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French Stamps

Issues of 1870-1875

Type:  Bordeaux - Ceres

French stamps, along with France itself, went through a complete evolution during 1870.  These events all resulted from the Franco-Prussian War (July 1870 - May 1871).  This conflict would result in the end of the French monarchy, the establishment of the French 3rd Republic, and the creation of the German Empire.

The formation of the North German Confederation, led by the Kingdom of Prussia, in 1867, resulted in tensions between the newly united Germanic kingdoms of Europe and the French monarchy.  On July 16, 1870, the French Empire of Napoleon III declared war on the German Confederation -- a very, very bad decision!

The combined German armies quickly invaded France, and at the Battle of Sedan, on September 2, 1870, they captured the French emperor, Napoleon III.  On September 19, 1870, the German armies laid siege to Paris, and on January 28, 1871, the French capitol surrendered.

The French, led by the republican movement, wasted no time at all in abandoning their monarchy.  On September 4, 1870, they formally abolished the monarchy, and established the French 3rd Republic.  The new republic would survive until 1940.  The French monarchy was gone forever!

The events leading up to and during the Franco-Prussian War are much more complex than I have stated here in my very brief summary.  This 10 month long war changed the face of Europe.  For detailed information, Wikipedia has an excellent article on this subject.  Here is an outgoing link.

Franco-Prussian War

At the beginning of November 1870, the printing of new French stamps was moved to Bordeaux, where the provisional republican government had fled, in order to supply the post offices in non-occupied areas.  Napoleon III stamps continued in use in the German occupied areas, until their supplies were exhausted.

These stamps of the new 3rd Republic are known as the "Bordeaux Issues".  The new stamps continued previous frame designs, but the inscription at the top was changed to REPUB FRANC.  The profile of the Roman goddess Ceres, originally used for the first French stamps, replaced that of Emperor Napoleon III.

As the first of the Bordeaux Issues were imperforate, the 10 Cent., 20 Cent., and 40 Cent. denominations closely resemble those denominations of the 1849 issues.  They would not fool most philatelists though

The imperforate 1849 issues are typographed, have fine detail, and the shading in the face and neck is composed of colored dots

The imperforate Bordeaux issues are lithographed, have a coarse appearance, and the shading in the face and neck is composed of colored lines and / or dashes.

The imperforate Bordeaux Issues were printed in 1870 and 1871.  The major varieties are all shown above.

  • 1 Cent.  (Sc. #38) - Olive Green on Pale Blue, and Bronze Green on Pale Blue.
  • 2 Cent.  (Sc. #39) - Red Brown on Yellowish, Brick Red on Yellowish, Chestnut on Yellowish, Chocolate on Yellowish.
  • 4 Cent.  (Sc. #40) - Gray.
  • 5 Cent.  (Sc. #41) - Yellow Green on Greenish, Green on Greenish, Emerald on Greenish.
  • 10 Cent.  (Sc. #42) - Bister on Yellowish.
  • 20 Cent.  (Sc. #43-45) - Blue on Bluish, Dark Blue on Bluish, Ultramarine on Bluish.

There are three major issues of the 20 Cent. denomination.  They are as follows.

  1. (Sc. #43) - The inscriptions at the top and bottom are small and there is quite a space between the upper label and the vignette.  There is very little shading under the eye and in the neck.
  2. (Sc. #44) - The inscriptions in the top and bottom labels are similar to those of Sc. #43.  The shading under the eye and in the neck is heavier, and the upper label almost touches the vignette.
  3. (Sc. #45) - The inscriptions in the top and bottom labels are much larger.

The stamp shown in the illustration above is Sc. #44.

  • 30 Cent.  (Sc. #46) - Brown on Yellowish, Black Brown on Yellowish.
  • 40 Cent.  (Sc. #47) - Orange on Yellowish, Yellow Orange on Yellowish,  Red Orange on Yellowish, Scarlet on Yellowish.
  • 80 Cent.  (Sc. #48) - Rose on Pinkish, Dull Rose on Pinkish.

There are other varieties on these imperforate French stamps, as well as privately produced roulettes and perforations.  See the specialized catalog for details.

In 1871, some of the 1867 10 Cent. denomination stamps, with the profile of Emperor Napoleon III, were surcharged with a large blue "10".  This surcharged stamp was never placed in use, though the Scott Catalog does list it (Sc. #49).  Forgeries of this stamp are plentiful.

Between 1870 and 1873, the government of the new French 3rd Republic began issuing the new Ceres profile definitive stamps with perforation 14 x 13 1/2.  These perforated French stamps are typographed, and they have a much clearer appearance than the lithographed imperforate stamps.

  • 1 Cent.  (Sc. #50) - Olive Green on Pale Blue, and Bronze Green on Pale Blue.
  • 2 Cent.  (Sc. #51) - Red Brown on Yellowish.
  • 4 Cent.  (Sc. #52) - Gray.
  • 5 Cent.  (Sc. #53) - Yellow Green on Pale Blue, and Green.
  • 10 Cent.  (Sc. #54) - Bister on Yellowish.
  • 10 Cent.  (Sc. #55) - Bister on Rose.
  • 15 Cent.  (Sc. #56) - Bister on Yellowish.
  • 20 Cent.  (Sc. #57) - Dull Blue on Bluish, and Bright Blue on Bluish.
  • 25 Cent.  (Sc. #58) - Blue on Bluish, Dark Blue on Bluish.
  • 40 Cent.  (Sc. #59) - Orange on Yellowish, Orange Red on Yellowish, Orange Yellow on Yellowish.

The 10 Cent., 15 Cent., 20 Cent., and 25 Cent. denominations exist in tĂȘte-bĂȘche pairs.  The 40 Cent. denomination comes in two types, as explained in the "Issues of 1849-1850" page.

The four stamps shown above were issued between 1872 and 1875.  The denomination numerals in the tablets at the bottom of these new designs are much larger than those used for previous issues.

  • 10 Cent.  (Sc. #60) - Bister on Rose.
  • 15 Cent.  (Sc. #61) - Bister.
  • 30 Cent.  (Sc. #62) - Brown on Yellowish.
  • 80 Cent.  (Sc. #63) - Rose on Pinkish.

Imperforate reprints were made of many of the 1870-1875 Ceres French stamps in 1887.  They are not terribly expensive.

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Issues of 1870-1875