The conquest and the foundation of a French Fezzan
At the start of the Second World War, Libya became an integral part of the Italian colonial empire. The country is divided into three main territories including the Fezzan region located to the south. At the beginning of 1942, General Leclerc's troops went north to reinforce the Allied forces. After two decisive war campaigns, the territory of Fezzan is occupied by the Free French Forces (FFL). An agreement, quickly concluded with the British, legalizes the French occupation which installed its civil and military administration from April 11, 1943. But the problems of monetary circulation were not long in coming. The Italian lira, which is still the official currency, was first refused by civilians and the military in place. The temptation then to link the territory to colonial Algeria with the introduction of Bank of Algeria notes was quickly abandoned, as was the idea of a local emergency issue. As time presses, it is decided to overprint denominations of 5 francs Type 1934 (Pick: # 21) taken from a stock of banknotes planned for French West Africa (FWA) and finally deferred to the accounting assets of the Central Bank of Free France.
5 francs Type 1934 overprinted "Fezzan" (1943)
Only 200,000 French West Africa notes (out of 480,350 copies issued) were overprinted. This overprint is in the form of a simple rectangle containing the letters "R" and "F" (for French Republic) and below the name of the territory "FEZZAN" in capital letters. The appearance of this overprint is very particular because it is affixed by hand using a rubber stamp in fatty black ink called "Lynotypie". However, this technique does not allow perfect and regular marking of the stamp. The perfectly identified copies all have an irregular outline and the general imprint is more or less regular. The stamp must have a size of 53 x 45 mm. The letters must be between 12 and 14 mm high. Below, the copy which belonged to Mr. Maurice Kolsky and whose incontestable origin is partly displayed on the back ... A 5 franc note Type 1934 overprinted "FEZZAN" in 1943 (1) with exceptional pedigree!
The table that we present below is not cast in stone and still contains 7 banknotes that we have not managed to authenticate as "TRUE" or "FALSE". We indicate it by the acronym “ANC” (Authenticity Not Confirmed)” when the case arises. If you are lucky enough to have this rare banknote and you find that we have classified it as being "FALSE" ... or "TRUE", you can of course join us so that we can make a precise assessment together and complete your banknote and possibly correct its status!
All of our score banknotes are dated "10-3-1938". We are currently counting a total of 38 copies of the 5-franc Type 1934 overprinted “FEZZAN” (1943), distributed as follows:
- 20 copies listed as "TRUE",
- 7 copies listed as “ANC” (Authenticity Not Confirmed),
- 11 copies listed as "FALSE".
|V.4250||697||F||-||FALSE||Note with a false overprint made from the banknote from the Ruth W. Hill collection! Rbcurrency Archives.|
|G.4591||446||G||-||FALSE||Note with a false overprint made from the banknote from the Ruth W. Hill collection! Currently on sale on ebay in May 2020 (this counterfeit note is at the origin of this article).|
|K.4669||402||VF||Start price: £150||FALSE||Seen in photo in The Banknote Book: Lybia. Note unsold at Spink, Auction # 14008 (Lot # 1041) of April 2014.|
|L.4718||679||PMG 40 Extremely Fine||-||TRUE||Seen on rbcurrency's Instagram account in March 2020.|
|J.4719||765||-||-||TRUE||Photo note in the 6th edition of the WPM.|
|L.4719||199||EF+||$250||TRUE||Pedigree. Ex-George Thomas collection.|
|G.4775||935||-||-||FALSE||Note with a false overprint made from the note from the Ruth W. Hill collection!|
|S.4794||261||XF||$700||TRUE||Seen on sale on ebay France in 2017 (Lynk Diffusion).|
|S.4796||137||Fine||€290||ANC||Note sold at Christoph Gärtner, Auction # 32 (Lot # 37457) in 2015.|
