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 Home  >  Resources  >  Articles  >  Identifying Danish Postfærge Fakes & Forgeries
Identifying Danish Postfærge Fakes & Forgeries
(Postfaerge; Postal Ferry; Parcel Post)
by Jay Smith & Associates

This web page necessarily uses many images to illustrate the subject of the article. Furthermore, the images are "large" to clearly illustrate the features. If you are on a slow modem connection, please be very patient as the images load. Depending upon the browser being used, the images may not necessarily load in the order that they appear in the article. Again, please be patient.

(All pictured genuine items were from the stock of Jay Smith & Associates. All forged or faked items are from the reference collection of Jay Smith & Associates and are not for sale.)

If you are interested in forgeries of other countries, please see the Forgeries Table of Contents.
Introduction
The Danish "Postfærge" (postal ferry) parcel post stamps have been the subject of forgery and fakery attempts. In terms of the stamps themselves, it is not actually the stamps that are forged, it is the overprints. Though overprinted stamps in general have a reputation for be likely targets for forgers, the Danish Postfærge overprint issues are actually fairly scarce with forged overprints.

In the case of used stamps, there is another form of fakery to which these issues are subject -- faked or inappropriate cancellations. When collecting used examples of these issues, one must be careful that they have genuine and appropriately applied postmarks. Though examples of faked or manipulated postmarks are not "common", they are encountered with some regularity.
Background
First some explanation is in order. These stamps were created for use on two postal ferries operating a) between the mainland town of Esbjerg and the town of Nordby on the island of Fanø, 1919-1977; and b) between the Løgstør and Aggersund in northern Denmark, 1919-1942. The later ferry service ceased in 1942 when the occupying German force built a bridge across the Limfjørd for the intended purpose of using the northern part of Jutland for a jumping off point for a proposed invasion of England.
The Genuine Postmarks
The postmarks on stamps used for the Løgstør-Aggersund ferry service included only two designs; circular double-ring, with and without a crown & posthorn in the center. These are typically in violet, but sometimes in black.

Genuine Aggersund violet cancellations
Genuine Aggersund black cancellationAggersund cancellation drawing

The postmarks on stamps used for the Nordby-Fanø (and thus Fanø-Nordby) ferry service included a variety of designs; The most common are the several varieties of the most commonly seen general type, a double-lined oval, normally in black (below). The vast majority of Postfærge stamps were canceled with the double-lined oval cancellations.

Genuine: One of the several types of double-oval Nordy-Fano cancellations .

One type of single-oval cancel was also used at Nordby-Fanø (below).

Genuine Nordy-Fano single-oval cancelNordy-Fano single-oval cancellation drawing

Three types of straight-line cancellations were used at Nordby-Fanø (examples below).

Genuine: One of the straight-line Nordby-Fano types
Genuine partial Nordby-Fano straight-line cancellation in blackGenuine: One of the Nordy-Fano straight-line cancellation types
Genuine: One of the Nordby-Fano straight-line cancellations

Most notably, there were no ordinary-looking town cancellations used on these stamps for postal ferry usage. Except as mentioned below, all of the "proper" cancellations will be of the special postal ferry types. That being said, it is common for collectors who have not seen a lot of these stamps to mistake the corner of a proper double-oval-type for a ordinary (and thus inappropriate) town cancellation.

All of the proper postal ferry use cancellations are illustrated by Plovst (see references; available from Jay Smith & Associates). Permission has not (hopefully "yet") been obtained to copy those illustrations here.
Use on Ordinary Covers
There are two exceptions to the "no town cancellations" rule: the 15 øre light violet and the 1 kroner brown. Despite the numbering systems used in all the catalogs, these two stamps were the first issued; 27 January 1919 and 17 May 1919, respectively. Initially these two stamps (the only ones so far issued) were allowed to be used on normal mail, though such use is rare. A 20 June 1919 order forbade the use of these stamps for normal mail as of 1 July 1919. To my knowledge, "normal mail use" of these stamps has only been recorded with København postmarks, with the majority of the known examples being of philatelic origin. The following philatelic cover illustrates this use.

Cover showing legitimate (philatelic) use of stamps for general postal use.

