticulously retouched out by Sperati
This forgery sold for over $4,000 in January.
BNG 1901 2/6d Lakatoi forgery. Perversely, the stamp has an old 1939 Royal Philatelic Society London Certificate (signed by the keeper of the Royal Collection, Sir John Wilson!) saying it is a genuine SG #14b (today this has been re-numbered by Gibbons as SG #16 – Cat. £2,500). That Certificate and opinion is wrong, and again shows slavish obedience to Certificates can be costly, as the fake is worth MORE than a genuine SG #16! It is a Sperati forgery, and is quite possibly the only one now existing. Interestingly the Certificate is dated well BEFORE Sperati’s activities became widely known.