martes, 12 de noviembre de 2019


Gerhard Lang-Valchs


Two years ago, when I started writing what will now be the first part of this article, published in March 2019 in the AJPh, I had discovered that the early Australian as well as most 19th century European and even American catalogues used illustrations the Spanish lithographer and forger Plácido Ramón de Torres (1847-1918) had produced. As I had found identical forgeries of several countries made with the same stones of the illustrations, I searched and was lucking enough to find as well some of the Australians.  I now call them “minor forgeries”, because most of them are copies of illustrations of low values he had furnished to his clients, editors of stamp magazines like Le Timbre Poste or Stamp Collectors Magazine, for their current publications on recently published issues. They were made in small quantities as a kind of “private copies”, essays or were sometimes simply left-overs made with the same stone he had used for his illustrations and put into stamp packages. They could be detected with the aid of his 1879 stamp album where all those fakes appeared as illustrations. As they had found their way as well to Australia, both the Torres Álbum and those early Australian catalogues may serve as a kind of handbook to detect those fakes. But, being low and cheap values, nobody cared about them, they were trashed and most of them got lost.

The knowlegde acquired

The world-wide research on traces Torres had left led as well to the discovery of some strange but revealing details of his way of understanding his forging activities. When forgers normally use to copy the original to imitate the best way they are able, not so Torres who included deliberately “errors” in some of his productions, not only in the illustrations, but as well in their copies converted into forgeries. 

First,   Torres “error”-joke-illustration [VICTURIA; STAM(P)]. Second, Torres forgery:
VALENC[_]A instead of VALENCIA. Third, Torres bogus creation (US Confederates)
Haiti 1868. Torres-forgery of a
bogus-stamp (liberty cap pointing
to the right)

The Spaniard created as well some pure fantasy stamps. And he produced a lot of items, difficult to classify, “hybrids” between “error”- or “joke”-stamps and fantasy stamps.[1]

His production was, however, not limited to stamps, he also produced fake cancels, partly collaborating with the Swiss forger François Fournier. Those cancels  show as well the same extravagances and other similar practise as changing inscriptions, creating “jokes”, incomplete or part-cancels”…[2] 

Being this strange behaviour unique in the world of forgeries, it was of decisive help to discover the “major forgeries” he had produced, imitations of high values or whole series of classic stamps. It was reported by the German police that, when he was arrested in 1886 for swindle and selling forged stamps, he had in his baggage a lot of forged stamps of Spain, Italy and some South American countries. But only his forgeries of classic Spain had been listed and when he was arrested again some years later, in the USA, they were documented in detail.  

“AND + illegibles” (ADMINISTRACION) and “OUITO” instead of “QUITO”
The Bourbon lilies converted into a laughing face andTorres-“error” part cancel “CHIVII
instead of “CHIVIT…” made for Fournier

Torres fantasy-“error”-fake Buenos Aires
The above mentioned knowledge, acquired during the research, opened the door to detect his forgeries, “error-jokes” and fantasies of the first Buenos Aires issue, the so-called “barquitos” (steamships). Through the cancels applied on those fakes, obviously as well his work, most of his Italian and South American forgeries could be detected. The results are being published little by little in the affected countries.

The Torres fantasies and their cancels

The most important step towards the detection of most of his major forgeries was the discovery of his “Buenos Aires” fantasies.[3] The foto (fig. 8) shows one of those samples with a value inscription in English, a bit strange on an Argentine stamp, and a mirrored “N” in “BUEИOS AIRES”. The cancels applied on a lot of those “hybrid-stamps” gave the decisive hint to puzzle out part of the Torres-jigsaw.

New South Wales

Genuine Sydney view (left)  and Torres fake
Among the forgeries of the first New South Wales issue of 1850, the so-called Sydney views, there’s a series of items on an internet website, dedicated to the detection of forgeries, attributed to the Spiro brothers.[4] Seemingly one of the applied cancels induced the author to that suspicion. 