|B.4801||415||VF||$2200||TRUE||Auction Sale N ° 16 of Albuquerque from May 1989 (Lot # 177).|
|C.4892||499||-||-||TRUE||Copy seen in the article of Numismatique & Change N ° 158, page 32.|
|C.4892||776||-||€250||TRUE||Note seen at the AFEP show in 2020. No photo.|
|D.4892||080||-||-||TRUE||Pedigree. Éric Martin collection.|
|D.4892||085||VF||-||TRUE||Pedigree. Ex-Maurice Kolsky collection.|
|D.4892||407||-||-||TRUE||Note mentioned by Éric Martin in the 2009 Numismatic Bulletin of cgb.fr.|
|D.4892||922||VF/EF||-||TRUE||Note from the Gadoury sale in 1987, Lot # 59.|
|D.4892||924||-||-||TRUE||Photo post in the catalog “World War Military Currency” by F. Schwan and J. Boling, 1980, page 30.|
|D.4892||929||PCGS 45PPQ Extemely Fine||$2585||TRUE||Heritage Auctions, September 2014 (lot # 26578), purchased by collector Ruth W. Hill. Then resold $ 960 at Heritage Auctions, in January 2019 (lot # 28717).|
|D.4892||961||VF||£500||TRUE||Spink, Auction # 17009 (Lot # 2133) from September 2017.|
|D.4892||975||PCGS 45 Extemely Fine||$780||TRUE||Heritage Auctions, September 2019 (lot # 28481).|
|D.4892||977||VF+||€300||TRUE||Maison Platt catalog from September 2003 (lot # 2041).|
|D.4892||989||-||-||TRUE||Note from the archives of Mr. Jean-Luc Aubert.|
|P.4893||923||XF?||-||TRUE||Note illustrating the website of Éric Martin.|
|P.4893||985||VF+||€500||TRUE||cgb.fr, Internet Auction Notes April 2017 (lot # 4120232).|
|N.4894||877||VG/F||-||ANC||Note from the archives of Mr. Jean-Luc Aubert.|
|N.4894||989||G/VG||Start price: €30!||ANC||Note seen on auction sale in February 2019 (lot # 233).|
|Y.4999||009||-||-||ANC||Note from the archives of Mr. Jean-Luc Aubert. The note looks authentic.|
|L.5323||264||XF||€381||FALSE||Vannier Catalog # 17 of April 1983 (Lot # 1300).|
|D.5350||470||VF+||€305||ANC||Maison Platt catalog from September 2001 (lot # 1791). The note looks authentic!|
|T.5351||102||VF||€305||ANC||Maison Platt catalog from February 2000 (lot # 1580). The note looks authentic!|
|N.5557||175||VF||-||FALSE||Already offered on ebay in 2012! Seen in the Spink sale, Auction 20108 of April 2020 (lot # 149). Banknote not found in the sale! Took of ?|
|V.5585||501||XF||Start price: £240||FALSE||Note seen on sale at DNW in October 2016.|
|G.5802||662||VF||€150||FALSE||Note seen on sale on ebay France in December 2018.|
|F.5980||546||XF||€358||FALSE||Rosenberg sale in March 2000 (lot # 447).|
|S.6000||013||VF+||€360||FALSE||Sold at Christoph Gärtner, Auction # 37 (Lot # 1169) from June 2017.|
The 4892 and 4893 series are validated with certainty for authentic banknotes. The three banknotes from the L.4718 and J.4719 series are also authentic, including the L.4719 collector's copy George Thomas! The 7 banknotes of the series S.4796-137, N.4894-877, N.4894-989, J.4979-184, Y.4999-009, D.5350-470 and T.5351-102 remain to be confirmed. The last two copies of this list were offered by Maison Platt for sale at marked prices in 2001 and 2004. Although the numbers do not correspond to the series of references, these two copies seem to us to be authentic.
The news of the bank note finally obliges us to publish the result of our research (2) more prematurely than expected, in order to warn collectors of the recent attempts of scams more and more frequent on this note.
At the start of the last week of April, we found a sale of a counterfeit 5 francs Fezzan whose subterfuge is not new but clever enough. Once again, the impugned advertisement again concerns an English seller known by the pseudonym "citygroundhero-6", of which we have already twice reported counterfeit notes offered at auction (3). The copy currently on sale is numbered "G.4591-446" and mentioned in VG grade by the seller ... The process remains fairly conventional: we take a used banknote acquired for a few euros and then transform it into rare note. Please note that all authentic banknotes are almost always in good condition!
