Critical research over the last few years into forgeries of classic stamps worldwide has brought about some quite surprising results. It calls into question some seemingly inalterable truths related to what we still call the “Spiros.” The role of Hamburg merchants in the selling of stamp facsimiles and their purported production now has to be revised. We’ll have to reconsider as well the importance of the so-called Spud Papers as a kind of handbook to identify supposedly Spiromade forgeries (Figure 1).
|Figure 1 (left).- Front cover of The Spud Papers. Figure 2.- Cover of the Torre's biography|
Nearly unknown Spanish forger Plácido Ramón de Torres (1847-1918) [Figure 2] was not only the author of hundreds of stamp illustrations, he was also responsible for counterfeits of classic stamps worldwide. He collaborated with Swiss forger François Fournier, active from 1904-1905 until his death in 1917. The role that Torres and his patron Elia Carlo Usigli (1812-1894) played in early forgery production and their European distribution has only been partly described. I believe we have to dismiss some beloved convictions in this context. The following article is one of the steps in that direction as far as the Bahamas are concerned.
A chronological approach
Publications from the 1860s do not mention forgeries of Bahamas stamps. Counterfeits of the 1/- value of the 1862 issue are mentioned for the first in 1876. Nearly all issues of the journal between 1870 and 1876 contained a section called “Spud Papers,” with articles where British philatelic experts W. Dudley Atlee, Edward L. Pemberton and Robert B. Earée compared descriptions of genuine and forged stamps. Copies of counterfeits were affixed to the corresponding pages in order to allow the reader a direct comparison (Figure 3).
|Figure 3 (left).- Bahamas text in The Spud Papers. Figuere 4.- Cover of Album Weeds or How to Detect Forged Stamps|
The article was reprinted in the first compilation of those studies, published in 1881 with the title The Spud Papers An Illustrated Descriptive Catalog of Early Philatelic Forgeries. Under the renamed title Album Weeds (Figure 4) the publication saw three new, revised, reorganized and augmented editions in 1882, 1892 and 1905 under the direction of R. B. Earée.
The information remained unchanged until the third edition in 1905. Only one new forgery was then added to the list. It is a second fake of the 4p value of 1861. This newcomer is described as a variety that appeared in the market about 1890 (Figure 5).
|Figure 5.- Typical Spyro cancels: Gold Coast sheet|
In reality, 1900 should be the limit to speak of early forgeries. But as many people affirm that the Swiss éditeur d’art François Fournier offered some of the corresponding “Spiro” forgeries, we’ll have as well to take into account some copies, possibly made by him or ordered by him and made by Oneglia.
More recent approaches to forgeries are those of Evert Klaseboer in his CD-ROM Catalogue and Morten Munck on his website. The Oneglia biography of Lowe and Walske is quoted, but I’m not sure they really took it into account. The presentations are based on the previously quoted works, but also Al Branston’s BWISC Bulletin article that mainly confirms the conclusions of some of his published contributions. Peter Fernbank’s Bahamas book only presents the Spiro forgeries identified by their whole sheets and the Oneglia forgeries of the 1p and 1/-. I believe Branston’s presentation of the forgeries contains some inaccuracies. I suggest a classification of the forgeries in six different types, corresponding each type to a different forger.
 The Spiro-made Facsimilies Never Existed, the End of a Myth. See http://actualidadfilatelica.blogspot.com/2020/08/the-spiro-made-facsilimiesnever-existed.html.
 The Spud Papers’ errors. The Confusion of the British Experts,” Australian Journal of Philately, n.d.
 Les graveurs de Jean-Baptiste Moens, SchweizerBriefmaraken Zeitung (SBZ), April 2019, p. 126- 31; July-August 2019, p. 246-252.
 “Plácido Ramón de Torres. From Foundling to Master Forger,” Cieza/Spain, December 2020. Downloadable at http://philahistorica.de/Dokumente/Libro_Sellos_Torres.pdf.
 5 Fehlerhafte Inschriften. Ein Künstler und ein Fälscher als Geschäftspartner. Francois Fournier und Plácio Ramón de Torres. Deutsche Briefmarken Zeitung, July 2019, p. 222-24; August 2019, p. 20- 22.
 “The Spanish forger Plácido Ramón de Torres: his Catalina and Livorno fakes and his Italian States forgeries,” fil-ITALIA, Vol. XLIV, No. 3, Summer 2018, p. 107-118.
 Al Branston, “Bahamas,” BWISC Bulletin 131 (December 1986), p. 67-72. Downloadable at http:// bwisc.org/bulletin-archive.
 See http://stampforgeries.com/forged-stamps-ofbahamas/
 Robson Lowe and Carl Walske, The Oneglia Engraved Forgeries Commonly Attributed to Angelo Panelli (Cyprus: James Bendon, 1996), n.p.
 Peter Fernbank, BAHAMAS Stamps and Postal Stationery to 1970, (London: The Royal Philatelic Society London, 1972), n.p.
 “What Cuban forgeries reveal about the ‘Spiros,” Journal of Cuban Philately, Vol. 211, No. 4, (October-2020), p. 6-14.