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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 39, pp11-16 (April 1994).

Copyright notice

French Bureau
Proofs, Essays and Imperforates (Part 4)

by David Lamb & Alec Jacques

1950 Airmail

(Yv PA 1)

General Comments

After the complexities of the previous issues of 1944/51, it something of a relief to review a rather more straight-forward issue. This 100f value in indigo, designed and engraved by Gabriel Barlangue, features two chamois (izards) with the Cirque des Pessons mountain range in the background. It is one of the most attractive and well designed stamps produced for Andorra.

Die Proofs

As for the previous issue, proofs exist in one or more colours per proof, and these are taken from the original denominated die.


(abbreviations as Bulletin No 36, p10)
value colour design details
100f black Chamois EA (G)
100f ultramarine EA G
100f violet & dark violet EA
100f dark & light brown EA
100f brown & green EA
100f dark green EA

Colour Proofs

Various colour proofs exist (size 1140 x 110mm approx), all of which have the distinctive control punch at base and also an ink colour reference number.


value colour design details
100f chocolate Chamois EC 1706 Lx
100f slate green EC 1313 Lx
100f dull purple EC 1503 Lx
100f grey-black EC 1605 Lx

De luxe Proof

This proof has the official control punch and is inscribed "Atelier de Fabrication des Timbres-Poste. PARIS".


Single proof   13.00 x 10.00cm   Yv PA 1 (1)


This stamp is not known imperforate.

1955/8 Postage and airs

(Yv 138/53 + PA 2/4)

General Comments

These issues fall into two categories:

  1. The postage values comprise four designs, all of which were designed by Albert Decaris but had different engravers as follows:- Les Escaldes - Claude Hertenberger; Santa Coloma - Andre Freres; Gothic Cross - Charles Paul Dufresne; Les Bons - Albert Decaris.
    Only die proofs and de luxe proofs exist for the above and they are not known imperforate.
  2. The airmail design, entitled "East Valira River" and showing an eagle above the Church of St Jean de Caselles, was both designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. In addition to die proofs and the usual de luxe proofs, there is also a wide range of special printings. These are believed to have been produced as part of the celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary in 1956 of the opening of the French Postal Service in Andorra. These special printings are dealt with in a separate paragraph.

Die Proofs

It seems likely that the original master-dies for each design were denominated as follows:-

Les Escaldes 1f
Santa Coloma 6f
Gothic Cross 15f
Les Bons 30f
East Valira River 100f

Proofs exist in one or more colours per proof, and examples with the "BFK RIVES" watermark are known.


value colour design details
1f indigo Les Escaldes EA G (BFK wmk)
1f green EA
2f grey-black EA G
2f violet & slate EA G
2f green EA
2f dark brown EA G
2f light brown EA G
2f orange brown EA
2f magenta EA
6f olive Santa Coloma EA
6f black EA G
6f brown EA G
6f grey blue EA G
15f dark brown & green EA G (BFK wmk)
15f black EA G (BFK wmk)
15f green EA G
15f brown EA G
15f magenta EA G
15f deep slate EA G
30f black Les Bons EA G
100f black East Valira River EA G
100f green EA G
500f black ** EA

** printed from a secondary die

Multiple Proofs

These exist for the airmails and are printed in black from secondary dies. Examples have been seen in two configurations - and other variations may exist.

These proofs do not bear the printing office control punch but may have an "Atelier" annotation in pencil. It is possible that they were prepared for a multiple "de luxe proof", due for release after the later-issued 500f value - this proof, however, did not materialise. There is also a possibility that they are part of the 25th Anniversary presentations.


100, 200, 500 black (14.5 x 9.5 cm) various combinations

Colour Proofs

No colour proofs are known for the postage values, and we now believe that the majority of those previously listed for the airmails are presentation proofs, and these are now listed in the 25th Anniversary section.

