©Lin Yangchen

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The bma malaya overprint is relatively simple and easy to imitate. It is one of many such overprints around the world, like those from Hawaii (Hotchner 1999), that have become the playground of forgers. At least six forgeries of the BMA overprints and dies, some rather quirky, have surfaced over the years. They are less of a forensic nightmare than the Japanese occupation overprints. Here is a collection.

This forgery of the overprint on the $5 tricolour, of which the author has seen another copy, is plagued not only by terrible print quality and distorted letters with blunt vertices, but also by incriminating box outlines around the letters that may be the edges of individual dies and/or blocks. Here the postmark is most likely fake as well. Overprint forgeries on the $5 have been described by Gibbons Stamp Monthly (1948), Wells (1963), Murray Payne (1996), French (2000) and Elliot & McClellan (2001). Some were made in France (Cockburn 1998).

A closer look.

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The obscure 'blacking of red overprint' forgery reported by Cameron (1950) on the 15¢. Lowe (1951) calls it a "dangerous" forgery made by carefully painting over the red overprint. There were only 50,000 stamps carrying the genuine black overprint, and they had sold out by January 1946.

This sneaky forgery is difficult, but not impossible, to detect with the naked eye. At high magnification it seems some kind of spray-jet printing was involved. The print is also more opaque than the genuine letterpressed version. Traces of what looks like digital aliasing (step-like diagonal edges) are visible especially in the last 'A'. But it doesn't look as if a computer font was used. If you examine 'MALAYA' closely, the three 'A's are quite different from one another.

Why would anyone bother forging the overprint on a common 10¢? Cameron (1950) offers a clue. He listed, among the many varieties of BMA 10¢, a "rough (experimental?) local opt. (much displacement)" on the 10¢ purple on chalky paper. Given this shade and paper type, it appears to be the only variety in which a pre-war 10¢ was overprinted. The rest are post-war magenta and/or substitute paper varieties. Add the fact that the overprint was messed up and you have a rarity.

Meanwhile, someone decided to pull a fast one with double overprints. This is literally a fast one, as it appears to have been drawn by hand. The forged upper overprint is rendered in a crude typeface of inconsistent weight. Faint crease marks have been made in the paper with the help of a straight edge, corresponding with the baseline and cap height of both lines of the fake overprint, presumably to help align the letters being drawn individually. The overprint is tilted slightly, perhaps in the quest to make it look accidental.

The dealer from whom I acquired this stamp had thought—or appeared to think—it was the famous 25 cents double overprint, and had put a four-figure price tag on it. Eventually I bargained it down to about 5%, not unreasonable for a philatelic curiosity bordering on the outrageous.

A forgery of the 25 cents double overprint itself was seen on eBay in early 2018, brought to my attention by a fellow philatelist. This is unlikely to fool anyone though; virtually every example of the genuine error is in safe hands and it is extremely unlikely a copy would appear out of nowhere.

A pair of handstamps with forged bma overprints, different from those described earlier, was uncovered by the author in 2018. There are score marks in the base metal around many of the letters, indicating that some fine alignment or adjustment took place. But they're plagued by the usual giveaways—sloppy lettering and blunt corners. The upper handstamp is a better forgery going by the shape of the letters and seems to have been used many more times (Peter Cockburn pers. comm.). See forged handstamps for other counterfeits and the story of the discovery.

I thank Axel Magis and Gerald Brown for discussions and reference material that improved this article.


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