A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

France 1849-1900

1849 20 centimes black on yellowish "Ceres"
Part of the first issue
Note the dots on the chin and mandible area?
Quick History
The French stamps of the 19th century, and French history are quite intertwined.

Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, was elected President in 1848. And so began the (short lived) era of the French Second Republic.

The Second Republic printed the first French stamps in 1849-50: an imperforate seven stamp series featuring the  effigy of Ceres, goddess of growing plants in Roman mythology. She wore a garland of wheat and a cluster of grapes in her hair. The head of Ceres, appropriate for a new republic, had been also associated with liberty.

But after the coup in December,1851, Prince President Louis Napoléon Bonaparte had his effigy on French stamps. Two stamps with the likeness of President Louis Napoléon were issued in 1852. Then, as Emperor Napoleon III, his effigy appeared progressively on stamps issued throughout the Second French Empire era.
Emperor Napoleon III
An imperforate ten stamp 1853-60 series was printed with his likeness; then a perforated six stamp series during 1862-71. 

In 1863, a laurel wreath, indicating victory in a war with Austria, was added to the Emperor's head.

But alas, his Empire was abolished during the Franco-Prussian War by the Republicans on September 4, 1870. His effigy was clearly no longer desired on French stamps: But what to do?

The Ceres design was brought back. The "Bordeaux Issue", from Bordeaux, where the provisional government fled, was authorized from November 5, 1870 to March 4, 1871 to supply the post offices of the non occupied (by German forces) countryside. These stamps were printed imperforate, and by lithography, not typography, as the first Ceres issue. 

After the war, The Third Republic continued with an eight stamp perforated Ceres design during 1870-73, and a four stamp larger numerals issue during 1872-75.

In July, 1875, the printing of postage stamps was given to the Banque de France (before, Anatole Hulot has supervised the printing of stamps). A new design was chosen also.

In 1876, the Commerce and Peace allegory design by Jules-Auguste Sage was issued. These "Type Sage" issues were produced until 1900.

1854 5 centimes green on greenish "Emperor Napoleon III"
Die I: Thick curl line on head below the "R" of EMPIRE
Prominent long thick curl line in front of ear
Into the Deep Blue

Affordable collectability
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has, from 1849-1900, 108 major stamp descriptions.
1849-75 (Ceres and Napoleon III issues) : 63 stamps total: <$100 - 42 stamps; Of those 23 are <$20; Of those 6 are <$5.
1876-1900 ("Sage" issues): 55 stamps total: <$20 - 26 stamps; Of those 19 are <$5.
Total "inexpensive" stamps: 49
Affordability Index = 45%.

One would need to spend up to $20 per stamp (23 stamps) for the Ceres and Napoleon issues, and up to $5 per stamp (19 stamps) for the "Sage" issues for a "representative" collection.  Even then, the first series "Ceres" (pun intended!), and the "Bordeaux" stamps would not be included.

A more realistic $100 limit per stamp is probably necessary to fill out these classical issues. Actually, if one compares these valuations to early U.S., they do not look so bad. ;-)

1849-50 20c black on yellowish & 25c light blue on bluish
 First "Ceres" issue: Note the "dots" rather than "lines" along the chin and mandible
A closer look at the stamps and issues
The French 1849-1900 stamp issues are "classic" in every sense. And as one would expect, they present identification challenges, as well as many variations.Therefore, the blog will focus only on these stamp issues.

I will attempt to illustrate any identification and variation differences that the Scott Classic Specialized catalogue highlights for these stamps. But frankly, that is just the tip of the iceberg. ;-) One needs a more highly specialized "French" catalogue if one really would like to do justice to these fascinating issues. And I have one. ;-)

The "Maury" (Ceres & Dallay) catalogue: indispensable
I acquired the "Maury" catalogue (two volumes ~$40), which illustrates nicely every variation in stamp design: And there are a lot of them! And just as I found with the SG Commonwealth catalogue, there are quite a few more color variations noted here.
But I only have so much time and energy, and as I am not specializing in these fine French stamps, I will only highlight here the major differences (as outlined in the Scott) with a sometimes passing reference to the Maury. For the worldwide classic collector, that is a good start. :-)

1849 25c light blue on bluish & 1870-71 30c brown on yellowish "Ceres"
Imperf issues: First issue & "Bordeaux" issue
Ceres 1849-50 issue
The imperforated seven stamp 1849-50 first issue are quite iconic in design. Several of these first issues can be had for ~$40 CV. Can they be confused with other issues? Well, one might find a perforated Ceres issue trimmed to look like an imperforated specimen. A more anxious concern is differentiating the French Colony stamps of the era. That will have to wait until we reach "French Colonies stamp" blog.
A less trivial concern is to differentiate the imperforated 1870-71 "Bordeaux" issue from the first issue. The largest difference is the first issue was typographed, while the "Bordeaux" issue was lithographed. The "Bordeaux" issue, as is the first issue, is  fairly expensive.
The easiest "field mark" is the "Bordeaux" stamps have lines drawn by the chin and mandible, while the first issue has "dots". Even with the creased heavily cancelled 30c brown "Bordeaux" illustrated above, that should be apparent. Click on the image to enlarge and compare the two stamps.

