When retired dealer Derek
Worboys first learned about the "appalling treasure
trove" of forger's implements in the estate of George
Santo, he knew that they must quickly be put in a "place
of complete safety" before they could fall into unscrupulous
hands. Santo had acquired the cancellation devices from the
estate of a "rogue dealer" and kept them safely out
of the hands of crooks for several years. Santo's son, Clive,
was seeking a permanent repository for the devices.
The price being asked for the cancellation devices was
so high that a creative solution was required. Worboys and
Roger West of Phoenix International hit on the plan of selling
subscriptions to a handbook of the forgery types to raise the
required sum. While many of the dealers they approached
behaved as if they did not wish to see knowledge of the forgeries
become widely available, they eventually secured the required
backing, published the handbook, and deposited the items
safely within the confines of the Royal Philatelic Society.
The history of the collection is truly
fascinating. In the 1930's, a "Madame Joseph" living
in Paris produced the devices for London dealer Gordon Rhodes.
Rhodes used the devices to "improve" heavily hinged
and gumless stamps. Rhodes reportedly even offered next day
delivery of such items to unsuspecting collectors who inquired
after fine used stamps. In all, 438 devices are known to have
been used, including special cancels for the 1935 Silver
Jubilee and 1937 Coronation issues. After Rhodes' death, Cecil
Jones, who inherited Rhodes' shop, apparently continued the
forging (in part to pay his gambling debts) until the shop
changed hands in 1960.
The Madame Joseph collection includes the four
devices for the British Solomon Islands shown above. The first
forgery, with a date of November 23, 1909, could be found on
Small Canoe Issues. Although there is reason to suspect that
this cancel exists on the Large Canoe issue, its usage would
not be contemporaneous, since Woodford reportedly had
destroyed all remaining stock of the issue by March 23, 1909.
However, suitable placement of the cancel on the stamp could
obscure the year date. The Gizo and second
Tulagi forgery could be found on George V Keyplate issues. The
Lunga forgery could be found on the George VI Definitives.
As a curious epilogue to this story, Worboys
reports that between the fall of France in 1940 and its
liberation in 1944, Madame Joseph used her considerable skills
to forge documents used by the French Resistance in its
struggle against the Nazi occupiers. "Indeed, some
shot-down Allied airmen may well owe their lives and escape to
Madame J." For more on this most interesting story, see Forged
Madame Joseph Postmarks, by