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USA - Stamps overprinted RF

Genuine RF overprints are very scarce with only about 200 reported genuine examples all of which are on covers.

Shortly after WWII ended unused examples of RF overprinted stamps in singles, blocks and booklet panes appeared in advertisements and were offered by some stamp dealers.
These were followed shortly by covers simulating some of the early examples, but uniform in stationary, dates and markings and missing some key characteristics of the genuine.

To be considered genuine an "RF" overprinted cover must have the following characteristics:
  1. Mail must be censored by the French and have the correct seal and markings.
    The only exception is officers mail which was not censored
  2. The stamp must be imprinted RF at the time of mailing.
    This is commonly a 6 carmine airmail stamp or a 6 orange pre-printed envelope
  3. The mail must be canceled by ...
    1. A 'Poste Navale' date stamp or
    2. A hexagonal French ships postmark
  4. The cover may also bear a "Marine Francaise" anchor cachet.
  5. The signature, rating and return address of the sender must be on the envelope
  6. The item must be mailed to the USA or Canada between the 13th March 1944 and October 1945.

  7. No genuine RF overprints exist on the boxed 6 air mail overprinted envelopes.

Stamps with "RF" overprints were never sold as such in mint condition for postal use.

The French sailor or marine in North Africa, (or aboard a ship based in North Africa), bought an ordinary 6 air mail stamp or stamped envelope, addressed it to a destination in the USA or Canada, wrote his own military return address on the envelope, inserted his letter, and then deposited the article unsealed into the outgoing mail. A French naval officer then censored and sealed the item of mail and added his censor marking and signature to prove he had done so.

A French naval postal clerk then applied the "RF" overprint which is actually a control mark to the stamp, and then cancelled it with a French naval postmark. The mail item was then turned over to US naval authorities for air mail dispatch to North America. The "RF" control mark meant that such mail got a lower priority than mail sent by Americans.

The most prolific "RF" fakes were created by a stamp dealer to meet collector demand.
These fakes were first offered for sale by the Economist Stamp Company in the 13th July 1946 issue of Stamps magazine.
All of the fake overprints are identical, a script RF, on a variety of common, mint 6 airmail stationery.
The inventory of fakes passed into the hands of Kover King in the 1960s, later offered by LYN-CO in the late 1970s, and by eBay seller smarthobbies in the early 2000s.
The fake script RF overprint is also known on airmail adhesive stamps.

The following listing attempts to illustrate as many as possible of the genuine covers
Known forgeries are also listed where these have been confirmed

July - August 1945 --- Article from the France & Colonies Philatelist - Volume 4 No. 4

May - June 1948 --- Article from the France & Colonies Philatelist - Volume 7 No. 3
Fake overprints and forgeries of covers

Included here are types that were never applied in genuine usage as well as types very similar to the genuine issues
Type a
UPSS - type a Scott - type a Goodkind - type 1 Sanabria (1950) - type g Sanabria (1995) - type f

Raised period after each letter
Overall width = 8 mm
RF width = 7 mm
Letter R = Height - 3 mm, width - 2 mm
Letter F = Height - 4 mm, width - 2 mm
Type a
Type b
      See the individual types for more details
Type a
Type c
      See the individual types for more details
Type a
Type f
      See the individual types for more details
Type b
   Various similar types, (at least two variations)
UPSS - type b Scott - type b Goodkind - type 3 Sanabria (1950) - type c Sanabria (1995) - type b

Period after each letter at base
Overall width = 10 mm
RF width = 10 mm
Letter R = Height - 5 mm, width - 4 mm
Letter F = Height - 5 mm, width - 3 mm
Type c
Type d
   Square top to the letter R
Type e
The letter 'F' often appears damaged in some way
UPSS - type d Scott - type e Goodkind - type 10 Sanabria (1950) - Not listed Sanabria (1995) - type e

No periods
Overall width = 16 mm
RF width = 16 mm
Letter R = Height - 13 mm, width - 8 mm
Letter F = Height - 14 mm, width - 8 mm
Type f
   Letters within a circle
UPSS - type e Scott - type f Goodkind - type 2 Sanabria (1950) - type h Sanabria (1995) - type g

No periods after letters
Overall width = 26 mm
RF width = 17 mm
Letter R = Height - 10 mm, width - 7 mm
Letter F = Height - 10 mm, width - 8 mm
Type g
UPSS - type i Scott - type g Goodkind - type 7 Sanabria (1950) - Not listed Sanabria (1995) - type i

Periods after each letter at base
Overall width = 8 mm x 23 mm
RF width = 12 mm
Letter R = Height - 6 mm, width - 4 mm
Letter F = Height - 6 mm, width - 3 mm
Type h
Type i
Type j
Comments, observations and contact that we have recieved from visitors to this section


Spink Auction
The Philatelic Foundation online database of certificates
Bill Lehr
Mike Girard (APS #205494) - Fake RF Overprints on Scott #C25