A critical and comparative look, however shows, that it is but a fairly good imitation of both the genuine Australian Sydney cancel and the cancel used by the Spiro brothers on their Brasilian, Bahamas and some of their Gold Coast and West Australia forgeries. This barred oval, in reality an eliptic cancel, shows on the central stripe a free space along its major axis, filled with five concave lines, mirrored in the middle [CCCCC ƆƆƆƆƆ], that is a total of 10. Our fake sample, however, shows six (mirrored lines), that is a total of 12. Existing no further allegded evidence that would link those fakes with the Spiros, I’ll show now why Torres is the author of those items. 

Torres fakes (different values)
First, Sydney-cancel. Secund, Spiro-cancel. Third, Torres-cancel

If  the Torres’ New Foundland fake above depicted (fig. 15) should receive  a price for originality because of its funnily disimproved inscription, for the creation of the forged samples of the above presented series their author deserves the title of champion for the reinterpretation of the originally and very particularly remade design.[5] Instead of depicting in the foreground, as the originals do, a set of the commercial life of Sydney against the background of the still embryonic city in the distance, we can now enjoy a panoramic view of a flourishing medieval town of central Europe with its walls, flown round by a river without any further foreground representation. The motto of the lower part of the image has completely disappeared. Two words of the inscription have been expanded by one character each, “AUST” with a suffixed “R” and “SIGILLUM” with an infixed “E”: [“AUSTR” y SIEGILLUM”]. Several other differences, mainly concerning the background of the stamp, are easily detectable, but those done are more than necessary to identify the fake-items.

First, CORREOS-cancel on Torres-fake. Second, CORREOS-cancel on Torres-Sydney-fake.
Third, whole cancel on Argentine stamp

The limit that discovers Torres’ authorship without any doubt, is an obvious fake-cancel of a pretended Spanish or South American provenience, applied on some of the fake-items, that we know from the Torres-fakes of Buenos Aires: the CORREOS-cancel. It shows the following inscription: [CORREOS; 1.7.60.; II-III]. The cero was originally clearly visible, but was later partly “removed” showing now something not clearly decipherable between a “0” and a “6”, “extending” by this procedure its period of pretended use.

All the said should be proof enough for the authorship of the Spaniard. It will serve as well, directly and indirectly to detect some other forgeries of the Australian area.

Van Diemen

Genuine (left), and  CORREOS cancels on van Diemen
Although I’m sure Torres forged both values of the first (1853) Tasmania-issue, I’m not able to present but his forgery of the second value. The CORREOS-cancels delates the origins of this sample. A nice beauty spot at the Queens cheek seems to me the most eye-catching difference with the original. The rear half of the Queens neck and face are shaded on the original; on this fake ii is a nearly solid inked area. The characters of the original’s inscription do almost never touch the surrounding circles, whereas the differently shaped characters of the forgery do almost ever.

Genuine (left) and Torres forgery
The second issue, the so-called “Chalon-head”, is as well among the forgeries of our Spaniard. Again, I can only present a Torres-forgery of one of the three values of that 1855/1857 issue. The central oval does not touch the lateral frames and shows a background of crossed lines. The two lower corner adornments are visibly higher than those on the original, deforming the squares into rectangles. 

Genuine (left) and Torres forgery

The QV laureated shows, contrary to the original, a background of diagonally crossed lines. The Queen’s bust is surmounted by an arch-shaped inscription label the barely invades the upper value label. The latter shows at both sides two clearly delimited, encapsulated triangles pointing inwards to an adorning leaf-pattern, equally different from the original.

South Australia

The first and the second cross of the Queens coronet are much farer away than on the original. The tips of the label inscription with its smaller lettering do not end at the same level. On the original the right one reaches clearly lower than the left; on the forgeries it’s the other way round.

Genuine (left) and Torres forgery

New Zealand

Although none of the Australian provinces, I won’t exclude neighbouring New Zealand from this listing. Its first issue is among the Torres products as well, that could be identified through the application of the CORREOS-cancel. 

Genuine (left) and Torres forgery

The very small mouth, represented by a single line, gives the Queen’s face an angry expression. The background pattern of the forgery consists of small diamonds or rhomboid like forms of different size with a cross inside forming an irregular pattern, whereas the original shows a pattern of alternatively interlaced rings of hexagons (with their crosses) of two different sizes.

