The Issues of Fiume - Telling Forgeries From Genuine - Our Clarification

The Issues of Fiume - Telling Forgeries From Genuine - Our Clarification

Fiume is one of those philatelic minefields in which most collectors tend to assume that stamps are forged unless they have a certificate. However, Ivan Martinas, an established expert in this area has provided an excellent analysis of the various issues and gives good tips on how to tell the forgeries from the originals. However, for several of the issues he shows illustrations only and does not actually explain how to tell the forgeries from originals, and on some of the other issues he uses terminology that can get a bit confusing if you aren't familiar with it. 

My goal here is not to plagiarize his work, which you can read here, but to provide some additional points of clarification and explain how we applied the information in his posts to the stamps. I'll start with everything other than the Fiume overprints, because frankly those are so problematic that they are best dealt with last, after you have looked at the other issues. 

First Issues, Featuring Liberty, Clock Tower, Statue of Liberty and Italian Cruiser in Harbour

On these first issues, the points on the website are fairly clear and easy to apply, with two exceptions: the lines on the clock tower, and the crack in the cross on the flag.

In his explanation for the clock tower designs, Martinas states that the originals will all have unbroken lines to the left of the clock. What he is referring to is the outermost line of the left side of the clock tower, in the section that is right to the left of the clock face. His description should really say that the left side of the clock tower in this section has a jagged appearance, due to a number of horizontal lines projecting beyond the line, whereas on the originals, it is a smooth, unbroken line. 

In describing the originals of the Italian Cruiser designs he states that one type of forgery has a crack in the middle of the cross on the flag. What confused me when I saw this is that there IS a short horizontal line in the bottom part of the cross on the originals that could be interpreted as being almost in the middle if you didn't know where specifically to look. The crack that he is talking about is really more of a dot, and it appears in the upper right quadrant of the cross near the middle. It is not the other line. 

The design characteristics are the exact same for the Fiume and Posta Fiume Issues. So, there is no real need to look at both sets of pictures. 

The Franco Surcharges

Martinas illustrates some of the forgeries and one genuine example, but does not describe the differences. What becomes apparent when you look at the pictures carefully and compare them is that on the forgeries there is almost no horizontal extension at the top of the A of Franco, and the horizontal extension at the bottom of the R always touches the bottom of the A. On the genuine surcharges, there is always a very clear space between the bottom of the letters A and O and the horizontal extensions of the C and R of Franco. Another characteristic of the forged overprints is that the top bar of the F is too long, extending all the way over the R. On the genuine stamps it usually stops at the midpoint of the letter R. 

Student Fund Semi-Postals and Surcharges

These designs are all fairly straightforward, but again there are two points that require clarification. The first concerns the ship designs. The term Galley Stern simply refers to the very back of the ship. If you look closely on the original stamps you will be able to see a winged angel on the back of the ship. Occasionally, though not always, you will also be able to see fine dots in the area around the angel. On the forgeries, you will be able to see that there is some detail here, but you won't be able to tell what it is, and you certainly won't see a winged angel. The first test of the clear curved lines in the sail is good, but there are several genuine stamps that show 1 or 2 small breaks in these lines, whereas on the forgeries there will be lines that are entirely missing, or missing large sections. 

The second point concerns the flag designs: in both illustrations you can see clear lines in the lower plume of the flag at the left, but one is much clearer than the other, and both show all the lines converging in a small blob of colour. Confusing, right? Not if you focus on the are of the plume right before the lines all converge. On original stamps, these lines are clearly delineated in this area, whereas on the forgeries they run together in spots, making the overall image less sharp and clear. 

The Valore Global overprints on the originals are clear and sharp serifs on the L's and a sharp upturned serif at the base end of the "2". Forged overprints are somewhat fuzzy, and lack the clear serifs on the L's and the upturned serif on the "2". The genuine constituent assembly overprints are also sharp and clear black, while the forgeries are fuzzy and grey black. 

Gabriele d' Annunzio and Overprints

Here, the key characteristics are the O of Postale and the eyebrow. If you have a round O and a two lined eyebrow then you generally have a genuine stamp. The third characteristic about the diagonal dots in the neck I found to be useful where the stamps are used and the cancel is covering the key part of the eyebrow. But otherwise it isn't really necessary. As Martinas states, there are no forgerd overprints known on any genuine stamp other than the 1 Lire. On this value, the genuine overprint is somewhat fuzzy, while the forgeries are too clear. 

Military Stamps, Occupation of Carnaro and Arbe Overprints

Of all the issues other than the Fiume overprints I found these to be the most problematic. Generally, the issue of looking for the leftward projections on the base of the "T" and "I's" was not an issue, but determining whether the inside angles on the E and F are 90 degrees can be tricky in practice. The illustration makes it look as though the place to focus is right at the corners only, but after a while it becomes apparent that you also want to look at the general shape of the inside of the crossbar on the F and the E's. On the rounded forgeries, the entire crossbar will be rounded, whereas on the genuine stamps it will be straight, even if the very corner itself looks slightly rounded, due to excess ink. 

With the overprints, the starting point is of course to expertize the actual stamps first, and then the overprints. Martinas presents several scans of genuine Arbe and Carnaro overprints as well as forged ones. But he doesn't describe the differences, and they are hard to spot unless you know what to look for. 

