It is important to distinguish these from the whimsical items produced just for fun and listed under "phantoms & phantasies"
The overprints in this section were, so it would seem, produced deliberately with a view to selling them to unsuspecting collectors. This also includes some efforts which it would be insulting to call "forgeries" as they bear so little resemblance to the genuine item.
Bogus overprints have as long a history as bogus stamps; there were already bogus "Levant" and "Cyprus" overprints on British stamps in the 19th century. Some of the issues have a long-standing history in the philatelic press; others are less well publicised. Others seem to have been prepared for no obvious reason, and could be either for fun or to defraud collectors.
Note: this numbering system was drawn up by the Society for the website, and may not be used without permission.
Great Britain: War Tax
George 6 low value stamps with a "War Tax" overprint are often on the market as "essays, prepared for use but not issued". However, it has been satisfactorily proved (not least by the discovery of the printing plates in his house when he died) that they were a purely speculative production by Thomas Todd. It appears that he sent some copies to the national press at the time, which resulted in a certain amount of press coverage which has been used to authenticate this totally bogus production. There is no evidence whatsoever for the government or post office ever considering the issue of war tax stamps, let alone of considering Mr Todd's proposal. They are bogus.
Each stamp has the "postage" value overprinted at the top in 2 or 3 lines and the 2-line "war tax" surcharge at the foot, the total corresponding to the face-value of the underlying stamp. The overprints can be found in black and in red.
George 6 "dark colours" set
ca April 1940
3 of the fabricated overprints (image from unidentified auction catalogue)
1 1d red HALFPENNY POSTAGE HALFPENNY WAR-TAX
2 1½d brown ONE PENNY POSTAGE HALFPENNY WAR-TAX
3 2d orange ONE PENNY POSTAGE ONE PENNY WAR-TAX
4 2d orange THREE HALFPENCE POSTAGE HALFPENNY WAR-TAX
5 2½d blue THREE HALFPENCE POSTAGE ONE PENNY WAR-TAX
6 3d violet TWOPENCE HALFPENNY POSTAGE HALFPENNY WAR-TAX
(illustration from unidentified auction)
Proofs such as those above (sometimes including other fonts and colours) pulled from the printing plates also frequently come on the market. For a fictitious and bogus private production these stamps attract surprisingly high market prices. See also "Victory" overprint below.
Great Britain: Victory overprint
Undeterred (or encouraged) by the reception of his War Tax overprints (above), Mr Todd also produced some "Victory" essays by overprint two large "V"s at the foot of the stamps. It appears that he also foresaw the end of the war quite a time in advance since the evidence suggests that these overprints were produced in 1942/1943. The extant copies are on the ½d-3d pale colours low values except that the 1½d is on the dark brown stamp.
(illustration courtesy of Embassy Philatelists)
1 ½d pale green
2 1d pale red
3 1½d dark brown
4 2d pale orange
5 2½d pale blue
6 3d pale violet
As with the equally bogus "War Tax" overprints above, these "V V" overprinted stamps attract a wholly undeserved high market interest.
Great Britain, Second world-war propaganda
The ½d dark green is known overprinted "INDIA", "JAPAN", see "political propaganda".
Great Britain: provisionals
1 ½d green George 5, block watermark, April 1930
overprinted top line "1 1", then a crown, then "Provisional" then "ONE PENNY" in 2 lines at the bottom;
(The Overprinter 2/1990)
2 ½d green George 5, block watermark, April 1930
overprinted top line "2 2", then crown, then large "2", then "Provisional".
(The Overprinter 2/1990)
3 1d George 5 overprinted "LONDON"
(The Overprinter Nov 1974)
4 2½d black and red Queen Elizabeth Post Office Savings Bank anniversary overprinted "British"
(The Overprinter 4/1979)
5 Queen Elizabeth 5d Machin overprinted "2p" and a bar, in white
This was an attempt to use as decimal equivalents at the time of decimalisation; these were a private production by a collector in Peterfield and are known on cover, mostly (but not always) being rejected and subject to postage due.
Great Britain: Officials
1 1d Venetian red overprinted "OFFICIAL" near top, and "TWO" over the word "ONE".
Clearly a private fantasy. Recorded by J. Evans on 23 March 2002.
see under Trucial States below
These rather obvious forgeries / bogus overprints can often be found for sale.
(illustrations from web auction)
½d postage due with a bogus "5" surcharge and a bar obliterating "half" (The Overprinter 2/1999).
