This article published in Postal Stationery, Vol. 52, No. 3, Whole # 372, MAY-JUN, 2010, pgs 79-82

Fakes of the 1920 Provisional Surcharges

Bill Lehr


A provisional surcharge is a surcharge used to meet an urgent and temporary need.


A huge surplus of 3’ stamped envelopes, over 100 million, rendered mostly useless by the first class rate change to 2’, encouraged the ever thrifty US Post Office to revalue these envelopes to 2’.  The value of the paper alone of the surplus 3’ stamped envelopes was estimated at $200,000!


Automatic canceling machines were capable of processing up to 500 pieces per minute and all larger post offices had them.  This made revaluing by canceling machine a practical and economical choice.


Type 1 surcharge:  Washington, D.C.




Surcharged in black by canceling machine.

 Large, double line “2” which measures 8 ½ mm wide by 13 ½ mm tall.

Beginning 2 mm to the right of center of the figure “2” is the word “CENTS”.

“CENTS” in sans serif, solid letters measuring 18 ½ mm wide by 5 mm tall.

Overall measurement is 19 ½ mm wide by 13 ½ mm tall.

T1 on Die 143(A) on white, size 10, wm 20, size 13, wms 19 & 20; Scott U446.

T1 on Die 144(E) on white, size 10, wm 19; Scott U446a.

500 envelopes were surcharged by Universal Canceling Machine, all reported as destroyed.

20,000 envelopes were surcharged by International Canceling Machine.

Rejected:  Post Master General did not like the design of this overprint because the “2” was not printed over the stamp impression.


T1 fake surcharge on 1’ Mercantile envelopes




T1FK on U400, Die 111(A) on white, size 10, wm 17.

T1FK on Die 111(A) also observed on amber.


Type 3 surcharge:  cities with International Canceling Machines



Surcharged in black by International (Flyer) Canceling Machine.

Surcharge dies for the International machines were made by the International Postal Supply Company, Brooklyn, New York.  Each die was a cylindrical hub approximately 1½” in diameter.  One impression was printed for each revolution of the hub.

Double line figure “2” with a ball or teardrop and a straight tail (serif).

Figure “2” measures 6 mm wide by 7 mm tall.

Series of four vertical bars is located 1 Ύ mm below and 1 mm to the left and to the right of the “2”.

Vertical bars are thin, 5 ½ mm high and 2 mm apart.

Overall measurement is 25 to 26 mm wide by 14 ½ mm high.

 Dies 143 through 145 on white, amber, buff and blue papers.

 Die 146 on white, amber and blue papers only (no buff).

Eleven city type working die types are known and can be distinguished by the shape of the figure “2”.

Favor items are known.

Scott U458 through U461.


Type 3 on 4’ brown envelopes:  Scott U463 FAKE



Fairly modern fake of a T3 surcharge on the 4’ brown.  Surcharge is formed of a collection of bubbles or large dots rather than the continuous lines of a genuine surcharge.  Except for the bubbles and the lack of the spur, without magnification, this is a reasonable facsimile of the Philadelphia city type surcharge.


Type 3 fake surcharge on 2’ carmine Mercantile envelopes


Surcharged in a shiny, blue black ink over genuine envelopes.

Known both entire and cut square.

Believed to have originated in a small town in northern New York.

Reported in American Philatelist, AUG 1929


Type 4 surcharge:  cities with Universal Canceling Machines



Surcharged in black by Universal Canceling Machine.

Similar to Type 3 but with the vertical bars 1 to 1 ½ mm apart.

Overall measurement varies from 21 to 22 ½ mm wide.

Type 4 surcharges on all 3’ dark violet dies on white, amber, buff and blue papers; Scott U468-U471.

Type 4 surcharges on Die 144(E) are on size 10 envelopes only.

Thirty city type working dies are known and can be distinguished by the overall width combined with the differences in the figure “2”.

A variety of envelopes of other denominations and series are known to have received Type 4 surcharges in error.  Favor items are also known.


Type 4 fake surcharge on 1’ green envelopes of 1916


Fake T4 surcharge on Die 130(D) were offered for sale in 1927 as both entires and as cut squares.

            Fake T4 surcharge is heavy, poorly made, and shows breaks in the figure “2”.



A second variety of a fake T4 surcharge shown (above) on Die 131(E) on white, size 10, wm 17.


