Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 10, pp2-2 (October 1979).
"Philandorre", the French society for collectors of Andorra, has recently issued a circular letter to the philatelic press warning that a large number of forgeries and bogus items have been circulated on the stamp market. There appears to be incontrovertible evidence that much of the spurious material was originated by a French source, some of it being circulated via the Philandorre Exchange Packets, and in view of the magnitude of the fraud the Society has referred the matter to the French Public Prosecutor. Although a few of the false items first came to our notice some three years ago it seems that they were not widely circulated until after the publication of the Catalogue National Spécialisé, in which they were listed. In our review of this book in the last bulletin we expressed our unease at the listing of meaningless fantasy items at high prices, suggesting that this might stimulate the appearance of more such material, and it is now evident that our concern was fully justified.
The only dealer in this country specialising in Andorra material has consistently declined to handle these spurious products although they have been offered to him on occasion by continental suppliers, and none have thus reached the British market by this source.
However, some of the items are known to have been marketed via French and Spanish stamp auctions, while others have been circulated by other means, so the possibility cannot be ruled out that collectors here may have acquired some of the material, or may be offered it at some future date by some unsuspecting dealer or auctioneer who does not possess specialised knowledge concerning Andorran philately. We therefore give details of the false material described by Philandorre not excluding the likelihood that other falsifications, as yet unreported, may have been originated by the same source, and also describe some other suspect or obviously false items which have come to our notice from elsewhere.
The entire set of twelve values was originally overprinted MUESTRA ("Specimen") in a somewhat fancy type consisting of serifed capitals. The recent bogus overprint is in plain sans-serif capitals and is applied to the eight values up to the 2pts. only. A few of these were originally offered in December 1976 by a French dealer at 800 francs per set of eight, together with a photocopy of a "Certificate of Origin" prepared and signed by the supplier in which he stated that he had discovered 150 sets - three sheets of each value - in Andorra itself among the papers of a former Syndic who had been given the stamps by the promoter of the airline when he was seeking the Council's permission to make the issue. The promoter of the airline, Sr. Nadal, died in 1932 but the ink used for the overprinting contains modern synthetic pigments which were not in use until long after 1932! A double overprint variety has been provided on the 1p75 value and possibly on other stamps also. These stamps are listed in the Catalogue National Spécialisé and have now been widely circulated. Some examples bear on the reverse an apocryphal expertiser's mark, a pencilled signature "Roigt", possibly to deceive intending purchasers into believing that the stamps had been authenticated by the late Catalan expertiser, Sr. Roig.
For a short time in late 1959 and early 1960 the Spanish postal agencies were without their cancelling date stamps which had been sent to Madrid for modification of their mechanisms. During this period the postmaster at Encamp used as a cancelling device an oval cachet featuring his name and address, sometimes indicating the date of posting by means of an ordinary office-type date-stamp. Such covers are rare. The personal cachet of this former postal agent evidently passed into other hands and has been applied to a number of envelopes franked with previously used stamps of Spain and bearing various addresses. Some of the forged covers have, in addition, a strike from a single line handstamp inscribed with the French ANDORRE, or show a date applied with a date-stamp of French manufacture in which the abbreviations of the names of the months differ from those in Spanish date-stamps - FEVR. instead of FEB, for example. In one instance the make of typewriter used to put on the address has been positively identified, and the manufacturers have confirmed that the model in question was not introduced until some three years after the purported date of the cover. These items seem to have been produced in some quantity and may be found bearing the guarantee marks of their author and a French dealer.
Examples of the forgery of the cachet are reported by Philandorre to have been found on French stamps of the Sage and Sower types, these presumably being 'on piece' or possibly on cover. In this connection an imitation of the cachet which is believed to be the one referred to by Philandorre is known to us on a fantasy cover franked with two of the 1932 airmail stamps and a previously used 1f75 "Peace" type stamp of France, the stamps being cancelled with the cachet. This cover bears additional markings - a single line "ANDORRE" in sans-serif capitals; a boxed "P.P.", and a "T" framed in a triangle, this being of a type not used in the French post offices of Andorra which are provided with an unframed "T" for postage due purposes. A second fantasy cover, franked with a single 1932 airmail stamp, also bears an "ANDORRE" marking, but in a different, serifed, type; the same boxed "P.P."; the endorsements "AVION" and date 3.9.32 apparently from rubber stamps; and authentic strikes of the ORDINO and VALLEES D'ANDORRE handstamps which were undoubtedly applied by favour. The address on this cover is from the same typewriter referred to above in connection with the forged Encamp covers, and it is apparent that these meaningless items are from the same source. While we can only describe these fantasy covers as "pathetic" they nevertheless prove that a range of handstamps and "postal markings" is in private hands, some of which might be deceptive if skilfully used.
During recent months a number of old postcards have been recorded on which the postmarks have obviously been manipulated. Particularly prevalent are items allegedly carried by the French courier service and which bear apparently authentic strikes of the Porté C.D.S., the CORREUS ANDORRA cachet, and the mark of the telegraph office at Soldeu, the latter with the central date portion omitted. A typical postcard of this kind has, on the picture side, a 2c stamp of the 1928 Spanish provisional series cancelled with the CORREUS ANDORRA cachet, two 5 centime stamps of France cancelled at Porté on 21.3.1926, and a mute strike of the Soldeu telegraph office mark. In this particular instance the 1926 postmark beside a stamp not issued until 1928 immediately demonstrates that the item has been tampered with by the later addition of the Andorran stamp and postal markings, but other cards postmarked at Porté on the same date and likewise bearing a mute strike of the Soldeu telegraph office are rather more dangerous as they do not have the revealing 1928 stamp affixed to them. Had these cards originated in Andorra rather than at Porté there seems to be no reason why the Soldeu mark should not have shown the date, and in view of the evidence provided by the previously mentioned item it is strongly suspected that the Soldeu mark was a later addition to these cards also; several of these have been included in recent French Auctions and Postal Sales.
R.A. & O.R.
It is believed that legal proceedings are taking place in France in connection with this matter. The total value of the fraudulent operations is said to total some 200,000 francs (well over £20,000). Any members of the Circle who has doubts about the genuineness of such an item in his collection should write to the Hon. Sec. giving relevant details and she will obtain expert opinions from senior members.
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