Collecting France Postage Stamps
Buying And Collecting France Postage Stamps
France is an interesting country for stamp collectors. Their first postage stamp was the 10c Ceres issued in 1850. France stamps offer a wide range of topics, as well as many interesting definitives series for those who like to specialized their collection. On this page you will find informations on collecting France postage stamps: the type of collections you can make, the most interesting France catalogs, useful links, where to buy your stamps, some stamps pictures from my collection and more.
Pictures shown on this page are from my collection unless otherwise noted. Unfortunately, they are not for sale or trade!
Why Collect France Stamps
And Why I stopped collecting France stamps at large
I started collecting France stamps at an early age. I must have been about 8 when I got interested in collecting stamps and very soon I paid a particular interest to French stamps. My father, also a stamp collector, had a nice France postage stamps collection and would give me whatever he didn't need anymore. So my collection started to grow. But one of the main reason I kept on collecting France postage stamps is that, until very recently, France had the most amazing engraved stamps (ok, not as nice as Czeslaw Slania piece of art, but pretty close).
I collected used France stamps. Recently, I decided to focus on the pre-1960 period. I also love FDC's and advertising covers, so when I see one I find interesting I add it to my collection. I also have a cute collection on France Valentine day postage stamps. My biggest dream? Having in my collection a couple of these amazingly beautiful and interesting Semeuse booklets. But these are just so rare and very very expensive. Here's one currently on auction, this is the cover only, but you can see why they are interesting:
So why don't I collect France stamps "at large" (all stamps, including new issues, either in mint or new) any longer? Because France is now issuing too many junky "non philatelic" material, aimed only at making money. These new issues are too many and often sell at a premium price because they are labelled as "limited edition" or "collector". Read more here: Another Reason why I don't Collect France Stamps Anymore
France is still a great county to collect and I love adding items to my collection, but one need to specialized. Keep reading for a few ideas and topics!
France stamps: Mint Or Used Stamp Collection?
A country collection can be difficult, not to say expensive, to complete. But if you don't mind having some holes in your France postage stamps album why not? The first thing to decide is the type of France stamps you want to collect: mint or used stamps?
A mint France stamps collection will cost more, much more. Recent issues will be easy to acquire, you can even find them in lots under face value very often on Ebay or Delcampe. You can also buy them directly from La Poste. Older issues, particularly the classics, will run high, even more if you want NH quality. Here's just an example: France Ceres type, Yvert and Tellier #2 is cataloged at 25 000 euros mint and 1 000 euros used.
If you are just starting your mint France stamps collection, the best would be to bid on "face value" or "under face value" lots to get you started. Then try to find some good small collections or mixtures.
An used France stamps collection will be cheaper, but not necessarily easier to complete. Recent issues are getting harder and harder to find in used condition and souvenir sheets are also difficult to find postally used. If you are starting your France collection, try buying either kiloware (stamps on paper) or a small collection. Kiloware is a nice way to get some of these elusive newer issues, not to mention you will have some great trading material. Here's more informations about kiloware: Kiloware
Remember that France has issued a lot of stamps over the years. And recently, things are getting worst with loads of so called "collectors stamps" being push by the French postal office. Just this year, 2 months in 2013, and we have already over 100 stamps already issued. You can read my rant about it here: You Won't Find Most of These 2013 France Stamps in a Kiloware Lot. I am not even talking about trying to find these stamps in used condition.
France Stamps: A Topical Collection
Topical collections are always a popular choice among collectors. You can even limit a topical collection to one country. France has issued so many postage stamps that there is enough issues to build a nice topical collection.
I do have one myself: France Valentine day postage stamps
Here's a few ideas: fauna, flora, famous people, sports, aviation, Red Cross, art, architecture and buildings...... To the basic stamps, you can add the FDC's to make an awesome collection.
Collecting France Stamps On First Day Covers (FDC)
A first day cover is an envelope franked with a stamp and bearing a special cancel dated from the day the stamp was issued. The first official France First Day cover is the 1936 issue "Rouget de l'Isle" (YT #314). The first real "Premier Jour" (First day) cancel is from 1951 on YT # 878. Most of France FDC before 1950 are not illustrated.
First Day Covers of France make a colorful collection. The downside is the space it takes and the overall price of the collection. You can restrain your FDC to a few topic or an era. That will make the collection cheaper to complete, or leave you the possibility to add the rarest and most expensive pieces to it. You can also make an interesting variation by collecting covers, postcard or letters with a stamp canceled the same day it was issued. This is not an easy collection to make, but could be challenging. Finding these stamps on cover could be difficult and expensive. Stamps issued before 1950, alone on cover are quite expensive and the chance of finding one dated of the first day of issue is a real challenge.
