Monday 12 June 2023

Barcoded Machin and other forgeries - but why bother?

I received these forgeries recently.  The person who sent me these singles received them as samples from a 'wholesaler' in Hong Kong (or Mainland China*) of British and French stamps.

I can understand why the crooks would want to forge the 1st and 2nd class stamps, and maybe the Large versions - but the airmail values?  The £1.85 stamp doesn't even have a current postage use, without make-ups.

Which is which? 

£1.85 Barcoded Machin Definitive - and forgery

£2.55 Barcoded Machin Definitive - and forgery

£3.25 Barcoded Machin Definitive - and forgery

£4.20 Barcoded Machin Definitive - and forgery

The forgeries are on the right. What is not visible in these pictures is that all these have source code MBIL at the top right, suggesting that the origin of the iridescent image is business sheets.  

As usual with these forgeries the ROYAL MAIL text over the Queen's profile is in horizontal parallel lines,  but unlike some forgeries, the barcode printing is raised and glossy rather than flat.

Glossy barcode on £3.25 forgery.

ROYAL MAIL iridescent printing in parallel horizontal lines

Glossy barcode on £4.20 forgery.

ROYAL MAIL iridescent printing in parallel horizontal lines

Coming from the same stable is the England barcoded country 1st class definitive.  (I don't have a genuine one for comparison.)

Glossy barcode on 1st class England forgery.

.... and the lower values from the Aardman special issues (also self-adhesive) issued in October 2022.

Forged 1st & 2nd class Aardman commemorative stamps.

An interesting thing about this set is that the same stamps have also been reported on different backing paper.  This version has only one row of small text on the backing paper:

Forged 2nd class Aardman commemorative stamp - different backing paper.

These are the pictures sent to our correspodent by the 'wholesaler' offering him some bargain prices. The writer was an eBay user who had been a member since April 2022 and had - apparently - no dealings at all through ebay, with zero feedback and no products offered for sale.  (* they used an email address ending .hk, but their eBay location translated as 'Mainland China'.)

Whole sheets which would fool many users and some collectors and dealers. 

Another source has sent me these 2nd class 2021 Christmas forgeries.  Again, I don't have genuine for comparison but the backing paper is trademarked on the reverse, and the barcoded piece even has a join!


Two different 2nd class Christmas 2021 stamps, with the barcoded one having two sheets of paper joined.

Oracal is an international company supplying 'vinyl' for printing. That is, from what I can understand, the sort of easy-fix vinyl used in advertising and customising vehicles, which may be peelable (temporary and repositionable), or permanent (with a 2-3 year guarantee).  This vinyl has backing paper.  The paper shown above stamps appears to be backing paper from that sort of product.  Certainly that's what comes from a search for 'Oracal Print Vinyl permanent'.

I can find nothing in Oracal which suggests that they have a product suitable for stamp printing with an Oracal backing,  The backing paper used for these stamps is much thicker than modern backing paper, even for business sheets.

Update: Closer examination reveals that these Christmas stamps have been restuck onto this backing paper: they are not properly aligned and some have folded corners or creases.

Obviously in time Royal Mail will not be supplying Machin stamps when their supplies are exhausted and replaced by the King Charles III definitives - although we expect that those might also be forged before long.  The forgers are being careful not to offer them before they are widely available from legitimate sources!

Swao-out surpluses

But what about those collectors and dealers who have genuinely acquired barcoded stamps from Royal Mail's swap-out scheme, and now find - as I predicted last year - that they have far more than they use and need to sell them at a discount.  How will the people who have been buying from China be persuaded to buy from us instead !?

Maybe the United States Postal Service (USPS) has the answer? 

Defeating counterfeit postage – In Financial Year 2022, the Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service seized more than 340,000 packages with counterfeit postage and more than 7.7 million counterfeit stamps with an estimated $7.8 million loss avoidance for the Postal Service. Expanded actions to crack down on fraudulent postage include:

* Postal Service interdictions of packages with counterfeit labels affixed. The Postal Service will fully exercise new authority to take possession and dispose of packages identified with counterfeit postage.

