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James Alexander PETRIE (Phillipsburg, New Jersey)

Stamp forger 1844-1913

Return To Catalogue - USA Confederate States locals

Note: on my website many of the pictures can not be seen! They are of course present in the catalogue;
contact me if you want to purchase it.

James A. Petrie was a stamp forger who specialized in the Confederate States locals. He married Elizabeth Lander, but they didn't have any children. According to 'Philatelic Forgers, their Lives and Works' by V.E.Tyler, he was born in 1844 and died in 23 January 1913. An image of him can be found in Tyler's book. He was treasurer of the New York Philatelic Society in 1869 (J.W.Scott was vice-president, according to The American Journal of Philately Jan.20, 1869, page 12). He was a 'philatelic scout' for Scott and looked for rare provisional Confederate locals. He advertised already in 1868 in The American Journal of Philately (as James A.Petrie from Elizabeth N.J.) offering and asking foreign and rare stamps. He also sold some United States proofs, which were later modified and sold as genuine stamps (see also http://www.jameslee.com/seeit36.htm).

Advertisement of J.A.Petrie in the Toronto Philatelic Journal (Vol. 3, No 1, July 1888, page 9) in which he offers "sets of American Bank Note Co., proofs of Canada - 8 varieties, Nova Scotia - 8 varieties, New Brunwick - 6 varieties at 25 c each, which he will exchange for unperforated Canada, 1/2 d., 3d., 6d. Nova Scotia 1d., 3d., 6d.; New Brunswick, 3 d. and 6. Proofs are not in correct colors as issued."

He writes several articles in 'The American Journal of Philately' (on the Brattleboro stamp, Jan.20 page 6, 1869) and letters to the editor (page 71 concerning a 2 r red stamp of Honduras and Paraguay-Brazil war labels).

A newspaper clip from The Philadelphia Inquirer of 24 January 1913 announcing the death of Petrie.


A blue stamp of this town addressed to "P.O./Cheatem, N.J./ 2/ J.A.Petrie, P.M" can probably be considered as a joke of Petrie. A discussion on this is given in San Jose Stamp Club Newsletter, January 2013, page 3.


An image of the Greenville Petrie forgery can be found in Tyler's book. Petrie found the original stamp, but decided to make forgeries in a slightly different type, which he then sold. Also see the text of the Philatelic Record of 1881-1882 (page 115-116) which is attached to the end of this file.


Could be a Petrie forgery
Possible Petrie forgery of a Nashville stamp.


A reprint of the 5 c Knoxville confederate states stamp in a block of 4.

Might be a Petrie forgery of an envelope, but I'm not certain.


Very deceptive forgeries of the 5 c 'POST OFFICE' Macon stamps were made by the stamp forger James A.Petrie, which even deceived expert commitees. See: The Macon Petrie Fakes by Francis J.Crown Jr. in The Confederate Philatelist (Nov-Dec 2004, p. 239), also available online at http://www.csalliance.org/Acrobat/Crown%20Macon%20Petri%20Fakes.PDF. According to this article, the line borders are slightly thicker and irregular in the Petrie forgeries. The word 'CENTS' is printed in a heavier font than in the Petrie forgeries. Petrie made forgeries of both the comma and period varieties. Even covers exist with the Petrie forgeries. This forgery is very rare (only about 18 have been discovered) and were also sold to famous collectors, such as Ferrari. In fact, the pair of stamps on letter illustrated in the Ferrari auction Nr. IV (item 24) are Petrie forgeries (Die Ferrary Auktionen reprinted by J.Erhardt Stuttgart 1987). Another cover exists with two Petrie forgeries. Both covers were addressed to R.J.Lowry & Co in Atlanta and both were cancelled 'MACON SEP 1'.
Petrie also made a bogus 10 c variety in the same design as the 'POST OFFICE' 5 c stamps. Only three of such fakes have ever been found. One is on a letter, addressed to the same R.J.Lowry in Atlanta again.


Pleasant Shade

A letter from Petrie asking for information about the Pleasant Shade local stamps. A forgery is attached with "F.M. DAVIS"? instead of "R.E. DAVIS"

The following text can be found in the Philatelic Record of 1881-1882 (page 115-116)

