The “Melilla bogus”

At the beginning of my research only a second “affaire“ was known, in which Torres was involved: the printing and selling of the so-called “Melilla bogus”.

Melilla, nowadays a Spanish autonomous city, is located on the northwest coast of Africa, sharing a border with Morocco and almost opposite Malaga on the European continent. In 1497, five years after the conquest of Granada, the last Muslim remnant in Spain, the city was occupied by Spain and has been Spanish territory ever since. Its current limits were established by several treaties with Morocco, the last one just after the 1893 intervention we are about to now describe. 

In 1893, the Rif Berbers, a native tribe living in the nearby mountains, launched a campaign to take back the city and its surrounding area.  Spain sent 25,000 Spanish soldiers against them. On March 5th1894, the conflict also known as the Margallo War, was finished with the treaty of Marrakech.

Plácido Torres planned to take advantage of the expected and planned military operations to defend the stronghold and proposed to the military commander that he could furnish specially designed postal franchise stamps to all soldiers for their correspondence with their families. But he promised and furnished not only stamps, but also sheets of paper and even envelopes to be distributed among the troops. The commander, pleased about the offer, accepted the patriotic donation without consulting the postal administration and conceded the corresponding permission.

The philatelic part of this donation was a series of 51 stamps, representing all vessels, and  regiments down to specialized companies deployed in and around the town in December 1893.[1] Plácido  and his friends retained quite a lot of those stamps for the philatelic market and produced as well a lot of envelopes addressed to themselves, friends and contacts all over Spain.


[1]E. Aurioles: España.Franquicias Militares, Separata nº 2 de Actualidad Filatélica, Madrid 1968. Armando Fernández-Xesta: Estudio postal sobre el Ejército y las guerras de España, vol. II, Sociedad Filatélica La Coruña, 1985, p. 104-114.

But in  February 1984 , when the conflict was about to finish, the police arrested Plácido and his group when they went to pick up in the Central Post Office of Malaga a postal hand stamp they had ordered from a workshop at Madrid.[1] The printing stones of the stamps and other items were found and seized as well. The group were thrown into jail.

What most newspapers did not publish, was, that they were all released four days later, because Plácido could present a document, signed by the military commander of Melilla, that confirmed the allowance he had received to produce those stamps. The printing stones were given back and none of the group was ever brought to trial.

Plácido and his companions had put on a lot of envelopes their own address or had sent them to relatives, friends, neighbours in order to dispose of the stock. Plácido started selling these stamps and envelopes and even produced large sheets showing all the denominations and designs. Most Spanish stamp dealers, however, boycotted the selling of those commercial inventions and did not include them in their catalogues. It’s impossible to say whether the whole action was commercially successful.

The printing stones re-appeared about 60 years later in the stock of the stamp dealer Juan Morache. The buyer finally defaced them before a notary and donated them to the Military Historical Archive of Madrid.[2]

[1] La Unión Mercantil, 15. 2. 1894, nº2840, año IX.

[2] Enrique Pérez Pérez: El fondo de franquicias postales militares en el Museo del Ejército de Madrid, Revista de Historia Militar, nº 90, 2001, p. 187-206.

Only cancel on the left item is authentically; both others are fakes

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