THE FAMOUS DOCUMENT SEIZED BY THE FRENCH CUSTOMS
THE GENESIS WHICH MADE SPERATI WORLDWIDE FAME
All world – 1942, Pelure paper sheet prepared to contain stamps, in a format and design which was used by Sperati for his shipments, this exhibiting 18 classic reproductions of Spain (5), Bavaria, Belgium, Bremen (2), Hanover (2), Hong Kong, Lagos, Oldenburg (2), Parma, Sweden and Wurttemberg, each designated above with its corresponding country and Yvert catalogue number in manuscript by Sperati.
Jean de Sperati reached such a degree of perfection in his reproductions that he decided to make it known to the whole world, and not only to his friends, few collectors and experts under a restricted circle of secrecy. It was 1942 and the war requires the opening of the correspondence by the censorship, especially that one sent abroad. Sperati intelligently conceived to send these 18 reproductions of valuable classic stamps in an envelope to a stamp dealer in Lisbon (presumably Eladio de Santos) with whom he had already commercial and friendly relationships. Sperati warned his family in advance that the police would have certainly come to « visit » him in the next future. The shipment to Portugal was indeed retained by the French customs and thereupon the police arrived to Sperati’s residence, with the first reaction of Sperati being: « Do you come for the stamps? ». On 7.4.1942 the French customs sued Jean de Sperati for exporting stamps without declaration. At the request of the investigating judge of Chambéry, the stamps were expertised by a certain Marius Gilbert, a member of the Club Philatélique de Savoie, who declared all stamps to be genuine, providing the 1942 Yvert catalogue value of Fr95,400 and a market estimation of Fr60,500 – Fr78,000, although he stated not to have the competence to give his opinion on this subject (the validated copy of this report sent to Sperati is also included in this lot -see full description-). In view of this report, on 30.11.1942 Jean de Sperati is accused of illicit export of capital for omitting the export declaration. Consequently the Court of First Instance decides his referral to the Criminal Court. Sperati complained arguing that these « stamps » were reproductions and refused the report from a simple member of a philatelic club, claiming an acknowledged expert to examine the stamps. On 9 April 1943, the Criminal Court of Chambéry requires the service of the expert Dr. Locard from Lyon, who made the same statement of Mr. Gilbert about the authenticity, and once more Sperati is accused of illicit export of capital. Then Sperati provided to the Court in person ten identical series of stamps as the ones involved in the case, with the consequence of the tribunal to declare itself incompetent in philately, and a new opinion from an expert was solicited. Dr. Locard is again involved in the examination of the proof of the « crime », although Sperati rejected to send him via post the other reproductions for comparison, with the hope that a different expert had been appointed. Dr. Locard does not change his former statement and he even declares that « if it is an imitation, even through the most perfect process of falsification, differences would be found without seeing « une différence de l’ordre du millième de milimètre »; he could not detect any difference in light after using the Wood and Gallois lamps, or in terms of fluorescence, the most perfect forgery could not have the same paper as the genuine one, and he added that it is almost impossible to imitate the watermark in the stamps of Hong Kong and Lagos; concerning the gum, he reported all to be the characteristic of each territory and an exact imitation of the gum was unsustainable, as he also argued for the perforation, which would have required an expensive machine to execute it. After the second expertise, the Court declared Sperati guilty on 17.3.1944 and imposed a fine of Fr60,000 and the merchandise was definitively seized. Then Jean de Sperati decided to appeal to the Appeal Court. He had to prove that the experts were not infallible and at the same time conceived the strategy to collect the money for the penalty imposed by the Court: he produced three identical reproductions of Oldenburg Yvert n. 5 displaying a cancellation of the same locality and with identical date, placed on the same area of each reproduction, and offered them separately to the expert dealers Roumet, Nitard and Isaac. The three stamps were separately summited for expertise to Mr. León-Pierre Margue, rather known by his pseudonym Miro, then president of the « Chambre Syndicale des Négociants en Timbres », who was shocked to have received three identical stamps within the period of two days which look genuine -these facts will open a second case in Paris against Sperati which will not be resolved until 1952-. Simultaneously, on 27 July 1945, the Appeal Court in Chambéry renders a judgement which designates the experts Messrs. Brun, Flize and Dr. Locard to examine the reproductions, but the decision of the Appel Court will not give judgement until almost three years later, as the three experts declared themself incapable to issue a statement on 27.11.1947. Both processes of Paris and Chambéry were about to take place in similar periods of time, and in both cases the expert designated was Mr. Dubus, who arrived to the conclusion in February 1948 that the « stamps » sent to Lisbon were not genuine, but they could trick collectors. In the end, on 15.4.1948, and despite the opinion of Mr. Dubus, a penalty of Fr20,000 was imposed to pay to the customs for capital evasion. Sperati promoted this case in the press and the involvement of experts of international acknowledgement made Sperati be notorious and known internationally.
The original sheet of the shipment to Lisbon presented in this lot shows below the following cachets and signatures related to the Chambéry judicial process: signature of the President of the Appel Court on 5.7.1945 with illegible text, signature of the secretary of the Appel Court indicating these 18 reproductions to be returned to Sperati, dated on 26.4.1948 and with red cachet of the Appel Court of Chambéry, as well as two dated cachets of the French Customs at Chambéry on 28.8.1948 with additional cachet and signature, with text stating this document to have been remitted to Sperati on 28.8.1948. On the back of each stamp a handstamp « Copie » was struck, which was only applied after the final judicial conclusions. An extraordinary and unique document representing one of the most significant items related to Jean de Sperati and his work, undoubtedly an important piece of philatelic history which led to reveal worldwide the genius of this exceptional artist.
This extraordinary item is accompanied by the the validated legal copy submitted to Sperati’s lawyer, with embossing, « Etat Français 1943 » watermark and fiscal seal (« Pièce n°33 », FN 49650) of the document of 15.10.1942 containing the report made by Mr. Marius Gilbert, the first expert designated by the Chambéry Justice Court, with a detailed statement for each stamp including: short description, Yvert catalogue number and price, condition, rarity, market estimation range and comments.
Additionally the lot includes the registered cover sent in February 1948 by the Parisian stamp expert Léon Dubus to the President of the Appeal Court of Chambéry, with five red wax seals with the initials L.D. on reverse, and which contained the document with the 18 « stamps » presented in this lot. Very interesting crayon notations from Sperati on front including: « restitué 18 figurines litigieuses », « Douanes » (customs), « Mr. Dubus », « Dr Locard expertise » and « de Sperati 18 faux timbres » (in red).
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