Kamigata Forgery on Labuan Stamps

Maeda Kihei, a Japanese stamp forger running a shop called Kamigataya in Tokyo between 1890-1905, had produced thousands of forgeries on the stamps of Japan, Korea, China and many Asian countries including Labuan and North Borneo. Being sold as tourist souvenir sheets, these forged stamps are collectively known as the Kamigata forgery.

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Beginning in the 1890s, forgeries of Japanese stamps were sold as souvenir sheets primarily in seaport shops. These sheets were sold to foreign tourists as souvenirs of their visits to Japan.

Most of the forgeries are attributable to one of two men. One of them was Maeda Kihei who printed and distributed his forgeries through a shop called the Kamigataya firm.

For many years it was assumed that the name of the forger who produced these stamps was Kamigata, thus the eponym Kamigata forgery. The actual name of the forger was only revealed in recent years.

Early versions of tourist sheets were also inscribed “Imitations” in English.

But this practice was later dropped, making it unlikely that a non-Japanese speaking tourist would realize that he was buying forgeries and lending credence to the notion that deception was intended.

Although the stamps are usually crude in design, the tourist sheet may be somewhat problematic in Japanese and Chinese philately because of close resemblance to the genuine ones.

It is also known that the works of the forgers evolved and design and printing method improved as their businesses flourished .

Kamigata Forgery on Labuan Head issues

Kamigata forgery on Labuan
Kamigata forgery on Labuan stamp design

I have only seen the Kamigata forgery on Labuan head issue recently. An example of the Kamigata forgery on North Borneo stamps may be found in an article on early North Borneo forgeries here. In one of the North Borneo stamps, a circular mark that reads “IMITATION” was applied.

We know that this practice was later dropped by the forgers and Japanese marks which read “Sanko” (reference) or “mozo” (imitation) were used instead. On the Labuan stamps above, the manuscript of the postmark is certainly Japanese.

I think that given the rarity of such forged stamps, they may be collectible by those people interested in collecting forged or Cinderella stamps. The Labuan stamps above certainly don’t look that crude to me although the design is distinctively different from the engraved genuine issues.

Further Reading: Japanese tourist sheets are often not what they seem to be. Michael Rogers Inc.

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