Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fake Porto Rico Excise Revenue Overprint on US R173

Recently I bought the stamp pictured at right on eBay described as "USA R173 Porto Rico Excise $1 Overprint".   There were 10 bids, but as the seller chose the private listing option, I'm not sure how many different individuals tendered bids.  Obviously at least one other person wanted the stamp.

The seller didn't identify it as a fake or as a genuine stamp, in fact there was no description other than what appeared in the eBay title line quoted above.  One isn't supposed to sell fakes on eBay and I don't know whether or not the seller believed it to be a fake. I bid on it assuming it was and because I wanted it -- the equivalent of a philatelic "don't ask, don't tell" situation. 

At Left: Genuine Overprint on Puerto Rico R5
At Right: Fake Overprint on US R173
Frank Sente scan

There is no listing for the stamp in the Puerto Rico section, or elsewhere in the Scott Specialized Catalogue.  The only dollar values of the Commerce issues overprinted for use in Porto Rico were the the $1, $3, $5, $10, and $50 gray Commerce Issues, like the $1 value shown at left above.  A similar overprint appears on the 1c, 5c, 10c, 25c and 50c battleship issues.  Porto Rico was the only territory acquired during the Spanish American War where any of the US documentary stamps were used.  The stamps were used differently than in the United States, i.e. they were used to paid for an entirely different schedule of taxes.  We'll leave those details for a future blog. 

Here's why I believe it to be a fake.  Compared to the crisp appearance of the genuine, the fake has an overall fuzzy appearance.  The horizontal axis of the genuine overprint parallels the vertical axis of the stamp's design, whereas the R173 overprint slants uphill reading from left to right deviating noticeably from the vertical axis of the stamp design.  The height of the R173 is almost a full millimeter shorter than the genuine.  Also the length of the words "EXCISE REVENUE" appear to be about a half millimeter shorter on the R173 than on the genuine, suggesting that the fake may have been generated via a photocopy process.

I sent scans of it to both Richard Friedberg and Eric Jackson.  Friedberg responded that he'd not previously encountered an example.  Jackson replied that he had another copy "somewhere".  Both also believe it to be a fake. 

We'd appreciate hearing from anyone with additional information or having additional copies.  1898revenues@gmail.com.

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