Outline of forgery  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive.


Types of forgery

Legality of forgery

United Kingdom


Related offences

  • Phishing — impersonating a reputable organization via electronic media, which often involves creating a replica of a trustworthy website
  • Uttering — knowingly passing on a forgery with the intent to defraud

Detection and prevention of forgery

Anti-counterfeiting agencies and organisations

Tools and techniques

  • Counterfeit banknote detection pen — uses an iodine-based ink that reacts with the starch found in counterfeit banknotes
  • EURion constellation — a pattern of symbols incorporated into banknote designs, which can be detected by imaging software
  • Geometric lathe — a 19th-century lathe used for making ornamental patterns on the plates used in printing bank notes and stamps
  • Microprinting - very small text hidden on banknotes or cheques, that is difficult to accurately reproduce
  • Optical variable device — an iridescent image that cannot be photocopied or scanned
  • Optically variable ink — ink that appears to change colour depending on the angle it is viewed from
  • Philatelic expertisation — the process whereby an expert is asked to give an opinion whether a philatelic item is genuine
  • Questioned document examination — a forensic science discipline that attempts to answer questions about disputed documents
  • Security printing — the field of the printing industry that deals with the printing of items such as banknotes and identity documents
  • Security thread — a thin ribbon threaded through a banknote, that appears as a solid line when held up to the light
  • Taggant — a radio frequency microchip that can be tracked and identified
  • Watermark — a recognizable image or pattern in paper that appears as various shades of lightness when viewed

Examples of forgery

Archaeological forgery

Archaeological forgery
  • Acámbaro figures — over 32,000 ceramic figurines which appear to provide evidence for the co-existence of dinosaurs and humans
  • Archaeoraptor — the supposed "missing link" between birds and terapod dinosaurs; actually constructed by rearranging pieces of genuine fossils
  • AVM Runestone — a student prank that was believed to be an ancient Norse runestone
  • Beringer's Lying Stones — fake fossils that were planted as an 18th-century prank
  • Brandenburg stone — a stone slab bearing markings which appear to be letters of an unknown alphabet
  • Calaveras Skull — a human skull that was thought to prove the existence of Pliocene-age man in North America
  • Cardiff Giant — a ten-foot tall "petrified man" carved out of gypsum
  • Chiemsee Cauldron — a golden cauldron found at the bottom of a lake
  • Crystal skull — a series of artifacts crafted from quartz, often attributed to Aztec or Mayan civilisations
  • Drake's Plate of Brass — supposedly a brass plaque planted by Francis Drake upon arrival in America, but really a practical joke that span out of control
  • Grave Creek Stone — a small sandstone disk inscribed with twenty-five pseudo-alphabetical characters
  • Holly Oak gorget — a mammoth engraved upon a shell pendent
  • Ica stones — a collection of andesite stones that depict dinosaurs co-existing with humans
  • Japanese paleolithic hoax — a number of paeolithic finds manufactured by amateur archaeologist Shinichi Fujimura to bolster his reputation
  • Kafkania pebble — a small rounded pebble bearing what could be an early example of Greek syllabic writing
  • Kinderhook plates — six bell-shaped pieces of brass with strange engravings; Latter-Day Saints founder Joseph Smith allegedly attempted to translate them
  • Lead Books of Sacromonte — a series of texts inscribed on circular lead leaves, denounced as heretical forgeries by the Vatican in 1682; modern scholars concur with this analysis
  • Lenape Stone — an engraving that appears to show Native Americans hunting a woolly mammoth
  • Michigan relics — artifacts that appear to prove that East Europeans lived in Michigan in ancient times; actually a money-making scam
  • The inscription at Pedra da Gávea — allegedly carved by Phoenicians, who were not thought to have had the naval capacity to travel across the ocean to Brazil
  • Persian Princess — the mummified body of a "Persian princess"; actually the corpse of a woman who was murdered around 1996
  • Piltdown Man — the jaw of an orangutan attached to the skull of a human, hailed as the missing link between humans and apes
  • Solid Muldoon — a "petrified human" made out of mortar, rock dust, clay, plaster, ground bones, blood and meat
  • Spirit Pond runestones — small stones bearing runic inscriptions, ostensibly of pre-Columbian origin
  • Tiara of Saitaferne — a tiara exhibited at the Louvre Museum as belonging to a Scythian king, until this statement was disputed by the goldsmith who created it

Art forgery

  • Amarna Princess — a statue created by Shaun Greenhalgh in the ancient Egyptian style, and sold to Bolton Museum for £439,767
  • Black Admiral — a Revolutionary War-era painting of a black man in a naval uniform
  • Bust of Flora — a bust of the Roman goddess Flora, previously believed to be a work by Leonardo da Vinci, now attributed to Richard Cockle Lucas.
  • Camille Corot forgeries — thousands of imitation Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot paintings
  • Eadred Reliquary — a silver vessel created by Shaun Greenhalgh, containing a piece of wood which he claimed was a fragment of the True Cross
  • Etruscan terracotta warriors — three terracotta warriors created by Italian forgers and sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Faun — a sculpture created by Shaun Greenhalgh and sold as a work by Paul Gauguin
  • Flower portrait — a portrait of William Shakespeare, probably painted in the 19th century
  • Michelangelo's Cupid — a sleeping Cupid sculpture that was created, artificially aged and sold by Renaissance artist Michelangelo
  • Risley Park Lanx — the replica of a genuine Roman artifact, "discovered" by the Greenhalgh family and put on display at the British Museum
  • Rospigliosi Cup — a gold and enamel cup thought to have been crafted by Italian goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, but now considered a 19th-century forgery
  • The works of the Spanish Forger — an unidentified 19th-century artist who created over 200 medieval miniatures, which are still highly valued by collectors

