A. M. Tracy Woodward

Alphonse Marie Tracey Woodward (1876-1938)


Better known as A. M. Tracey Woodard.  Mr. Woodward was a very knowledgeable philatelist who specialized in the stamps of Japan and Dependencies.  In 1928, he won the Crawford Medal of the Royal Philatelic Society of London for his monumental two-volume work, The Postage Stamps of Japan and Dependencies published Shanghai, 1928 and the German Lindenberg Medai for conspicuous service to philately.   This work was so well done that after all these years it still remains an important and useful book and a practical guide to a complicated subject.   Although the book deals with Korea and Taiwan, Japan is its major subject.

Since only about 100 copies were printed on vellum paper and 30 copies on ordinary paper, the original is a very rare and expensive book.  If it could be found, most would be unable to afford its price.  Fortunately in 1976, Quarterman Publications made a quality reproduction of the book. The Quarterman reproduction is of both volumes and has all the plates very well reproduced, in fact, many of the plates in the Quarterman reproduction are better than those in the original Woodward book.

Recently (February 2022) on eBay I found a CD-ROM published by the British firm J & H Books and copyrighted by James Paul Marston in 2011.  I  hoped that this, would be a quality digital reprint, but it is not.  Many pages look like poor photocopies of “cut outs” the first 548 pages of the original Woodward book.  None of the 243 pages of plates and graphics are included.  The Quarterman book is still available and it is complete.

Woodward’s important contribution in this particular study is his discovery of Japanese “postal forgeries”.  That is, forgeries that were prepared and used to defraud the Japanese postal system.  The true status of these forgeries is one of the great mysteries of Japanese philately and nothing said here will shed much light on the mysteries.

These stamps have become known as Woodward’s forgeries.  Not because he made them, but because they have never been attributed to anyone else and he was the first to describe them.

Woodward said that there are  “postal forgeries” on these issues:

To be a “postal forgery” all three conditions must be true:

  • It must be a forgery and not genuine  (Some experts have believed that these stamps might be genuine.  But no one has ever produced any proof to support this position.  There is considerable evidence that they are indeed forgeries.  None have been plated to known positions in photos of genuine sheets. But not all plates have photos of full sheets. There is a least one example with a “sanko” in the design and another example in a phantom color.  This satisfies me that they are forgeries.)
  • It must be used (there are some of these forgeries that are unused.)  Two unused examples are included in this study.
  • It must have a genuine postmark.  Being used does not confirm that these forgeries were actually used to mail letters to defraud the government. This has to be left to a study of the postmarks and usage found on the forgeries.  Woodward clearly says that he identified  forgeries that actually went through the mails, and he goes on to give some detail of where and when they were mailed.  “Postal forgeries” do exist, but is every used example of this type of forgery a “postal forgery”?  I don’t think so!  Since these forgeries are extremely rare, it is doubtful that any definitive study of the postmarks will happen any time soon. The mystery remains.

Reproduced below is all that Woodward says about these forgeries.

Below are quotes from the Woodward’s book as found in the Quarterman reproduction.  Woodward, A. M. Tracey, (1876-1938),  The Postage Stamps of Japan and Dependencies, (Originally published by Kelly & Walsh, Shanghai,  in 1928), reprint by Quarterman Publications, Inc., Lawrence, MA, 1976, 548 pp +  243 Plates of Graphics.

Page 184 — 1 sen blue without syllabic.

“A forgery aiming to defraud the government, and evidently not intended for sale to the philatelic public, is found in this issue.  It is of a considerable rarity, and the best executed of all existing forgeries in the line-engraved series, so much so that we have known two great specialists of Japanese stamps to include it in their collections as genuine; whilst in 1917, we bought one copy from [name is here] who had innocently included it in his stock of genuine stamps, and another from [name here] stock book in 1922. As having been actually used in the postal service, this stamp is certainly of great philatelic interest and value.  The specialist is fortunate who can pick one up in a dealer’s stock book at the price of the genuine in used condition.  It is in the unique greenish-blue tint, on a peculiar native wove paper not to be found in the genuine varieties, and is perforated 11 only.  A single die was made.  Only five are known thus far, four of which are illustrated in our Plate No. 172.  To the best of our knowledge, these forgeries were used at Saidaiji (Bizen province) ; Sanjio (Echigo province); Osaka; Kyoto and Kubota (Province of Ugo).”


Page 279 — 6 sen violet brown with syllabic タ (ta-16).

“A forgery, evidently only intended to defraud the government of the postage fee, occurs in this syllabic character.  It is certainly a very well engraved stamp from a single die, and perfect in shade; but it is printed on a heavily grained foreign wove paper.  The principal characteristics are, first, the syllabic character, which is finished in a rather square style, but the tail to the first north-east curl, as well as both the south-east and south-west curls, missing.  It is perforated 11 1/2, is of philatelic value only when in genuinely used condition; and it follows that when unused, it is to be regarded as a good forgery, pure and simple…”


Page 316 —  6 sen orange with syllabic ヌ (nu-10).

“A forgery aimed at defrauding the government of postage fees exists in the same heavily grained foreign wove paper mentioned in chapter XIX, under the syllabic .  The colouring is a slightly reddish orange; and perforations 9 1/2; 10 1/2; 11x 10 1/2, and 11 x 11 1/2, usually small holes, more or less blind, have so far been found.  It is very well engraved, being superior in execution to the genuine copies.  The gum is brown.”


Page 317 —  6 sen orange with syllabic ル (ru-11).

“In this syllabic character, we also find a postally used forgery, well engraved from a single die, and a very good match in shade.  It is also on heavily grained foreign wove paper, and perforations 10 1/2 x 11; 11; 11 1/2 x 11 and 12 1/2 have so far been found.  They were used in various towns, and cancellations show that they gained currency between the months of April and October, of probably 1875.”

Page 321 —  6 sen orange with syllabic タ (ta-16)

“The same forgery described in Chapter XIX for this syllabic character in violet-brown, is also found on the same paper, and in the same perforations, in the present orange shade, which is somewhat reddish.”

Page 322 — Syllabic シ orange

” A forgery used postally, and made from a very well engraved single die, exists for this syllabic character.  The paper is the same as that already described in previous notes, and perforations 10, 11 and 11 1/2 , are found.  It is recognized by the absence of the tail which should be attached to the first (or large) curl from the south, at the south-west corner.”



Page 323 — Syllabic ネ

” A postally used forgery, beautifully engraved, and well matched in colour with the originals, exists for this syllabic character.  The paper is the same as that described for the other syllabics, but so far, only found in perforation 11.  It is recognized by the missing tail to the second north-east, curl, and also to the second west curl at the bottom of the stamp.”

Page 324 — Summary

“NOTE:–There are several facts outstanding so strongly with regard to the postally used forgeries, that they cannot be passed over in silence.  Primo, their engraving is well executed, so excellently indeed, that it would almost seem to reveal the same hand which had cut the original plates.  In certain instances the very same errors of engraving are noticeable–always is the tails to the curls.  Secondo, they are perforated with a regularity and gauge somewhat suggestive of official meticulousness, in fact–making allowances for the difference in paper–it is almost possible to recognize the official single line machine.  Ultimo, They are postmarked in a great many localities, leading to the conclusion that their distribution, if in small quantities, was nevertheless widespread, to evade suspicion.  But to effect this the forgers must have possessed distribution facilities.  These facts should give a clue as to the source whence these forgeries emanated.”