Other than the use described above, these stamps were not allowed for use on ordinary mail. All covers appearing to show ordinary-mail use are either accidental uses or philatelic creations. Such items do have certain curiosity value, but are most certainly not rarities and should not have high prices.
Used Examples with Gum are Typical
Large numbers of these stamps were used; the ferry services were very active and a great deal of freight was carried. Because the freight was often quite heavy and large, a considerable amount of postage was required. For reasons which I do not understand, it seems that it was much more common to use a quantity of lower denomination stamps than a only few higher denomination stamps. In some cases this may just be an attempt to use up out-dated stamp inventory. As a result, it is very common to encounter properly canceled postal ferry stamps that have full gum. Such stamps are legitimately and properly used. In these cases, there was simply not enough space on the "fragtbrev" to which these stamps were normally applied. Though I am not able to cite sources, it seems very clear that some shippers must have maintained accounts which they settled periodically. When settling such accounts, entire sheets of stamps were canceled.
Proper Usage on Fragtbrev and Baggage Tags
The proper name for the "cover" to which these stamps were applied is "fragtbrev", literally freight letter. Though such usages are scarce, they can also be found on baggage tags.

The early fragtbrev range from very scarce to rare and usually costly. Later usages are not "common", however examples are generally available in the $10-40 depending upon the franking (stamps), usage, cancellation, and condition. [Approvals of such items are available from Jay Smith & Associates.] While the early fragtbrev were printed on thick paper, the later issues utilized a thin, inexpensive paper that is easily damaged.

The example below is a 30 April 1964 use from Fanø to Esbjerg, with 5.40 kr franking. (The 5 kroner stamp was still in regular usage at this time.) My information indicates that the rate for this item was 22 weight units at 20 øre each, plus 1.00 for "special care" (on goods valued between 25 and 1000 kroner).

1964 Fragtbrev
Mint Stamps with Forged Overprints are Rare
In 27 years of examining these stamps, I have yet to find a mint stamp with a forged overprint. I am sure that they must exist, but they are rare.
Examining Used Stamps for Possible Forged Overprints or Inappropriate Cancellations
The first step in examining used examples of these stamp issues is to examine the cancellation and to know which cancellations are appropriate. While it is certainly very possible that a "proper type" cancellation could be faked, in 27 years of examining these stamps I have never found such an example. Thus one can be reasonably sure that if the cancellation is of the proper type, then the stamp is "okay".

If the cancellation is not one of the "proper types" and it does not fall into the category of the very early use of the 15 øre and 1 kroner stamps discussed above, then the item is likely one of the following:
   -- a genuine overprinted stamp with an improperly
          applied cancellation
   -- a genuine ordinary postage stamp with a genuine
          cancellation but with a forged overprint.

Improperly Applied Cancellations
The "improperly applied" cancellations primarily occur for three reasons. The first two cannot be told apart as single stamps, nor does it really matter: a) Accidental use on ordinary postal mail and b) philatelically inspired cancelling to obtain "used" stamps. The later was most typically done with inexpensive stamps and was probably not done to cheat collectors; it may simply have been done by packet makers who needed to assemble several hundred different used Danish stamps. Such stamps are worth much less than properly used stamps.

The third type of "improperly applied" cancellation is an attempt to defraud collectors. In this situation a stamp of some value, often with higher value used than mint will be given an unidentifiable (town type) corner cancellation. It is important to note that in Europe many collectors prefer either Mint Never Hinged or Used stamps and avoid Mint Hinged stamps. As a result, some of the early issues are worth much more in "used" condition than in "mint hinged" condition. Furthermore, any otherwise blemished or missing gum simply adds to the fakers incentive to turn the stamp into a used example. Fortunately, the types of cancellations applied usually reveal the manipulation. (Note: in the coming years we can expect to see application of faked cancellations of the "proper types".) Such stamps are worth far less than the least costly of mint or used examples; many collectors would consider them to be worth far less than a damaged, but attractive, genuine mint or used stamp.
Forged Overprints
Forged overprints on these issues are actually quite scarce. Over the years I have seen a half dozen that were extremely crude and obviously done with a child's printing set. I have also encountered two or three dozen (out of thousands of stamps) that were "dangerous" forgeries. With few exceptions, the most dangerous forgeries have been on the 1919-1935 issues (Scott #Q1-14) on which issues the forger had an opportunity to make a significant profit. I have seen very few overprint forgeries on the later steel-engraved issues.
(Illustrations of forged overprints appear below.)
Seven Genuine Overprint Types
Seven types of overprints were used in making these stamp issues, some of them overlapping on individual stamp issues. The best references and illustrations on this subject are the book by Plovst or the AFA Specialized Catalogs issued every few years (see references; both available from Jay Smith & Associates). Because of this, it is important to know which different overprint types were used on each stamp issue before jumping to a conclusion that two overprints do not look similar and are thus not genuine.

