The Queen's Head stamps of Labuan were forged for cheap stamp packets many years ago. Forgeries are frequently offered as genuine by private sellers and dealers. Don't get ripped off and don't believe the advertising claims made by some vendors - check this guide first.
1. The earliest Queen's Head stamps were printed by an engraving process and printed in sheets of 10 or 30. All Queen's Heads on watermarked paper are engraved and some on unwatermarked paper are engraved. Engraved stamps are almost always genuine.
2. The last printings were produced using a lithographic stone. In these stamps the printing is not very sharp and the shading lines have blurry edges and often there are small breaks in the thin shading lines. Most of these stamps were cancelled to order with an oval of bars, one cancellation to each four stamps. They are quite common and should be cheap to buy when cancelled with part of the oval of bars on them. However, mint lithographed stamps are hard to find, and stamps with genuine circular postmarks are very rare because the stamps were not issued in Labuan.
3. Most forgeries were printed in sheets of 20 using a lithographic stone. They are often printed in the wrong shades and they have a rough appearance. Check the illustrations below. The genuine stamps are on the left, the forgeries on the right.
Scans of genuine and forged stamps side by side for comparison:
The most noticeable difference is in the shading under the hair line and down the back of the neck. The shading line inside the ear is often weak or missing and the various parts of the ear are misshapen in the forgeries. The thin inner oval around the Queen is irregular in thickness and often has many breaks, whereas the genuine stamp has an oval of even thickness which is rarely broken.
Want to know more?
There are a number of references to these forgeries:
The Serrane Guide, by Ferdinand Serrane. Published by the American Philatelic Society, 1998
Concise Guide to the Queen Issues of Labuan, by Raymond Price. Published by the Sarawak Specialists Society, 1991
The Sarawak Journal, published by the Sarawak Specialists Society, is the best source of information about the stamps of Labuan