What Are Illegal Stamps?

Illegal stamps are printed without government approval. They may include stamps from non-countries, with a made-up name, or the name of a specific region within a country.

Mystic’s policy is not to sell illegal stamps (as defined by Scott Catalogue). However, in rare cases, one or two may show up in stamp lots we’ve received from outside sources. If you find an illegal stamp in a lot purchased from Mystic and have questions or concerns, you can always contact customer service and they’ll be happy to help!

What You Need to Know

  • Illegal stamps have been around for decades.

  • They are defined by the Universal Postal Union (UPU) as “A stamp that carries the name of a legitimate country or territory, but was not produced or printed by the postal administration of that country, and is not valid for postage anywhere in the world.”

  • In some cases, a member nation asks the UPU to create an “International Bureau Circular” to bring the illegal stamps to our attention.

  • Illegal stamps can be difficult to identify. They may resemble legal Cinderella stamps or authentic postage stamps.

  • All counterfeit stamps (designs intended to mimic an existing design with the intent to defraud postal customers and post offices) are illegal stamps.

  • Not all illegal stamps are counterfeits. Some do not resemble existing designs, but create new designs altogether.

  • A number of illegal stamps are known to be issued in the names of countries or territories from Africa, the former Soviet Union, small island nations, or old Arab states.

  • Illegal stamps are generally not listed in major stamp catalogs.

  • Illegal stamps cause collectors, stamp dealers, AND government agencies to lose money.

  • Many illegal stamps mimic lower value topicals which may not be worth the time or money to expertise, meaning they often go unnoticed and continue to circulate the market. The American Topical Association is one of the strongest advocates for the UPU cracking down on illegal stamps, though it’s an uphill battle.

    More Examples of Illegal Stamps

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