Forged stamps of France

Learn to spot the classic forgeries of France

“Album Weeds”, 3rd edition


R. B. Eareé

1849-50. Ceres

10, 15, 20, 20, 40 c. & 1 fr.


Very nicely engraved, on thickish wove paper, more or less tinted, but never quite white. In the large majority of copies, the paper presents a very strong yellowish tinge, probably due to age. The shading under the eye and on the neck consists of well-defined, parallel lines of dots.

The fifth dotted line of shading on the neck, counting’ from the bottom, goes right across the neck, from front to back. There are five very distinct ears of wheat in the head-dress, on the side shown, and the tips of two other ears can be seen, peeping round from the other side of the head. The front of the eyebrow does not touch the front outline of the face. There is an indent of colour in the middle line of the upper lip, which almost amounts to a defect in the drawing. The lower lip has a distinct line of shading on it, to mark the form of the red part of it. There are three lines of shading above the eyelid, and beneath the eyebrow. Round the portrait there are ninety-seven pearls, all large, round, very close together, and most of them touching the white ring outside them. The key-pattern, down the left- hand side of the stamp, has four entire “keys” pointing outwards, in the part of the frame which is above the central circle, and a portion of a fifth “key” as well; there are also four entire ones, and part of a fifth, in the lower portion of this left-hand frame. The key-pattern, on the right-hand side of the stamp, has four entire “keys” both above and below the central circle; counting, as before, only those “keys” which are turned outwards. This whole key-pattern may be likened to a bent ribbon, with both edges of it clearly shown in perspective. There is a small, but distinct stop, both before and after every word, etc., of both inscriptions. Taking the 25 c. value for instance, the inscriptions run . REPUB . FRANC . . 25 . c . POSTES . 25 . c . The line above the frame of the value-label is the same width as the similar white line below the name-label. The vine-leaf in the head-dress is very distinct, and there are seventeen grapes in the bunch, though several of them are partly hidden by the rest.


First set

I have before me a full series of this set of counterfeits. They are lithographed, on very white wove paper, rather thicker than the genuine. The fifth line of shading on the neck, counting from the bottom, does not go across from the back to the front. The ears of wheat on the front of the head-dress are here represented by very long willow-leaves, a little more serrated at the edges than willow-leaves usually are, and there seem to be only four of them, all in one bunch, instead of two separate bunches or groups. The tips of the two ears of wheat which ought to be visible from the other side of the head are absent. The front of the eyebrow just touches the front outline of the face. There is no line of shading on the lower lip, to mark the shape of the red part of it. There are just one hundred pearls round the portrait; they are small and far apart, and none of them touch the white ring round them. There are only four outward-turned “keys” in the top half of the left-hand frame, four in the bottom half, and the same number in each of the halves of the right-hand frame. The stops before and after the different words and figures of the two inscriptions are so very small as to be almost invisible; and, in several of the values, the stop before REPUB., and the one before the first figure in the bottom label, are absent. The white line above the frame of the value-label is very much wider and more prominent than the similar white line below . REPUB . FRANC . The large leaf in the head-dress is not much like a vine-leaf. There seem to be only fifteen grapes in the bunch, but they are very indistinct, and difficult to count.


Second set

Of this set I have only seen the 25 c., and the 1 franc. Very coarsely lithographed, on particularly rough, coarse, wove paper, of a decidedly yellowish tint. The fifth line of shading on the neck does not go across from back to front. The ears of corn are tolerably well represented, but the two which ought to show from the other side of the head are absent. The vine-leaf is very badly drawn, and there are only fourteen grapes in the bunch. There are only eighty-six pearls round the circle; they are exceedingly small, and very far apart, and none of them touch the white ring round them. The eyebrow touches the outline of the front of the face. There is a large stop between the words REPUB . FRANC, and a stop each side of the word POSTES in the lower label. There is no line of shading on the lower lip, to mark the outline of the red part; but the lip is abnormally hollowed out in the part where the “imperial” would grow in a man. There are four outward-turned “keys” of the key- pattern in both halves of the frame, down the left-hand side of the stamp, four in the lower half of the right-hand frame, and five in the upper half of it; but the two immediately above the circle, in this latter compartment, are jumbled together. I do not think this set ought to deceive anybody; the execution is so very coarse.


