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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, Schroeder, Maury, Moens 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 Genuine 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).
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
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
Good and Bad Forgeries
Unknown Forger – listed $6000 on eBay
This one (possibly made to look like a 1fr Vermilion – 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. Tall C in FRANC
8. Many of the others noted above
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
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
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
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
Probably a second choice forgery
1849-50 Ceres Sc 7-7a Orange & Org. Vermilion Fournier
The 2 pairs above have a few issues such as the shape of the lettering but the main feature is in the keys along the sides.
Particularly on the right side the edges are rounded instead of being square
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.
Tete Beche Forgeries
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.
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’.
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:
‘BORDEAUX LA BASTIDE 3E 5 AOUT 71’
‘BREST FINISTERRE 1E 9 MAI 71’
‘LE HAVRE 5E 29 SEPT 71 (74)’
‘LE HAVRE LE PORT 3E 19 DEC 70’ (see image below)
‘MARSEILLES 7E 18 JANV 71 (12)’
‘QUIMPER FINISTERRE 2E 26 OCT 71’
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’.
Imperforate Napoleon Issues
Tete Beche Forgeries
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)
Perforated Napoleon Issues (EMPIRE FRANCAIS)
The 1869 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.
Merson “Forbin” Forgeries
About 1912 forgeries began appearing.
It is rumored 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.
3. The genuine left is made of 2 distinct lines, in the forgery right there is a colour blob .
Other Common Forgeries
I do not have a forgery available. This is a certified copy on a genuine Merson. Any forgery would have discrepancies in the lettering.
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.
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.
1868 Telegraph Issue
1868 Newspaper 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