1854 80c lake on yellowish "Emperor Napoleon III"
Die I: Thick curl line on head below the "R" of EMPIRE
Prominent long thick curl line in front of ear
1853-60 Imperforate "Emperor Napoleon III" issue
The effigy of Napoleon's nephew is enshrined in the first issue of the Second Empire era. Two major dies are found: Die I & Die II. These die differences are also found in the subsequent 1862-71 perforated issue. Fairly obvious to tell.

1854 5c green on greenish & 1860 20c blue on bluish ""Napoleon III"
Die I vs Die II 
Enlarge the above image and compare/contrast. The 5c green has Die I: a thick curl line on the head below the "R" of EMPIRE, and a prominent long thick curl line in front of ear. Die II on the 20c blue shows two "thinner" lines on the head, and equal (thinner) curl lines in front of the ear.

A closeup....
Die I: Note the thick curly line on top of the head. Then note the prominent thick curly hair line (made of two lines distally that are joined into one proximally) in front of the ear- just in front of the cancellation blotch in front of the ear.

Die II: Note the "thick head line" of Die I is now two (close) thinner lines on top of the head. Note the  "thick curly hair line" in front of the ear in Die I is now thinner -more or less equal curly hair lines in front of the ear.
You probably have it, but there will be another example in the next section.

1862-71 perforated 1c olive green on pale blue "Napoleon III": Die II
See the "smoke" from of his mouth? Maury mentions plate flaws similar to this for the 1c "Laurel" issue stamp known as the "a la cigarette" flaw.
The 1862-71 six stamp issue was the first perforated issue for France. It is quite similar to the preceding imperforate issue, including Die I and Die II varieties.

1862-71 1c olive green on pale blue & 80c rose on pinkish "Napoleon III"
Die II vs Die I
One will notice the "head line" on the 1c olive green really consists of two lines (Die II); while Die I "head line" is thicker. The lines in front of the ear in Die II are thinner, while Die I has a more prominent thicker line.

A close up....


Hopefully, the tutorial (Die I vs Die II) was helpful. :-)

For the next 1863-70 issue, Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte had  a laurel added to his head.

1862-71 80c rose on pinkish & 1867 30c brown on yellowish "Napoleon III"
Note a laurel has been added on the 30c brown

1870 1c bronze green on pale blue "Napoleon III"
The nine stamp "laurel" issue also had a different frame design with larger numerals for the 1c, 2, and 4c as illustrated above.

1863-70 4c gray & 2c red brown on yellowish "Napoleon III"
Maury notes a Type I or Type II for the 2c & 4c
What do you get with a specialized catalogue? More detail. Here Maury notes the drawn horizontal lines in the middle lower neck are wedge or pyramid shape in Type I, while not as wide in Type II. The difference in valuation is 10-15 Euros.

1867 10c bister on yellowish &  20c blue on bluish "Napoleon III"
Maury notes Type I/II for the 10c/20c; while Scott only acknowledges the 20c
Note the size of the dot on either side of the "POSTES" on the lower horizontal tablet? The small dots on the 10c are type I, while the larger dots on the 20c are type II. Maury lists the 10c and 20c as having either type I or II, and illustrates the difference. Scott only gives a written description for the 20c.

1849-50 First issue 25c light blue on bluish 
1870-71 Bordeaux issue 30c brown on yellowish
The 1870-71 Bordeaux issue
The Bordeaux issue is a specialists delight. This eleven stamp imperforate issue was put out under duress as the provisional government had fled to Bordeaux during the Franco-Prussian war and the Siege of Paris. The stamps were printed with 15 stamp image lithography plates, rather than typography as the first issue. Each stamp ended up unique, and Maury has 16 pages devoted to the issue. The stamps vary in Scott CV from $18 to $250.  
As stated earlier...
The easiest "field mark" is the "Bordeaux" stamps have lines drawn by the chin and mandible, while the first issue has "dots". Even with the creased heavily cancelled 30c brown "Bordeaux" illustrated above, that should be apparent. Click on the image to enlarge and compare the two stamps.

