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A short history (certainly room for addition/redaction)
German troops occupied Alsace & Lorraine and parts of Northern France in August 1870.
The Al ace & Lorraine issue of 1870 was prepared as an emergency issue for the civilian post in occupied territories . The st amps were type-set for speed of production and printed at the Berlin Reichsdruckerei (State Printing Works) , and issued in colours similar to those in use in France (except for the 25c).
The burelage under-print was to deter forgery. The appearance of the under-print is that of a net, with points facing either up or down.
First printings appear to have been made with points up or down at random; later printings were with points up.
Genuine stamps are therefore scarcer with points down .
Following the armistice , Alsace & Lorraine was ceded to the Northern German Confederation , and other occupied areas restored to France.
Use of Alsace stamps ended on 24th March 1871 in the restored territories , but continued until the 31st of December 1871 in Alsace & Lorraine, after which eagle stamps of the new German Empire came into use.
As the stamps were type-set and there are 4 sets of 150 stamps per plate, theoretically, 600 varieties of each denomination exist.
Luckily the State Printing Works (Reichsdruckerei) were accurate enough that most can be grouped into just a few “varieties” for each denomination.
Some varieties like the 20c above which is 3.5mm. above the “CENTIMES” instead of 2mm. is extremely rare and only a few copies exist.
Of note, the printing apparently used a special security paper that has an invisible under-print of lead monoxide carbonate. Older texts on the subject note that exposure to certain chemicals makes the network show up in brown but unfortunately ruining the philatelic value of the stamp…
The perforation is 131/2 X 141/4 with a tip to tip measurement of about 23.5mm.
there are normally 14 horizontal and 17 vertical perforations.
However, there are misaligned stamps of 23mm. and even some rarer ones 24.5-25mm with different numbers of perforations.
A fairly comprehensive catalogue (1955) of these stamps is available HERE
Two sets of forgeries exist: those produced in Paris towards the end of the 19th century, and another set produced by Fournier .
The general quality of the Paris forgery is poor (blurred design , rough perfs etc). It was copied from a reprint around 1890.
A key point is that unlike the original, the net touches but does not cross into the frame.
The points are mainly down for most examples.
Fournier’s (Geneva) forgery above, on the contrary, is actually too crisp.
The forgery was copied from the original around 1910.
The points are equally up or down.
The network is thinner and sharper than the original , with more rounded points on the nets
Generally mint stamps are reprints and the forgeries are scarcer than the originals but command very little value.
Almost all used stamps are genuine , but one should check for Fournier’s forgeries, or Fournier’s forged postmark on a reprint .
Also a few Paris forgeries occur with French style or fantasy forged postmarks .
Other forged postmarks are known cancelling reprints
In 1885 a Hamburg dealer named Wiering ordered a very large quantity of “reprints” from the Reichsdruckerei for the generous sum of 7000 marks to be deposited to the employees fund.
A large part of the consignment was later marketed by the dealer Goldner, so the stamps are often known as Goldner reprints .
Only the plates for the “net” under-print remained at the Reichsdruckerei, so the border and value were reset .
Characteristics of “reprints” vs. originals
1. The length of the word “POSTES” is 11 mm to 12.5 mm for the original, 12 ½ mm to 13 mm for the reprint
2. The distance of the word POSTES to the left margin is 3 mm to 3 ½ mm, for the original, under 2.8 mm for the fake.
3. The height of the image is larger than 21.4 mm for the original
4. The vertical perforations for the genuine are 14 ¼, fake 14 ½.
5. They also do not have the special security paper.
6. As the ones with tips pointing down (Type II) are more scarce and the reprints are only Type II, there is a good chance that most Type II will be the reprints.
One can also note that in the original the “M” is larger than the other letters.
All reprints have points facing downwards except for 1 very rare sheet of 150 1c stamps
Most often cited is a quick sure fire method of checking originals and reprints by placing a line from top left to bottom right corner inside the frame. In the originals the line will touch the base serif of the letter “P” and in the reprints the line will cross nearer the center of the letter “P”. This is not a given and does not always apply.
In any event these are not “reprints” since new plates were made, in my opinion, they are imitations/forgeries in their own rights.
As these fakes were made in 1885, they are present in most if not all old collection.