When do you trust a seller or an expert?

When buying stamps you can either be your own expert or you have to trust the seller. In the latter case sometimes this means you have to trust a certificate or an opinion of an expert. I do make opinions for Armenian stamps. If you buy Armenian stamps, perhaps you get an opinion issued be myself. Let me tell you a short story about what happened a few days ago.

When browsing offers on eBay and  I always see the many forgeries and fake overprints. Most of the time I simply ignore the often crudely made rubbish. Sometimes I write a short notice to the seller. Especially when the seller is member of APS or a similar organization or seems to be a pro stamp dealer. Most of the time a get thanks, sometimes I get no or a bad reaction. I know then the dealer is shady. It is like a little test. I do not waste time with the “hobby” of private sellers on eBay, Delcampe and Co. They almost always react aggressive and are not interested in learning or preventing damage to the customer. I guess they only want to get the better of their customers.

This offer caught my attention. The reasons: the overprint is so obviously wrong, it is a pain to see. Like a child tried to produce some new stamp playing with its stamp device.

fake overprint on ebay

So far nothing uncommon but the seller made some effort to show it is a professional dealer.


Wow. Even a picture of a very representative looking shop.


And lots of positive feedback ratings. How could they offer so crude forgeries? Perhaps a mistake. Armenian stamps are somewhat exotic to the usual stamp dealer. Lets give them a hint.

my text

This is what I wrote. I did not take time to make an elaborate message but included my web-address so they can see I know what I am talking about.


Now I was surprised. They did react. And they got a stamp expert. Someone like me. Or perhaps someone even more professional and experienced “one of the most important philatelic expert”. Wow.

But how come he gives opinions about stamps and overprints he obviously does not know in the slightest? Lets us hope they are lying. If not, the expert is not worth a penny.

I checked the internet for Mr. Caffaz. I would like to write him. Perhaps he can explain why the dealer is trying to sell crap using his name. I could not find an email address of Mr. Caffaz, but he is listed on http://www.filatelia.fi/experts and I also found other auction listings with certificates under his name.


Here an example from an Delcampe listing.caffaz cert

Here are items the seller is right now listing on ebay. All overprints are fake – and in addition, the forger used forged basic stamps.

$_57 (6)

Very ease to spot forged basic stamp – secret marks are missing and the smut on the outer frame is a dead giveaway. Shape of “2” is also totally wrong – look at swing in the foot, the size….

$_57 (5)

Same story here: basic stamp fake. Overprint wrong.

$_57 (3)


$_57 (2)

Likewise. The “1” is twice as big as the genuine one.

$_57 (1)

Again easy to spot basic stamp forgery, overprint wrong (“0″ tilted!”)

Finally a picture with a genuine “3” overprint. Can you spot the difference to the forgery?

3k black no serifs detail (1) - Kopie_1overprint fake

Perhaps the forger had the shape of the “3” of the “35” overprint in mind, but did not realize, the “3” was always printed using the no serife type overprint.


It would be nice if Mr. Caffaz could respond to this. Perhaps someone can provide an email address? Why is he (if he is) signing stamps he has got no knowledge about? I think this damages his reputation as an expert.


PS: I wrote Mr. Caffaz to the email address he provided on his website, but got no answer.

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4 Responses to When do you trust a seller or an expert?

  1. I agree 100% with Stephan’s analysis. Ray Ceresa

  2. trevor pateman says:

    I agree that these are all forgeries.
    I think there is a problem here which is Italy-specific. The general philatelic knowledge-base – except for Italian stamps – is poor, with collectors, dealers and would-be experts unfamiliar with the research literature in other languages relevant to the material they collect, sell or expertise. I would not take any Italian signature or certificate for a Russian or Russian-related item as reliable, though it might of course be right in a particular instance. It’s hard to be wrong about a Russia #1 though I am sure it’s possible!

  3. Ivo Steijn says:

    Apart from the appalling forgeries you show us here and the serious problem of this Italian “expert” (my personal bete noir is an “expert” called Sismondo, of whom I’ve seen some really terrible certificates. There’s also a German “expert” in Russia – he is no longer a Bundespruefer – who may be fine for Imperial Russia but terrible for Civil War stamps? I forget his name. Hovest?), I want to respond to your original question: when do you trust an expert?
    I’d start by saying that trust takes years to build but can be lost in an instant: all it takes is one “bad” certificate or signature to cast doubt on all the work of an expert.
    For the rest, it’s mostly a matter of common sense and having some expertise yourself. Take you, for example. I don’t collect Armenia but long ago I used to, and of course I’ve read the Ceresa books. I’ve seen only well-informed, careful-reasoned articles by you on Armenian philately, and I’ve agreed with all your conclusions. As a result, I tend to trust your judgment a lot, even though I am a million miles away from being an expert myself.
    Other experts have to travel a similar path to gain my trust. I’d trust Trevor Pateman’s judgment blindfolded. If I see a “maison Romeko” or “Dr.P.Jem” guarantee I’m 99% sure it’s a good stamp as well.
    I used to trust Mikulski guarantees as well, but when he sold off his Siberia collection he put his guarantee mark on some really terrible faked covers, so now I have a lot of doubts there.

    I think the answer to your question is “Live and learn”…

  4. I agree with you completely. When an expert like Rockling (Maison Romeko) dies and his residual stock is sold. his ‘signature’ stempel often gets sold with it and this can lead to some dangerous forgeries receiving the experts signature. One must keep up to date with the demise of experts and watch out for dispersal of their stock along with reference material.

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