Donate Now

Secret in history museum’s archive has an illegal past

July 25, 2018
CBC News

This is part of our series Hidden Treasures, where we delve into the storage rooms of museums across the National Capital Region to find out what weird and wonderful things they have tucked away there. We’ll post a new story every Wednesday throughout the summer, and you can find them all on the CBC Ottawa website.

It isn’t the first time this artifact has been hidden away, shielded from public view.

Deep inside the Canadian Museum of History is an item with a shady past — a brass plate used to create forgeries of some of the first stamps ever produced in Canada.

Bianca Gendreau, a manager in the museum’s research division, said the plate was used to create fakes of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick’s first stamps issued in 1851.

Collectors had been coming across the forgeries for years but didn’t know how they were being created, Gendreau said.

“We knew that the forgeries existed on the market of those stamps and we never knew that the New Brunswick stamps and the Nova Scotia stamps were made on the same plate.”

The plate was donated to the museum in 2013 after being found at a flea market in Belgium, she said.

When the forgeries were first created they would have been used by people trying to treat them as postage, but today the plate could be used to create stamps that are quite valuable to collectors.

“I am glad this is out of the market, because even today you could reproduce these stamps. It is a good thing this is out of circulation,” Gendreau said.

But she has to admire the plate as a piece of art in its own right. “There is only [a] one-millimetre difference between the real one and the forgery. These are very nicely done and very accurate.”

Read more