In addition to the different types of the overprints, the letterpress (typography) metal type used for the overprints was subject to wear and damage. Plovst documents some of the more obvious varieties, however, every stamp in the sheet may have tiny overprint differences and thus small differences are not an automatic indicator of a forgery.
The Underlying Stamps
A common mistake made by newcomers to these stamp issues is to be concerned that one of two examples of an [early] issue must be a fake because the color of the stamp is different. Many different printings of the underlying stamps were used for the overprinting. As an example, Scott #Q1, the 10 øre green, was overprinted on stamps from nine different numbered plates; thus there is the potential of at least nine different color shades, some of them considerably different. Of this particular stamp, the quantities of sheets overprinted range from 50 to 200. [Note the excellent possibilities for building a specialized collection of such material. Also note the scarcity of any individual printing.]
References:
(All of the following are available from Jay Smith & Associates.)

Plovst, Tom: Danmarks Postfærge Mærker; 1962.

AFA Specialkatalog. 2002 is most recent edition. 1995,1987-88 or 1981-82 also useful for this purpose. The Scandinavian Philatelic Foundation published an English translation of the 1981-82 edition; it is extremely helpful for English-reading (only) philatelists.
Illustrations of Genuine and Forged OVERPRINTS
Though quite a few forgeries are pictured here, it must be recognized that the forgeries are relatively scarce. As of this writing, it has taken 27 years to build our reference collection to this point (an additional dozen duplicative forgeries are not illustrated). At the same time, the age-old axioms still hold true: It is easiest to cheat a greedy person or a person who is seeking a bargain. We have purchased the majority of these forgeries from: a) society sales circuit books; b) on-line auctions; c) part-time, non-specialized bourse dealers; and d) the collections of collectors who focused on price instead of quality. None of these stamps came from the stocks of reputable, professional dealers.
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: Irregular small characters, light inking. Note town cancellation.

Genuine:Only one type of overprint was used on this stamp, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. This stamp has at least nine color shades.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: Heavily inked "blobby" characters, no clear definition of the edges of the type. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on this stamp, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. This stamp has at least nine color shades.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: Irregular characters, variable inking, tilted, and in the wrong location. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on this stamp, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. This stamp has at least five color shades, three "browns" and two "red browns". The red brown stamps are significantly scarcer.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: Overprint positioned too low and ink coverage too heavy and ink color too dark. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Two overprint types were used on the 15 øre stamps, thus caution must be used when comparing overprints. Type 1 was used on the light-colored printings and Type 3 on the darker printings. However, used examples of the darker printings can be easily faded (to make the more desirable light-colored printings) and thus caution must be used. There were a total of six printings overprinted and there are at least six color shades.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery:The overprint forgery is excellent. However, the characters have many minor differences when compared to the genuine. Note the BLUE "Odense" town cancellation, which pre-dates the issue of the overprinted stamp! In making this forgery, the forger actually destroyed a stamp that, because of the blue cancellation, was worth more than the potential value of the forgery!

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on this stamp, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. This stamp has at least six color shades.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: The letters are too tall and are poorly formed and printed. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on this stamp, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. This stamp has at least six color shades.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: An extremely dangerous forgery that would most likely go undetected except for the town cancellation. The ink coverage is darker than usual and the serifs tend to be longer and more distinct than normal. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on this stamp, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. This overprint was done on three stamp printings, thus possibly has at least three color shades.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: Letters slightly smaller, irregular ink coverage, unevenly struck, slight angle. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on this stamp, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. This stamp has at least 13 color shades.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: Very irregular letters and poor ink coverage; obviously hand-struck. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on this stamp, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. This stamp has at least 7 possible color shades; the overprint was done on both types of the underlying stamp.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: This overprint forgery is excellent. However, the edges of the serifs are rounded, the ink coverage has a "blobby" look to it, and the edges of the characters are uneven. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on this stamp, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. This stamp has at least 7 possible color shades; the overprint was done on both types of the underlying stamp.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: The overprint is slightly weak and slightly tilted. The "P" and "G" are significantly different from the genuine. The overprint is placed slightly high, though placement is not an automatic indicator of a forgery. Note machine cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on all three of the "typographed Caravels", thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. The 15 ore has seven possible color shades.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: The overprint forgery is excellent, however, in the wrong location! Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on all three of the "typographed Caravels", thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. The 30 ore has at least nine (9) possible color shades, some of them remarkably different.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: The overprint forgery is good, however, in the wrong location! On a dark colored stamp such as this it is difficult to see the overprint for comparison purposes.Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on all three of the "typographed Caravels", thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful. The 40 ore has at least three possible color shades.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: Incorrect position. This "overprint" is literally hand-painted. Note town cancellation.

