A forgery of the 1964 ‘Service’ overprint

One humble but intriguing oddity of Burma philately is the 1964 “local” official overprint on the 3p definitive, reading “Service” in English (SG O174, Scott O80). Given that every other such overprint since Independence had been in Burmese, this appeared distinctly anomalous at the time, and the stamp’s status was questioned when examples leaked into the wider philatelic view, mainly courtesy of the enigmatic Mr D V George, an employee  at the Accountant-General’s Department in Rangoon. Mr George seems to have saved scrupulously every cover with a copy of the stamp that went anywhere near his desk; it’s highly unusual to see a cover with this stamp addressed to anywhere else.


George proceeded to alert Gibbons Stamp Monthly, who made enquiries of the Burma postal authorities, but at first drew a blank. Not until early 1966, well over a year after the stamp’s first appearance, was it finally acknowledged by the Burma post office as “officially authorised”. Covers and used copies are largely from  Meiktila and Mindat, with Tavoy and Kyauktu bringing up the rear; commercial use is known from January 1965 until late 1966, with a handful (some possibly philatelic) after that. Distribution, designed to alleviate shortages of the regular overprint on this value, was clearly specific and limited.

Stamps overprinted for official use were only available to government bodies from the Treasury department, and could not be bought by the public from post offices. So neither stamps nor covers are exactly common, and the survivors must surely account for only a fraction of the 160,000 copies said to have been overprinted. Gibbons price this stamp at under £10 mint and a mere £6.50 used; in fact its catalogue value has fallen since the 2004 “Part 21” was published. However, it can change hands on eBay and elsewhere for more than this, and its scarcity has now – as far as I know for the first time – been noticed by forgers.
Here (above) is an example of the forgery, acquired recently in a Bangkok stamp shop. Since this version of the overprint does not seem to have been recorded before, and as it differs from every example of the known stamp that I’ve ever seen, it seems fair to declare it a forgery. It’s not a bad imitation, but comparison with the genuine overprint shows that the letters in the forgery are more widely spaced; D V George claimed to have found a “variety” of the original with the “v” and “i” joined, though to my mind this may have been no more than migrating ink – but that does serve to demonstrate the close spacing of the real overprint. In addition, in the forgery the difference between the broad and narrow strokes of each letter seems more pronounced, the “S” is more upright, the “v” is slightly elevated, and the top of the “i” appears to slope, while on the real stamp it is level.

Left: genuine. Right: forgery.

The genuine measures just over 10 mm, while the forgery is nearer to 11 mm. Though the forgery appears to be typographed, the impression of the letters is not at all so pronounced on the back of the stamp as it is on the genuine. As the centering of the basic stamp on the two copies seen is very different, it may be that this forged overprint has been applied to single stamps or small multiples, and not to sheets or large blocks.

So far, this forgery does not seem to have circulated too widely, and let’s hope it stays that way. My grateful thanks go to Kevin Tse for telling me about this, and for very kindly making available an example.

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New Myanmar “surcharges” and first day covers – be cautious!

Recently three surcharged Myanmar “musical instrument” stamps have appeared for sale online, all overprinted with a hand stamp at K100.

A contact in Myanmar has enquired about these, and an official at MPS has confirmed that no surcharges have been authorised, and has confirmed that no township post office in Myanmar has used any such provisional overprints. No examples have been seen on cover, and no news of these stamps has come out of Myanmar. Also, it would seem very unlikely that any postal staff in Myanmar would create a surcharge that could be so easily copied by anyone. In short, they are completely bogus.

They are offered by just one eBay seller, based in Thailand, and are offered at high prices – 80 Euros for a pair, 2000 Euros for a full sheet. They are a purely private production, so if you are tempted to buy, be aware of their status.

The rest of this seller’s Myanmar stock is mostly modern stamps, many in full sheets. They are all genuine, except for just two other items which raise questions. These are first day covers for last year’s new “musical instrument” definitives, dated 27 July and 14 September. As noted in my last post here, the four values put on sale on 14 September at Yangon GPO were prematurely released, were withdrawn from sale after a few hours, and were put back on sale on the 19th. On 27 July a Myanmar-language first day cancellation was used. On 14 September most covers made by the few collectors on the spot used the black pictorial GPO cancellation, though a violet cancellation, in general use, was also applied to some.

The two covers offered by this seller both use a version of the violet cancellation, which was not used on 27 July. In addition, the cancellation is a slightly different size, and the date is too neat and in the wrong font. As it happens, this seller’s auction images of the covers are digital mock-ups, not scans of actual paper covers, so it appears that the cancellation used is a digitally created imitation, from which a rubber stamp has probably been made to use on the actual covers. In short, the stamps are real, but the cancellations are not. Be aware! Images of the digital and paper versions of the covers are shown here, along with two genuine examples for comparison.