Trial color proofs are sheets of plate proofs printed from the 1950s to 1984 to show a stamp in different combinations of ink colors. They were used to help decide the best color for the issued stamp. Sheets not retained in official archives were given to government officials or politicians. Many of these eventually reached the philatelic market.
Thirty trial color proof sheets of each issue were probably distributed. There would thus be 750 trial color proofs for stamps printed in sheets of 25 and 300 proofs for stamps printed in sheets of 10.
No printing quantities were officially released. However, a large-scale study of hundreds of trial color proof sheets from the period 1967-84 indicates that:
However, it appears that additional trial color sheets were printed for a few St. Pierre stamps issued around 1970.
More than 50 different colors were used for trial color proofs from FSAT and St. Pierre during the period 1967-1984. Ink codes for the colors used were hand-written in pencil at the bottom of trial color sheets. The additional St. Pierre sheets noted above lack pencil notations of ink colors.
Most engraved stamps were printed in three different ink colors using the T.D. (taille-douce or engraving) 3 process. Trial color proofs were generally printed in either a single color (mono-color) or in three colors (multi-color).
Trial color sheets of 25 stamps are the most common and are typically laid out as follows:
In sheets of 10, the top row usually contains mono-color stamps in each of the three colors and the bottom row contains five multi-color stamps. Stamps printed in sheets of 10 are usually oversized stamps and are sometimes printed in six colors using the T.D. 6 process.
There is a maximum of 48 different ink color combinations for each stamp. This breaks down as follows:
In practice, there are usually fewer than 48 different ink color combinations because the same color ink is generally used in more than one sheet. You can see a selection of different colors for various stamps in the Highlights section.
Beginning in about 1972, the color codes contain a two-letter prefix indicating the base color, a number indicating the specific color, and sometimes a two-letter code indicating the manufacturer of the ink (e.g. BR 619 Lx). The base colors are black/grey, blue, brown, green, violet, red and yellow/orange. They are abbreviated using the French words for the color ("No" for noir, "BL" for bleu, "VE" for vert, "VT" for violet, "Ro" for rouge, and "JO" for jaune orange).
Prices of trial color proofs typically range from about $4-20 ($20-100 for a strip of five) depending on the topic, country, and other factors, with most falling in the $5-$10 range. They are not listed or priced in standard catalogues.
The trial color proofs are presented here as single stamps, rather than the more usual strips of 5, to allow a larger image on the screen. Each row on a page shows the three mono-color proofs from a sheet followed by one of the five multi-color proofs from the same sheet. Additional rows repeat this pattern for sheets printed in different colors. In a few cases where I do not have a full sheet or strip of 5, I have shown a selection of colors. Several complete sheets are shown separately.
If you have information about color codes and serial numbers of trial color proofs from FSAT and St. Pierre that are not listed on this website, please consider providing this information for inclusion on the website.