Third set

Of this set I have only the 1 franc, though 1 think I came across two or three other values, some time ago. It is lithographed, in a peculiar sort of orange-red, on thick, hard wove paper, of a pale yellow tint, not yellowish-white. None of the dotted lines of shading on the neck run right across, from back to front. There are five ears of wheat, moderately distinct, in the head-dress; but they are in one group instead of two, and there are none visible from the other side. The front of the eye- brow is a long way from the outline of the front of the face; even more distant than in the genuine. The red part of the lower lip is outlined, as in the genuine. There are eighty-six very small pearls round the circle, far apart, and not touching the white ring round them. There are four outward-turned “keys” in each of the four pieces of key-pattern at the sides. All the stops in the inscription are as in the genuine, except the one before the first I, and the one after the last FR., both of which are absent. The leaf is like that of a horse-chestnut, and there are only sixteen grapes in the bunch.


Fourth set

This I have not seen. So far as I know, there is only the one stamp, the rare 1 franc, orange, and it is said to be a very dangerous forgery. I copy the description from the Monthly Journal. I think it was made in 1898:

“The colour is very successfully imitated, but the paper is thicker and coarser than that of the genuine, and more grey in some. The shading under the eye cannot be resolved into parallel lines, but is much less pronounced than the genuine. The key-pattern at the left side consists of a single bent line, with mere traces of a second line. On the right side, the second line is more noticeable; but it is far from being as clear as in the originals. The indent in the middle of the line of the upper lip is entirely absorbed into the curved line of colour of the upper lip. The three lines of shading, above the eyelid and beneath the eyebrow, are absent in this counterfeit.”

1852. Napoleon

10c & 25c


Engraved in épargne, on similar paper to that of the first issue, but a little softer. The shading on the chin comes forward, as far as the point of the mustache and the base of the imperial. The front of the neck is shaded, down to the very bottom. There is some very light shading along the side of the nose. Below the bottom of the neck there is a very distinct B, the initial of the engraver, whose name was Barr£, I believe. This can be seen very easily, and is a good test. There are eighty-eight pearls in the circle. The rest of the frame seems to be an exact copy of the first issue.


Rather nicely lithographed, on thick wove paper, very white. The shading on the chin does not touch either the imperial or the point of the mustache. There is no shading at all down the front of the neck, or on the side of the nose. The engraver’s initial is wanting. The circle contains only eighty-five pearls. There are only three outward turns in each of the lower key-pattern ornaments at the sides, and four similar ones in each of the upper ornaments. Besides all these discrepancies, there is one very marked thing which strikes the eye at once, and that is the very broad white line, right across the stamp, just above the lower inscription, which is two or three times as broad as the similar line below the upper inscription. This is, certainly, the most marked feature of these counterfeits, and is of itself quite enough to condemn them.

1853-60. Empire




Engraved in épargne, on rather strongly-toned wove paper. The tests for this stamp are exactly the same as those for the genuine Presidency issue just described, except that the upper inscription reads EMPIRE FRANC., instead of REPUB . FRANC., and that there is no engraver’s initial at the base of the neck. The number of pearls in the circle, and the key-pattern, etc., are just as before.


Same as the forgeries of the Presidency issue, except for the necessary alteration from REPUB. to EMPIRE. In this counterfeit, the white line across the stamp, forming the upper outline of the bottom label, is narrower, and more like the genuine. The wrong shading, and the defective key-pattern, as in the last-named forgeries, will suffice to detect this counterfeit.

