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Liberia’s first postage stamps, lithographed by Dando, Todhunter and Smith, London, were issued in 1860.
It was probably inspired by the Perkins Bacon die of 1848 for Trinidad, Mauritius and Barbados first used in 1851.
The set consisted of three stamps, one each of 6c, 12c and 24c in red, blue and green, respectively, and all with the same allegorical design of Liberty: a white woman with shield and lance sitting on a rock, safeguarding a ship with freed slaves approaching the coast. This issue was reprinted 3 times by T.F. Todhunter, but it remained unchanged until, in 1880, when a 4th printing with new colors was introduced, also adding two new values to meet a change of postal rates suggested after Liberia had joined the Universal Postal Union on April 1, 1879.
In the late 80’s, two officials from Liberia came to London and brought with them all
the remainders. This accounts for the great proportion of the unused stamps now in existence and their lower CV. The sheets were broken up which accounts for the scarcity of multiple pieces.
Most Liberian experts note that there were 5 transfers
The stamps were set very close together (2mm.) with the perforations close to or touching the design and printed on unwatermarked handmade thick, grayish-white paper.
Same as the preceding issue except on medium to thin paper with a single-line frame around each stamp, about 1mm. from the border. The stamps are spaced 4mm to 6mm apart. The colors tend to be lighter than the first transfer.
These are unwatermarked and on very thin white wove paper with extra frame line like second transfer, but only 2 to 3 mm apart, so that the frame lines on some stamps sometimes appear to have a double line on one or more sides.
NOTE that each printing has subtle changes in the design.
In particular the shape of the ribbon ends and the rock-face to the left of the seated figure.
Also the shading in the waves.
Aside from the first transfer, a large number of dies were used to print the 1864-69 transfers making it very difficult to point out specific genuine characteristics.
These are unwatermarked on medium white wove paper. They were printed 2 to 2½ mm apart, without outer frame line, similar to first transfer, but on thinner paper.
By all accounts there may be as many as 50 different varieties and sources.
Most are crude and easily spotted such as the samples below.
A comparison with the genuine particularly of the ship, water and fonts in the CENTS clearly show the differences.
The last 2 are examples of the MOROVIA cancel spelled as Monrowa and Monopowa.
So, no sense in wasting time on comparisons of these crude examples.
Forgeries of Mercier/Fournier and Spiro
We will examine instead the forgeries that are most likely to be more dangerous.
The Spiro brothers made large numbers of forgeries from 1864 to about 1880. They had their own lithographic printing firm in Hamburg (Germany). This firm was probably founded in 1825 by Wilhelm Israel Spiro and his sons, the brothers Hirsch and Philip, joined in 1829 and 1840 respectively. Over the years over 500 different forgeries were made. They were normally printed in sheets of 25 ungummed and usually with postmarks applied. These cancels were their own fabrication and generally bear little resemblance to those in actual use.
These are fair forgeries but they have many specific characteristics>
As noted, they are almost always cancelled with an illegible stamp.
The head of the spear is very broad.
The letters are taller.
The face is larger.
The ends of the ribbons are different.
No attempt was made to copy the original denomination and all the forgeries have the same features.
Louis-Henri Mercier, whose real name was Henri Goegg, was a stamp forger operating from Geneva, Switzerland in 1890, whose business formed the foundation for the much more successful forger François Fournier.
Fournier purchased Mercier’s stock from the Office of Bankruptcy in 1904 and used it to start his own forgery business.
Goegg forgeries were of a very high quality and he won many medals at international philatelic competitions.
It was allowed to produce forgeries (referred to as facsimiles) back then so long as they were so advertised.
Fournier apparently took credit for these wins.
So, the question is;
Are the Mercier forgeries actually made available by Mercier or were they sold by Fournier who may have applied false cancels to them to increase their value
Forgeries compared to original on the left.
All the Mercier forgeries are identical for all values unlike the variations in the original values.
They seems patterned primarily after the original 12 CENTS
The quality is very good
Differences to look for;
The portholes on the ship are one continuous white line
The E of CENTS is more inclined
The BE in LIBERIA are taller than the other letters
The lower end of the C is shorter
The oblique shading lines in the ends of the ribbons are not as parallel and distinct as in the original
The wavy patterns in the corners are distorted and irregular.
These forgeries are excellent and plentiful and most older collections will have examples.
These would fool many collectors!
Each value has different characteristics and in many aspects are as good or better than the originals. The original is on the left.
A key difference that seems to appear in all the Fournier 1860-69 forgeries is a white area with broken lines indicated by the black circle.
The N in CENTS is fairly even both sides, in the original thr right side is taller.