France Forgeries

Forgers & Main Stamps Forged

The forgers of France is a who’s who of the forgery world. It includes, Spiro, Fournier, Sperati, Panelli, Winter,
Hirchberger, Forbin, Oneglia, Kull, Mme Joseph, Schroder, Maury and several others.
Based on the overwhelming amounts of forgeries on eBay, it would seem that there are also some modern forgers.
While doing research on these issues I encountered well over 5000 of the stamps issued between 1849 and 1880 on sale at a wide range of prices.
Through to 1873, all of the higher value Ceres are to be suspected.

The Issues and Forgeries

Ceres type, inscription “REPUB FRANC” (1849-1875)

These stamps were the first stamps issued in France (1849). They were replaced by stamps with the picture of Napoleon III in 1852.
However, in 1870 a similar type was re-issued in Bordeaux (due to the French-German war) and later in the whole of France (1871).


1849 Issues & Varieties



1850 Issues

3 varieties of the 4 in 40c

The Ceres forgeries vary from crude to very good. Some of the ones on auction sites are not easy to spot.
This leads to the conclusion that not only are classical forgers involved but modern ones with sophisticated equipment are participating.

I have noted that many that say “signed” are forgeries. The pictures are for the most part very bad,
this however leads one to consider that a valuable item with a blurry picture, no certificate and little detail in a private auction is an open invitation from a seller of forgeries.

To further compound the issue, stamps were issued for the French Colonies that closely match these designs.
Generally they are worth substantially less. We will touch on these in a later article.

1850 French Scott 1 10c bister/yellowish
1871 French Colony Scott 9 10c bister/yellowish

1849 French Scott 4a 20c blue/bluish
1871 French Colony Scott 11 20c blue/bluish

1850 French Scott 6a 25c blue/bluish
1872 French Colony Scott 12 25c blue/bluish

1850 French Scott 7 40c orange/yellowish (Type I)
1871 French Colony Scott 14 40c orange/yellowish (Type I)


Characteristics of the Genuine Stamps

Let’s first define the key points of the genuine stamps.

These may not apply to all the stamps in the series – expect variations




Note that the dots generally do not touch the frames

In the 20, 25 & 40c a fine line connects the C of FRANCE
to the line below. Also partly visible in the 1fr.

There are 18 grapes visible. The 1870 Bordeaux has 16.


1862 Reprints

These are on lighter tinted paper. They appear brighter in colour.
The 10c and 15c are 1/2 mm smaller.
The 40c appears as if printed from a worn plate.
The 1fr is 18.25mm high instead of 18.5mm and has smaller white points in the thick base-line of the neck

10c, 15c and 20c 1862 reprints


40c Type I and II (worn plate look), 1fr 1862 reprints


Good and Bad Forgeries

Unknown Forger – listed $6000

This one (possibly made to look like a 1fr Vermillion – wrong color)
is easily recognized:

1. Corner elements faint, dots not visible
2. Dots after numerals and words very faint. Lettering faint
3. Pearls too small – did not count them
4. Shading on neck & face wrong
5. Ears wheat poorly defined.
6. Curving lines in background not framed
7. Curve in lock behind neck missing
8. Many of the others noted above


Forger unknown

1. Note the large C in FRANC
2. Numerals uneven
3. Breaks in hairlines above right corner of eye
4 The lone pearl at the back of the head is round
and not oval as in the genuine
5 Other issues as in the 1fr above
Probably the same forger


Spiro Forgery

Not a good forgery overall
1. Many of the features of those above
2. Note the left keys, only 4, the 5th is missing
3. Lettering is thick
4. Chin not well formed, nose pointed
5. Missing grapes


Sperati Forgery

1. Good color
2. Numerals & Name well done except E
3. Background wavy lines lacking detail
4. Pearls too small
5. Bottom frame line noticeably thicker than top one
6. Curve in lock behind neck incorrect
7. 15c break top of P
8. 10c broken pearl at 7:00 O’clock
9. Other issues


Fournier Forgery

1. Background wavy lines lacking detail
2. Outside frame broken in several places
3. Shape of nose too straight
4. P in POSTES narrow
5. Pearls very small
6. Corner elements unequal



Some very dangerous forgeries – forger(s) unknown – possibly Paul de Toulouse

Some minor variations in the letters, background faulty, note the lone pearl in the hair at the back is round and not oval as in the genuine.


