Collectible French Stamps

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France was one of the last great European powers to release their own postal stamps, waiting almost ten years after the introduction of the Penny Black in rival England. Since then, however, the country has remained a philatelic powerhouse, known for consistently producing memorable, attractive stamps that capture the attention of stamp collectors worldwide.


There are many potential entry points for starting a collection of rare French stamps. While some stamps can be difficult to find, few are prohibitively expensive. With some focus, it’s possible to take a completist approach to your desired area of sub-specialization.


Early French Stamps

It’s important to remember that throughout the latter half of the 19th century, France remained in a state of near constant political upheaval. Perhaps one of the reasons why the country delayed introducing their own stamps was the fear of upsetting the delicate balance of political and economic factions in the country. Rather than depict a political figure (and thus display solidarity with either the monarchists or Republicans), French authorities hit on a novel solution — one that precipitated the celebration of art and literature in the later Belle Époque.


The first stamps instead featured an allegorical representation of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. There are several highly collectible French stamps in the Ceres series, including the 1 franc carmine brown from 1949.


French Colonial Stamps

France’s colonial ambitions in the 19th century included activity in northern Africa, the Caribbean and beyond. In many of these colonies, the Ceres series of stamps were used. Later, the Navigation and Commerce issue was adopted for use overseas. These dead country stamps remain highly sought-after and are occasionally subject to forgery attempts. As with any collectors’ stamps from France, care must be taken to ensure you’re purchasing an authentic item.


French Airmail Stamps

Another unique aspect of French philately that is ripe for specialization is the country’s airmail stamps. Hot air balloons were used to deliver mail in France as early as 1870, and the country began testing a true airmail system in 1911. However, it wasn’t until 1927 that airmail stamps were sold to the public. The first issue of stamp — made available at that year’s International Aviation Exhibition in Marseilles — was a series of simple overprints. Later French airmail stamps, such as the famous Ile de France issues, rank among the most beautiful and popular in all philately.


Collecting French Stamps

Focusing on dead country or airmail issues are just two approaches to buying rare French stamps. No matter what you’re looking for, Apfelbaum, Inc. offers expert advice that will help you grow your collection in a thoughtful and pragmatic manner. We have been buying and selling rare stamps from France since 1910. Browse our website to learn more about upcoming public auctions or to shop our online store directly.


We also provide appraisals of rare French stamps and will even come to your home to look over your collection if it is warranted. Contact our office today for more information about our full list of services for collectors and enthusiasts throughout the world.