Collecting France Semi-Postal Stamps
Semi-Postal stamps are issued to raise money for a cause. These stamps are easy to spot: they show 2 values on it, separated usually by a + sign. The first value is the facial value of the stamp, and the second value is the amount that will go to the charity. In France, the first semi-postal stamps were issued in 1914 for the Red Cross. Between World War I and II semi-postal stamps were helping raise money for various causes: Red Cross, war orphans, intellectuals and artists among others. After World War II, only the Red Cross could be financed by these semi-postal issues. Semi-postals stamps are still issue today by La Poste.
These make a small collection. There is less than 1000 stamps and only a couple are issued every year. Some earlier issues are difficult to find in used condition and may cost more than their mint version. You can add to this collection some covers to beef it up.
Collecting France Stamp Booklets
Another collection you can start is a booklet collection. It will be quite an extensive collection, and too expensive if you try to collect everything. There is many hundreds of them, excluding all the possible variants. The best would be to focus on some of them: Marianne booklets, Red Cross booklets, or semeuse booklets (sower booklets). If I had the money I would definitely do a sower booklet collection. These are interesting because of the advertisings they are promoting. But with price ranging from around 50 euros to 50 000 euros a piece, they are pretty much unnaffordable. Not to mention really hard to come by.
Collecting France stamps on advertising covers
France stamps on advertising covers are another very nice collection to make. You will never know what you can find, because there is absolutely no way to track down all possibilities. There are thousands of businesses who had their own commercial covers, as well as many exhibits and museum. Look around and buy those you find attractive!
The cover shown here is an advert for a philatelic exhibition on propaganda from 1944.
Collecting France Definitive Stamps - Specialize in one of many interesting and extensive France definitive issue series
Some fascinating definitive issues such as the semeuse ( "sower"), Marianne, Ceres, Napoleon, type Sage or Blanc are ideal for those who loves to collect varieties and spend hours spotting variations of colors and such.
France definitive stamps issues over the years
More informations on La Semeuse (The Sower) definitive issues
More informations on Marianne definitive stamps
- Marianne - a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps | France
Marianne, the symbolic figurehead of France, originated during the Revolution. A national symbol, we trace images of Marianne on stamps through French history of almost two centuries. Heavily illustrated.
- Les visages de Marianne
In French, a small historic of the Marianne designs
More informations on France "type sage" definitive stamps
- Le type Sage dans tous ses etats
Specialized site on type sage stamps. In French
- TYPE SAGE Timbres-poste d'usage courant Ã©mis de 1876 Ã 1900
More informations on France "type blanc" definitive stamps
- Les timbres au type Blanc de France
Nice type Blanc exhibit. in French
Siege of Paris and Ballons Montes
Paris air balloons covers
This is another interesting collection, but extremely expensive and difficult due to the very low number of covers that were sent via these air balloons.
"The Siege of Paris, lasting from September 19, 1870 - January 28, 1871, and the consequent capture of the city by Prussian forces led to French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire as well as the Paris Commune.
Balloon mail was used to overcome the communications blockade, with a rate of 20 cents per letter. Letters were photographically reduced by RenÃ© Dagron to save weight. A total of 66 balloon flights were made, including one that accidentally set a world distance record by ending up in Norway." Wikipedia
Catalogues (Catalogs) of France Postage Stamps
The choice of your catalogue will depend entirely on what type of collection you want to start. It can be a very general catalogue or specialized. Here I am going to highlight some of the well known France postage stamps catalogues.
Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue For the general France stamps collector.
Scott is the well known North American reference when it come to general stamps collecting. Most sellers in North America and overseas use the Scott catalog numbers and prices. The negative point of buying this catalog if you only collect 1 country is that you have to buy the whole volume, not just the specific country you are interested in.
If you are just starting to collect France stamps, or if you don't wish to get too specialized, Scott catalogues are good enough. Listing includes all the stamps, souvenir sheets and booklets. The most common types and varieties are also included, but it won't be good enough if you are looking to specialized into a specific set (such as Semeuse or Marianne).
The advantage for a new collector: most online sellers are familiar with Scott numbers.
Yvert et Tellier France stamp catalogue
This is one of the best France specialized catalog and a must have if you buy on European market since YT catalog numbers are used om most European market for France stamps. It is a color catalog that includes a lot of information: price for mint, used and on cover (commercial covers). Price for FDC, all sorts of souvenir sheets, price for booklets, official documents, stamp proofs, personalized stamps and most back of the book. For classic stamps (Ceres and Napoleon) you also have price according to the rarity of the cancel they bear. on and off covers.
Stockbooks Or Album For Your France Stamps Collection
Stockbooks will do ok if you are just starting your collection, of if you do a France specialized collection. However, if you plan to do a country collection, an album makes sense. It is easier to get organized and quickly see what is missing. And a quality album with make a nice heirloom to pass down to your family.
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Interesting pages for France stamps collectors
© 2011 Nathalie Roy