RPSL Limited

  Experts - Meeting Dates

  • 12th July 2017
  • 23rd August 2017
  • 4th October 2017
  • 8th November 2017
  • 13th December 2017
  • 17th January 2018
  • 28th February 2018
  • 11th April 2018
  • 23rd May 2018

Experts - Our History

The Expert Committee of the Philatelic Society London (which became the Royal Philatelic Society, London in 1906) was proposed by the members in 1894.

In 1983, when the Royal Philatelic Society London became a charity, the expertising service was transferred to a limited liability company, RPSL Limited, which now appoints the Expert Committee.

Forgeries had been a problem since the beginning of stamp collecting in the early 1860s.  However these early, crude, reproductions had been replaced by forgeries of much greater sophistication, many of which were extremely deceptive.  The celebrated case of the prosecution of Alfred Benjamin, Benjamin Sarpy and George Kirke Jeffryes, who were arrested in December 1891, had revealed a number of extremely dangerous forgeries, notably those of New South Wales and Ceylon.

The motion passed by the Society decided that “taking into consideration the enormous increase in the number of highly dangerous imitations of postage stamps that have appeared of late years, and bearing in mind that one of the objects of the Society is the detection and prevention of forgeries and fraud, an instruction be given to Council to appoint an Expert Committee who shall adjudicate upon any stamp or stamps submitted to them for their opinion”.

The committee at first consisted of three people, with Edward Denny Bacon as chairman.  In the time up to the end of 1906, when the Society became The Royal Philatelic Society, London, the committee had issued some 3,000 certificates.  Today the total number issued stands at nearly 210,000. RPSL Limited now adds 2,500 to 3,000 each year.  The committee has its own extensive photographic records of past opinions, which serve as an important resource.  It also has access to a substantial reference collection of both genuine and forged material to assist with their opinions on “patients”.  Over the years the committee has seen and given opinions on most of the great philatelic rarities as well as thousands of more common stamps.

Members of the committee are selected for not only their specialist knowledge but also for their wide collecting interests and experience.  They are unpaid and give of their time and considerable knowledge for the benefit of philately.  The committee has, from the very start, been given privileged access to the Royal Philatelic Collection for the purposes of comparison.  This gives it an unrivalled source of reference for stamps of the British Empire.  It also uses the Tapling Collection in The British Library as a reference.

Comparison with known, genuine stamps is one of the key features in sorting the forgeries from the genuine item.  However, many of the most difficult and growing problems for the expertiser are the extremely skilful alterations to genuine stamps.  This can range from added margins, faked or improved perforations, repairs to damaged portions of the stamp, and stamps being added to covers to which they did not originally belong.  Many of these require not only a keen eye, but knowledge of printing and papermaking methods, knowledge of obliterations, and postal history knowledge in order to identify routes and rates.

Today the Expert Committee is assisted by the use of sophisticated equipment such as the VSC 6000, the video spectral comparator, that allows comparison of the optical properties of inks to identify forged overprints, faked colours and faked or altered postmarks.  The forger is constantly seeking new and better ways to fool the collector and part of the expertising process is knowing what they are doing and staying one step in front.  This takes constant vigilance, and every endeavour is made to pass on this knowledge to the collector who seeks expertising, notwithstanding that no legal liability can be accepted for this ever changing work.