As a philatelic forger Dr. Peter-Heinz Albert Winter (1941-2018) is likely not well known to most dedicated Transvaal collectors. Matthews1 makes no mention of him in “Transvaal Philately” and Winter does not appear in Varro Tyler’s initial book2 on philatelic forgers. In both cases from a Transvaal perspective, this is with good reason: Winter only produced a single Transvaal forgery.
Winter has been described as “the Kujau of the philatelic world”3 (after the man who infamously forged the Hitler diaries4) and he was probably the most prolific philatelic forger since Sperati27. His forgeries had and continue to have a significant impact on the world of philately. At the age of 24 Winter attempted to flee East Germany with forged documents, was apprehended at the border and as a result served 30 months in prison32. He trained as an opera singer in the then East Germany (tenor) and sang more than 70 leading roles on more than 150 stages all over the world. The family moved to West Germany in March 1975.
Research: Research on Winter is complicated by sources simply rehashing what is available elsewhere without bothering to check references, a case of copy and paste. There are discrepancies in the dates involved and the number of different products Winter produced. For example: precisely when Winter acquired his British Guyana 1c black on magenta and the two dates of the issued RPSL assessments of the 1c black on magenta. Also, the number of stamps Winter produced and offered for sale varies according to the source used.
The definitive work on Winter in the book by Wolfgang Maassen, a philatelic historian who knew Winter personally for some 20 years21. Maassen interviewed Winter in 2005 and they corresponded for years afterwards. The book “Peter Winter’s Swansong” was published in English in the USA in 2021 and distributed by Leonard Hartman, Philatelic Bibliopole in Louisville, Kentucky. The book if just over 100 pages is profusely illustrated in colour and makes for fascinating reading. The biographical waters are further muddied by contradictory details Winter himself supplied in interviews and writings over the years; he would for instance frequently lie about his age.
The British Guiana 1c black on magenta: Peter Winter is probably best known for his claim that he had found another of the up to then unique and highly romanticized 1c British Guiana black on magenta of 1856, a stamp twice examined by the RPSL (in 1989 and 1999) and certified to be an altered 4c stamp … while it had also been declared genuine by two independent experts, Rolf Roeder and Peter Feldman16.
The RPSL verdict in 1999 was: “1c Black on magenta – imperf. – used is not SG 23 but it is a 4-cent stamp faked to resemble a 1 cent, extensively repaired and mounted on backing paper”.
The date when the stamp was acquired by Winter differs with a single reference saying in the late 1980’s and other references in 1998. The late 80’s makes more sense because the first RPSL examination was in the late 80’s and the stamp was gifted to Winter’s son Markus as a 21st birthday gift in 1992. In 1999 the stamp was offered for sale on eBay in Germany and apparently solicited an offer of DM1 900 000. The sale did not go through. The unique genuine example of the 1 cent black on magenta was originally in the Ferrary collection; the collection was confiscated by French authorities after WWI and sold off on multiple auctions as part of war reparations (Ferrary’s adoptive father was Austrian). John E. du Pont bought the stamp for $935 000 in 1980. Du Pont was convicted of manslaughter in 1992 and committed to a Philadelphia mental institution where he died in December 2010. The stamp was subsequently auctioned by Sotheby’s and sold for $9.48 million in June 201432.
Provenance: Winter’s 1c magenta stamp has been described as his most audacious stamp fraud. Winter claimed he bought the stamp from a Romanian dancer, one Mia Coreanju who in turn stated that her grandfather Vassile Moldoveanu was gifted the stamp from Grand Duke Alexei Mikhailovich18 where the grandfather was employed as a valet. Mikhailovich was a first cousin of Alexander III of Russia and tragically died from tuberculosis in San Remo at the young age of 19. He was an avid philatelist and a member of the Philatelic Society in London. Winter allegedly paid Coreanju just under DM 10 000 for the stamp (approximately US$8 800 in 1987. One source says “she needed the money”). The stamp had a left sided tear which Winter had repaired by south German stamp restorer Hummel.
To further complicate issues, the stamp was submitted to the Munich Paper Technology Foundation for assessment in 1998. They certified the stamp as genuine and “showing no signs of being tampered with”32.
Winter’s stamp forgeries: Most of Winter’s work was done through photolithography and the minority through engraving. He was well known for producing a wide range of envelopes with his forgeries attached. Among some of the replicas he produced were examples of the 1c black on magenta British Guiana, illustrated above. The infamous “inverted Jenny” (Scott 3Ca), Winter produced was one of his best known and best executed works. A block of four of this forgery sold for $472 in 2015 and another block for $625. This specific forgery has almost perfect colour matches to the original stamp. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) he could not duplicate the original paper. Rumour has it Winter printed only one sheet of this forgery…. a mathematical impossibility because multiple online sites offer numbers of this stamp even in December 202126,33.