Forgeries on eBay listed from $600 – $2500
Obvious flaws as noted in forgeries above



Left genuine Sc3, right, reprint or very dangerous forgery, thicker letters, no shading above eye, broken outer frame, thinner mouth.


Foire de Lyon 1938 propaganda


Tete Beche Forgeries

A Peter Winter Forgery


Fournier Forgery


Paul de Toulouse Forgery


Paul de Toulouse Forgery


Crude Forgery


Forgery with both Ceres & Napoleon


1870 Bordeaux Issue – a short comparison

1849 left, 1870 bordeaux right
1. 5th column only has 1 vertical line – see below
2. lettering in leaf – see below
3. 16 grapes only
4. dashes instead of dots
5. lines of shading under eyes
6. tip of laurel not visible
6a. vertical lines instead of dots in frames.


1870-71 Imperforate

Sc 38,


Sc39, Sc39a, Sc 39c,

2 varieties of 2c


Sc40, Sc41, Sc 42


Sc43, Sc44, Sc45, Sc 46


Sc 47, Sc 48



Genuine left, forgery center, B in REPUB, POSTES too close to oval, Sperati right, C of FRANC has a long upper tail.
The following cancels were used by Sperati:
‘LE HAVRE 5E 29 SEPT. 71 (74)’
MARSEILLES 7E 18 JANV. 71 (12)’
and the following numeral dot cancels: ‘359’ , ‘807’, ‘2660’ and ‘3151’.


Genuine left, Sperati right, right C, weak dots at top,


Genuine left, Sperati center, bottom crude lettering, several pearls joined,
right a postal crude forgery said to have originated in Marseilles & called “Faux de Pons”


Left genuine, right Sperati excellent forgery, pearl at 3 o’clock joined to frame, letters at bottom larger, C is malformed.
Two Sperati reproductions exists of the 30 c value. Several cancels were used on both types:
‘LE HAVRE 5E 29 SEPT 71 (74)’
‘LE HAVRE LE PORT 3E 19 DEC 70’ (see image below)
‘MARSEILLES 7E 18 JANV 71 (12)’
Numeral dots cancels: ‘359’, ‘807’ (see image below), ‘822’, ‘861’ (see image below), ‘897’, ‘918’, ‘1539’, ‘1945’,
‘2145’, ‘2240’, ‘2360’, ‘2660’, ‘3151’, ‘3171’ (see image below), ‘3219’ and ‘3539’.


Left genuine, right Sperati, note typical cancel,


An essay, probably a bogus created by Moens as no 1858 essay is noted anywhere.


Left genuine, right eBay forgery background faulty, lack of shading on face,


Left genuine, right eBay forgery, faulty background,


Imperforate Napoleon Issues

1852 10c, 25c

5c, 10c Type I, 20c Type I

10c Type II, 20c Type II

10c & 20c 2 types


25c, 40c


1853 80c, 1854 80c, 1fr


1862 REPUB Re-issues – more shading on face and above the eye


1862 EMPIRE Re-issues – more shading on face and above the eye



Left Genuine, right Sperati, damaged pearl at 4 & 8 o’clock


left genuine, right, eBay, several damaged pearls in oval, several letters don’t match original


left genuine, center eBay $400, lack of detail, thick letters, right, short top tail on C, smaller corner elements


Left genuine, center Sperati, frame broken upper right, right colour off, corner elements smaller, last F bottom long top stroke


Tete Beche Forgeries

Sperati forgery


Excellent reproduction, may be a modern forgery.


Imperfs, “Rothschild” Re-issue

These were issued for the banker’s personal use & authentication is definitely required. The 20c & 40c are missing from the samples.



Perforated Napoleon Issues (EMPIRE FRANC)

1c, 5c, 10c


20c, 40c, 80c



left genuine, right eBay $400, first 10 on bottom, 1 is short, 0 is long, E touches frame, shading between eye & nose lacking


left, genuine, right unknown forger, lines of shading heavy, thin letters, small ornaments


Perforated Napoleon Issues (EMPIRE FRANCAIS)



2c & 4c, 2 types

10c & 20c, 2 types



Left genuine, right color and various dashes not in genuine


The 1877 5fr is one of the most forged stamps in France
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 FRANCAIS.
The M of EMPIRE is rather like an inverted w, as is also the M of TIMBRE.


