Bulgaria Forgeries

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1879 Series
Sheets of 100 in 4 groups of 25 (5×5). Printed in St. Petersburg and issued on 1st May 1879 with the exception of the 50 cent which was issued later. They are the only Bulgarian stamps with values in Centimes and Franc.

1881 Series

The general characteristics of the forgeries are:
1. They are line perforated ( see the diagram below), originals are comb perforated. (I am not sure if this is consistent)
2. The triangle under the cyrillic letter “W” is deformed or missing.
3. The star ornament in the 5 ct, 10 ct, 50 ct & 1 fr is deformed.
4. Often missing background colour in spots inside the oval.
5. The left front leg touches the frame or is attached. The back left does not touch the oval.
6. The “T” in cent is not shaped properly in the 25c.
7. The G of “BULGARSKA” has a narrow head.
8. Generally thick, unwatermarked paper.
9. Head & crown misshapen
10. Numerals are larger

1979 Genuine left, forgery right

1881 genuine left, forgery right

It may also be possible to define the forgeries by the angle of the numerals as shown below. Genuine on the left.

Comparison of Comb & Line Perforations.
The main key is the corners which show perforations in the comb type.

According to most sources, forgeries of the 1882 (Sc# 12-18) and 1885 (Sc# 23.24) are not known.

1927 Reprints sold as 1879-81
I have seen the reprints offered as the 1879-81 originals (by error or otherwise). The 1927 reprints have a currency change, as well the background and lion are very different. 1881 original left, 1927 reprint right.

1884 Series

1885 Series

1884-85 Forgeries (the Bulgarian minefield)

There are “classic” forgeries of these that are fairly easy to identify, however it is speculated that the Bulgarian communist government printed excellent forgeries of these in the 1960’s & 70’s to relieve western collectors of their cash.

Therefore the copies shown above cannot be guaranteed as originals and can only serve as illustrations. As Seranne mentioned ” Aussi nombreuses que les lapins en Australie. La comparaison détaillée est absolument indispensable, néanmoins, il y a des surcharges si bien contrefaites qu’elles sont inexpertisables. (Tirage clandestins?)” – As numerous as rabbits in Australia. A detailed analysis is indispensible, some counterfeit surcharges are so good that they cannot be expertized (clandestine printing?).

Of those shown, the 1885 15s is forged and possibly one of the 5s. The 50s appears OK and the rare 1884 (20a) 5s is a certified copy. Note that some 20a’s are genuine Sc#20 red overprints that have been altered black. A high magnification will detect some red specks.

Left genuine, center crude forgery, right very good forgery Note the slanted end (1) & thick line (2)
The main characteristics of the genuine are:
Overall the overprint is distinct – blotchy overprints are a good sign of a forgery.
The outside edge height is 7.5 mm
1. Ends of the 3 are flat – forgeries tend to have 1 or both slanted.
2. Center is deeply indented.
3. Bottom of center and joint of shadow line up horizontally.
4. Shadow lines are thin – this can be a key feature
5. The overprint is 7.5 mm high measured at the furthest outside point

Left genuine, center crude forgery, right red overprint made black to imitate a rare stamp (note the exaggerated slope of the top right end).
The main characteristics of the genuine are:
1. The tail of the 5 is flat and horizontal.
2. The top is flat and not a continuation of the adjoining curve.
3. The shadow extends beyond the dark shaded area.
4. A short vertical end.
5. Empty space is narrow.
6. Shaded areas are large & well defined
7. The overprint is 7.5 mm high measured at the furthest outside point.

Left genuine, others forgeries
The main characteristics of the genuine are:
1. The underside of the top of the 5 is curved and the end is lower than the starting point.
2. These ends are horizontal and flat. Most forgeries are flat
3. The tail of the 1 has an upward curve.
4. The serif on the 1 is constant in width beginning to end with a square end. Forgeries generally taper to a point.
5. The overprint is 12.5 mm high.