Type 6 surcharge:  Frederick, OK




Hand stamped with a small figure “2” rubber stamp in black ink.

Figure “2” is 4 mm high.

T6 on Die 143(A), dark violet, on white (Scott U477) and on amber (Scott U478) papers only.

Die 143 on both large and small sizes of envelopes.

T6 on Die 144(E), Scott U477a and on Die 146(H), Scott U477b, dark violet, on white, size 10 only.

T6 on Die 146(H), dark violet, on white, size 10; Scott U477c.

All genuine T6 surcharged envelopes have watermark 19 or 20 only.



Almost all entires have a special request corner card from either Frederick, OK or from Hollister, OK.

These envelopes are known surcharged T6 on envelopes without corner cards:

            Die 134, size 10, low back, white, wm 20

            Die 138, size 10, low back, white, wm 10; about 10 known

            Die 140, size 10, high back, white, wm 20; 3 known, one of which is poor


Type 6 FAKES


Apparently anyone with a small “2” rubber stamp and an ink pad created fakes of the Frederick surcharge.  Catalog values are artificially suppressed due to the large number of fakes.






Type 7 surcharge:  Daytona, FL



Catalog            Tracing


Hand stamped in black with a large figure “2” rubber stamp.

Information on the T7 is somewhat confused.  The catalog depiction (left, above) and the tracing (right, above) from a U479 signed by Bartels, are similar but only superficially.

“2” is 8 mm wide by 13 mm high per Mekeel’s, FEB 12, 1921

“2” is 6 mm wide by 14 mm high per J.M. Bartels, Collectors Club, Vol. 1, No. 1, JAN 1922

“2” is 6 mm wide at the base, 8 mm wide overall (tip to tail) by 13 mm high.

Tip of the “2” overhangs the toe; down stroke is tapered; bottom of the base is flat; base is slightly thicker at the right side than at the left; tail is tapered and tilts very slightly to the right.

T7 surcharge was applied to envelopes that had been skipped or poorly surcharged with T4 at the Jacksonville, FL regional office.

White paper only.

            Die 143(A), size 10, wms 19 & 20; size 13, wm 19; size 23, wm 20; Scott U479.

            Die 144(E), size 10, wms 19 & 20; Scott U479a.

            Die 146(H), sizes 21 & 23, wm 20; Scott U479b.


Type 7 surcharge on 3’ dark violet, Die A:

            100-110 mint envelopes with black surcharge on Die A were saved.

The Daytona surcharge is sometimes mistakenly reported as the Daytona Beach surcharge.

Rubber stamp used for surcharge T7 was reported in 1921 as having been destroyed.


Type 7 “Reprint” or “courtesy” surcharge:  Daytona, FL



Collector demand encouraged the Daytona, FL Post Master to reprint T7 surcharged envelopes.

The large “2” used was not the same as the original figure “2”.

Down stroke on the reprint figure “2” is thick and does not taper; the ink is a duller shade of black.

Corner cards on the “reprint” entires have been inked out.

These reprints served no postal function, they were made solely for sale to collectors; these are fakes.


Type 7 surcharge:  Orlando Beach, FL



Hand stamped in black or in violet with a large figure “2”.  Specimen shown above has been enhanced.

“2” is 6 mm wide by 14 mm high.

Surcharge applied by hand using an old rubber stamp from their office supplies.

Type 7 surcharge in black on Die 146/7(H), white paper, size 10, wm 19 only.

Type 7 surcharge in violet on 3’ dark violet, Die H, on white were sold by the enterprising mayor.

            29 mint envelopes with violet surcharge on Die H were saved; not known used.

            T7 in purple on white Die 146(H); Scott U480.

            T7, Die 146, white, size 21, wm 22, signed by Bartels; ex Floyd, ex Saddleback; not UPSS listed.


NOTE:  Most genuine T7 surcharged envelopes show indistinct traces of the vertical bars from the T4 surcharge applied at Jacksonville, FL..


Type 7 FAKES




Fakes of the T7 surcharge range from a rubber stamp similar to the genuine surcharge to crude, hand drawn fakes that should fool no one. 



Some fakes, like the violet Orlando Beach fake, shown above, are just too ridiculous to be taken seriously.  An absurd multiple “2” stamp in violet on Die 147, purple on white, size 13, wm 29.