The first French stamps, issued for the purpose of raising extra money for charitable purposes, appeared in 1914.
The Scott Catalog lists these stamps separately from the regular postage
and commemorative issues, calling them "Semi-Postal Stamps". I
disagree with this terminology. I prefer to call them "Charity Stamps".
These stamps are actually postage stamps, intended for use by postal patrons for various types of mail. Later issues are also commemorative stamps, as they honor famous people, places, and events, in addition to their fund-raising purposes.
These types of French stamps feature a "value added amount" or "surtax amount" in addition to the postal denomination of the stamp. France, as well as most other countries of the world, utilizes the added amounts on these surtaxed postage stamps to raise money for national organizations, public events, and public charities.
The issue of the French stamps, to raise money for charitable purposes, began out of necessity. All of the issues on this page were either issued during or just after World War I. Much of World War I was fought in Northern France and in Southern Belgium. As a result, the French people suffered tremendously. The war created multitudes of badly wounded soldiers and needy civilians, thus the necessity to quickly raise money to fund public charities.
On August 11, 1914, the 10 C. denomination of the Semeuse Type was surcharged 5 C. It is shown at above left.
On September 10, 1914, a brand new 10 C. + 5 C. charity stamp, incorporating the Semeuse Type design, was issued. It is shown at above right.
The surtax on these two stamps went to the Red Cross.
Between 1917 and 1919, the set of charity stamps shown above was issued. The designs are:
The surtax on these stamps went to aid war orphans.
In August 1918, the beautiful multicolored 15 C. + 5 C. charity stamp, shown above, was issued. The design shows a hospital ship and a field hospital. The surtax went to the Red Cross.
On September 1, 1922, the 1917-1919 charity stamp designs were reissued. The surtax amount is surcharged on these stamps, with the new surtax amounts being considerably lower than those on the 1917-1919 stamps.
Between 1926 and 1927, several new stamps, based on the 1917-1919 charity stamp designs, were issued. The denominations are different, being the same ones used for the 1922 revalued stamps.