Genuine:The specialized catalogs list three different stamps for Scott #Q19. Of this "large dots in crown" type, four stamp printings were overprinted, all with one overprint type (using two subtypes). Comparison of the overprints is thus useful.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: Overprint technically good, but tilted. Ink color too dark and impression too solid. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Two overprint types were used when overprinting this Type I 30 øre value. Thus caution must be used when comparing overprints.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: Overprint technically good, but tilted. The serifs are too sharp. Ink color too dark and impression too irregular. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Two overprint types were used when overprinting this 30 øre value. Thus caution must be used when comparing overprints. The ink of the genuine overprints was fairly fluid, thus it is usually slightly grayish under magnification.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: This overprint forgery is excellent and very dangerous. However, the characters are slightly too thin and crisp. The ink is too "glassy" appearing.Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Two overprint types were used when overprinting this Type I 40 øre value. Thus caution must be used when comparing overprints.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: This overprint forgery is excellent and very dangerous. However, the ink is too dark; it is a thick dull black with no reflectance at all. Ink coverage is a little too broken up. Note town cancellation.

Genuine: Two overprint types were used when overprinting this Type I 40 øre value. Thus caution must be used when comparing overprints.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: The overprint forgery is excellent and if it had the correct type of cancellation, would probably go undetected. The ink color is a little too dark. The serifs are a little too sharp. The overprint is slightly tilted.However, the 2 August 1940 town cancellation is only the second day of use for the underlying stamp and is about 18 months before the overprinted stamp was issued. It is remarkable that a forger would go to such effort for such a cheap stamp.

Genuine: Two overprint types were used when overprinting this 40 øre value. Thus caution must be used when comparing overprints.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
 
GENUINE STAMP   FORGED OVERPRINT   Forgery: The overprint forgery is excellent, however, the ink color is too black and the overprint is slightly tilted. Note that the town cancellation of 5 June 1944 is six months before the overprinted stamp was issued.

Genuine: Only one type of overprint was used on all three of the "1945 Christian X" issues, thus a direct comparison of with other stamps is helpful.
Genuine   Forged Overprint  
Illustrations of Genuinely Overprinted Stamps with Inappropriate Cancellations
Considering how easily the Postfærge overprints could have been used on ordinary mail or could have received philatelically-inspired cancellations, it is remarkable that so few genuinely overprinted stamps were inappropriately canceled. The following illustrations show genuine stamps with ordinary town cancellations -- such examples are worth less than the lowest of mint or used value.

A Special Case: The 1919 1 Kroner Brown
This stamp is a costly stamp in either Mint or Used condition. However, the Used value is greater than the Mint Hinged value. Furthermore, nice looking used examples are quite scarce. Additionally, this is one of two stamps (see above) that for a short time could be legitimately used for ordinary mail. These factors have led to the existence of quite a few examples such as the one pictured below: canceled in København in such a way that the date is not visible. One can argue that it is possible that this is genuinely canceled from usage on normal mail. However, without a clear date, it must be assumed that the ordinary postal cancellation was applied years later with the intent of increasing the value of a hinged or no-gum stamp.



Genuine Stamps with Inappropriate Postal Cancellations
The following illustrations show stamps that could have been accidentally used on mail or, more likely, were favor canceled by a friendly postal clerk. In general, the cancellations will not include a date and often no evidence of town.

      

      

      

A remarkable block bearing a 1971 København roller cancellation. This is the only example of a Postfærge stamp which I have recorded with a roller cancellation.


 
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