1870 2c red brown on yellowish "Ceres"
The "Ceres" design is back in business with the Third Republic
1870-73 perforated Ceres issue
The Third Republic returned to the "Ceres" design; first with the 1870-71 "Bordeaux" imperfs, now with a 10 stamp perforated variety. Note again the drawn heavy horizontal lines over the chin and mandible, while the 1849-50 design had "dots" in this area.

1870-73 20c dull blue on bluish "Ceres"
The exception: The 20c has "dots" on the neck
The 20c, though, does show "dots" on the neck and mandible like the 1849-50 issue, but of course is perforated! ;-)

1870-73 25c blue on bluish "Ceres"
Comes in three types:Here Type I & Type III
The 25c has three types; mentioned in Scott, but illustrated in Maury. Look at the flower like "X" corner ornaments (fleurons), specifically the right upper ornament. If one enlarges the image, one can see they differ (slightly). The two upper diagonal lines are more broken up in Type III.

1870-73 40c orange on yellowish "Ceres"
Found in two types: The shape of the "4" here is type I
The 40c orange has two shapes of the "4" numeral. Illustrated above is type I. Type II is a more acute angle "4", and is illustrated in the Classic Scott near the 1849-50 "Ceres" issue, which also has these two types for the 40c.

1872-75 80c rose on pinkish "Ceres"
Part of "Larger Numerals" four stamp series
1872-75 "Larger Numerals" issue
The last "Ceres" issue consisted of four stamps (10c,15c,40c,80c) with larger numerals. That should be quite apparent with a glance.

This concludes the "Ceres" and "Napoleon" stamp series close-ups: I certainly learned a lot. :-)

1876-78 75c carmine on rose "Peace and Commerce"
A new design: "Type Sage"
Note the "N" under the "B"? : Type I
In 1876, the Commerce and Peace allegory design by Jules-Auguste Sage was issued. These "Type Sage" issues were produced until 1900. They are famous (or infamous?) for being issued in two types.

Type I: The "N" of "INV" is under the "B" of "REPUBLIQUE"
Type II: The "N" of "INV" is under the "U" of "REPUBLIQUE"

Scott only presents this "major" difference to consider. (Thank goodness you might be saying. ;-)  )  But Maury devotes 18 pages to this stamp series, and there are many subtleties in the stamp drawings for almost every denomination with myriad listed "types" , and consequently different catalogue valuations. If I was specializing in France, all the types listed by Maury would be "fun" to find. In fact, I'm tempted to do it anyway. ;-)

1876-78 10c green on greenish & 20c red brown on straw "Type Sage"
If you enlarge the image, both should be type I
The 10c Type I is valued at $20+; while the Type II is $240+!
1876-78 "Peace and Commerce" issues
A Thirteen stamp Type I issue was produced in 1876-78, while an eight stamp Type II series was issued in 1876-77.  The 2c, 5c, 10c, 15c, 25c,30c,75c, and 1fr come in both types. Either type might be valued more for a given denomination.

1877 1fr bronze green on straw  "Type Sage"
Quite clearly a Type II

1876-77 25c ultramarine on bluish & 25c blue on bluish
Two shades and type II
Scott has some shades listed, including this 25c ultramarine (Scott 81) and 25c blue (Scott 81a). But Maury has many shades listed, usually by year of issue when that shade was found.

1876-78 25c ultramarine on bluish & 1876-77 15c gray lilac on grayish
Type I vs Type II
Here is an example where the Type II printing is not clear; but one should be able to tell the stamp is still a type II as the printing stops before reaching the "B".

1877-80 1c black on lilac black & 35c black on yellow 
Type II
New colors and new denominations for this 1877-80 eleven stamp issue. All the stamps in this issue are type II. There is one stamp similarity (But different types). The 40c red on straw color is also found in the 1876-78 Type I issue.

1879-90 25c yellow on straw & 1890 50c rose on rose
Type II
The 1879-90 issues (six stamps) again had different colors and a different denomination (3c gray). All Type II's.

1892 15c blue (Type II) on quadrilled paper
Interesting 1892 stamp issue: a 15c blue on quadrilled paper. Should be obvious.

