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 Behind The Scenes  
 Replica Iceland Stamps Being Sold on eBay  
 
by Jay Smith
June 18, 2015

If you want to bring my blood to a boil, it's easy to do -- just start talking about eBay. This is not because eBay is a form of competition or anything like that, it is because I strongly disagree with their ethics and practices. Yet another example of eBay bad behavior has re-surfaced.

eBay is allowing a Japan-based (according to the items' sales pages) seller to offer "replica" stamps. [Update: A reader located in Japan has pointed out that the seller's About Me page indicates that the seller is really located in Taiwan. The reader commented that he has observed other types of China-based sellers trying to state that they are located in Japan as in his opinion buyers are more likely to trust a seller located in Japan.] That is apparently all that this seller offers; not just Icelandic stamps, but various costly (if genuine) worldwide stamps and even United States replica stamps (even though some of the U.S. are bogus/fantasy items that never existed but are similar to issued stamps).

In the case of the Icelandic stamps, all the items I saw, on the day that I looked, consisted of replicas of overprinted stamps. The stamps are marked "copy" or "replica" on the back of the stamp, but in the eBay images, they are really quite convincing-looking examples. The start prices are "only" a couple/few dollars, but the supply would seem to be limited only to the capacity of the seller's printing equipment.

I do not know if this is the same seller/sellers that has been thrown off eBay several times over the years, but it sure smells the same to me.

Some people excuse this type of replica stamp as a reasonable way for a collector of modest means to fill a space in an album. In my opinion, however, this only creates problems for future generations of collectors. Furthermore, I question how many of these stamps will have the "replica" or "copy" marking removed or covered up in years to come (or how many examples will never bear it in the first place), resulting in inexperienced collectors getting cheated. I think it is a bad practice and one which should not be permitted.

This is another reminder that eBay actively shows disrespect and lack of caring for both buyers and sellers. Some buyers could be cheated. And sellers have to cope with ever-lessening confidence in eBay. Last year eBay dismantled the remnants of its then-secret stamp expert program. There was a time when eBay worked with the APS and also eBay had a secret board of experts, etc. Now there is nothing left except "user reporting". In my experience over the years of making hundreds of reports to eBay about forged and seriously misrepresented stamps, I have never observed a single item being taken down by either eBay or a seller.

In regard to the U.S. replica stamps I observed being offered on eBay, which I believe to be in violation of U.S. law, I decided to waste some time (as my wife would tell me). I checked the Secret Service's website to confirm that they were still in charge of going after forgers of U.S. stamps -- they are. (The Secret Service is an arm of the Treasury Department and does a lot more than protect the President.) However, there was absolutely no mechanism on their website to directly contact them specifically about stamp forgery (or money forgery for that matter). The options given were general postal mail or telephone. [Is this 2015?] Because it was after 5 p.m. in my time zone, I could not reach the closest office (good thing that there was no "active threat"). So, I called the Los Angeles office -- what a waste of time! The receptionist was not qualified to answer telephones (one should be able to speak louder than a whisper and in basic English). The receptionist tried to convince me that the Secret Service did not do anything related to stamps, but she finally transferred me to an agent who is involved in money counterfeiting investigations. The agent also had absolutely no idea that the Secret Service is THE federal agency charged with pursuing stamp forgers; he apparently had not read the agency's own web page on the subject of counterfeiting even though that was his supposed area of expertise. When I asked how I should report such a thing -- or even forged currency -- he stated that the Secret Service did NOT have a mechanism to accept such reports from the public. I was told to contact my local police department who would investigate; the police should contact the Secret Service if the police think it is necessary. Well, I am not confident that my local sheriff's office -- which has their hands more than full chasing local bad guys -- will care about a stamp forger located in Japan. It would seem that the late-night comedians' jokes about the Secret Service are not far off the mark.
 
 

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