The U.S. Postal Inspection Service

Stamp Frauds

Alleged fake first day cover of the 6-cent Tricycle stamp issued in Childs, Maryland on May 6, 1985.
In 1989 inspectors collected and tagged this alleged fake first day cover of the 6-cent Tricycle stamp issued in Childs, Maryland on May 6, 1985.

Stamps have value, and counterfeit postage costs the U.S. Postal Service millions of dollars each year. Three groups fall victim to stamp fraud: the Postal Service when fraudulent postage is used on mailings, people who use counterfeit stamps as postage and philatelists who seek to acquire supposedly rare stamps.

A one-cent postage rate increase in 1968 led to a massive operation that produced and distributed counterfeit 6-cent Eisenhower stamps beginning in 1970. After two years of production, a New Jersey organized crime operation was busted by postal inspectors, who seized more than $500,000 worth of the counterfeits along with printing plates and presses.

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Pane of 100 6-cent Eisenhower counterfeit stamps turned over to postal inspectors during a 1981 investigation. These counterfeits from 1970-1972 are blue-black, unlike the original stamp’s dark blue gray color. The perforations are different (measuring 10-1/2 rather than 11 x 10-1/2). They also noticeably have a flatter finish and general loss of detail, particularly in the eyes, lips, and shadowed areas, due to the offset lithography method.

But the use of these counterfeits did not stop. More than $60,000 worth was sold in the underground market in Chicago in the summer of 1970. In the spring of 1981, three fake stamps were detected on an envelope in a Chicago mail processing center.

When inspectors tracked down the sender, he still had 745 more of the counterfeit stamps. He voluntarily turned them over to the inspectors and provided information about how his father, by then deceased, had purchased a stack of about 50 sheets of stamps for use for advertisements for his bar and lounge business. The case was closed after confirming that the family did not have any more counterfeit stamps in their possession.

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Partial sheet of counterfeit 50-cent Lucy Stone stamps

Ridges and details made in printing of a stamp can tell a lot about how it was produced. But it was the ridges of a fingerprint that broke the case of the 50-cent Lucy Stone counterfeit stamps. In evidence gathered during a raid, inspectors found a full thumbprint that had transferred a nearly complete impression of the Lucy Stone stamp’s image. Crime lab analysts found 11 other prints and three latent prints on the incriminating scrap paper that the counterfeiters used in their home printing shop. The thumbprint pointed to the son in a father and son counterfeiting team whose residence was searched by the Postal Inspection Service and Secret Service in 1995.(1) Officials seized $165,000 in counterfeit stamps, paper supplies, ink, and printing equipment.

  1. Wayne L. Youngblood, "Fingerprint Impression of Stamp Design Part of Lucy Stone Counterfeiting Case," Linn’s Stamp News (12 Feb 1999) p. 1.

In the 1930s, Henry Jarrett tried to sell a fake Annapolis, Maryland, postmaster's provisional stamp to a prominent philatelist. The collector became suspicious and notified postal inspectors. During a raid on Jarrett's residence in Pennsylvania, the inspectors found fake stamp dies, inks, and paper samples. To make matters worse, when Jarrett was arrested he had a bogus stamp die in his pocket.

As a result of the evidence gathered, Jarrett was tried in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. After lengthy deliberations, the jury decided that Jarrett was guilty. He was sentenced to one year in jail and fined $2,000.

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This fake Annapolis, Maryland, postmaster’s provisional
handstamp was confiscated from Henry Jarrett.

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A fake cover created by Henry Jarrett.