The Philatelic Rubens
This brilliant forger was called "the philatelic Rubens" and "the murderer of philately." During his long life, no one - even the most experienced examiners - was able to convict him of forgery. At his home in Italy, his name was Giovanni Speracci, and in France, where he forged stamps for nearly 40 years - Jean de Sperati.
He was born in October 14, 1884 in the town of Pisa, Italy. His father, a retired colonel, owned a small factory. When he became bankrupt, Giovanni and his three brothers had to become self-reliant early. One became the military officer, the other was apprenticed to the photographer, and the third opened a small shop for the philatelic products and began publishing the philatelic magazine "San Marino".
Giovanni with the great zeal was studying the technique of engraving, printing and photography business in Bologna. His uncle owned a small paper mill, which produced not only the various grades of paper, but also mimicked the old varieties. Here Giovanni received the detailed information about this part. Then he worked for a long time with his brother, the photographer, who was printing the photographic and engraved cards. Thus, the future forger got all the necessary knowledge and skills for his unseemly craft.
Arriving in 20-s to France, Sperati settled in the southern town of Lisbon, and soon began making copies of old and rare stamps of the European countries. In this he attained such a perfection, that left behind even the famous master Fournier. The most experienced, world-famous experts could not distinguish fake and they all recognized the stamps of Sperati as real.
In the 40's Jean de Sperati caused a scandal around his name and deliberately brought the case to the loud trial - that served as a good advertising. In a letter sent from Lisbon to one merchant in Portugal, there were discovered 18 rare old stamps. On the envelope with the stamps and in the letter, that was attached to the envelope, Speratti indicated that he is sending the imitations of stamps. However, the customs authorities, who detained the letter, thought that it was a trick, which Speratti resorted not to pay a high fee for the transferring of a large values from the country. The prosecutor intervened in this case and the stamps were sent to one of the most famous French experts. The examination lasted for more than a month: pictures were carefully studied and compared, also there were examined the print, paint, glue, paper, watermarks and perforation. The expert gave an opinion that all stamps, no doubt, are original, that they are rare and that they should be evaluated higher than the catalog price due to their excellent condition.
"Stamps" were returned to Sperati who only had to pay a fine for trying to export from the country such a great values. Advertising was worth this penalty. Sperati was convinced once again, that his copies are indistinguishable from the originals, and with even more energy he started to manufacture more and more "rarities". He never forged the plying stamps and faking the old stamps was not pursued in France.
Sperati offered his products to the philatelists at prices 30-40 times lower than those, that were written in the catalog and he was often writing, that he was doing it out of the philanthropic motives, to give some rather poor philatelists an opportunity to supplement their collections of rare stamps without spending a fortune.
To learn how skillfully and carefully this tampering wizard was working, it would be enough to take a look at what was found in his studio after his death. There were discovered more than 500 varieties of old paper. He was choosing colors so carefully that, for example, he applied more than 100 shades of a green color only.
Sperati became a philatelic disaster - many of his fakes were getting into a well-known collections, confusing many experts and members of the jury. Finally, to eliminate this threat, the British Royal Philatelic Society in 1954, has paid 10 million francs to Sperati for ensuring, that he will refuse from manufacturing stamps and hand to the museum all his equipment: tools, plates, fake stamps, etc. From the remaining stamps there were also made albums for the experts. Sperati kept his word and stopped counterfeiting stamps. In 1957 he died.