Using a VSC6000 spectral comparator to examine stamps


Philatelic fakes and forgeries, labels that have been designed to look like postage stamps but are not, have been in production since the very first postage stamps came into existence in the mid-1800s. In fact, the first books on the subject were published in the 1860s less than twenty years after the first ever postage stamp was issued in Great Britain in 1840.

In modern times, because of the extremely high values involved, the practice of philately has to make use of the sophisticated forensic tools and techniques adopted by professional document examiners to determine whether or not a stamp or postage mark is genuine.

As the leading technology for the examination of questioned documents, the Foster + Freeman range of video spectral comparators are of great interest to stamp experts. The Royal Philatelic Society of London and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, Washington D.C., have both recently purchased VSC6000 instruments in order to carry out detailed examination of their own collections and to provide guarantees of authentication for the stamps of other collectors.

Foster & Freeman’s new VSC6000/HS workstation is ideal for stamp and postmark examination providing techniques for the study and comparison of infra red fluorescence, reflectance and absorption characteristics of inks as well as the quality of print at magnifications up to x170.

Examinations using the VSC6000/HS allow philatelic experts to  check printing methods, a wide variety of security features, watermarks, the presence of fluorescent fibres and silk threads, micro printing, the addition or removal of postage marks or overprints as well as verifying authentic colour variations, by colourimetric analysis, which can often increase a stamp’s value dramatically.