1876-77 type II 5c green on greenish
1898-1900 type II 5c yellow green on ordinary paper
1898-1900 type I 5c yellow green on ordinary paper
In 1898, a 5c yellow green on ordinary paper was produced: This can be found in both type II and type I. For contrast, I include in the above illustration a 5c green on greenish stamp. Now, for instructive purposes, I have chosen here the extremes among my collection of the "green on greenish" and "yellow green" shades. Most stamps are not quite so dramatic/obvious with their shades. ;-)

Finally, France produced at the end of the "Sage" issues, some more type I stamps: The 5c (illustrated above), a 10c black/lavender, a 50c carmine/rose, and a 2fr brown/azure; all issued 1898-1900. Except for the 2fr, the rest of these stamps all have type II counterparts. A word to the wise. ;-)

Deep Blue
Deep Blue of course presents all the Scott major number stamps with their own space for the "Ceres", "Napoleon" and "Sage" issues. But Deep Blue also includes a generous number of minor number color shades with their own space.

Deep Blue page for the 1853-60 imperforate "Napoleon III" issues
Note the additional spaces for minor number color shades

Deep Blue layout for the 1870-73 and the 1872-75 "Ceres" issues
Again, note the additional stamp spaces for shades.
So is the additional space a good thing? IMHO, yes.  Naturally, even if one completes the major number stamp series, there will be "holes" to fill with shades. And Deep Blue does not provide a space for all the minor shades: quick estimate ~ 70 %. Now if one is deep into shades a la the Maury catalogue, Deep Blue's layout will not be enough. Bottom line: I think Deep Blue strikes a nice compromise while following the Scott catalogue.
1898-1900 10c black on lavender Type I
Part of the last "Sage" issue
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on 1 1/2 pages for the "Ceres", "Napoleon", and "Sage" issues, has 65 stamp spaces. There are 108 major numbers for these issues in the Scott catalogue. Coverage is 60%. Remember, I found 42  "inexpensive" stamps (<$20 for "Ceres" and "Napoleon"; <$5 for "Sage"). So the coverage appears to be quite good for these classical issues. Let's look more closely...

The 1849-50 "Ceres" issue is given four spaces: a 20c($45), a 25c($40), and two blank spaces. Those two blank spaces would be expensive to fill; the cheapest would be a 10c ($275), and a 40c ($475).
The 1853-60 Imperf "Napoleon" have the 80c lake ($80+) and the 80c rose ($45+). The 1862 perforated "Napoleon"  1c olive green is $40. The 1863-70 "laurel" Napoleon issue has the 4c gray ($50+).

The 1876 "Sage" stamp spaces has the 1c green on greenish ($70+). The 1877-78 has the 5fr "lilac on lavender" ($70+). BTW, that color does not exactly match any of the color choices in today's Scott. The 1879-92 has the 75c deep violet on orange ($30+).

So the good news is Big Blue has fairly deep coverage. The bad news is there are some expensive stamp spaces to fill. ;-)

Simple Checklist

3,6 or 6a, (1),(7)






Next Page

64, 65 or 77, 66 or 78, 68 or 79, 69 or 80, 70,

72 or 81, 73, 75 or 83, 76 or 84,


90,91,92,93,94,74 or 80 or 95, 96,

97, 98a or 98, 99,100,101,102,

104 or 105, 108,

A) * 1849-1850 : Remember the Scott 1, 6a, and 7 are similar designs and colors to French Colony Imperforate stamps.

B) ( ) around a number is a suggested choice for a blank space.

C) There are sixteen French 1849-1900 stamps that cross the threshold of “Most Expensive Stamps”($35+). They are listed below, as well as any that cross the $10 threshold. I  will elaborate on the French ‘Most expensive stamps” when I post an update for the “Most expensive stamps” blog.

1849-50 "Ceres" Imperforate

Scott 3 20c black/yellowish $45
Scott 6 25c light blue/bluish $40
(Scott 1) 10c bister/yellowish $275
(Scott 7) 40c orange/yellowish Type I $475

1853-60 "Emperor Napoleon III" Imperforate
Scott 12 1c olive green/pale blue $80
Scott 18 40c orange/yellowish Type I $10+
Scott 19 80c lake/yellowish Type I $82+
Scott 20 80c rose/pinkish Type I $47+

1862 "Emperor Napoleon III" Perforated
Scott 22 1c olive green/pale blue Type II $40
Scott 23 5c yellow green/greenish Type I $20
Scott 28 80c rose/pinkish Type I $37+

1863-70 "Emperor Napoleon III with Laurel" Perforated
Scott 29 1c bronze green/pale blue $20
Scott 30 2c red brown/yellowish $20+
Scott 314c gray  $52+
Scott 34 30c brown/yellowish $10+
Scott 35 40c pale orange/yellowish $10
Scott 36 80c rose/pinkish $20+

1870-73 "Ceres" Perforated
Scott 50 1c olive green/pale blue $10+
Scott 51 2c red brown/yellowish $10+
Scott 55 10c bister/rose $10+

