Notes from the Past

Jean de Sperati

The famous French stamp forger Jean de Sperati of Aix-les-Bains began work soon after World War I and over the next several decades is believed to have forged about 550 different stamps, some more than once.

His down fall came during WWII when he was accused of smuggling unused stamps out of France and thus violating currency restrictions.  Since the stamps he was accused of smuggling appeared to be genuine and of great value, he was placed in the position of having to prove them to be forgeries!  this he did, despite the testimony of experts who claimed them to be the real thing.

He was cleared of the smuggling charge but was then charged with forgery, despite his claim that he always sold the items as facsimiles and marked them on the back. Since this latter operation was done in pencil, his motives might well be questioned!

In the early 1950s he lost on appeal and went out of the forged stamp business.  With failing eyesight, he sold all his equipment, duplicates, plates, etc., to the British Philatelic Association.

de Sperati was a perfectionist who was proud of his work and was said to become enraged if one of his productions should be expertized as genuine!

Cabeen (Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting) reports that de Sperati was not only an expert forger but was extremely clever.  For instance, he would forge a valuable inverted center variety by removing the frame from a normal genuine stamp and replacing it with an inverted one, knowing that the genuine center would receive the most scrutiny!

de Sperati died, very much unmourned by the philatelic world, in 1957 at the age of 73. 

- Kenneth A. Wood
This is Philately - Volume Three Q-Z
Van Dahl Publications 1982
Posted October 22, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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