When I was a kid in the early 1970s, I remember watching old reruns of Flash Gordon with my dad. The science fiction show was from the 1950s and involved travelling to the moon. It was pure fantasy at the time it was filmed. In 1969, Neil Armstrong took the first step onto the moon.

I also recall reading the Dick Tracy comic strip. He had a sophisticated wrist watch that also did live video. Again, science fiction until Steve Jobs and Apple rolled out the iPhone on June 29, 2007. Today, everyone looks like Dick Tracy with their smart phone in hand.

Today, 3-D printing is in its infancy. People are busy finding ways to put this technology to practical use to solve real world problems. This brings me to my point.

At first, philatelic counterfeits were often very crude. Then expert forgers like Jean de Sperati and Raoul Ch. de Thuin came along. Their counterfeits were much more sophisticated. Today, their counterfeits are well documented and thanks to technology that wasn’t available when they were busy at work, detection of their forgeries is easier.

Will 3-D printing or the next generation of printing technology ever be so sophisticated that counterfeiting of great philatelic rarities will be easier to do and impossible to detect? I don’t know, maybe.

Many years ago, forgers like Sperati and de Thuin had to obtain just the right paper, just the right ink, and so forth. What they accomplished was remarkable and it took a lot of skill. But even they weren’t perfect in their craft.

Will someone be able to someday take an image of, say, the British Guiana 1¢ Magenta stamp, and be able to create a perfect duplicate, right down to the paper fibers? What’s to stop someone from doing this and saying, “Look, 200 years after its discovery, I now have a second copy.”

Am I nuts? Does this sound like science fiction? Many years ago, people thought the same about Flash Gordon and Dick Tracy. Be it jewelry, coins, stamps, or other objects – someday the technology is going to exist to enable people to create very sophisticated and very complex reproductions that are going to be difficult, if not impossible, to tell apart from the original.