The beautiful and wide-ranging French Colonies Stamps are exceptionally popular amongst collectors around the world. Depending on how you count them there is easily around 100 different places to collect. From the early General Issues which mimicked the French stamps of the time, to the overprinted French stamps which made the first issues of many places. Also the stamps of the various French Post Offices in foreign countries, through to the colourful and spectacular issues seen throughout the 20th Century and beyond. Although there are significant rarities throughout French Colonial philately it is also worth noting that it is possible to obtain many complete definitive and commemorative issues from the early 20th Century at a mere fraction of their British Empire equivalents and this allowed generations of happy philatelists to build significant stamp albums packed with lovely stamps without too many missing rarities!
The first French Colonies stamp was the 1859 10c bistre ‘Eagle’ French Colonial General Issue. These General Issues were, with the exception of the first ‘Eagle’ design very similar to the regular French stamps but with slightly different colours or imperforate instead of perforated or in the case of the 1881–86 Commerce stamps with a “Colonies / Postes” inscription. These stamps can be collected used bearing the postmark of the colony they were used at, making such stamps forerunners of the first stamps of those colonies. The Yvert and Tellier catalogue gives comprehensive listings of the General Issue stamps and postal history so postmarked, by colony. From the swaying palms of Polynesia to the frozen wastes of the Southern and Antarctic Territories, and from the deadly jungles of Guiana to the sophistication of Tangier, this wonderful area of philately and postal history offers stamp collectors a little bit of everything.