Monday, 30 October 2017

I Review... My New Decaris Catalogue

Not long after I started collecting the philatelic work of Albert Decaris about two and a half years ago, I came across a collected catalogue of his work in book form. The book is by Bernard Gontier and it is called Maitre Albert Decaris, sa vie son oeuvre philatelique. I thought to myself, "great, this is exactly what I need!" As it turns out - like with most things that would be handy to have - it was nigh on impossible to track down. And the one copy that I did happen to find on Delcampe had a ludicrous price + postage cost attached to it. Every other option I looked into, the book was simply not in stock. I filled out the requisite details on heaps of sites that would inform me of one being in stock. I could hope, right? Sadly, not in this case. As of this moment, I've heard back from exactly none of those sites.

But then about a month ago whilst I was doing an image search related to a blog post, I came across an image of the cover of the book that I hadn't seen before. Just like the actual book, images of it are fairly scarce. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the image and it took me to a French philatelic shop that had a whole range of products available. But what interested me was that they had the Gontier book on their order list. I clicked on that, expecting to see the same old story. Sorry, not currently in stock. But no! Miracle of miracles, they had one copy in stock! And the price on it was excellent. I couldn't bring myself to believe it at first. Surely it was a mistake. Or just a printed image of the cover for sale. Or maybe the postage on that site was ridiculous. First I checked out the postage - reasonable. Then I had a hard look at everything about the book. Seemed fine. Now growing somewhat excited I looked around the site a bit to see how valid it was. It seemed legit. With trembling fingers (not much hyperbole here!), I returned to the item page. And I clicked "Purchase". For a few days afterwards I could still hardly believe my luck! Then skip forward a few weeks, and what was in the mail? The Decaris catalogue! And it is everything I'd hoped it to be. On my Slania Crazy! blog I did a review on the catalogue of Slania's works, so I thought I'd do the same here.


First of all I really need to stress that the thoughts expressed in this review are solely my own, and I'm sure there are those out there who have different opinions. If you feel differently to what I think please add your thoughts to the comments. I love hearing from fellow collectors! With that said, let's get into it.

Maître Albert Decaris, sa vie son travail philatélique, by Bernard Gontier. Published by Monde des philatélistes. Printing date unknown.

The first step would be to take a look at the overall presentation of the book. I was really surprised at the dimensions of the book. It measures a whopping 32cm x 24cm. It has 40 pages and it is bound in a soft cover. The fact that it is so large with only a soft cover is really my only criticism. This makes it a little difficult to consult time and again without any fear of damage. Its unusual height also makes it difficult to store on my shelf. 

Not surprisingly, the book is written entirely in French, which doesn't bother me, but some may find information extraction a little more difficult. The book is printed mostly in black & white, including the stamp images. But there are several lovely full page colour phtotos included.

The contents of the book include: a catalogue of all Decaris' stamps; a few full page colour images of a selection of unadopted designs; and a group of three interesting articles in the back including an interview with Decaris. 

The catalogue portion of the book is brilliant. The stamps are arranged by year with the actual date of issue and Y&T catalogue numbers included. It is divided into three sections. The first section lists all the stamps Decaris designed and engraved. The second section deals with the stamps he only engraved. And the last section lists the stamps he only designed. 

Below is a small selection of images from within the book. Unfortunately due to the size of the book, it wont fit in my scanner, so I have to include photos instead of scans. But the images are just to give you an idea of the content.

In all I love this catalogue, and honestly I find it a lot more useful than my Slania catalogue, but that's just my humble opinion. If you have any comments or questions, comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

I Muse...On Breaking News

We interrupt our regular blogging schedule to bring you this special report!

This news just in: it has been discovered  that the stamp collector who has been identified as Albert Decaris Stamps! has just managed to defy the odds and secure, through and stealth and a decent dose of luck, a great bargain. We have managed to secure an exclusive interview with the happy buyer!

All jokes aside, this morning when I woke up I got quite the surprise. It all started a little over a week ago when my Decaris catalogue by Bernard Gontier arrived (a review of said book will be coming soon). I noticed in it that Decaris had designed and engraved a 1,000f airmail stamp for Tunisia in 1953. This stamp has a rather hefty SG catalogue value of £47 mint and over double that for genuine used. A glance at eBay and Delcampe yielded rather expensive results. What a shock! But I did spot one item up for bid on eBay that was still on the minimum bid of $0.99. The stamp was not alone it came with the 500f value stamp. Both have some toning, the 500f more so. But I thought that if on the off chance I could get them cheap, the toning could be reduced, if not completely removed by a good peroxide bath. Taking all this into account, I threw on a cheap snipe bid. Pretty certain I'd have no chance. But hey, gotta be in it to win it.

