It didn’t take long after the first stamp was issued in Great Britain in 1840 for stamp fakes and forgeries to emerge. By the early 1860s stamp forgeries were becoming quite common and they were appearing all over the world, incl. German and Italian States, South America and others.
Forgeries can be made by changing the face value of stamps to make them appear a higher value,or completely manufacturing a stamp. Some are obvious to the trained eye, whilst others are more skilfully done and can be difficult to detect. Sometimes postmarks have been chemically erased so that the stamps can be fraudulently used again, or fiscal pen cancels can be erased and a forged postmark applied. In Spain, the post office had to change their stamps every year between 1850 and 1879 to keep ahead of the forgers.
To counteract forgeries, post offices across the world have had to introduce a range of developments to retain the integrity of their stamps and to make them more difficult to forge. These developments include, watermarks, insertion of silk threads, delicate engraving, secret marking and special inks.
Some people collect forgeries and fakes, and they can be an interesting addition to a collection of genuine stamps. Stamps produced by famous forgers can have a reasonable value in their own right.