© 14 APR 2004
The Many Faces of the Die 12 Forgeries
Die 12 is the 1˘ blue, bust of Benjamin Franklin facing right, 5 rayed star die with a period after postage, from the 1861 Nesbitt second printings. There are ten working die varieties of Die 12. The working dies can be divided into three classes based upon where the front of the bust points.
Class 1 Class 2 Class 3
Class 1: front of the bust points at the “G” of ‘POSTAGE”
Class 2: front of the bust points between the “A” and the “G” of “POSTAGE”
Class 3: front of the bust points at the “A” of “POSTAGE”
All genuine, original printings of Die 12 envelopes occur on buff laid paper with the exception of a working die type 9 which is also printed on orange wove paper. Wrappers were printed on white, buff, salmon buff, yellow buff, dark manila and light manila laid paper. Wrappers are known on orange wove paper. The source of cut squares, envelope or wrapper, can be determined by examining the laid lines: diagonal laid lines indicates an envelope; horizontal or vertical laid lines indicates a wrapper.
Reprints of the Nesbitt second printings were produced in
1865. The reprints are on white or buff,
vertically laid or wove paper and exist as cut squares only. A reprint of the 1˘ on buff has been chronicled
but not verified. The Thorp-Bartels Century Edition reports no
reprints of the 1˘ star dies. However,
the current (2nd) edition of the UPSS Catalog of the 19th Century Stamped Envelopes, Wrappers, Cut
Squares and Full Corners of the
Die 12 appears to have been quite popular with forgers, appearing to exist in at least twelve varieties which are described below. All of the forgeries described below have been physically examined by the author with the exception of T1-2.1, T1-3.1, and T2-1.4.
Die 12 Type 1 Forgeries
Type 1 forgeries of Die 12 are quite well known. The six-rayed stars are the most obvious distinguishing feature of the Type 1 forgeries.
Common Characteristics of Die 12T1 Forgeries:
Wide spacing between “O” and “S” of “POSTAGE” (approximately 1 mm.).
Serif on the bottom of “T” of “POSTAGE” extends farther to the left than to the right.
Printed and embossed in some variety of blue ink on white or buff wove paper
Die 12FGT1-1 (bust points at the “G” of ‘POSTAGE”) Types:
None of the type 1 forgeries examined, to date, fit this class.
Die 12FGT1-2 (bust points between the “A” and the “G” of “POSTAGE”) Types:
T1-2.1 (not pictured)
clear lettering; upper lip protrudes markedly; tip of the nose is quite
pointed; head leans severely forward: known on both white and buff wove
paper. Production of this forgery is
attributed to Engelhardt Fohl of
lettering; nose sharply pointed; hair poorly defined; chin has a dimple; head
leans slightly forward; front point of the bust is flat; mouth has a downturn
to the left; known on buff wove paper; overall measurement 20 ˝ X 25 mm. Example shown is missing a piece at the top
Die 12FGT1-2.3 Die 12FGT1-2.4
T1-2.3 clear lettering; cheek bone is prominent; hair is defined; bust has an upright head; known on buff wove paper; overall measurement is 20 ˝ X 25 mm.
T1-2.4 clear lettering; hair very clearly defined and appears as three separate sections; prominent upper lip; head leans slightly forward; known on buff wove paper; overall measurement 20 ˝ X 25 mm.
Die 12FGT1-2.5 Die 12FGT1-2.6
T1-2.5 clear lettering; point of the bust is rounded; cheek bone is prominent; hair is defined; bust has an upright head; known on white wove paper; overall measurement is 20 ˝ X 25 mm.
T1-2.6 clear lettering; point of the bust is pointed; bust is well embossed; upper lip protrudes least of any forgery type observed to date; known on white wove paper; overall measurement is 20 ˝ X 25 mm.
Die 12FGT1-3 (bust points at the “A” of “POSTAGE”) Types:
Die 12FGT1-3.1 Die 12FGT1-3.2
T1-3.1 coarse lettering; point of the bust is rounded and appears to point more at the “A”; hair is very clearly defined and appears as three separate sections; bust has a prominent upper lip; head leans forward; known on buff wove paper. Example depicted has a phony block-grid killer applied.
T1-3.2 fairly clean lettering; “S” of “POSTAGE” is broken at
both top and bottom sweeps; eye and eyelid are sharply defined; section of hair
appears to be completely missing from crown to neck; known on buff wove
The Die 12 counterfeit is printed on buff, un-watermarked laid paper but exhibits all other common characteristics of the Type 1 forgeries. This counterfeit is known as an entire. Overall measurement of the stamp is 20 ľ X 25 mm. Picture shown is cropped from the entire.
A Die 12 forgery matching the description of Type 1 but printed on diagonally laid, manila paper has been reported but is most likely a cut square of the counterfeit entire.