Then... Lo and behold I did win it! And for just $2.28 Aust.

So I guess now we are at that point where I show you what I got. The images ain't that great, but it gives you an idea of the toning levels. In honesty, the 500f stamp may be a ride-off, but that doesn't bother me. It's the 1,000f on the right that I'm most interested n. As you can see, the toning is considerably less on this stamp.

When they arrive I'll give them the peroxide treatment and post up the results!

Now back to our regular blogging schedule!

Until next time...

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

French Equatorial Africa - 1937 International Exposition in Paris

Let the festivities commence! From motorboat races on the Seine to the Grape Harvest Festival, and from World Championship Boxing Matches to Shakespeare in the park. The 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life) had it all. The Expo was held from 25 May to 25 November 1937 in Paris, France. Countries from around the globe converged on the "city of lights" to flex their muscles of national pride. Participating countries were invited to build their own pavilions. Some pavilions were rather modest. While others such as the Soviet and Nazi pavilions opted more for the ostentatious and colossal. For more on the Expo, click HERE.


This World Expo was also a big deal in the world of philately. A group of France's best artistic minds were assembled to create a six stamp set that would be issued in twenty-one French colonies. This was the second omnibus series printed in France, the first being in 1931 for the International Colonial Exposition. Engravers such as Rene Cottet, Emile Feltesse, Pierre Munier, Antonin Delzers, and of course Albert Decaris contributed to the set. In fact, Albert Decaris both designed and engraved two stamps in this set. Below is a list of all colonies in which this set was issued.
  • Cameroun
  • Dahomey
  • French Equatorial Africa
  • French Guiana
  • French Guinea
  • French India
  • French Polynesia
  • French Sudan
  • Guadeloupe
  • Indo-China
  • Ivory Coast
  • Madagascar
  • Martinque
  • Mauritania
  • New Caledonia
  • Niger
  • Oceania
  • Reunion
  • St. Pierre & Miquelon
  • Senegal
  • Togo

To celebrate the beginning of my studies into Albert Decaris' philatelic work for French Equatorial Africa, which in 1958 became the Central African Republic, I thought I would showcase his first stamps issued for this country. The 1937 International Exposition in Paris. Indeed, these were the first stamps issued with his name attached for many French colonies.

Before seeing the stamps, let's have a little look at the country in question. French Equatorial Africa (French: Afrique équatoriale française), or the AEF, was the federation of French colonial possessions in Equatorial Africa, extending northwards from the Congo River into the Sahel, and comprising what are today the countries of Chad, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon. After a referendum in 1958, in which the citizens voted for independence, AEF became the temporary association called The Union of Central African Republics. Then in 1960 the fully independent Central African Republic was formed. But we'll look at that change when I start studying the stamps Decaris produced for CAR.


Now to the stamps. As I mentioned above, Decaris both designed and engraved his two stamp contribution to the Paris Exposition omnibus series. To look at the full set, click HERE. The issue dates of this series vary by colony. The FAE set was issued on 15 April 1937.

The first stamp is the 50c value, labelled in French: Groupe de trois femme. (Group of three women)

The 1f 50 stamp, my favourite of the two designs, is called:  Tête de femme et masque. (Head of woman and mask)

Until next time...

Monday, 2 October 2017

France 1957 - Europa

Way back in 1956 a decision was made to create a common design stamp issue for the European community. The idea was not only to promote the rewarding pursuit of philately, but also to educate people in the history of Europe and the common roots that Europeans share. Thus the EUROPA stamp issue was born. Initially, there were six participating countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and Netherlands. All participating countries issued stamps of the same design to be produced in their own countries, using their own printing techniques and engravers when applicable. The common design chosen for the first EUROPA issue was a tower in the form of the 6 letters of the word EUROPA. The design was created by Frenchman Daniel Gonzagu. France's first EUROPA stamps were issued in two values, and the 'common' design was engraved by Jules Piel. 

In 1957 EUROPA allowed participating countries to issue stamps based on the common "theme" instead of a common design. The theme was Peace and Welfare through Agriculture and Industry. This idea of providing the participating countries with just a theme gave individual designers freedom to come up with their own artistic interpretation of the theme. Incidentally, the number of participating countries had now risen to eight to include Saarland and Switzerland.


On 16 September 1957, France issued its EUROPA design, printed in two values. The issue was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. Decaris has brilliantly captured the essence of the theme in his design. It features two hands. One hand is holding an olive branch and wheat, symbolising peace and prosperity through agriculture. The other hand holds a large gear, through which another olive branch is entwined. Machinery and nature are here almost one with each other in a symbiotic relationship.

Until next time...