Given the achievements in the world of philately of our next legendary collector, you might be forgiven for thinking his career must have been in forensic science or perhaps he was a top investigator. However, Dr Carl Walske (1922 to 2009) an American philatelist and expert on forgeries and more importantly forgers, was an eminent theoretical nuclear physicist. Notwithstanding it’s a career which requires a high-degree of intelligence it also tends to cultivate traits and skills which benefit philately, such as spotting the tiniest detail out-of-place and pursuing a line of research that ultimately leads to discovering previously unknown facts that are published for the good of the wider community.    

These talents Carl Walske certainly put to good use over fifty years of collecting and researching stamp forgeries as well as his pursuit of forgers, he co-authored with Robson Lowe two of the literary greats on this topic; namely “The Oneglia Engraved Forgeries, Commonly Attributed to Angelo Panelli” and “The Work of Jean de Sperati II, including Previously Unlisted Forgeries”.  The latter of which Walske was the greatest authority. Given Jean de Sperati is considered to be the most dangerous forger in philately (discover the catalogue “The Art of Sperati” Collection which will be offered on Decmber 2022), the research, discoveries and material Walske documented is the most valuable reference for philatelists in identifying the fakes which can, and have, fooled experts the world over. What distinguishes Walske’s work in this field is his in-depth research into the production methods used by forgers for various forgeries, and the relationships between these features and the forger.

This forensic approach undoubtedly enabled Walske to see what others before him had not seen and his fascination in the traits and characteristics of ‘the forger’ are what led him to the unknown forgeries. It’s reminiscent of an investigator getting into the mind and motivation of the suspect in order to get ahead of the perpetrator. Indeed, if you adopt a similar approach and look at the broad spectrum of articles Walske published you’ll see that ‘Investigator’ was a pseudonym used by him. Whilst Walske clearly invested a great deal in hunting down Sperati which led him to many of his unrecorded imitations, he was also a student of the work of other revered forgers such as Fournier, Spiro, Raoul de Thuin and even the contemporary Peter Winter.

Although a member of the American Philatelic Society, the Collectors Club of New York, also a number of specialist groups, as well as a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London, Walske had a low key philatelic persona, but gained respect through his knowledge, work and generosity in sharing what he discovered. It should also be noted that we have Carl Walske to thank for enticing into philately his son Steven C. Walske, a recognised and published postal historian who signed the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 2017, and  who has also won two International Grand Prix’s and two National Grand Prix awards. It’s obvious that Carl Walske has left us an impressive philatelic legacy in more ways than one, and his work not only equips the philatelist at every level with the tools they need to defend against the forger, it also underpins the outputs of experts the world-over, who depend upon his research in detecting the most well-crafted of forgeries. This alone would be reason enough to acknowledge Carl Walske as a legendary collector, but as we have highlighted there is much more to celebrate and why he is our “Philatelic Investigator”.

Note: Richard Frajola has written-up and preserved Dr Carl Walske’s Sperati research and collection at the website www.sperati.org/

You can catch-up on the previous 37 legendary collectors by clicking the links: Legendary Collectors: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15, Part 16Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32,Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, and Part 37