Japanese Collectors’ Stamps

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Western fascination with Japan has existed since at least the mid 19th century, when the start of the Meiji period marked an end to the isolationist policies that had closed it off to the world for the past 300 years. Around the same time, the country established its first national post office, which began printing its own stamps in 1871.

Since then, Japanese philately has been very popular, both within the country and among expatriates and enthusiasts abroad. The country has produced many attractive issues, and collectors have several potential eras of sub-specialization corresponding roughly to the major political shifts taking place in the country.

First Stamps

Some of the oldest and most rare Japanese stamps are the initial Dragon series, originally issued in denominations of the mon but quickly superseded by the yen. Printed on fine Japanese paper, these stamps feature a two-color design with a pair of dragons facing each other. Other early issues include the Cherry Blossom, Bird and Koban series, the latter of which featured variations of the Imperial Crest.

To this day, many collectors are reluctant to buy rare Japanese stamps from this period, as forgeries are commonplace and most reference materials are printed in Japanese. That said, for a specialist willing to make the effort, these stamps offer a rich vein of collecting opportunities, with multiple color and perforation variations.

Beyond the Early Issues

Japan issued its first commemorative stamp in 1894, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the wedding of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. The 1913 definitive series introduced a new design, based on the Imperial Crest used until 1938. This series is particularly interesting for specialists as it features many variations in paper, watermark and die sizes. In 1935, the country printed its first New Year's stamp, depicting Mt. Fuji. The following year, a long-running National Park series began.

Japan's entry into World War II was marked by the release of definitive series in 1942, 1945 and 1946, each with various militaristic/nationalistic themes. Many of the country's occupied territories also issued overprints.

In the tumultuous post-war years, Japanese philately was slow to return to its former glory, though today it is once again a popular hobby both domestically and abroad. As well, the country's aging population and healthy economic climate makes Japanese collector's stamps an investment choice with strong long-term potential.

Buy Rare Japan Stamps Online

Apfelbaum, Inc., offers specialists several ways to buy Japan collectors' stamps online. We hold regular online Buy It Now sales and also have rare collectors’ Japanese stamps for sale through our online store. Need help appraising your collection or looking for one hard-to-find issue? Give us a call today for immediate assistance from one of our experts.