JOBI Philatelic Services: 

                        Mother Nature Fools Experts!



Bill Lehr

© APR, 2004


This article published in Postal Stationery, Vol. 47, No. 1, Whole # 340, pps 10-11


Mother Nature Fools Experts!

UO72a Changeling


Previous articles have discussed accidental fakes, those philatelic fakes accidentally created by human agencies.  Here we discuss a fake “created by Mother Nature” and how even some experts were fooled.


The Post Office Department perceived a need for special envelopes for use by the Postal Savings System.  The Department authorized production of these envelopes in 1910.  The Mercantile Corporation, then producing the regular issue envelopes, was contacted about producing these new official envelopes.  Production of the Postal Savings System envelopes began in 1911.  Use of these envelopes continued to October of 1914.  Two values were produced, a 1¢ printed in green and a 2¢ printed in carmine.  Our fake concerns the 2¢ carmine.


The 2¢ carmine was produced in two sizes, large (UPSS 21) and larger (UPSS 23).  Genuine envelopes are known on white paper, Scott # UO72 (the normal issue) and on manila paper, Scott # UO72a (considered to be an error).  Genuine printings on white paper are known with watermarks 15 through 18.  Genuine printings on manila are known only with watermark 15. 


The 2¢ carmine printings on white paper are known with three line and four line corner cards.


The genuine 2¢ carmine printings on manila occur without an imprinted corner card.  James H. Bruns, at the time curator of the National Philatelic Collection, expressed his opinion in 1989 that the printings on manila paper are actually unmarked specimens.  Bruns based his opinion on research conducted in the Post Office Department archives.  Bruns stated that these specimens are all on the manila paper that was in use at the time for producing newspaper wrappers and UPSS size 10 envelopes.  This manila paper has watermark 15.  The Post Office Department considered using manila envelopes for the Postal Savings System but never authorized production.


Summary of the 2¢ carmine Postal Savings System envelopes:


            Scott #    UPSS #         Paper               Size (UPSS)     Watermark(s)     Corner Card


            UO72     OM-4           white                large     (21)          15-18                Y & N

                           OM-5           white                larger    (23)          15-18                Y & N


            UO72a    OM-6           manila               large     (21)            15                       N

                           OM-6           manila               larger    (23)            15                       N


L.N. Williams, author of Fundamentals of Philately, reminds us that manila is a paper quality or type, not a color.  Manila “is now (after 1860) applied to a strong light paper of coarse texture and various colors, used for envelopes and wrappers.  It is, usually, smooth on one side and rough on the other.”


According to a report by Wm. W. Wylie in Western Stamp Collector, February 17, 1959, the Philatelic Foundation issued a certificate of authenticity for a used cut square of UO72a.




The Philatelic Foundation issued certificate No. 0160693 on 5/09/86.  This certificate states that a “P.O. Dept. entire with Washington, D.C. 8/23/1912 CDS.” is a genuine UO72a.  Unfortunately, this item has a printed corner card and does not have watermark 15.  Both the corner card and the watermark disqualify this item from being a UO72a.  A quick comparison of the front and the rear of this envelope shows a major difference in color.  The front is obviously toned.


Kirk Wolford encountered this envelope with the Philatelic Foundation certificate at a west coast auction in January of 1995.  After examination (the envelope was watermarked either 17 or 18) and research, Wolford determined that this item was a fake.  The auction house withdrew the item.


Wolford then encounters this fake with the Philatelic Foundation certificate at a west coast stamp show.  The dealer offering the item withdrew the fake from sale and returned it to the owner.


Wolford encounters this fake, again, at ROMPEX in Denver.  The dealer returned the fake to the owner.


Wolford’s last reported encounter occurs at StampSHOW, Milwaukee, 1997.  The fake shows up at the show auction now sporting both the original Philatelic Foundation certificate and a new certificate from Professional Stamp Experts. The holder of the auction was notified. The fake was withdrawn.


Eventually, an unsuspecting dealer purchased this fake, believing it to be genuine.  This dealer held the item for several years before offering it at auction, with a starting bid of $800.00.  When queried about the watermark, the dealer responded:




My hatred of “experts” has just increased.

Did pay $850 for this about 10+ years ago……

It is Watermark 17……

Not you….just the PF for the umpteenth time…..


Thank you.”


The dealer immediately removed the item from auction. 


During a discussion of this latest offering (which occurred in October, 2003) of the UO72a fake with Rob Haeseler of Linn’s, Rob responded: “Poor **** bought a window-sill toned special….”  This is where Mother Nature came into the picture through the agent of sunlight.  Overall toning can be deceptive.


UO72a changeling shown front and back


This UO72a fake has long a history.  Here are some aids to identifying this deceptive item:


1)      Does not have watermark 15.

2)      Has a printed, three line corner card.

3)      Known used, addressed to “POSTMASTER, DOVER, N.H.

Note:  all genuine items are known in mint condition only.

4)      Comparison of the front and the rear indicates that the front is toned.


And, so Mother Nature created a fake that fooled not only one, but two expert committees!




FOOTNOTE:  A genuine, mint UO72a sold for $1380.00 as lot # 683 in Christie’s New York auction sale # 7946, September 21, 1994.




Bruns, James H           

The Official Envelopes of the Postal Savings System, Part 1      

Postal Stationery       

Vol. 30, No. 4, Whole # 251, p 51


Bruns, James H           

The Official Envelopes of the Postal Savings System, Part 2

Postal Stationery       

Vol. 30, No. 5, Whole # 252, p 99


Summers, Jerry

Manila Postal Savings Envelopes          

Postal Stationery       

Vol. 40, No. 2, Whole # 301, pps 103-104


Thorp, Prescott H, editor

"Manila" Is Not a Color           

Envelope World         

Vol. 1, No. 3, p 10

(reprinted in Postal Stationery, Vol. 30, No. 4, Whole # 251, p 77)


Thorp, Prescott H, editor         

Postal Savings Envelopes, the Short Lived Stamped Envelopes that were Issued by Mistake

Envelope World

Vol. 5, No. 5, pps 85-86          DEC, 1961


Williams, L.N.

Fundamentals of Philately

American Philatelic Society, State College, PA  © 1990

p 60


Wolford, Kirk 

Caveat Emptor!           

Postal Stationery       

Vol. 39, No. 4, Whole # 299, pps 115-116


United States Stamps:  Used Cut Square May Be Unique

Wylie, Wm. W.           

Western Stamp Collector       

# 57, Whole No. 2607, p 3


Thorp-Bartels Catalogue of US Stamped Envelopes, Century Edition         

Thorp, Prescott Holden, editor 

Prescott Holden Thorp, Netcong, New Jersey  © 1954

p 321


Catalog of the 20th Century Stamped Envelopes and Wrappers of the United States         

Haller, Austin P., editor

UPSS  © 1990

pps 22-23; 308-309


Siegel, Abraham

Email RE:  Question for seller – Item #2957271693

Sunday, October 12, 2003 1:41 PM


Haeseler, Rob

Email RE:  Question for seller – Item #2957271693

Monday, October 13, 2003 8:45 AM