Swiss Cantonal Stamps – Genuine - forged - faked (Reuterskiöld No. II) – Richard Schäfer

Article number:463
125,00 €

The renowned author Richard Schäfer needs no introduction to any Swiss philatelist. Since 1995 he has become well-known far beyond the country's borders for his eight extensive and substantial monographs on Swiss philately and postal history. His works rightly rank among the most important standard works on philately in general and have often won first prizes at exhibitions, just like his own collections, which he has put together over 45 years.

Actually, now aged over 80, he wanted to put down his pen, but things turned out differently. Isolation and loneliness after the death of his wife a few years ago spurred him on again to tackle a subject for which he had already laid the first foundations 25 years ago with the acquisition of a forgery collection: the forgeries of old Swiss stamps and their producers. Over time, he succeeded in acquiring many important archives that experts had compiled. Among them were the Emil Rellstab archive, the collections of A. Stutz, Carl Walske (Swiss section, including Peter Winter imitations), Paul Butterfield Freeland, A. Kofranek, M. Bürle, M. Weggler and others. Supported by his son Richard Schäfer Jr. he thus compiled what is probably the largest reference collection of forgeries of old Swiss issues that has ever existed. When one reads that in Part III of the book alone 3,500 (!) forgeries are illustrated and described in detail with their characteristics, one already gets a first impression of the uniqueness of this work. This is because there has never been anything comparable, even approximately comparable, for the collecting area of Old Switzerland.

But why Reuterskiöld II? This has a very special meaning. In 1907, this legendary Swiss philatelist published the third edition of ‟The Forgeries of the 'Cantonal' Stamps of Switzerland”, published in 1889 and 1898. On 36 pages, Reuterskiöld managed to describe 156 forgeries of the ten cantonal stamps at that time; however, there were no illustrations. Thanks to the huge collection, Schäfer is able to describe and illustrate not only these 156, but also another 39 forgeries. Each is shown in colour, with the particular features of the forgery explained clearly in comparison to a genuine stamp. He himself writes: ‟We consider it almost a small 'wonder of the world' that after thousands of hours of work we have succeeded in finding the corresponding stamp for each type of forgery, and this after more than 100 years.”

Let's take a closer look at this book. It is lavishly produced, hardbound with a dust jacket and gilt edging. In the first part (eight pages) the basics, that is, technical questions about forgeries are clarified: printing processes, papers, inks etc. Part II (22 pages) is devoted to the forgers and the known forgery collections. Here there is a very useful comparison of the identification systems used in forgeries such as those of Reuterskiöld, Robert Earée, Cedric Dry and others. The main part is the Part III already mentioned, the record of forgeries on 271 pages, followed by Part IV (Appendix with sources, 20 pages). It is almost impossible to describe this wealth in detail here, it is overwhelming. Every philatelist who is interested in the area of old Swiss stamps should study this work very carefully. It can and will save him many a poor investment.

If you want to find a "fly in the ointment", you will find it here also. Not only in the typography of the quotation marks, but also in the lack of final editing of parts of the book, which probably occurred shortly before going to press. However, they primarily concern only Part II. There, for example, on p. 19 Philip Spiro is still presented as the head of Spiro of Hamburg (which is not correct) and reference is made to a forthcoming book by ‟Gerhard Maassen” on the subject of Spiro. Schäfer confuses Gerhard (Lang-Valchs) and Wolfgang Maassen here, who both worked on this book on the Spiro family. On p. 27 the author is then referred to as "Wolfang Maassen" (without 'g') etc. Let's face it: these are typos that anyone can make in the rush of the moment. They in no way detract from the value and importance of the book. It is unreservedly recommended to everyone!

At the first presentation of this remarkable book on 18 May during HELVETIA 2022, Richard Schäfer announced that he planned to follow this work with another: a book about the forger Jean de Sperati and his imitations. We can look forward to it!

–– Wolfgang Maassen (AIJP)

Size 21 x 27.5 cm, 315 pages, many illustrations in colour, hardbound with gold embossed title and spine, gilt edging all around, dust jacket, limited edition of 250 copies, price CHF 125, ISBN 978-3-938538-38-8