Winter called himself a “stamp reproducer,” almost in the same vein as the London Gang. His solitary Transvaal issue was the 1-shilling tete- bêche pair illustrated below (he did produce Cape woodblocks; colour errors were sold for 45 Swiss francs (Chf) and errors on faked envelopes were sold for 95 Chf). His stamps were produced with a “replik” backstamp or a minute print of “faux” on the face of the stamp below the image on the left. The “faux” 2-point font is so small you could overlook it if you were careless; it is also easily hidden by a carefully placed cancel. Issues arose when Winter’s work was mixed with genuine stamps and offered on sale in lots to unsuspecting buyers29:“An impulsive buy on an eBay auction has landed me a big lot. It contained mostly stamp varieties from commonwealth countries. Most of the stamps didn’t interest me much but I decided to investigate a few that caught my eye. I searched the online catalog StampWorld.com to see if there were stamps that might be of value. I came across the 1859 Ceylon Queen Victoria Four Pence stamp. The catalog listed the unused stamp valued at $ 66,942”
Another problem was the backstamp “replik “and “faux” were easily erased/removed (one method was to carefully scrape off the ink with a surgical blade without damaging the paper fibres. Other source states an eraser could also be used to remove the replik and faux23,12) and the stamps then went on to be fraudulently sold to buyers as genuine. One Heiner Faber, a stamp dealer in Bonn, was convicted of removing the backstamp and “faux” from certain stamps and selling them as authentic copies. Faber already had a criminal record having been previously sentenced for fraud in 1985. He offered a service to customers whereby they could send him the reproductions and he removed the replik and faux and then returned the stamps23. On his arrest he was caught with large numbers of Winter stamps, some intact and some already altered26.
The companies: Winter ran a business called ProPhil Forum POC from a postal address in Bremen, Germany from around 198623 under the company name Bruyere from a wine shop (“selected wine of a special kind”) that also sold stamp replicas. Initially the stamps were not labeled replica/replik or faux. Winter produced glossy catalogues of his stamps in 1985 and 1988 and produced certain stamps “on request”. He initially sold reproductions of some 50 stamps from the wine shop, describing them as most famous stamps of the world in replicas32. Compare this to the approximately 566 different Sperati stamps and the more than 500 stamps produced by the brothers Spiro) of the world’s most valuable and rare stamps. The catalogue Edition 85 contained 185 individual stamps and 16 imitation covers presented on 16 pages. The exquisitely presented 1988 catalogue featured many new items. It featured 32 beautifully printed pages with 459 individual items and was printed in colour throughout. Winter offered bulk discounts on large orders. Orders in excess of DM 2000 received a 50% discount (!).
The process: In 1985 Winter (through an intermediary) corresponded with several European libraries and museums housing stamp collections, one of those being the British Library in London. Winter requested images from the Tapling Collection in the library. Some 6020,32 stamps were produced from the copyrighted photographs that Winter had obtained under false pretences (“for study purposes”) from the library. The British Library sought legal recourse and in May 1987 an out of court settlement was reached with Winter. The settlement included inter alia damages and two sets of his work (including his forged 1851 “cotton reels” of British Guiana5), the second set of which was passed on to the RPSL for use by the expert committee. Winter also surrendered the dies of the stamps in question to the library. The forged stamps and the dies were duly handed over and destroyed under the supervision of BL staff. With the help of a professional photographer Winter also managed to photograph the entire exhibition room of the Swiss Postal Museum in Bern32.
The printer: Winter was not the printer of the reproductions. The stamps were printed from around 1987 in Kaiserslautern27 by a firm called Graphische Kunstanstalt Gehringer GmbH. The firm was run by a Dr. Niedermeyer, also a philatelist.
The products: Winter offered a package of the four most famous stamps of the world for DM 249: the Mauritius “Post Office”, the “Penny Black”, the Baden “9 Kreuzer” colour error of 1851 and the British Guiana 1c magenta (single copies of the latter were priced at 50 Chf and on cover at 100 Chf). Of Winter’s highest priced items was a mint sheet of 20 stamps of the Saxony 1850 3 pfg. priced at 330 Chf. The catalogue prices of the other stamps varied from 20 to 45 Chf for single stamps and 40 to 80 Chf on piece. Stamped, faked covers were priced from 70 to 180 Chf. These were offered for sale as “reproductions” by Winter who never claimed his stamps were the genuine article and he never sold them as such. On eBay the Winter products are offered and usually described as “reprints” for a few US$ individually or in batches for even less in some cases28.
