A dangerous “V. R. TRANSVAAL.” on 1 Shilling forgery by Lars Jørgensen

Recently a Transvaal 1 Shilling with the ‘all capitals’ overprint ‘V. R. / TRANSVAAL.’ was offered on eBay with bidding starting at 99p.  The stamp caught my interest for the following reasons, apart from being a nice-looking copy:

  1. The stamp showed the known overprint variety ‘no stop after TRANSVAAL’ from position 7 in the first all capitals setting, and
  2. A very interesting unknown overprint variety ‘dropped stop after R of V. R.’.

Always on the lookout for new discoveries the stamp tempted me.  I was intrigued and, as shall become evident later, somewhat blinded by my excitement of potentially a new discovery.  After some consideration I placed my bid – a generous bid.  At least generous enough to win the auction in spite of hefty bidding from others – quite a few others (17 bids/9 bidders).

A few days later I was happy to receive the stamp.  Immediately when opening the envelope I thought something was wrong.  But then again, ‘wrong’ when it comes to ZAR/Transvaal stamps can turn out to be a new revelation and I was completely not put off.  Here is what my inspection uncovered: The basic stamp is genuine.  All the features of the image match the genuine stamps and the stamp is plateable as position L8 on the basis of a coloured spot in ‘Z’ of Z.AFR. and (traces of) a spot in the left 1. 

However, the colour and paper are wrong.  The colour is bluish green while the 1s on coarse soft paper that was overprinted ‘V. R. / TRANSVAAL.’ is yellowish in colour.  The paper is thin and semi-transparent not at all thickish, coarse and soft as it should be.  The thin paper could suggest a Borrius 1s as these do exist in a somewhat blueish green or at least a ‘not yellowish green’.  But the overall appearance of the stamp does not at all resemble a Borrius 1s.  The ‘splash’ of colour seen on the left frame (at ING of SHILLING) is typical of the 1s on the coarse soft paper (the genuine overprinted 1s) and sometimes the 1883 re-issue 1s.  The 1883 re-issue 1s is also occasionally found in a blueish green, however the paper of this issue is consistently medium thick soft and slightly coarse – certainly not thin. The stamp has full gum, but looking closely there are traces of a faint cancelation across the bottom left corner.  Furthermore, the gum has visibly (from the front) penetrated the paper in some areas of the stamp.  This is typical for a stamp that has been soaked before being re-gummed.  The water used to soak the stamp has partly broken down some of the starch holding the cellulose fibres together in the paper.  This means that gum applied will to some extent be soaked up by the paper rather than layer on top of the paper.

The stamp is imperforate, except it has a slightly uneven top edge from perforations that have only partly been trimmed off.  It is not a coincidence that the stamp is from position L8.  This is one of the positions placed up against the gutter between the two panes and features a ‘wing’ at right.  It means that the was plenty of room for cutting away perforations – at least on that side to make the stamp a passable imperforate stamp.

Much suggests that the basic stamp is an 1883 1s and that the paper must have been thinned.  The thinning process (filling) would have roughened and broken up the paper structure further and gives more explanation to the gum penetration seen.

Of course, the 1883 re-issue was never overprinted ‘V. R. / TRANSVAAL.’ and the overprint must be fake.  Looking at the word TRANSVAAL there is not much to suggest this.  The type looks like the real thing.  The letters might be a bit too thick but this could be explained by inking.  The genuine overprint is also found ‘thick’ as well as ‘thin’ as a result of generous or insufficient inking.  However, close comparison shows that the ‘S’ is too broad and the legs of the ‘As’ are too evenly thick especially as concerns the third ‘A’ in TRANSVAAL where both legs are thick.  In the genuine overprint the left leg of all the ‘As’ is markedly thinner than the right leg.  Additionally, there is the above-mentioned missing stop after TRANSVAAL, which is a feature of setting I position 7 not position 8.

What I was surprisingly slow to spot is that the vertical spacing between ‘V. R.’ and ‘TRANSVAAL’ is 5mm.  This is markedly less that the spacing on the genuine stamps which is 8.5mm (except for setting I position 11, where the spacing is 11mm).  This is the most obvious proof that the stamp is a forgery.

Almost equally obvious is that the horizontal spacing between ‘V.’ and ‘R.’ is much wider than on the genuine stamp: Measured from middle of the one stop to the middle of the next the spacing is 5.5mm on the genuine stamps and a full 7mm on the forgery.

The larger letters ‘V’ and ‘R’ are also not as good a match to the genuine overprint as the smaller capitals in the TRANSVAAL.  The serifs on both arms of the ‘V’ are too thick – even when allowing for inking – and the tail on the right leg of ‘R’ does not curve enough away from the leg.  Both the V and the R have the right height but are too narrow.

While the V and R both in terms of font and in terms of spacing (and the dropped stop after R) should raise immediate suspicion, the TRANSVAAL of the overprint is certainly a very dangerous imitation and collectors should beware.

The reverse shows “1/6” in pencil, which could be a pre-decimal dealer’s price suggesting that the creation is not recent (pre-1971).

The forged overprint is the only one I have come across on a genuine (though manipulated) stamp.  All other forged overprints on the 1s in my possession and that I can recall are overprints on the relatively easily recognisable ‘Goldner forgeries’.  On these stamps the overprint is also a good imitation.  The larger ‘V’ and ‘R’ capitals are very close to the genuine overprint while the smaller capitals of ‘TRANSVAAL.’ are a fraction of a millimetre taller that on the genuine overprint.  The colour used for the fake red overprints differ from that of the genuine red overprints and the printing is far too sharp and crisp.  This said, it is generally easier to identify the stamps as forgeries from looking at the basic stamp (Goldner forgeries).

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