Gambia Cameo Forgeries  (click on images for a larger picture)

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Mail from Gambia was processed through Sierra Leone from 1853 – the stamps of Sierra Leone were valid for use in Gambia from 1861 to 1869.
The first Gambia stamps were issued in 1869.
The Cameo head of Queen Victoria embossed in white on a simple colored background was produced originally for reasons of cost but it became a classic and in great demand.
Apparently, only 500 sheets of 15 of the first issues were produced and anything remaining from any of the cameo issues were destroyed in 1898.

The issues
1869, 4d and 6d values only, imperforate and unwatermarked
1874, the same, on watermarked paper
1880 June, 7 values, line perforated, watermarked sideways
1880 October, 5 values, line perforated, watermarked upright
1881 May, all values. comb perforated, watermark upright
1886-93, eight values, with changes of colour.
The stamps normally passed twice through the plates, once for printing the colour, and a second time for the embossing.

This next image was published in a forgery handbook by a well known author

The first cameo was noted as being genuine while a-d are forgeries. This is incorrect, the plate block below and those further on in the article will show why this is not an accurate determination of a forgery as there are many variations of the curls.

The genuine stamps

Genuine SG 10B
Make note of the following
1. & 2. The thickness of the  frames
3. The shape of the G
4. The top of the A and the position and size of the letters
5. This spot of color – it does not appear on all stamps or may be very faint
6. The general shape of the chignon, normally with a second inside curl. This is not a determining factor but beware of curls that are noticeably inclined to the right
7. Note the thickness of the circle line
8. Note the direction the pearl points to
9. Note the shape and thickness of the corner ornaments

SG 11B & 12B

SG 14B & 15B


Some forgeries have the watermark

The forgeries
At least 5 variations have been categorized.
The forgers include Spiro, Spiotti, Oneglia and at least 2 others
Edoardo Spiotti was a stamp forger in the late 19th century from Genoa (Italy). He apparently worked very closely  with the stamp forger Oneglia.
Most of the forgeries I located were of the first issues

The genuine is posted on the left for easier comparison.

The forgery has a large top frame and large letters
The corner ornaments on the top right are not very curled
The circle frame line is too thin
The key point is the top of the last A which if both flat and inclined
The square dot cancel was apparently never used in Gambia

Forgery,  the top letters are again too thick
Note the first A has a flat top and is attached to the frame line

Forgery noted as a proof
The G has no serif
The circle frame is too thick
The horizontal line between the frames is too thin
The corner ornaments lack the inner lines
The pearl on top of the crown points in the wrong direction

Probably another Spiro as with the first one
Note the faint guide lines and large margins that are not on the genuine

Although the corner ornaments are very well done, the lettering is crude and not aligned

This forgery is quite crude
Note the G is attached to the frame by a dot
The curl points noticeably to the right
The letters are uneven

1886 Issues

A set of genuine stamps

1880 Forgeries

These forgeries are very good were it not for the very thick outer frame line

The plates

Plate II.—½d. Single line perforation. 1880 SG 10A

Plate III.—½d. First comb perforation (points down). 1887 SG 21

Plate IV.—1d. First comb perforation. SG 23, 23a, 23b 1887

Plate V.—2d. First comb perforation. SG 24 & 25 1887

Plate VI.—2½d. First comb perforation (points up). SG 26 & 27 1887

Plate VII.—3d. First comb perforation. Three guide dots to right. SG 28 & 29 1886

Plate VIII.—3d. Second comb perforation. Three guide dots to left.

Plate IX.—4d. First comb perforation. SG 30 & 31 1887

Plate XI.—6d. Second comb perforation (sloping label stamps, 1 and 5).

Sloping stamps row 1, #1, 5

Plate XIV.—6d. New plate. Without defective top row.

Plate XV.—1/. First comb perforation.