George Washington forgeries are common but almost always recognizable to the diligent and experienced document examiner. Several individuals have become rather famous in the process of forging Washington’s letters and documents. Most notably, forgers such as Joseph Cosey and Robert Spring have gained reputations as notorious forgers of Washington’s handwriting and autograph.
Joseph Cosey enjoyed defrauding autograph dealers, and sold them letters and documents that he alleged were signed by Washington and many other famous Americans. Cosey was a master craftsman at forgery, often using laid paper and iron-based inks that were commonly used in the later 1700s.
Cosey’s fabrications included pay warrants with forged signatures of Aaron Burr and George Washington on the same document. Handwritten letters from Washington from Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War that were fabricated by Cosey may be difficult to discern from authentic examples.
Perhaps Cosey’s most brazen forgery was a complete draft of the Declaration of Independence with a simulated hand of Thomas Jefferson. Cosey’s forged Declaration of Independence was sold as a fake in 1969 for $425.00. Cosey’s imitation was stunning because it appeared to be a genuine draft.
Robert Spring is also known as one of the best forgers of Washington’s handwriting and autograph. Although Spring forged signatures of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, and Horatio Nelson, he is ignominiously famous for his fabricated letters and documents of Washington.
Ironically, forgeries by Cosey and Spring have become collectible in their own right. Over the years they have skyrocketed in value. A Revolutionary War pass with a signature of Washington forged by Robert Spring was sold to a Philadelphia autograph dealer in the 1860s for $15; it is now worth more than $1,000.
Handwritten forgeries of Washington’s checks that Robert Spring sold in 1863 for $10 each now sell for well over $1,200. The book Money Secrets reveals key features that distinguish authentic Washington checks from those forged by Robert Spring.
George Washington forgeries by Joseph Cosey or Robert Spring can be very valuable in their own curious way. However, letters that are handwritten and signed by either Cosey or Spring are quite rare and sought by collectors because of their reputations as preeminent holograph imitators of Washington and other famous Americans.