1872-75 "Ceres" Perforated Larger Numerals
Scott 60 10c bister/rose $10+
Scott 63 80c rose/pinkish $10+

1876 Peace and Commerce (Sage) 
Scott 64 1c green/greenish Type I $70
Scott 77 2c green/greenish Type II $10+
Scott 68 10c green/greenish Type I $20+
Scott 70 20c red brown/straw Type I $10+
Scott 75 75c carmine/rose Type I $10+

1877-78  Peace and Commerce (Sage) 
Scott 89 3c yellow/straw Type II $42+
Scott 93 25c black/red Type II $20+
Scott 94 35c black/yellow Type II $35
Scott 96 5fr violet/lavender Type II $70

1879-92 Peace and Commerce (Sage)
Scott 102 75c deep violet/orange Type II $30+

1899-1900  Peace and Commerce (Sage)
Scott 108 2fr brown/azure  $40

1863-70 40c pale orange on yellowish "Napoleon III"
Out of the Blue
Absolutely classic- and naturally fairly expensive. A delight for the specialist, and nice for the world wide collector too. One of the cornerstones of a WW collection.

Note: Image pic appears to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Didn't find this page for a long time. I have a black on pink 25c I think is interesting. What about overprints?

  2. Hi Mavis-thanks for your comment.

    The Scott 100 black/pale rose was a 1886 issue.

    As far as I am aware, there are no overprints of the "Peace and Commerce". Of course, various colonies have overprints of the imperf "Peace and Commerce", but that is considered a French colony issue, not a French issue.

  3. What would be the best catalog to get for the 1849 Ceres issues dealing with the various shades. Some are very difficult to work out without a colour reference (if it exists). Thanks John.

  4. The Maury - see this blog post above for more information. Still, although the Maury is more complete with colors, it does not provide a color reference. I don't know if a color reference exists for the French catalogue colors like the Stanley Gibbons provides for its catalogue.

    1. There are several high quality 'nuancier' booklets on the extraordinary colour shades of the classic French stamps available from Philaclub here... http://www.philaclub.net/philaclub/fr/grandnuancier.htm The one illustrated on the opening page is now reduced in price to 19 euros, from 25 euros, and can be bought easily on the Delcampe auction site. The seller is very nice to deal with and will respond in English.

    2. Thanks Ed for the info- Appreciated!

  5. Hi Jim, I am a newby at stamp collecting and have just started looking at an old bag I found in the attic. I have 100s of the Poste "Peace and Commerce?" issues. The very last stamps posted on your blog. They are printed with various colors. Some are just lighter shades of the same color and I assumed this was discoloration due to age. I did not expect these stamps to be printed in the late 1800's, that blows my mind. Is it possible the ones I have were replicas produced in more modern times? How do you determine if the color posted on material (the indicators you listed above). Also, they have the same cancellation (a circle that states Paris), do you know how long this specific stamp usage cancellation was used in France? Any helps or tips for a newbie would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Josh- We are all "newbies" in a sense- especially if one collects WW classic era such as myself. ;-)

      The "Peace and Commerce" issue stamps can come in a wide variety of different tints and colors- they were not so particular about keeping the same exact color back then- so, I suspect all of your stamps are genuine. (Of course, chemical alterations of color can occur through sunlight, storing of the stamps etc through the years, also.)

      If you are really into the different color tints of the "Peace and Commerce" issue, a French catalogue (I like Maurey) will break them down by color type much more than the Scott catalogue.

      I don't know how long the "Paris" postmark was used- I'm sure a french specialist might have more information.

      Good luck with your collection, and have fun!

  6. Hi
    I am in the process of rewriting the First Issues pages (see http://www.firstissues.info/countries/france_1.php) and have used one of your images with a credit. Please let me know whether that's ok. I will remove it and look elsewhere if you prefer.
    Keep up the good work,
    Regards, Nick

    1. Nick

      You are more than welcome to use the image with credit- thanks for asking!

      I've enjoyed your first issues web site- what a nice resource.


  7. Bernard Brinette and Michael Schwahn of www.philaclub.net publish a series of "nuanciers" or colour shade charts using real French stamps as examples. I think they only cover the Cérès and Napoleon issues (not the "Peace and Commerce" stamps) but are excellent guides, though a little pricey. Recently published is one booklet for all the Cérès and Napoleon stamps from 1849 to 1876, illustrating no less than 375 examples of different shades of those stamps, for about 25 euros... http://www.philaclub.net/philaclub/fr/grandnuancier.htm Regards, Ed.

    1. Thanks Ed for the French classical era color resource information. Appreciated!