However, mention must be made of a proof of the 500f value in a green shade, slightly paler than the issued 100f, of which the size is 141 x 110mm. This has the usual control punch but is without imprint or colour reference number. It is printed from the original die and not from a secondary die as one would expect (the indentation is 68 x 78mm rather than the usual 32 x 48mm). Although we list this as a colour proof, it has all the hallmarks of an "épreuve d'atelier" or "épreuve de réception" (made when a die is checked at the Atelier before hardening). However, such proofs are usually printed in sepia, blue or black.

De Luxe Proofs

These exist for all postage and airmail values. All have the official control punch and are inscribed "Atelier de Fabrication des Timbres-Poste. PARIS".


Single proofs 13.00 x 10.00cm Yv 138/53 + PA 2/4 (22)


It always had been assumed that the postage and airmail stamps did not exist imperforate in their issued colours. Even though the three airmails are now listed by both Yvert and Ceres catalogues, they do not appear to be "normal" imperforate stamps - they are not readily encountered on the market, unlike other imperforate Andorran issues.


Yv PA 2/4 (3)

25th Anniversary of the French Postal Service in Andorra

General Comments

Anniversary postmark

Readers will all be well aware that the French PO prepared a special cancellation, featuring Jaume Bonell, for this event which was in use during the period 16 - 30 June 1956. Somewhat less well-known are the special printings of the airmail stamps, said to have been prepared for a commemorative presentation booklet, which was presumably destined for the usual officials, high dignatories and so on. It is here that we come to the most difficult part of these listings, and where there is much confusion, few hard facts, and even the Musée Postal in Paris has no relevant records to help us. We can only attempt, therefore, to form a judgement and relate what we have discovered about the items we possess or have read about. We do not rule out the possibility of the existence of other items and, as always, we would welcome any further information that members may be able to supply.

Presentation Proofs

These can be divided into two main groups: 1) proofs (similar to colour proofs) on small sheets and 2) single stamps that are usually imperforate.

1. Proofs on Small Sheets

There is an extensive range in a variety of colours for the 500f airmail. Of these, some are said to be unique whilst others, such as the violet, are known to exist in several copies. Although they are printed from a secondary die, they vary in some other aspects from the normal colour proofs:

normal colour proofs 500f Airmails
approx size 140 x 110mm 135 x 102mm
colour reference number yes no
control punch yes yes

In addition, they show an albino impression of "Atelier de Fabrication des Timbres-Poste. PARIS" reading downwards towards the lower left of the sheet (the "Poste. PARIS" is usually cut off). Such an imprint is not seen on normal colour proofs. It is also important to note that the denomination "500F" in the value-tablet differs in style to that of the issued stamp (see group 2A for illustration and details).


500f violet 500f pale blue 500f red brown
500f straw yellow 500f claret 500f deep red
500f red 500f light brown 500f blue grey
500f greenish blue 500f grey blue 500f green
500f bluish green (other colours may exist)

2) Stamps

This group can be divided into two sections: A) hybrid stamps produced from dies showing differences to the issued stamps, and B) stamps similar to those issued.

A) Hybrid Stamps

It would seem that a lot of work went into the production of these presentation stamps. The three denominations exist from dies in which the value and immediate surround differ in some way to the issued stamps.

top row - the issued stamps
Normal and hybrid stamps
bottom row - the hybrid stamps

There are several differences, but the more obvious are as follows

100f (issued)
The 1 is only slightly taller than the zeros, and has even serifs at the base.
The F has partial shading at right.
The ripple (shaped rather like a 3) immediately above the first zero has a long lower tail to left.
The 1 is clearly taller than the zeros, and has a short serif to the right of the base.
The F is clear of shading at the right.
The ripple above the first zero has a short lower tail.
200f (issued)
The 2 has a tightly curled top.
The F is heavily seriffed at the right extremities.
The ripple above the first zero has a long lower tail to left.
The 2 has a more open curled top.
The F is only lightly seriffed at the right extremities.
The ripple above the first zero has a short lower tail.
500f (issued)
The 5 has a slanting downward stroke from the top to the curve.
The serif at top left of F slants upwards.
The lower left corner of stamp has solid shading.
The 5 has a straight downward stroke from the top to the curve.
The serif at top left of F is almost horizontal.
The lower left corner of stamp shows a lack of shading "spot"