Die 12 Type 2 Forgeries
Type 2 forgeries of Die 12 are not as well known or as well reported as the type 1 forgeries. The point of the bust touching the inner frame line and other overall crudeness of production are the most obvious distinguishing characteristics of this type. There are several varieties of the Type 2 forgery, but all samples examined fall into Class 1 (bust points to the “G” of “POSTAGE”). The Type 2 forgeries could be considered an attempt to mimic the current Die 12A (similar to Die 12 except that the bust touches the inner frame line at front and rear) but at the time these forgeries were created, Die 12A was considered to be merely a variety of Die 12. Genuine printings of Die 12A occur only on white or on orange laid paper.
Common Characteristics of Die 12T2 Forgeries:
Overall production is crude; lettering and stars are poorly formed and misaligned.
White inner and outer ovals are uneven.
Bust misshaped; point of bust touches inner frame line at “G” of “POSTAGE”.
“C” of “CENT” is low.
Small white line connects the “A” and the “G” of ‘POSTAGE”.
Printed and embossed in some variety of blue ink on white or buff wove paper.
Die 12FGT2-1 (bust points at the “G” of ‘POSTAGE”) Types:
Die 12FGT2-1.1 Die 12FGT2-1.2
T2-1.1 both stars touch inner frame line; “P” and “O” of “POSTAGE” are connected; “N” of “ONE” and the “N” of “CENT” both touch the inner frame line; bust show blurred detail; center of the “A” of “POSTAGE” is almost filled; known on buff wove paper; overall measurement 23 X 25 ˝ mm.
T2-1.2 right star touches inner frame line; “N” of “ONE” and the “N” of “CENT” both touch the inner frame line; “P” and “O” of “POSTAGE” touch; “S” and “T” of “POSTAGE” are connected by a small line near the top of the letters; known on pale amber buff laid paper; overall measurement 22 X 26 mm.
Die 12FGT2-1.3 Die 12FGT2-1.4
T2-1.3 right star touches inner frame line; “N” of “ONE” barely touches inner frame line; “N” of “CENT” touches the inner frame line; “P” and “O” of “POSTAGE” touch; “S” and “T” of “POSTAGE” touch; known on white laid paper; overall measurement 21 ˝ X 25 ˝ mm. Example shown was separated from a forgery of Die 14 (the combination die).
T2-1.4 right star touches the inner frame line; “N” of “ONE” and the “N” of “CENT” do not touch the inner frame line; “P” and “O” of “POSTAGE” and the “S” and “T’ of “POSTAGE” barely touch; chin and collar on the bust are fairly well defined.
Nomenclature for Die 12 forgery identification follows this format:
Die # F(or)G(ery) Major Type Class Sub-variety
Die # C(ounter)F(eit)
Properly speaking, forgeries should be referenced to the genuine die number. Design, ink color and paper color may make it possible to ascribe Scott/UPSS catalog numbers to forgeries. Paper colors were compared to reference copies of the genuine Die 12 items to aid in assigning catalog number. The following table relates the forgeries described above to catalog numbers.
TYPE 1-1 1-2.1 1-2.3 1-2.4 1-2.5 1-2.6 1-3.1 1-3.2 CF
SCOTT unknown U19 U19 U19 W18B W18B W20 W21 U19
UPSS unknown 29 29 20 41A 41A 34 37 29
TYPE 2-1.1 2-1.2 2-1.3 2-1.4
SCOTT W20 W20 W18B U19
UPSS 34 34 41A 29
Additional varieties or paper colors may be waiting to be discovered. The author is interested in examining any additions to the forgeries presented above.
This study would not have been possible without the generous, extended loan of the Steve Dawson Collection of US Postal Stationery Forgeries.
Nesbitt Stamped Envelopes & Wrappers of the
Harrison & Bacon
Castle (as supplement to
Stamped Envelopes and Wrappers of the
Bartels Company, 1929
Thorp-Bartels Catalogue of US Stamped Envelopes, Century Edition
Bartels Company, 1954
Catalog of the 19th Century US Stamped
Envelopes and Wrappers of the
Mintz, Allen, editor
United Postal Stationery Society, Inc., 2001
Linn’s Stamp News
Vol. 75, No. 3831, pps 1, 33
Who Made Such Crude Fakes of Cut Squares?
Hotchner, John M.
Linn’s Stamp News
Vol. 74, No. 3779, p6
Forgeries of the 19th Century US Stamped Envelopes
Kinabrew, JM, Jr.
Vol. 20, No. 4, Whole # 191, pps 115-123
US Envelope Die 12 Forgery Revisited
Vol. 44, No. 3, Whole # 324, p 53
Vol. 4, No. 4, Whole # 72, p 49
Focus on Forgeries: US 1860 1c Benjamin Franklin envelope cut square, U19
Tyler, Varro, E
Linn’s Stamp News
Counterfeits of the Star Dies
Vol. 42, No. 1, Whole # 310, pps 13-14
Fake Nesbitt cut squares came
Linn’s Stamp News
Vol. 44, No. 1, Whole # 322, pps 4-6
Forgeries and Imitations of US Embossed Envelopes
Wells Leighton E.
29 DEC, 1945, pps 524-525
Catalogue for Advanced Collectors
Collin, Henry & Calman, Henry L.
American Journal of Philately
Second Series, Vol. VII, pps 247-248