Tibet Collectors' Stamps
Landlocked, remote Tibet is perhaps best known for its contentious status as a Chinese territory. Since being annexed in 1950, a government-in-exile led by the 14th Dalai Lama has brought international attention to the cause of Tibetan independence, accusing Chinese authorities of rampant human rights abuses against separatist campaigners.
All of this and more makes Tibet a fascinating philatelic study. Indeed, this interest has led to a spate of forgeries of some of the more rare Tibet collectors' stamps. If you do the research and work with a trustworthy auction house, however, building a collection can be a rewarding challenge.
Tibet's Early Postal History
The first stamps used in Tibet were 1904 British Indian overprints used in the newly established post offices in Lhasa, Pharijong, Gyantse, Yatung and Gartok. China established its presence in the region not long after — as early as 1909, Chinese stamps were used in Tibet.
Two years later, Chinese postal authorities in Tibet began using a special overprint denominated in the Indian Rupee and featuring text in English, Chinese and Tibetan — a unique feature that clearly speaks to the mix of influences present in the region at the time.
The Snow Lion Series
Tibet regained a great deal of autonomy with the fall of China's Qing Dynasty in 1912. At this point, the country began issuing its own stamps for domestic use, using localized design and production methods. These featured a hand-carved image of the snow lion, an important national symbol. Many different color and design variations exist. For example, earlier issues were printed using enamel paint, which made them glossier than later ink-printed stamps.
Forgeries of rare Tibet collector's stamps from this period are exceedingly common. Because they were hand-carved using rather primitive methods, separating genuine from ersatz Tibet stamps is difficult, even for a seasoned collector. Authenticated Tibet stamps are rare, and often fetch high values on the collectors’ market.
By 1950, China had once again annexed Tibet. In less than a decade, the last national post office was shut down and production of Tibet stamps ceased. Currently, Chinese authorities remain in control of the country's postal system, and no new stamps have been issued for over half a century.
Buying Rare Chinese Collectors’ Stamps
If you take the necessary precautions, it is possible to buy rare Tibet stamps with confidence. The first step is to find an auction house you can trust.
Apfelbaum, Inc. has been selling rare stamps from around the world since 1910. We host buy-it-now sales and maintain an extensive online store in which we frequently have genuine rare Tibet stamps for sale. We also buy old stamps and can provide authentication services for any issue whose provenance is in doubt. For assistance, please contact our office directly.