Additionally, on the 500f value only, there is often a spot of colour in the upper part of the D of DE - this shows on many copies of the hybrid stamp as well as the presentation sheets. In fact, a close examination of the 500f hybrid stamps and the 500f presentation sheets clearly indicates that they were printed from the same die. This fact suggests that all the hybrid stamps are from single impressions, and not from sheets of 25 as suggested by other sources. This is borne out by the fact that we have never seen or heard of pairs, blocks etc, and that why most of these items seem to come with good to ample margins.

The hybrid stamps are always imperforate and gummed.

B) Stamps Similar to Those Issued

This presentation series is further confused by the existence of values which are clearly very similar to those issued. We have seen both the 200 and 500f values thus, and would also expect the 100f to exist as well. These also are usually imperforate and gummed, but the presentation booklets are said to have contained both an imperforate and perforated 200f value in green - and it is this latter stamp that particularly merits our attention.

This "star attraction" of the 25th Anniversary printings is in a shade of green, only slightly paler than that of the issued 100f. This stamp, which was originally only listed in the Maury catalogue, surely ranks as an equal to the famous 20c Bridge of St Anthony in ultramarine (Yv 30A, and illustrated in Bulletin No 36). However, a mint copy of the 200f green was sold for "only" 11,010f in 1990. This compares with the rariefied level of 120,000f usually sought after for a copy of the 20c Bridge in ultramarine. It is, perhaps, interesting to record here that in 1957 it was possible to buy both the perforated and imperforate 200f in green for 11,000f (6000 plus 5000f), and that price equated to about £9.32 the pair or £5.08 for the perforated stamp alone!

However, it must be said that the perforations of this stamp are worthy of further consideration. All stamps seen seem to show a curious "narrow (7th) and compensatory wide (8th) tooth" combination. This occurs four times per stamp and can be observed as follows:-

  1. from top right corner, count 7 and 8 to left
  2. from bottom right corner, count 7 and 8 up
  3. from bottom right corner, count 7 and 8 to left
  4. from bottom left corner, count 7 and 8 up
In addition to the above some, but not all, copies show a small perforation hole - counting 11 down from the top left corner. Some sources have suggested that these anomalies of perforation indicate that these stamps have been privately perforated, and thus are not authentic - the perforations not being uniformly constant compared to the normally issued stamps. However, if these stamps were printed in singles by the same method as the hybrids in section A), then obviously they could not be perforated on the normal comb machines used for sheets, and some different method of perforation would have to be utilised. We can only add that, at the present time, we have not seen any pairs, marginal copies, or the coin-daté of the 200f green - any of which would indicate that it was printed in sheets and not in singles.


100f imperforate (hybrid) blackish brown, plum, dark grey-green
(no details) black
(as issued) none seen
200f (hybrid) blackish brown, red brown, dark grey-green
(no details) green
(as issued) red
perforated (as issued) green
500f imperforate (hybrid) dark grey-green, rose red, grey-blue, deep red-brown,
ultramarine, green, lake, plum (and others)
(no details) violet, grey-violet, orange brown, carmine red,
brownish violet
(as issued) light ultramarine

NOTE: The authors wish to point out that much of the detailed information about the 25th Anniversary presentations is new and previously unpublished. We would greatly welcome comment and details/photocopies of similar material held by our members.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

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The colour illustration which follows was included in the Valira Torrent as part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of APSC. High resolution (600 dpi) printed copies can be purchased from APSC. It can also be supplied as a compressed file on floppy disk. For more information see APSC 20th Anniversary Souvenirs

25th Anniversary of the French P O in Andorra
  - presentation items (58KB)

Andorran Philatelic Study Circle / Hon. Librarian: E. J. Jewell / apsc@free.fr /
Updated 17th September 1998