1859. Napoleon




Engraved in épargne, on tinted wove paper; perforated 13 1/2. The circle round the head contains sixty-four pearls. There is a distinct, five-lobed leaf at each corner of the inside oblong’. The figure 5 is equidistant between the outside of the circle and the inside line of the inner frame. The value is generally of a different tint from that of the rest of the stamp, being printed afterwards. All the lettering is in very thin, French type. The Emperor’s eye is well open, with a distinct pupil. There is
a very strong wrinkle on the forehead. The key-pattern bordering is very thin, being distinctly thinner than the letters of the inscription, at the top and bottom of the stamp. The dots at the four corners of the stamp are small and round. There is a distinct cedilla under the C of FRAN9AIS. The M of EMPIRE is rather like an inverted w, as is also the M of TIMBRE.


Lithographed, on wove, and also on vertically-laid paper, both being thinner and harder than the genuine; badly perforated 13. The front of the paper has been tinted with a surface coloring. There are only sixty-three pearls round the head. The five-lobed leaves are extremely indistinct, being generally nothing more than blotches. The back of the 5 nearly touches the outline of the circle; but this is not a particularly trustworthy test, as I have found that the position of the genuine 5 occasionally varies. The inscription, 5 F, is exactly the same tint as the rest of the impression. All the lettering is thick and clumsy. The eye is nearly closed, and the pupil is indistinct. There is no wrinkle on the forehead. The key-pattern border is as thick as the lettering. The dots at the four corners are blotchy, the one in the left-hand lower corner being oval instead of round. There is no cedilla under the c of FRANCAIS. The M of EMPIRE is an unmistakable W, turned upside down; and so is the M of TIMBRE. The colour of the stamp is a redder shade than that of the originals.

1877 & 1892. Napoleon

15c blue


Engraved in épargne, on wove or quadrille paper as above, perf. 14 x 13 1/2. The imprint in the left lower corner is J A SAGE INV ; that in the right lower corner is E MOUCHON D & I. These are in microscopic, but legible letters. The top leaf of the olive-branch in the right hand of the female figure, touches the fourth dark, horizontal line from the top of the stamp, counting the two lines of the frame, and the lowest berry on the branch lies exactly in the center of her right breast, and is very prominent. She appears to have flowers in her hair, and has a fairly contented expression of countenance. Her left great toe is abnormally long and pointed; it has no nail, and is directed towards the left top corner of the R of REPUBLIQUE, below it. Her left forefinger, resting on the globe, is curved inwards, so as to point to the right top corner of the i of the figure 15 below it. The figure of Mercury shows curls on his forehead, below the front of his cap. The tip of the right wing of the cap reaches to the center of the sixth horizontal line from the top, including the two frame-lines, the tip of the left wing reaches to the top of the seventh horizontal line. He has a somewhat drooping nose, and the left corner of the mouth turns very slightly upwards. The top of the serpent- twined rod in his left hand ends in a round ball; the serpents have no eyes. The left leg is shaded so very darkly, that it hardly stands out at all, from the background. At the top of the globe, in the small portion visible, just above the clasped hands, there is a curved line of four short dashes, following the contour of the globe. These are quite distinct. The two round dots at the two ends of the name-label are large, quite twice as wide as the width of any of the lines forming the letters of the name.


Lithographed, on white wove paper, perf. 13 1/2 all round. The names of the artist and engraver, in the lower corners, are absolutely illegible. The top leaf of the olive-branch touches the sixth dark, horizontal line from the top, and there is no berry on the right breast. The lady wears what appears to be a laurel-wreath, and the head is more like that of a Roman Emperor, than of a woman, and has a pained expression of countenance. The great toe is not visible. The fore-finger of the hand on the globe points to the 5 below it. The head of Mercury shows a sort of chaplet, instead of curls, in front of his cap; the tip of the right wing reaches to the top of the fifth dark horizontal line, from the top, and the tip of the left wing touches the sixth line. His nose is simply two sides of a triangle, and the left corner of the mouth droops very slightly downwards. His rod has a top like a candle-flame on the top of a small ball, and each serpent has a dot for an eye. The left leg is nearly as prominent as the right, being more lightly shaded than the genuine, and with a darker outline. The line of dashes at the top of the globe is absent. The two round dots, one at each end of the name-label, are very small, being exactly the width of the I of FRANCAISE.

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