The rarer imperforate variety


An essay with no value, also quite valuable


A Peter Winter forgery. No cedilla under C


A Fournier forgery, the 5’s are above the background. No cedilla under C. M’s are straight.


A very crude forgery, 5 is inclined and letters are crude. Corner leafs indistinct.


A modern forgery, lacks fine shading details


Un-issued essay for stamped envelope, comes in various colours with no value.


Peace and Commerce Issues

A brief look at these which were extensively forged by Fournier & Hirschberger.
Using the French colonies is a good method for showing the various traits.

Left genuine perf 14 X 13.5.
Right Hirschberger, note small openings in the R, P, B on top
The far left and right hands have no finger details, Mars has no belly button, & the fruit is separated.
Hirschberger perf 13.5 X 14 often mistaken for a Fournier. There is some thought that Hirschberger purchased Fournier’s large stock.
I would consider that he then perforated these to closely resemble the originals

Fournier perf 12 on the left
Right a modern one appear to be about 11.25 but lacking in detail & the typeset is wrong


Merson “Forbin” Forgeries

About 1912 forgeries began appearing

It is rumoured that C. Forbin (a stamp dealer) contracted a Spanish bank note forger to make the plates and hired the Grosswald brothers
and a relative, C. Sibirsky to sell his wares to other dealers. Forbin tried to distance himself from the affair.

Genuine with areas to consider. The Merson forgery is excellent and overall is very deceptive. All the traits do not necessarily apply to all the values.
Some, depending on inking, will be difficult to judge.


1. Genuine left, upper frames joined, forgery 4th vertical line small dash


2. The genuine lsection near the trunk is made of dots and often not very visible, the forgery right is made up of distinct straight lines.


3. The genuine left is made of 2 distinct lines, in the forgery right there is a colour blob .


4. Genuine left, 2 vertical lines incomplete, forgery right, lines complete & shading on leg.


5. Genuine left, 3 dots in center, forgery right, 4 dots.


6. lines in spaces between leaves complete, right forgery, lines incomplete.


7. Very difficult to observe and inconsistent, forgery right has finer lines in the opening


Other Common Forgeries

1871 Overprint

Left genuine, others forgeries
The bottom left serif on the 1 is thinner than the right one and tends to have an upward curve


1923 Exhibition

I do not have a forgery available. This is a certified copy on a genuine Merson. Any forgery would have discrepancies in the lettering.


1927-28 Airmail

Above are genuine certified samples

NOTE – I have had conversation with a well known expert on these and the position of the rear wheel versus the letters below
is not a trait of forgeries nor is the accent over the e touching the e.
Letter height and features, ink are traits that are tested for forgeries. The dot over the i should not be round.



The above are all forgeries. Some quite obvious when compared to the originals.


Genuines, space between 10 and bars 4.5 mm and 6.5 mm on of the 50 stamps in a pane. Most forgeries will have the spacing wrong.
Note the serif and foot and top of 1. Also the ends of the Fr and size of the dot.


Forgeries, left serifs wrong, right, spacing, thickness of letters, large dot.


Left, genuine, right obvious forgery


1929 Exposition

Genuine, letters tend to have a 3d effect


Forgeries, left long upper T, tail of Q, overall lettering too narrow, ink colour, right, very blurred impression, 2 in 1929 too large, better overall than left one.


1868 Telegraph Issue

Genuine left, Sperati right. The background lines are more distinct in the forgery.


1868 Newspaper Stamps

Genuine stamps


The forgeries are easy to distinguish, the unique N is different and other letters are not symmetrical. Note the inside of the A of the forgery on the right is not a perfect triangle.


1859 Postage Due Stamps

These have been extensively forged in all values.
There are 2 types of the 10c & 15c

10c Type 1 (lithographed) accent on ‘à’ more horizontal (very rare)
10c Type 2 (typographed) accent on ‘à’ more vertical, ‘1’ different – serif smaller


15c; Type 1 (typographed) accent on ‘à’ more vertical, percevoir is thicker
15c; Type 2 (lithographed) accent on ‘à’ more horizontal


25c, 30c, 40c Genuine


Genuine 60c



left, thick serif on a slanted, centre dot before C of CHIFFRE, 40c inclined E in left POSTES