Unauthorized Reprints

No proofs of the Large Canoe issue were printed, although items described as such are frequently offered at auctions. In fact, such "proofs" are actually unauthorized reprints of the stamps made from the original plates that were allegedly purloined by an employee of the printing firm. These offerings generally appear as imperforate singles, or more rarely as blocks, in the issued colors. The paper is a heavier stock than that used in the original issue.

Images: "Tikopia" coll.

Woodford was concerned enough about the possibility of unauthorized reprints that he wrote into the printing contract that the plates were to be defaced as soon as the printing was complete. He even had the printer sign a bond to this effect. The original copper die used to prepare the plates was delivered to Woodford with the stamps, and he threw it into the sea after the final remainders of the issue were destroyed in 1909. Nonetheless, a few years after this remaining stock had been destroyed, "proofs" began to appear on the market. An Australian dealer acquired a supply in good faith and, in turn, sold some to a well-known London dealer.

Woodford acted quickly to put a stop to sale of the items. In a letter of October 1912 quoted in Gisburn, he states,

"The trouble about the unauthorized stamps of our first issue has been settled. It now appears that several sheets of stamps were abstracted from the stock of the printers by a confidential employee, who in turn sold them to a well-known London dealer. They were mostly imperforate. We have recovered the whole with very few exceptions, and they have now been destroyed. If you see any imperforate stamps of our first issue on the market you may take it from me that they are fraudulent and were never issued with authority."

Despite Woodford's belief that the sheets had been stolen from the printers' stock, it is obvious from examining the paper that the items are from a separate printing. Woodford even went so far as to have a government representative visit the London dealer and confiscate the remaining stock. The alleged "proofs" now being offered presumably come from the small stock Woodford was unable to recover. Approximately 200 sets were sold.