" The increasing demand for the local postage stamps issued during the time of the Southern Confederacy by different postmasters, and the high prices paid for rarities, has caused the development of many frauds, to one of which we call your attention. Accompanying this is a photograph of tracings from two envelopes purporting to have affixed to them local Confederate stamps of Greenville, Alabama. Of these No. 1 has upon it a genuine 10 c. Greenville stamp, uncancelled, but which has passed through the post, and bearing the genuine Greenville postmark. No. 2 has upon it an imitation 10 c. Greenville stamp and counterfeit Greenville postmark.
" The genuineness of the postmark on No. 1 has been proved by half a dozen different envelopes postmarked ' Greenville ' from April to November, but all with the year omitted, and all having 10 c. in Confederate stamps upon them, some cancelled with the postmark, and some unused, and with the postmark at the opposite end of the envelope. Doubtless other collectors will find they have envelopes postmarked ' Greenville ' which will correspond with No. 1. The envelope marked No. 2 was sold by Dr. Petrie to a collector in the United States for 100 dollars, and we presume that he has sold duplicates to many collectors in Europe.
"At first thought it will seem strange that a forgery could be palmed off successfully at such prices, but when studied into the way becomes plain.
" It is probable that Dr. Petrie obtained a genuine Greenville 10 c. stamp, which had previously been unknown to collectors. To sell it for 100 dollars or more would have been easy enough for a unique specimen ; but by producing a skilful forgery, a dozen could be sold at from 50 to 100 dollars each, and by hiding from view the original, no one would even suspect the fraud, unless, as in this case, another genuine should come to light for comparison. Even the former postmaster of Greenville would probably have acknowledged its genuineness, not recollecting, after a lapse of twenty years, any slight varieties of type.
" The style in which No. 2 is got up shows the probable modus operandi of its production. An old United States envelope is selected that has been regularly used through the mail in 1855 or thereabouts, with the stamp cancelled, as was often the case, with pen-marks, and without postmark on the envelope. Then a forgery of the stamp is made by travelling around among printers at the south, the old border type is secured exact ; but the script being an elaborate variety in the genuine, is found difficult to match, and is substituted with a plainer type. The stamp, printed off on glazed paper nearly like the genuine, with the edges showing a fresh cut, is pasted on by the side of the 3 c. United States envelope stamp, instead of over it, as was usually the case, and a splendid postmark got up, with type of shorter and thicker letters than the real postmark, and including the year, is stamped over both stamps, and the fraud is complete. As no one has an original to compare it with, who knows the difference ? All that is to be done is to publish the new discovery of a Greenville 10 c, with description, and pocket the proceeds from duped collectors.
" But unfortunately for this scheme another original is discovered. To the manager of St. Louis forgeries it would be a superfluity ; he tries to buy it at a moderate price, to get it out of the way, but is overbid ; and the sending of this circular to warn collectors to investigate what they are purchasing is the result."
In the envelope we received were three photographs, one being from the alleged original 10 c. Greenville, the second from the alleged forgery, each showing the full size of the envelope, and the third a representation intended as facsimile of both, one placed over the other, diagonalwise, for comparison, and the alleged culprit stigmatized in large letters "fraud."- The obvious and apparent difference between the two stamps is, that in the genuine the words "Greenville, Ala." are in script or Italian lettering; in the so-called " fraud " they are in small capitals. On the genuine the postmark is " Oct. 13," with no year added, with the figures " 13 " placed below the "Oct.," by error, upside down ; in the "fraud" the date is "Sept. 15.1861."
Who Mr. Lindsley may be we do not know ; Dr. Petrie is not unknown, and we are inclined to believe that the "caution" was sent because Dr. Petrie is now in Europe, no doubt intending to dispose of some Confederate local stamps.
On reading the " caution " we turned to a pair- of Greenville stamps which had been purchased by a well-known English amateur from Dr. Petrie at different periods—the 5 cents several years ago, the 10 cents within the last year or two.
They both had the words " Greenville, Ala." in small Roman capitals, and were unmistakeably of the alleged " fraud " set. But this proved little or nothing, to our mind, save that what Dr. Petrie called and sold as genuine were alleged to be forgeries and falsified by the anonymous author of the "caution." The parties differed toto coelo; which was right we could not say, nor, indeed, should we have felt it incumbent on ourselves to give the publicity of our pages to the " caution " were it not for the following very remarkable facts, which fully justify us in publicly calling upon Dr. Petrie to clear the so-called " fraud " type from the aspersions thrown upon it, and to state where and from whom he procured the copies which he sold in England, unless he is content to let these imputations rest on his own shoulders.
It will be seen the date of the postmark on the alleged fraud is " Sept. 15. 1861." The date of the obliterating stamp on the copy of the 10 cents before us (the 5 c. is not postmarked) is " Sept. 5. 1861," the same date virtually (the 1 of 15 being simply omitted) as that of the fraud. How comes Dr. Petrie to have two specimens of so wondrously rare a stamp obliterated thus in date? The coincidence is startling. Further, the size of the obliterating mark on both the fraud and the copy we refer to is identical ; in the genuine the postmark is in a circle measuring 2 mm. at least more in diameter.
We have no hesitation in saying our suspicions are keenly aroused, and we look on the matter as one demanding the most thorough explanation from Dr. Petrie. Our pages are open to him, and we shall wait his statement with interest.
In asking our readers to suspend their judgments until these explanations come, we can only urge on them that it will be unwise in the highest degree to invest their money in any so-called local Confederate stamps, unless upon satisfactory guarantees they will be reimbursed if the warnings of the " caution " should prove well founded.
At the latter end of June the above " Caution to Collectors," which we reprint verbatim, reached London by post, marked " Sent by D. P. Lindsley, 37, Park Row, New York," and posted there on the 11th June, 1881.


The Macon Petrie Fakes by Francis J.Crown Jr. in The Confederate Philatelist (Nov-Dec 2004, p. 239), also available online at http://www.csalliance.org/Acrobat/Crown%20Macon%20Petri%20Fakes.PDF.

Philatelic Forgers, their Lives and Works by V.E.Tyler

The Toronto Philatelic Journal (Vol. 3, No 1, July 1888, page 9); available from http://www.archive.org

San Jose Stamp Club Newsletter, January 2013, page 3

Copyright by Evert Klaseboer