The VF-cancel

Among the cancelations that can be attributed to Torres, we find a very strange item, generally called the “VF”-cancel because of its eye-catching centre characters. The central characters [VF], if this lecture is correct, might be a tribute to his Italian patron, E. C. Usigli [“VSIGLI, FIRENZE”], but this is a mere speculation. Maybe what we have identified as an “F” should have been in reality an “E” with a short foot and without its serif. We’ll probably never know.

Two halves of the VF-cancel

Anyway. Surrounding both big central characters we see two sequences of six smaller characters each, separated below the central letters by a fat dot. There strange shape and serifs and the not very neat impression do not allow a sure identification, at least what the first of the two words concerns. I read something like “UAVTII” with a square “A” that could well be an “R” as well and a first letter that is clearly doubt although sometimes resembles an Hebrew taw [ט]. The second word reads “DOCIWL”. None of them does correspond to any meaningful word in any known language, a unique case in forged stamp cancels.

Sydney views again

Our just presented second cancel reveals some more Torres products and brings us back to another forgery of the Sydney views that does no longer show the same fantastic landscape above described. It’s a reasonably well achieved copy. A scratch through the word “CAMB” is the characteristic feature of this forgery.

Second Torres fogery with different cancels

The comparison of associated cancels makes us see, that there’s a third series of forgeries made by our forger, although a critical and comparing look at the details of the background (ship and buildings) and the posture and clothing (hats) of the persons depicted in the foreground make clear, that the details are different on every value.

Third Torres forgery

NSW 1851/53 issue

A solid background and a shading limited to the rear part of the neck, together with the inclination of the letters of "POSTAGE“, vertically aligned on the genuine, are the main characteristics of this fake.

Genuine (left) and Torres forgery

NSW 1860 issue

Being an embossed stamp, the plain lithographic impression can’t mislead the collector. The badly achieved last letter of “WALES” and the very different adornment between the Queens chin and the inscription allow us to recognize easily this forgery.

Genuine (proof) at left and Torres forgery


Genuine (left) and Torres forgery

Most forged samples of the 1p-stamp show blotches on or around the “O” of the value. The … (serif) of the “Q” points nearly straight downwards and the Queens left chin seems to be deformed. All this is surrounded by a single frame instead of a double frame.

Various samples


The inner frame of the octagon with the inscription shows on the forgery a kind of nearly solid ribbon around the whole inscription formed by very close put together dots. On the rest of the label the dots are farer apart. The “O” and at the opposite side the “G” of the inscription are at their upper parts on the same level, not so on the genuine. The pearls of the two lower rows of the Queens coronet do not touch one the other.

Genuine (left) and Torres forgery


As far as I can see, this forgery is the only one that does not reproduce the changing letters at the lower corners. Should the unsightly spot below the right side of her underlip have caused the languid expression of her face?

Genuine (left) and Torres forgeries, 3p and 2p


I’m sure other forged Torres-samples with one of the two cancels applied will appear and complete my first listing. But in the same way I could associate other different cancels applied as well on forged Torres-stamps of the first Argentine issue, the Australian experts will find others, not so often used or more difficult to distinguish on their stamps. I’m only marking the direction to continue this research.  

Acknowledgements: My thanks are due to Tony Lyon, mainly for his correction, and to Evert Klaseboer, without whose results of his previous research on forged cancels world-wide, published in his CD-ROM Catalogue, and the corresponding images he put at my disposition, my research would have remained unfinished and the article, of course, unpublished.

[1] GLV: The Stamp Fun Factory – Poking Fun on Editors and Collectors, Stamp Lover, vol. 109, nº 6, Dec. 2017, p. 173-175.
[2] Las „bromas españolas“ de Plácido Ramón de Torres, Eco Filatélico, febrero 2019, p. 28-30.  Fehlerhafte Inschriften. Ein Künstler und ein Fälscher als Geschäftspartner. François Fournier und Plácido Ramón de Torres, Deutsche Briefmarken Zeitung [DBZ], 7/2019, p. 22-24, 8/2019, 20-22.
[3] GLV: Los barquitos de Plácido Ramón de Torres, Río de la Plata, 10, abril 2019.
[5] Ed Wener: Newfoundland. Fakes and Forgeries, p.2.


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