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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index

Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 22, pp4-6 (November 1985).

Copyright notice

Colour Proofs and Colour Trials of the French Post Office in Andorra

by David Lamb

Collectors of the stamps of the French post Office in Andorra, in common with those who are interested in the issues of France itself or its Colonies and associated territories, will be aware of the existence of several varieties of "proof" material. All such Andorran issues have been printed by the French Govt. printing Office, formerly in Paris but, since June 1970, now situated in Perigueux. The most commonly encountered example of this type of material is the imperforate varieties of the issued stamps, and also the "De Luxe" proofs in issued colours, both of which are produced for presentation purposes. Of more interest, however, are the colour proofs (épreuves de couleur) and the colour trials (essais de couleur), and it is with these items that this short article is concerned.

The first of these, the colour proofs, are printed on good quality thick paper measuring 14 x 11cm, or 13.5 x 10.5cm for later issues, bear the printing office control punch and a single imperforate example of the stamp design, with or without denomination. Usually, there is a pencilled reference number, eg. 1705 Lc, in the bottom right-hand corner. Occasionally, this number may have been erased by some misguided person who had sought to "improve" the proof's appearance. It has been established, however, that this number is of considerable importance since it refers to the colour of the ink, and tells us the name of its manufacturer. From an examination of very many proofs of French Morocco and other territories, it has become clear that this system follows a certain pattern:-

1100's - blues
1200's - oranges
1300's - greens
1400's - reds
1500's - violets
1600's - various, including black
1700's - browns

In addition, numbers over 2000 exist, but none of these are known to occur on Andorran issues. As well as the numeric part of the reference a two or three letter suffix was used to denote the manufacturer of the printing ink:-

LX, Lx, Lor. - Lorilleux
LC, Lc - Lefranc
B - Brancher (not known for Andorra)

One of the difficulties encountered in dealing with such uncatalogued items is to establish precisely what exists, and it was only by a pooling of knowledge amongst our members, with some useful help from our friends in Philandorre, that we are able to list below the following proofs:-

  1. 1932 issue (size 14 x 11cm)
    Pont de St.Antoni
      (no value expressed) dull purple
    brown lake
    carmine rose
    purple brown (1705 Lc)
    blue green
    Chapelle de Meritxell
    (no value expressed) carmine
    orange brown (1709 Lor)
    mauve (1510 Lx)
    Gorge de St.Julia
    (no value expressed) vermilion (1409 Lor)
    blue green (1117 Lx)
    Andorra la Vella
    (no value expressed) dark brown (1710)
    scarlet (1416)
  2. 1937 Arms (size 14 x 11cm)
      15c scarlet (1411 Lc)
  3. 1950 Airmail (size 14 x 11cm)
      100f chocolate (1706 Lx)
      100f yellow green
      100f red
  4. 1955 Airmail (size 13.5 x 10.5cm)
      500f -  known in black: violet: pale blue: red brown: claret: yellow: deep red: light brown: greenish blue: green: bluish green: bluish grey: deep green
Colour proof of Meritxell Chapel in mauve
(Colour proof of Meritxell Chapel in mauve)

In 1939 the first French stamp printed on the three-colour rotary recess printing presses appeared, to be followed in 1960 by those printed by the six-colour machines. The first time either of these types of press was used for French Andorran issues was for the new definitives of 1961, and it is from this time we find the appearance of colour trials, and the disappearance of the colour proofs. Unlike the ungummed imperforate single impression colour proofs, the colour trials are produced in normal sized sheets of 10, 25, or 50 as may be appropiate, imperforate but gummed. Several combinations of colours are possible, within a sheet, which can contain both single and multicoloured impressions of the design.

With this new style of production a new reference system was introduced, placed at the bottom of the sheet beneath the relevant impression. This is, once more, based upon colour groupings, and a prefix, e.g. "RO" shows the colour belongs to the "rouge orange" group. So far as is known these colour prefixes are as follows:-

BL - blue NO - black,grey
BR - brown RO - red orange
G - grey VE - green
JO - yellow orange VT - violet,purple

The numbers vary from 1 to 32, eg. "RO3" denoting orange-red, "RO7" is brownish red to maroon etc. Suffixes are also used such as "Lc" and "Lx", found on the earlier proofs, but, in addition, others, such as "JA", "L", "R", "S" etc. are encountered, although whether all these appear on Andorran colour trials, and what they signify, is not yet known.

Colour trials are known for all Andorran issues from the 1961 definitives onwards, and although they are at their most desirable when obtained in se-tenant strips showing various colour combinations and appropiate reference numbers, they are more usually found as single examples with, of course, no annotation. (*)

It has been suggested that, unlike the colour proofs referred to earlier, which are seldom seen, the colour trials are produced in numbers in excess of those strictly necessary for their purpose. The remainder, one assumes, are the subject of the "grace and favour" distribution used for the ordinary imperforate stamps, and the De Luxe presentation proofs.

Our grateful thanks are due to the France and Colonies Philatelic Society Inc., of New York, USA, for it was a booklet published by them in 1979 entitled "A KEY TO THE INK-COLOR NUMBERS ON 'FRENCH PROOFS' " by Robert G. Stone which provided the inspiration for this article, and for much of the basic information it contains. The booklet, of course, gives much greater detail than is provided here, but we have merely sought to give a general outline, with particular regard to its relevance to Andorran issues. One final word of thanks, for, as stated above, the present state of our knowledge, particularly the colour proofs, is due to the combined efforts of several APSC members and also to M.François Dupré of Philandorre. We hope that further information may come to hand as a result of this article, and when it does it will of course be duly chronicled in the "Torrent".

(*) Editor's note. The change to the new system would seem to have been delayed as far as Andorra is concerned. Examples I have seen of the 1961 definitives and Airs (original values) are all with the old style series of numbers, eg. "1607, 1704, 1330", and this type was also used to annotate the 1964 History pair. However,the 1968 Europa's are known with the new system, eg. "RO9, RO7, RO3", so the change was, presumably, somewhere in between these last two issues

Artists Proofs of the Issues of the French Post Offices in Andorra
- by D. C. Lamb (VT 6/10)

French Bureau Proofs, Essays and Imperforates (Part 1)
- by David Lamb and Alec Jacques (VT 35/4)

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