... Estonian Forgeries ...

Last update: Estofil offer

Normally, the rare and expensive issues are victims of the efforts of the forgers since the possibilities of a quick and large profit are higher for such stamps... This is also the case for the early Estonian issues. All the more expensive issues like the provisionals "RAKWERE" 1918, "EESTI POST" 1919, "AITA HADALIST" 1923 and "AIR MAIL" 1923 have been victims of a number of more or less successful attempts of forgery. A more interesting fact with Estonian stamps, however, is that also the cheapest and most common issues have been extensively falsified. Why was such a marginally profitable activity established?

Estonian stamps were issued in numbers matching the expected consumption. Since the number of inhabitants in Estonia was rather low compared to other European countries, also the number of stamps issued was rather limited, see table below [1]. In spite of this, the value of Estonian stamps was set very low in international stamp catalogs, since very few collectors at that time were interested in these stamps.

Mi # Year Number Printed
1 1918 1,941,427
2 1918 3,592,866
3 1919 2,046,383
4 1919 502,877
5 1919 168,000
6 1919 4,006,800
7 1919 1,061,200
8 1919 3,034,800
9 1919 3,983,257
10 1919 7,168,013
11 1920 3,179,440

In the beginning of the 30's this was about to change. American stamp dealers were looking for cheap stamps to include in world mixtures to sell to kids and other aspiring stamps collectors worldwide. These dealers thus started ordering large numbers of cheap Estonian stamps, and the stores of REAL stamps were soon emptied. The demand was far from satisfied, however, and this created a new possibility of profit for the forgers.

I have been able to get hold of this sample of an offer of cheap Baltic stamps from an American dealer. Note that this offer is dated as early as 1921, long before the major activity of the forgers is reported, and I have no reason to believe that this particular offer included fake stamps. It is shown here solely as an illustration.

It took some time before the activity of the forgers was discovered, simply because nobody even suspected that also cheap stamps could be fake. 6 December 1931 the Estonian Philatelic Society was established, and they immediately attacked the activity of the forgers. In a public announcement to international dealers and collectors the names of a number of forgers were openly published (my translation from German) [2]:

"Estonia", Tallin, 15 March 1932
Announcement to International Collectors and Dealers

It is well know that a number of Estonian stamps have become very rare, and issues like the Air Mail surcharges from 1923 or the Red Cross charity overprints "Aita Hadalist" can no longer be found in business or trading activities. Even the Red Cross issues without overprint and the Wiking Ship issues 1920-21 are rarely to be found, while the local issues Tallinn 1919 (overprint "Eesti Post" on Russian stamps) have totally disappeared. This fact is used by an number of unscrupulous dealers in Estonia to bring more or less successful forgeries of stamps and overprints into business or trading activity.

Fortunately, this activity was discovered shortly after it's start. Due to the efforts of serious Estonian dealers and the Estonian Philatelic Society "Estonia" the gang of forgers has been brought into the daylight. Furthermore, a number of the forgeries have been confiscated. The leader of the gang - a person named Oswald Simson from Nomme (by Tallinn) - was brought to court on charges of forgery. Unfortunately, Simson had to be released of formal reasons as he had already sent his "merchandise" out of the country, and there was at present no formal complaint received from foreign buyers. If there had been such complaints, the injured party had not enclosed fake stamps bought as real, and without formal experticing it was impossible to prove that the injured party had indeed bought or traded fake stamps that were supposed to be real.

It was only possible to prove in court that Simson had MADE and offered forgeries of Estonian Red Cross issues, Air Mail surcharges etc. Especially noteworthy from the trial we would like to emphazise that Simson to his defence explained that there was a well known stamp company in Switzerland that mostly made forgeries and sold these through extensive advertising. Why should not Simson deal in forgeries when world-known companies also did so?

It is in the interest of all collectors and dealers that the next trial against Simson and his conspirators will get another result. This will happen as soon as injured collectors and dealers approach the right authorities (Commisary Sernov, Tallin, Pikk tan. no. 42) with a formal complaint with the specific forgeries enclosed. In that case, a new trial will follow that gives the forgers what they deserve.

Unfortunately, due to space limitations we cannot describe all forgeries in detail today, but will return to this in the next issue of our magazine, where we will give detailed descriptions of all presently know forgeries of Estonian stamps. Today we will limit ourselves to reveal the names of known forgers and dealers of forgeries, asking all collectors and dealers that have bought or traded better Estonian stamps with these persons to put their material under the magnifier. If some items appear to be forgeries, we ask the injured party to approach the proper authorities in Tallinn. The "Estonia" society is also ready to give advice, and the expertizers of our society can also be used (Fee: 5 Pf. per item plus postage).

Here follows the names of currently unveiled forgers and dealers of forgeries:

Oswald Simson (alias Aleksander Nomm, Parnu, Promenadi tan. 34, alias A. Nomberg, Johanson, Saar etc.), Nomme, Raudtee t. no. 65 and Pollu 3;...; Jaan Lubi, Wiljandi; ...
(The rest of the names in the list are omitted from this translation as it was not proven that all the disclosed persons were actually selling forgeries [3])

The philatelic society "Estonia" considers the protection of it's domestic and foreign members against forgeries and dubious manipulations of good solid Estonian stamps. The society sincerely hopes that also international collectors and dealers will support the society in it's efforts, because only the tightest cooperation can gain the philately.

Recently, I got hold of this PS card from a "Joh. Siimson" in Nomme, Estonia, offering Estonian stamps for sale or trade to a German contact. Probably, this card was sent by none other that the infamous Oswald Simson, offering fake stamps to unsuspecting contacts....

After several years' effort, where i.a. editor of their magazine, Emil Bruhl, in 1932 was prosecuted for defaming one of the forgers, the Estonian philatelists could finally in 1936 celebrate their success. A new law specially targeting forgery of stamps came into force 13 April 1936. The original text of §405 in the Estonian criminal legislation sounded (my translation from German):
"§405 Those who with economic motives copy or falsify Estonian or foreign stamps , even if the stamps are taken out of trade, shall be punished with up to 6 months in prison or a fine of up to 500 Kroner. The same punishment applies also to those who with economic motives sell copied or falsified stamps."

Here is an offer from the Estonian stamp company "Estofil" from 1936. Note the statement "All stamps guaranteed genuine", and that they do not offer any stamps older than Scott #67. By all signs, this was a more serious company...

  1. MICHEL Europa-Katalog Band 3: Nord- und Nordwesteuropa 2001/2002
  2. H. Alver, E. Ojaste: "Die Faelscher und die Faelschungen der estnischen Briefmarken", Eesti Filatelist 1976
  3. H. Alver, E. Ojaste: "Die Faelscher und die Faelschungen der estnischen Briefmarken - Erste Fortsetzung", Eesti Filatelist 1978