What I noticed was:

  1. On the roman Carnaro overprint, you want to focus first on the "t" of "Italia". It should have a crossbar that is squared off on right side. Second, the "a's" have upturned serifs. On the forgeries, the crossbar of the "t" is rounded on the forgeries. On one type of forgery the crossbar does not extend leftward. The serif's on the "a's" are generally quite blunt compared to the originals. 
  2. I didn't wind up having to expertize the sans-serif overprint, because all my examples were on forged stamps. But it seems to me that the thing to focus on is the bottom of the "C" of "Carnaro". On the genuine the bottom of the C is a straight line pointing up at 45 degrees. On the forgeries it is curved.
  3. The Arbe overprints are the most problematic, but with these I find the thing to look for is an angled crossbar in the A. If the crossbar is straight and the letters are unbroken, the overprint is likely genuine. If the "B" and "E" are broken at the top, they are forgeries for sure. On the large overprint you want to look at the right leg of the "R". The right outside edge will be straight and the left inside edge will be rounded. On the forgery it will be curved to the right on both sides. 
  4. On the small Veglia overprint you should focus on the "L". On the genuine there should be no serifs projecting to the left side of the letter. On the forgeries there will be serifs projecting to the left side. On the large overprint, the forgeries will have a fuzzy appearance, but also look at the "G". On the genuine there are pronounced serifs on all points of the letter, whereas these are either missing or blunt on the forgery. 

Special Delivery Issues

These issues are easy and I find the points Martinas makes to be perfectly understandable and clear. 

1923 Caravel, Arch, Roman Column and Saint Designs

This issue is fairly straightforward, in terms of the points that Martinas presents and the most important characteristic is the round O in Postale. If this is present and the O is not an oval you have a good chance of having a genuine stamp. BUT you need to look at the following secondary characteristics:

  • On the caravel designs the cordage needs to be clearly separated and clear all the way along. If it is unclear in the bottom half you probably have a type II forgery. 
  • On the arch design, Martinas speaks of the edge of the arch being uninterrupted. But for the life of me I couldn't figure out, what in the picture he was looking at or referring to. Finally I saw it, but I think it can be explained more clearly. In the upper left corner of the arch you can see two coloured, curved lines. Below the lower of these two lines is a curved line in the pale buff background colour. On the genuine stamps, this pale buff line will be unbroken. On some forgeries it will contain a break. The crack in the bottom of the column on the right, while helpful is not essential because examples without the crack will generally have the oval O in postale, which already gives it away as a forgery. 
  • The saint design is straightforward, but the degree of completion of the halo does vary on the genuine stamps. The example Martinas gives shows almost none of the lines, but as long as there are not more than half of the lines in the halo, it is probably genuine, as long as the O of Postale is round. 
  • The Roman Column design is probably the toughest because the difference between the small triangle and the dot inside the A of "Tars" is largely a matter of judgement. Fortunately though, the vertical dimensions will enable you to be certain. All forgeries measure 27.5 mm vertically, whereas it is 28.5 mm on the genuine stamps. 

1924 Regno and Annessione Overprints

When I looked at the illustrations of the genuine versus forged Annessione overprints I was baffled because I could see no difference between the genuine and type 1 forgery, no matter how hard I looked. One long hover over the image for the type 1 forgery revealed the reason: because it was the same scan as the genuine! The alt text of the picture identified it as the same picture. This means I don't actually have a scan of the type 1 forgery. The type II forgery is easy to pick out, so all I did was compare my examples to the genuine overprint shown, and this way I was able to pick them out pretty easily. 

On the Regno overprint you want to look at the crown first. On the genuine overprint the middle band of the crown contains a cross that is clearly visible and white. The bottom ornament of the overprint is diamond shaped. On all the forgeries the cross on the crown is NOT visible and on the type II forgeries, the bottom ornament is a teardrop shape. 

Fiume Overprints on Hungarian Stamps

Now, last but not least we come to the most problematic area of all: the Fiume overprints on Hungarian stamps. The main problem with these is that there were several types of handstamped overprints and these are not all illustrated, Many are only described in very specialized literature, so it is possible that an item that fails the general tests for the machine overprint could be a handstamped one. However, it is unlikely when you consider how scarce the genuine overprints are, and the fact that some 80-90% of the overprints on the market are forgeries. 

The starting point, as Martinas says is to have genuine, known examples on hand. But failing that, the point I started at was to look very carefully at the illustration of the type 1 genuine overprint that he gives. I got a feel for the thickness of the letters and the following observations:

  1. All of the letters should have clear and sharp serifs, and on the E and F, the serifs at the top angle downwards at about 30-40 degrees. 
  2. The right side of the U is clearly thinner than the left.
  3. The left downstroke of the M is very clearly thicker than the right upstoke, and the two meet perfectly at a very sharp point that normally stops at about the top of the bottom serifs or feet of the letter. On a few of the handstamped overprints this point will extend to the bottom of the letter. The two diagonal strokes join seamlessly with the feet at the top of the letter. On the forgeries the M often has serifs that are too blunt, or the point at which the two diagonal strokes meet is too high. 
  4. The inside of the top crossbars of the F and E will be curved on the genuine overprints. 
  5. The ink should be grey black on the type 1 overprints and deeper black on the type II overprints, used for the postage dues. 

If you apply these tests in succession as I did, you should be able to eliminate most stamps you have as forgeries. In my case I wound up with 5 stamps that I think may be genuine. 

So, that is my analysis of the stamps of Fiume. 



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