Left genuine, others forgeries
The main characteristics of the genuine are:
1. The sides of the 0 are wider than the ends.
2. The underside of the top of the 5 is curved and the top of the end is lower than the beginning. The end is squared off.
3. The ends of the 5 are squared off. Note the distance.
4. The overprint is 12.5 mm high

1892 Overprint Forgeries

Left genuine, right forgery

Left genuine, right forgery
There are several varieties of overprints, so determining the forgery can be difficult. The key points are:
1. The tops of the 1 & 5 should be curved. The 5 should be pointed.
2. The base of the 1 should have “feet”.
3. The inner side of the 5 is fairly flat in the genuine.
4. The ball of the 5 is round in the genuine & more oval in the forgery

1895 Forgery


Forgery, this one is common as the pair is valuable.. The serifs on the “1” do not match.

1896 Forgeries

Original issues

The differences in design between originals and forgeries are so small that the first sign of this forgery is the color deviation. The forgery has a more dull color, and a closer inspection reveals an even surface.
The forgery measures 16.5 x 22.5 mm, and is comb perforated 12 3/4. The original is perforated 12 3/4 – 13 1/2.

1896 Forgeries
The forgery measures 16.5 x 22.5 mm, and is comb perforated 12 3/4. The original is perforated 12 3/4 – 13 1/2.

The left above was described as a variety. However given its size, perforation and lack of detail, it is probably a forgery

The 15 does have a variety that should not be mistaken as a forgery

1901 Overprint Forgeries

The main characteristics of the genuine are:
1. The tip is pointed and higher than the rear of the top.
2. Both these sides are flat & at 90 degrees to each other.
3. The outside forms a large almost round shape.
4. The inside is almost flat.
5. The ball is well defined & almost round.
6. The tip protrudes well down with a flat edge.

The main characteristics of the genuine are:
1. The ends are narrower than the sides.
2. Also the inner & outer sides are flat.
3. The base is broad, flat & curves into the stem of the 1.
4. Notice the curve & length of the serif with a rounded end.
5. The bases line up but the top of the “0” is higher.

Although several known experts detailed the black bar as being either 2.5mm or 2.75mm wide, an accurate high magnification measurement of these blocks showed the measurements were 2.603-2.635mm.

1901 Cannon Forgeries

Above both are genuine

Above forgeries, the features for both values are:
1. An appendage sticks out under the 8.
2. A large hook on the ornament.

There are several varieties of both values that should not be mistaken as forgeries. On the contrary, they would indicate that the stamp is most likely genuine
These varieties include;
5 St:
Type I:  break of the outer frame over the 8 of 1876
Type II:  point under the 8 of 1876
Type III:  break of the colored line left below the value
Type IV: additional thick white line left At the height of the wheel of the cherry cannon
Type V:  break of the outer frame on the upper right
15 St:
Type I:  none of the characteristics of the other types
Type II:  white spot In the ornament between 18 and 76, frame of the upper right corner damaged
Type III:  White line In the upper line of the value-valued to the right
Type IV: C from CTOT. Split, white lines from the ornament to the 8 of 1876
Type V: Facial upper left corrupted and slight damage to the decorative lines to the right of it.
Some of these are shown below.

Seranne does mention an apparently crude forgery that I have not encountered.

Postcard of the Cherry Tree Canon

1902 Shipka Pass Forgeries

Although of low value, these stamps were extensively forged.

Billig’s grosses Handbuch der Faelschungen’ describes two different forgeries of the Schipka Pass series. The story tells that the Type I forgeries were made in large quantities at the end of 1902 by a group lead by an artillery officer named Bukowsky, who got the necessary equipment from the artillery laboratory in Sofia. The forgeries were sold through regular stamp retailers, and caused great losses for the Bulgarian post.

Type II forgeries were made a few years later in Constantinople, and have poorer quality. In contrast to Type I these forgeries were made for sale to collectors.