And this time, the banknote on sale seems perfectly authentic. Only everything seems too perfect. And then as the doubt remains with the series which does not correspond to the reference series, we decide to compare the photo of the note with those which we already have in archives.
The first copy that we place next to the questionable note is the banknote from the prestigious collection of Ruth W. Hill sold by Heritage Auctions in January 2019. Why this note in particulary? Because the quality of the photos offered by the Heritage Auctions auction house is well established. And this is where our counterfeiter comes in ... Our editing below will help you better understand the subterfuge used to deceive potential buyers; on the left, the probable counterfeit note and on the right a zoom on the overprint of the real note "D.4892-929" of the ex-collection Ruth W. Hill.
The subterfuge exposed ...
What do you notice ? Really, don't you see? Well, the overprint is identical on the two banknotes with for example the same small black spot under the "R". Explanation: the quality of the visuals of Heritage Auctions and the possibility of being able to zoom in on a note in order to observe certain details with more attention is very significant. This service here becomes a major drawback which tends to incite malicious acts, since our scammer has the possibility of isolating the stamp of the real banknote more easily, probably by trimming it in Photoshop (4) with a little work to reconstitute the lower left corner (5). The rest of the process remains a mystery but most of the time, a very common banknote is carefully fixed on US Letter size template followed by high definition laser printing with the false digital overprint affixed on it ... And voila!
Two other fakes have been identified in the past with the "Ruth Hill overprint": the copy "G.4775-935" and the copy "V.4250-697" in the photo below. You will notice that the left corner, missing on the original stamp, has been filled in with a simple vertical line. Ah, the profession of counterfeiting banknotes is very difficult and is not within the reach of the first fool to come!
We could not prevent the sale of the counterfeit note on ebay, but we like to believe that there is still a little respite or the hope of one day seeing all these scams disappear, because the overprint of 5 francs Fezzan, despite its rudimentary aspect, is much more difficult to reproduce than it seems ... Only, by dint of seeing this kind of repeated frauds blooming which even abuse certain large auction houses, the risk is real to divert and to move away definitively collectors initially attracted by the acquisition of this banknote. Unfortunately, we have a precedent with the French banknotes of the Suez Crisis whose sales have gradually collapsed (6). As we cannot rely on ebay and other online sales websites to combat this rampant phenomenon, our only weapon is still communication.
"French military administration in Fezzan" on wikipedia.
"Les billets africains de la zone franc" by Roger Leclerc and Maurice Kolsky. Gadoury Editions,2000.
"Les billets de l'AOF" the Éric Martin's website.
"The Banknote Book: Libya" by Owen W. Linzmeyer. (7)
"100 francs Fezzan ou faisan 100%" by Éric Martin. Numismatic Bulletin of cgb.fr, N° 58, 2009, pages 24-25.
"Un coup de tampon qui rapporte" by Michel Prieur. Numismatic Bulletin of cgb.fr N° 109, 2012, page 31.
"Collectionneurs, Attention !" by AFEP. Numismatique & Change N° 158, page 32.
(1) the catalog references known for this banknote are: The Banknote Book (TBB): # B021, Leclerc-Kolsky: # 514, Schwan-Boling: # 1151, Aubert: # 101 and Pick: # M9.
(2) Our current research concerns the three denominations of 5 francs, 25 francs, 100 francs and 1000 francs.
(3) Article of April 2, 2020: 100 francs on 20 Piastres Type 1939 "New Caledonia" and article of November 22, 2019: Counterfeit overprint on 20 francs Djibouti Type Peacock I.
(4) Procedure carried out in less than 20 minutes by the author of this article!
(5) Some counterfeit notes encountered in the past include the so-called “Ruth Hill” overprint with the missing left corner and were therefore very easy to confuse!
(6) A next article is being written on this subject.
(7) The photo note (K.4669-402) is unfortunately false. We will notify Mr. Owen W. Linzmeyer and offer him our copy!
Many thanks to Jean-Luc Aubert and Curt Banspach (rbcurrency) for sending us their personal archives.