Black propaganda

  • The Franklin Prophecy — an anti-Semitic speech falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin, arguing against the admittance of Jewish immigrants to the newly-formed United States
  • Morey letter — a letter published during the 1880 US presidential elections, suggesting that James A. Garfield was in favour of Chinese immigration
  • Our Race Will Rule Undisputed Over The World — a speech given by the non-existent Rabbi Emanuel Rabinovich, outlining Jewish plans for world domination
  • A Protocol of 1919 — a document supposedly found among the belongings of a Jew killed in battle, outlining Jewish plans for world domination
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — a lengthy text, originating in Russia and widely publicised by the Nazi party, outlining Jewish plans for world domination
  • A Radical Program for the Twentieth Century — a text supposedly written by a British Jewish Communist, cited as proof that the civil rights movement in America was a foreign Communist plot
  • Tanaka Memorial — an alleged Japanese strategic planning document, advising Emperor Hirohito on how to conquer the world


Forged documents

  • Canuck letter — a letter implying that a Democratic presidential candidate was prejudiced against French-Canadians
  • Casket letters — letters and sonnets supposedly written by Mary, Queen of Scots, implicating her in the murder of her husband
  • Donation of Constantine — a decree issued by emperor Constantine I, granting authority over Rome and part of the Roman Empire to Pope Sylvester I and his successors
  • Dossiers Secrets — documents, planted in the National Library of France, that were used as the basis for a series of BBC documentaries
  • Habbush letter — a letter linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks
  • Killian documents — memos critical of President George W. Bush's service in the National Guard
  • Larmenius Charter — a Latin manuscript listing twenty-two successive Grand Masters of the Knights Templar
  • Lindsay pamphlet scandal — pamphlets distributed by the Australian Liberal Party, claiming an alliance between the Labor Party and an Islamic organisation
  • Mustafa-letter — a letter used by Norway's Liberal Party to prove that the country was in danger of being overun with Muslims
  • Niger uranium forgeries — documents implying that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium powder, allegedly for the purpose of building weapons of mass destruction
  • Oath of a Freeman — a copy of the loyalty oath drawn up by 17th century Pilgrims
  • Privilegium Maius — a medieval manuscript apparently boosting the legitimacy and influence of the House of Habsburg
  • Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals — letters and canons purportedly authored by early popes, including a collection authored by "Benedict Levita".
  • William Lynch speech — a speech by an 18th-century slave owner, who claims to have discovered the secret of controlling slaves by pitting them against each other
  • Zeno map — a map of the North Atlantic containing a number of non-existent islands
  • Zinoviev letter — a directive from Moscow to Britain's Communist Party, calling for intensified communist agitation; the letter contributed to the downfall of Prime Minister MacDonald

Literary forgery

Musical forgery

Philatelic forgery

Forgery controversies

The authenticity of certain documents and artifacts has not yet been determined, and is still the subject of debate.

  • Augustan History — a collection of biographies of Roman emperors
  • Bat Creek inscription — an inscription on a stone allegedly found in a Native American burial mound
  • Isleworth Mona Lisa — a close imitation of da Vinci's Mona Lisa, sometimes attributed in part to da Vinci
  • James Ossuary — a chalk box used to contain the bones of the dead, bearing the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus"
  • Jehoash Inscription — an inscription apparently confirming the Biblical account of the repairs made to the temple in Jerusalem by Jehoash
  • Jordan Lead Codices — a series of ring-bound books of lead and copper, that are said to pre-date the writings of St. Paul
  • Kensington Runestone — a slab of greywacke covered in Scandinavian runes, found in North America and supposedly carved in the 14th century
  • Letter of Lentulus — an epistle allegedly written by a Roman Consul, giving a physical description of Jesus
  • Majestic 12 documents — supposedly leaked papers relating to the formation, in 1947, of a secret committee of US officials to investigate the Roswell incident
  • Mar Saba letter — an epistle, attributed to Clement of Alexandria, discussing the Secret Gospel of Mark
  • The Memoirs of Naim Bey — a collection of telegrams indicating that the Armenian Genocide was formally implemented as Ottoman Empire policy
  • Newark Holy Stones — a set of artifacts allegedly discovered among a group of ancient Indian burial grounds
  • Old High German lullaby — a supposedly 10th century poem containing numerous references to Germanic mythology
  • Prophecy of the Popes — a series of 112 short cryptic phrases which purport to predict future Roman Catholic Popes
  • Shroud of Turin — a linen cloth that is said to be the burial shroud of Jesus, and bears the image of a man who appears to have suffered injuries consistent with crucifixion
  • Sinaia lead plates — a set of lead plates written in an unknown language
  • Sisson documents — sixty-eight Russian documents which claim that Trotsky and Lenin were German agents attempting to bring about Russia's withdrawal from World War I
  • Stalin's alleged speech of 19 August 1939 — a speech supposedly given by Joseph Stalin in which he stated that the approaching war would benefit the Soviet Union
  • Titulus Crucis — a piece of wood, ostensibly a fragment of the True Cross upon which Jesus was crucified
  • US Army Field Manual 30-31B — a text purporting to be a classified appendix of a US Army Field Manual which describes top-secret counter-insurgency tactics
  • Vinland map — an allegedly 15th century map of the world, which could be the earliest map to depict America (or "Vinland")

Some documents and artifacts were previously thought to be forgeries, but have subsequently been determined to be genuine.

Notable forgers

Archaeological forgers

Art forgers


Document forgers

Literary forgers

Musical forgers

Signature forgers

Stamp forgers

Template:See also


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Outline of forgery" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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