Counterfeit Hayes FDC

While searching the internet with the phase “Scott 563” in Google, I came across a hit that said “1922 First Day Cover 11 Cent President Hayes Scott 563.” Following upon that, I came across the cover depicted above. It had been sold as such in an auction five months earlier.

The unnecessary add-on text on the cover is factual; however most everything else about the cover makes it as phony as a three dollar bill.

The plate number stamp is from plate 16445, a plate that did not exist until 1926, almost four years after the October 4, 1922 First Day of Issue for the Hayes stamp. Only plate 14058 was used to produce Hayes stamps for the First Day. Let’s remove the plate number selvage from the stamp and continue our evaluation.

The counterfeiter would still be in trouble. Peacock blue, as mentioned on the cover, was indeed the designated color of the new stamp and the first Hayes stamps produced reflected that color. But as the years went by, more and more green creep into the makeup of the stamp, until by 1928, the stamp was being printed in a yellowish green with no trace of blue in the stamp. It is claimed that Scott 563 has a greater range of color than other postage stamp produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing during the twentieth century. The greenish color displayed on the stamp on the cover is appropriate for stamps printed from plate 16645, but not for the First Day.

Let’s help the counterfeiter again by giving him a peacock blue Hayes stamp. There is still a problem, but now with the cancellation. The stamp was made available on the First Day not only at the designated First Day city of Fremont, Ohio where the first public First Day ceremony was held, but also at the Philatelic Stamp Agency in Washington, DC. The cancellation city is okay. However, the Agency’s hours started at ten o’clock in the morning. The choice of an eight o’clock morning cancellation is another clue to the nature of the cover.

For many years AFDCS had an expertizing service, chaired by Allison Cusick, which offered opinions on the genuineness of FDCs. The service was recently discontinued and its resources were transferred to the American Philatelic Society’s expertizing service APEX. Allison does continue to maintain a file on counterfeit FDCs. Another expertizing service is provided by the Philatelic Foundation which maintains a certificate archive web site at that allows the viewing of various philatelic items and their evaluations. I did a search with a submission for covers and the key words of “first day”. That allowed me to view 239 covers. Most were considered genuine, but some were described by one or more of the following phrases: stamp did not originate on cover, cancellation is counterfeit, backdated cancel, chemically altered, favor cancellation, not a first day of usage, decline opinion, etc. It’s a fascinating look at some interesting covers.

Another problem with the cancellation is a concern, but not to the same degree as that of the first three problems. The stamp on the cover is cancelled with a hand operated canceller, not a machine operated canceller. The hand device was usually used when there were more than two stamps on a cover. Covers with single stamps were normally machine cancelled.

Let’s also assume that the counterfeiter had franked the cover with two stamps, the eleven cent Hayes stamp and an ordinary one-cent stamp, thereby meeting the special delivery letter rate and probably requiring a hand cancellation. He could still be in trouble if he used the one cent Franklin ordinary stamp that was available in 1926. That stamp was not released until 1923 in either its flat press or rotary press versions. He should have used the one-cent Washington stamp of the earlier Washington-Franklin series. Life can certainly be difficult for an amateur counterfeiter.

The name on the cover is Mrs. N. S. Lowery of Laurel, Maryland, a town located near our nation’s capitol. I looked for and found that name in the 1920 and 1930 Federal censuses. What I discovered probably explains the source of the cover. Mrs. Lowery was the wife of Norman S. Lowery, a clerk working for the United States Post Office in Washington. Whether in fun or for real, he violated federal law. The hand cancellation can now be explained since he had ready access to manipulate a hand canceller, but possibly not a machine canceller. It appears that his crime was not discovered since the 1930 census shows that he was still a post office clerk. This cover should either be permanently identified on the cover as a counterfeit or removed from circulation and used as a reference. Even though I have not been able to discover other Lowery counterfeits, I suspect he tried his hand at more counterfeit FDCs.

If Lowery had been more skillful in his backdating effort, his cover may not have been challenged. I have an 11-cent Hayes Fremont FDC that has a Philatelic Foundation certificate received by a previous owner that claims the cover is genuine. The cover disturbs me since my knowledge and intuition tells me that it may also be a backdated cover, but I am not sure.

If the buyer of this Hayes cover reads this, could he please contact me? I thoroughly enjoy your cover and could use it in my various Hayes presentations and would be willing to trade a legitimate Worden Scott 563 FDC or Scott E12 FDC for it.

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