Confederate States of America
Postal History
Fakes, Phonies, Forgeries

Fake Old Capitol Prison Cover

Presented here for the first time is a newly discovered and very dangerous fake Old Capitol Prison POW Cover. These particular covers have been around since at least the 1950's (perhaps longer) and have only recently been exposed as fakes by the extensive research done by Galen Harrision, the author of the current definitive work on Civil War Period POW Covers. Galen has cataloged approximately two dozen of these fake covers to date. As a result of this work, the official opinion of the Confederate Stamp Alliance Authentication Committee acknowledges the fake status of the covers. So study these characteristics well as there are of course covers that are perfectly genuine, and you will want to be able to tell the difference.

Here are the characteristics of the fake covers as outlined by Galen Harrison --

  1. The majority of the fake covers bear a USA #65 stamp (there may be others with a different stamp that have not as yet been identified) with a Washington DC Postmark and are addressed to Northern addresses. Three of the recorded fake handstamps so far are on CSA covers with various CSA stamps and Richmond postmarks to make them appear as though they were through-the-lines inside covers.
  2. The "Passed" circular handstamp is neat and well struck in an upright position on all the fake covers. On the genuine covers, the handstamp is often partially struck and very often at various angles and even upside down.
  3. The fake handstamp has a distinct break in the outer frame above the "A" in "PASSED." This is constant on all the fakes. The break is not there on the genuine handstamps.
  4. There are distinct differences in the lettering of the handstamp between the fake and the genuine particularly in the words "MILITARY PRISON."
  5. There is a short horizontal bar just preceding the "S" in "SUP" which is constant on all the fakes. That bar is not present on the genuine handstamps.

During his research, Galen went to the National Archives and discovered that the names and addresses on a number of these fake covers from Washington DC coincided with the names of soldiers in various Union regiments assigned to the defences of Washington DC. And none of these Union soldiers were ever recorded as having been in prison. What appears to have been done is that the faker took genuine Union covers from Washington DC and applied the fake handstamp and also applied the fake handstamp to at least a few somewhat tattered Richmond, Va CSA covers. This went unnoticed for decades, and many of these covers have appeared in major auctions over the years and sold for hundreds of dollars. Unfortunately it is not known who created these fake covers or exactly when it was done. But check your collections to see if you have any of these fakes. If you do, please E-mail me the information (

Below is an enlargement of the fake handstamp with the numbers corresponding to the points listed above. Next to it is a genuine handstamp for comparison. Both the fake and the genuine handstamps are the same size. The genuine Old Capitol Prison Cover shown below for comparison is courtesy of the James Monroe Collection.

Fake Handstamp
Genuine Handstamp

Genuine Old Capitol Prison Cover

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