* Reviews of shipments on Postal Service docks and during warehouse outreach visits

* Shut down of websites and closure of eCommerce accounts selling counterfeit postage

* Engagement and partnership with eCommerce companies to disrupt activity

* Customs and Border Protection (CBP) collaboration

* Promotion of the Inspection Service’s rewards program which provides rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person that unlawfully uses, reuses, or forges postage stamps, postage meter stamps, permit imprints, or other postage; or uses, sells, or possesses with the intent to sell any used, forged, or counterfeit postage stamp or other postage.

Throughout the year, the Postal Inspection Service will continue to partner with federal, state, and local authorities to enforce the laws and bring criminals to justice. The Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service will continue to adapt to evolving security threats and implement expanded measures to safeguard Postal employees and preserve the security of the mail that Postal Service customers expect and deserve.

They seem to be making some progress especially with the rewards programme which rewards those who shop the criminals.  But it is clearly not enough.  With echoes of Royal Mail's 'the innocent recipient pays' policy, the USPS recently made this announcement - which was not received well!. (My emphasis.)

In recent years, a surge in the use of counterfeit postage has been found in the mail stream. The intentional use, or sale, of counterfeit postage is a crime because it seeks to obtain services without payment. This activity reflects an intentional effort to defraud the Postal Service of the funds it needs to provide services to the public.

 In response to this problem, the Postal Service is filing a federal register notice about changes to the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®), that will allow the Postal Service to treat items found in the mail stream bearing counterfeit postage as abandoned. “As the most trusted government agency in the nation, we will continue to work together with other law enforcement and government agencies to protect the sanctity of the mail,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.

The Postal Service’s proposed changes will provide the public notice of the handling of items bearing counterfeit postage. Under the revision articles found in the mails with counterfeit postage will be considered abandoned and may be opened and disposed of at the Postal Service’s discretion. The mission of the Postal Service and the Postal Inspection Service is to ensure the safety, security, and integrity of the U.S. Mail. The implementation of these new regulations will continue to support and enhance this mission.

Consumers purchasing online items may be surprised to find out that the vendor mailed their goods using counterfeit postage. Under the new regulations, such items will be considered abandoned and disposed of at the Postal Service’s discretion. When this occurs, consumers will have to seek recourse from the vendor.

USPS stamps are being forged extensively and advertised as being shipped direct from China. But given Royal Mail's record with identification of forgeries - or misidentifying genuine stamps as forgeries - there is ample evidence that a legal challenge to such a policy here could be successful.

Let's hope it never comes to that, but I do wonder what Royal Mail can do to stop this influx.

UPDATE: I have been provided with this email address for people to send information about new forgeries and new outlets to Royal Mail.

But of course for new forgeries, we would like to have the information and images at the same time!

email address  



  1. Royal Mail also chuck mail they believe bear fakes in the confidential waste for destruction with PPI RTS items etc without return addresses. UNFOURTUNATLEY AS ROYAL MAIL CAN'T IDENTIFY THERE OWN STAMPS - SOME ABSOLUTLEY GENUINE ITEMS END UP INCINERATED . TUFFNELLS TODAY RM VERY SOON and stamp dealers very soon after

    1. Do you have any evidence to back up your claim?

      I have never seen any PPI that doesn't have a return address as most bulk mailers want to ensure that their mailing lists are accurate.

      And Royal Mail are too keen to clobber recipients for £2.50 to just throw a source of income away.

    2. You should appeal to whistle blowers to reveal how badly , inconsistently and frequently illegally this business is managed.
      As was done recently with prioritiesing parcels etc.

  2. Return to lick and stick, and get rid of the self adhesive all together. It might slow down the abundant sheets of self adhesive forgeries emerging from the far east

  3. That might make it even worse.I can see a time when we wont have stamps at all and probably before 2040


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