A really awful bogus overprint / forgery, not helped by the "Norwich" postmark.
(illustrations from web auction)
A selection of bogus and forged CYPRUS overprints - some good tries, some execrable. The overprint on the bright red "1d plates" is an impossible plate 73, and the 2½d is an impossible plate 7.
(illustrations from a variety of web auctions)
Bogus overprints on Cyprus are almost as numerous as forgeries. Some of these bogus overprints look very authentic (which is an important lesson for those buying expensive varieties of overprinted stamps), but some are very poor. RB Earée, in his "Album Weeds" (Stanley Gibbons, London, 2nd edition 1892) says that he has seen bogus overprints on 1d "stars", 2d blue (presumably "plate numbers"), 1d & 1½d Venetian red, ½d green, 2½d blue, 3d, 4d, 6d & 5s large letters, 3d, 4d, 8d & 10d coloured letters, 2s blue and newspaper wrappers.
The 1d lilac can also be found overprinted "CYPRUS OFFICIAL 12.C." in 3 lines (Ebay 2003), on which it is not altogether clear what currency is intended.
1½d brown George 5, script watermark, overprinted "5c Fiji" (two lines) with bars obliterating "1½d" in each top corner (The Overprinter 2/1990).
see under Trucial States below
(image courtesy of Stefano)
George 5 2½d blue (watermark not recorded) with a very crude "HONG KONG" handstamp.
Forged and bogus overprints were almost contemporary with the earliest genuine issues, some claiming to be even earlier: for example:
1 1d "plates" overprinted "1 PIASTRE" (The Overprinter 1/1979).
2 1d lilac overprinted "10 PARAS" by rough handstamp
3 1d lilac overprinted "Levant" (The Overprinter 3/1977)
4 Great Britain 1929 PUC ½d overprinted "5 Constantinople P" in 3 lines
see The Overprinter 1979/3
5 ditto on 1d
6 ditto on 1½d
1 "1s" on 4d green & brown "Bechuanaland Protectorate"
Although very authentic looking, this is deemed bogus as it is only officially recorded on the "British Bechuanaland" stamp.
2 1d lilac overprinted "LLEWELLYN 5s BEFOOLED" - see further details under Mafeking.
3d, 4d, 1/- (large white corner letters) overprinted "MALTA."; on the 1/- the overprint is diagonal reading upwards and is cancelled A26 (The Overprinter 2/1990).
The 6d "jubilee" stamp, not included in the official set, can be found with one of the many forged overprints for the territory.
In 1996 the territories which had formerly made up British Somaliland attempted to secede from Somalia, which had been formed by the combination of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. The contemporary 1p British "Machin" stamp appeared overprinted, allegedly for use in the breakaway republic from April 1996; the choice of the British stamp was reported at the time to be a tribute to their former contented days as a British protectorate.
"Shillin" is spelt as shown, presumably to reflect the local pronunciation.
In a second version of the overprint a star obliterates the original "1p" figure.
It would appear highly unlikely that there would be local stocks (reportedly 4300 stamps) of 1p Machins available for overprinting, no matter how keen the residents of former British Somaliland were to secede. The issue is best deemed bogus.
In about 1994 the 5np, 10np, 15np and 20np stamps of British Postal Agencies in Arabia came on the market with alleged essays for a country overprint (modelled on Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar) for "Ajman", "Fujairah" (sic) and "Umm al Qaiwain" (sic).
Tthe font in no way matches that of the other Gulf overprints, does not match that of the currency overprint, and varies quite considerably in position relative to the currency overprint on different examples of the same overprint/value; It is doubtful if any professional printer would have produced such mongrel overprints, even as trial prints, nor could they have been legitimately produced without the involvement of the GPO. The overprints were prepared by a dealer/agent in 1963 who then tried to persuade the local governments to agree to issue them; they refused and the dealer/agent was left with a large stock of worthless items, subsequently inaccurately put on the market as "unadopted essays", which is, to say the least, grossly misleading. They cannot even be regarded as "forerunners" as they were no more than a private commercial speculation. They are bogus, and totally undeserving of the sort of prices asked by reputable dealers and auction houses.
Umm al Qiwain
see under Trucial States above
A wide variety of stamps (of all reigns) overprinted "ZULULAND" in a large font, apparently by a toy printing kit; other more authentic looking contemporary overprints can also be found on stamps of Queen Victoria.
page last updated on: 12 January 2010, 6 March 2013
gbos: GB Overprints Society