The forger who had to prove his forgery

Giovanni (Jean) de Sperati  was an Italian stamp forger, considered and attested by several professional stamp authenticators of his time for his work’s genuineness. He was the man believed to have produced over 5,000 forgeries.

Jean de Sperati and wife Marie Louise Corne

However, the year 1942 was different for de Sperati came into conflict with the law.

A shipment marked as valuable from Sperati to a stamp dealerl in Lisbon, was intercepted by French Customs, who identified that the consignment of stamps contained several forged German stamps. Accusing him of evading export duties, they charged Sperati with “exporting captial” without a licence.

To this, Sperati pleaded not guilty and explained to the police that his parcel contained only copies of valuable stamps, prepared by Sperati himself. The police called in some of the country’s best stamp experts to clear up the facts.

The experts came to the conclusion that all stamps were originals of high value.

Dr Edmond Locard, the country’s leading criminologist, gave evidence that the stamps were extremely rare, aned suggested a value of about 223,400 francs (about £20,000).

Only one person knew that they were worthless forgeries. Jean de Sperati himself.

But Sperati had to convince them that they were fakes, in order to evade tax.

As a result, he was tried for fraud.

His trial took place in April 1948.

The 1948 trial

Jean de Sperati tried to convince the court that he had no deceitful intentions at all. He considered himself to be an artist and not a fraudulent counterfeiter. He also declared that the court had merely forgotten to clearly mark the stamps as forgeries and promised to be more diligent about such markings in the future, should anything of that sort ever occur.

Image source: Freestampmagazine

He claimed that he had offered these forgeries at about 1% of the normal market price, so that he could provide assistance to the simple collector to obtain these rarities. Nevertheless, the judiciary found him guilty and convicted de Sperati. He was sentenced to a year in prison, a fine of 10,000 francs and an additional 300,000 francs for criminal intentions. Imitation was not the basis for his conviction. Jean de Sperati was convicted because of his “deceitful intentions”.

However, since de Sperati was over 64 years old at the time of the verdict, he did not have to serve the sentence. He sold all of his remaining forgeries to the “British Philatelic Association” for an huge sum of money in 1954. He did this to prevent his works from falling into the possession of someone who would imitate him. He then withdrew from his profession and made a promise to himself-that he would never falsify a stamp ever again.

He died three years later at the age of 73.

Image source: County Stamp Center

Ironically, Jean de Sperati’s forgeries are prized possessions of many interested collectors, and they are worth thousands of pounds!

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