Chinese Collectors’ Stamps

Without a doubt, one of the biggest stories in philately in recent years has been the rise of the market for Chinese collectors’ stamps. In many ways, this should come as no surprise — with a growing middle class, strong economy and rich philatelic history, considerable interest in collecting Chinese stamps has been generated both outside and within the country.

However, collecting Chinese stamps is not for the faint of heart. Extensive variations exist for some of the most collected issues, and forgeries are common. Close examination and considerable knowledge are essential prerequisites for developing a well-rounded collection.

China’s Postal History

Even a cursory overview of the history of China is well beyond the scope of this article. The country as we know it today was founded in 1912 with the fall of the imperial dynasty that had ruled it for some 2000 years prior. It was at the end of the dynastic period that the first stamps began circulating. These stamps, known as the Large Dragon series, were issued in 1878 for use with the Imperial Maritime Customs Post.

Several more series were issued before the end of the Empire, including a set of pictorials in 1897 depicting either a dragon, carp or wild goose, depending on the value, and watermarked with the yin-yang symbol. Revenue stamps were also in use during this time.

Postage Stamps of the Chinese Republic

A 1911 revolution led to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of a republican government. Some classic Chinese collectors’ stamps from this era come from the “Junk” series (named for the ship, rather than as an indication of their quality), which were issued in 1913 and remained in use until the ‘30s. Production shifted from London to Beijing in 1915, and the designs were re-engraved in 1922. As a result, subtle variations exist from year-to-year, offering rich fodder for collectors.

Turmoil and Communist Rule

Throughout the ‘20s and ‘30s, tensions remained high between communist and nationalist factions within China. Following a long civil war, communist rule was established in 1949 and the country was renamed to the now-familiar People’s Republic of China. Unsurprisingly, stamps from this period are highly patriotic in nature, though more themes were introduced as the country modernized over the course of the 20th century.

Some notable collectors’ Chinese stamps include the 1950 Gate of Heavenly Peace design, and the 1980 Golden Monkey, one of the most popular in a long-running series marking the start of the Chinese New Year.

Buying Chinese Collectors’ Stamps

Forgeries of the Golden Monkey and other Chinese collectors’ stamps are common. Unless you are well-versed in Chinese philately, it’s important to only shop with a dealer you can trust. At Apfelbaum, Inc., we frequently have genuine Chinese stamps for sale from all eras of the country’s history. We can also provide authentication and appraisal services for your collection — keep browsing our website or contact our office directly for assistance.

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