Francois Fournier

The early days of philately were far more colorful than today. Dealers like J. Walter Scott eagerly waited until the US Local companies were outlawed by congress so that he could buy up the plates from the defunct companies and issue “reprints” to collectors. The rules and protocols that govern our hobby today didn’t exist then and most collectors thought as little of genuineness as they did of quality. When heirs call us to tell us that they inherited their great grandfather’s collection and that we don’t have to worry about the genuineness of the stamps because they were bought so long ago, we respond that if it was their father’s collection we would be more sanguine about genuineness but that concerns in this area increase in proportion to how long ago the collection was created.
       Francois Fournier perfectly illustrates this change in our hobby. He did not become a stamp dealer until late in life, beginning about the age of fifty in 1905. He thought of himself as in the facsimile business and the stamps he sold were reproductions of early stamps and cancellations. He reprinted only stamps from countries that no longer issued stamps (such as the German States ) so as to avoid problems with counterfeiting laws. At his peak, he counterfeited 3800 different issues. It is only because of the extreme philatelic ignorance of the time that Fournier’s work became a problem. The catalog illustrations were crudely hand drawn in the early twentieth century and philatelic publications rarely illustrated more than a few stamps per month. Most collectors had never seen another example of most of the stamps that they acquired and so forgeries were easily passed off. Even before Internet created a network of philatelic sleuths combing dealer stocks for non genuine material, the work of Fournier and others had fallen out of most collections. Today, his crude work is a memory of our past.

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