Above are genuine

There are 2 plate types randomly distributed on each sheet which will aid the identification




Type I Forgeries – comparison with the genuine stamps below. NOTE: many editions describe differences in letters but given the variations in printing, I find this to be inaccurate as a means of identifying forgeries.

Genuine – 2 separated from frame, Forgery – 2 touches the frame, Genuine – thin braids, Forgery – wide braids

Genuine – Note Faces, Forgery – Note Faces, Genuine Left ornament complete, Forgery – ornament missing sections

Genuine – gun complete, Forgery – gun missing section
Genuine – pistol close, long flame Note the hand on the left is crude, Forgery – pistol far, short flame Note the hand on the left is defined

Type II forgeries. In details noted in Type I’s, these are closer to the originals. However, they are easily distinguished by the overall lack of definition and coarseness of lines.

As with the 1901 cannon series, there are 2 varieties of the Shipka Pass

Type 1 Genuine

Type 2 Genuine

The Shipka Battle – oil on canvas by Dimitar Gyudjenov

1903 Overprint

Genuine issues

The errors noted below are numerous and often forged.
Shifted overprint
Imprint “01” instead of “10”
Print only 1 or 0
Print only 1 in the middle
Printed upside down
Printed twice
Overprint double, one inverted
Pair one with and one without overprint

Although there are forgeries, the overprint was apparently not well made and many varieties exist particularly with differences in the top and bottom serif of the “1” as shown below.

1909 Overprint

I have no information on this issue.
The right one is not a forgery, the stamp comes in two colors of overprint and 2 types of ink were used. The ink will often penetrate to the other side on the right one.

1909 Overprint

The overprint of this issue has many varieties and I am unable to post what I consider to be a true “genuine”.. The “1990” error however can often be distinguished as a normal 1909 that has been altered.

Left: “Genuine” overprint, Right: Altered overprint

possible “Genuine” overprint

1915 Overprint

The forgeries of this stamp are basically identified by the color of the overprint which will probably be a lime green. I was not able to obtain a suitable example.
The points to look for are:
1. The back of the 3 is deeply indented.
2. The center has a long pointed extension.
3. The ends are fairly round bullets.
4. The C has a faint serif end the ends are close to each other.
5. The T has long extensions.
6. The bottoms are joined.
7. The K has an upwards curl.

1927 Airmails

Genuine set
The forgery is easily identified as the lettering in the plane fuselage is missing and blurred

1932 Airmail

This set appears on auctions often. Below some of the major differences are noted on the forgery. Overall, the forgery is much grainier, has less detail and the colour is dull.

Genuine Set

1932 Forgery

1901 Postage Due Forgeries

According to official sources, the post office made provisional postage due stamps on the 22-25 December 1901 by overprinting regular Ferdinand stamps (SC #60-65)) with a black “T” in a circle due to a temporary lack of postage due stamps.
Original issues of these overprints are rare. Most “T” overprints on the market are forgeries made at a later time. A high magnification scan will determine if the overprint was placed after the cancel.
Apparently, they first appeared in offers from a dealer, Alexander Richter. Some believe Richter made these overprints himself.

Left: eBay forgery, Right: shape of overprint from Minkus catalogue

Of added note, from 1915 to 1918 Kiupria was occupied by the Bulgarians and the Bulgarian official sent there to serve as postmaster apparently created these overprints to supplement his income. They appear on auctions and should be treated with caution.

Some Fake Kiupria cover offered on Delcampe & eBay below


Care should be exercised in buying these cards as there are many fakes on auction sites. To the best of my knowledge, the 1916 stamp shown below was not issued but appears cancelled on many cards with a SOPHIA or the cyrillic СОФИЯ cancel. Any item with the SOPHIA cancel should be treated with caution as there are many forgeries of the cancel including one that says СОФИA and some very crude variations.

1916 Macedonia Occupation never issued?

1916 Macedonia Occupation never issued?