The consequences: After complaints to the Regional Director of Posts in Bremen in 1989, Winter volunteered to stop dealing in facsimile postage stamps and simply moved his operations to Switzerland trading as House of Stamps. Both ProPhil Forum and House of Stamps ceased to exist in the 1990’s Winter was a prolific stamp producer. He produced millions of stamps especially of the German and Italian states and at one stage he held a stock of some 20 million individual stamps32. As noted above he also produced forged stamps on envelopes although no envelope featuring the Transvaal forgery exists as far as I could ascertain. Winter offered to stop producing American philatelic reproductions if the APS paid him one million dollars. The offer was declined.
The Transvaal: Winter produced only this single Transvaal forgery; a stamp pair offered for sale as item 455 in his 1988 catalogue.
The forgery was priced at 40 Chf mint or used, 60 Chf on piece and 90 Chf on a faked cover. Is there a faked cover with this stamp in a collection somewhere …? This forged pair has a lot in common with the 1851 12d. black of British North America in that the 12d. was Winter’s only Canadian forgery (and the first engraved forgery of the British Commonwealth25.) The Canadian forgery on cover was priced at 135 Chf.
On the Transvaal pair shown the paper is stout, non-transparent, without a watermark and shows no wire marks. The quality of the printing itself is quite poor (Winter once called some of his products “joke items”25) and the colour appears flat. The beak of the eagle is very short, and the eye is located centrally in the head instead of to the left as we would expect. Note the double line to the lower edge of the ribbon below MAAKT. The letters in the ribbon are of unequal height and both the burgher and lion are eyeless. The shading lines in the shield are irregular and of different lengths with multiple irregular line breaks. Notice how the coloured smudge above the right “1” between the frame line and the right tablet is seen on both the catalogued image as well as the image of the stamp pair I have shown. The smudge also appears on the inverted image of the tete beche pair. This is then not an inverted electrotype but an inverted image. In addition, my copy has no “replik “backstamp or “faux” imprint. It is not likely to fool readers of the Transvaal Philatelist.
According to last reports Winter was “sick of philately” and retired to the Caribbean and lived for a time in the Dominican Republic. He returned to Germany in 2012 or 2013 and passed away from peritoneal carcinomatosis in Bremen in the summer of 2018.
A colourful, complex, enigmatic character with a remarkable life story. There is no doubt Winter was a talented artist. In Maassen’s book are multiple high-quality illustrations of Winter’s work. The illustration of the Lichtenstein souvenir sheet 5 Fr stamp on page 14 is simply breathtaking in its detail. I would suggest that Winter’s work is collectable from an artistic point of view in its own right; some of his productions are remarkable, especially the facsimile covers he produced.
- Mathews I et al., in “Transvaal Philately”, undated, Reijger Publishers, Cape Town.
- Tyler, Varro, Philatelic Forgers, Their lives and Works, 1991, Published by Linn’s Stamp News. There is information on Winter in Tyler’s “Focus on Forgeries: A guide to Forgeries of Common Stamps”, Linn’s Stamp News 2000.
- https://bwisc.org/wp-content/uploads/BWISC_BulletinHistory/b159_199312.pdf. This article discusses Winter’s forgeries of B. Guiana and the Caribbean in general.
- http://www.sheryll.net/Forgeries/Germany/Forgeries_article_Germany.htm. An interesting article with some links about Winter and his forgeries in general. From my research Sherryl’s original article of 2001 was initially meant to expose fraudulent sales on the internet website we all love and visit. Most of the online information on the web seems to have this article as a basis.
- https://www.stamp-auctions.de/katalogarchiv/50_mauritius.pdf. A different perspective on Winter and his “mischievous” fun seeking character. Winter is referred to as a “prankster” a view I have difficulty in appreciating. Wonderful summary of the Mauritius Ball cover history.
- Maassen, Wolfgang in “Peter Winter’s Swan Song.”
- http://catalogue.klaseboer.com/vol1/html/winter3.htm. An image of the Winter 1c magenta. There are also examples of Winter envelopes.
- https://stampforgeries.blogspot.com/search?q=Peter+Winter. Detail of Winter’s Lady Macleod forgery. High quality images.
- Maassen Wolfgang in Peter Winter’s Swansong, 2021, Leonard Hartmann, Philatelic Bibliopole, Louisville, Kentucky. This is currently the definitive work on Peter Winter.