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The evolution of Postage stamps of China

Postal history of China is very fascinating as much as intricate if one considers the gradual decay of imperial China, the years of civil wars, the Japanese Occupation in the 1930s and World War II.

Imperial China
Early records from the first millennium BC show evidence of regular governmental postal service during the Chou Dynasty.  By the 12th century, organised postal services existed as per Marco Polo’s records.  He reported the mailing of private letters by the Min Hsin Chu (a system of letter guilds) and the setting of post stages, as many as 10,000.

The Treaty of Kyakhta in 1727 allowed the regular exchange of mail between Imperial China and Russia.  In the 19th century, the Opium War ended the policy of isolation and ‘treaty’ ports opened, allowing some countries to operate their ‘foreign post offices’ from 1844.  

In 1865, Shanghai organised its own local post and the Englishman Robert Hart set up a mail service for the Imperial Maritime Customs for carrying consular mail to and from the ‘treaty’ ports.  This function was available to the public on May 1878.  Hence, China’s first postage stamps, the ‘Large Dragons’ were issued to handle payment, and were inscribed “CHINA” in both Latin and Chinese characters, and denominated in candareens.

Initially, all mail to foreign destinations went through Shanghai, but by 1882, twelve post offices opened.  Twelve years later, the postal operations were reorganised, Min Hsin Chu and the Shanghai local post ceased to operate, Customs Port became the Imperial Postal Service (effective 1 January 1897) and the postal system adopted cents and dollars as the new units of currency.

The lack of postage during the first half of 1897 forced the use of existing postage and revenue stock surcharged in cents, with some varieties.  The first new stamps, inscribed “IMPERIAL CHINESE POST” went on sale in August 1897 with twelve values, ranging from 1/2c to $5.  These lithographed stamps were printed in Japan and used desgns of a dragon, a carp and a wild goose.  

The paper was watermarked.  The following year, a new series of engraved stamps printed in London were issued in similar designs by using thicker Chinese watermarked paper.  The inscription changed to ‘CHINESE IMPERIAL POST’.  

New printings commenced in 1899 but used non-watermarked paper and from this run, stamps were in use until the end of the Empire.  It’s noticeable that the compliance to the Universal Postal Union saw the introduction of three values and the change of some colours.  

The anniversary of the first year of reign of Emperor Xuantong was ideal for the first Chinese commemorative stamp in 1909, printed on 3 denominations and depicting the ‘Temple of Heaven’ in Beijing.

Revolution and Republic

The 1910s – 
The revolution of 1911 resulted in overprints on the imperial stamps in 1912. Examples of  the overprints are that of ‘Foochow’ (neutral post office available to both sides) and ‘Nanking’ and ‘Shanghai’ (indicating part of the Republic of China).  Postmasters throughout the country used unofficial overprints.  

The first new designs of the Republic were two commemorative sets of 12 each, the first set depicting Sun Yat-Sen and second Yuan Shikai.  Both issues were available from 14 December 1912.

5-cent “junk” from the redesign of 1923

Chinese definitive postage stamps made their mark in May 1913 with the release of the ‘Junk design’ stamps.  Progressively, the higher issues depicred a farmer reaping rice and the ‘gateway to the Hall of Classics’.  Initially printed in London, the stamps were manufactured in Beijing from 1915.  The series was re-engraved in 1923.

The 1920s – 
China produced new commemorative issues, of four stamps each, during the 1920s.   These are the 25th anniversary of the Chinese Post Office (1921), the Temple of Heaven / New Constitution (1923), Marshal of the Army and Navy Zhang Zuolin (1928), the Unification of China / Chiang Kai-Shek (1929) and the State Funeral of Sun Yat Sen (1929). 

The 1930s and 1940s – 
In 1931, new definitives depicting Sun Yat Sen and in 1932, the ‘Six martyrs of Kuomintang’ were printed in volumes and were well used in the next several years.  

Manchuria was invaded in 1931 by the Japanese and ‘Manchukuo’ issued its own stamps.  During World War II, some existing postage stamps from previous issues were surcharged.

Chinese definitive postage stamps made their mark in May 1913 with the release of the ‘Junk design’ stamps.  Progressively, the higher issues depicred a farmer reaping rice and the ‘gateway to the Hall of Classics’.  Initially printed in London, the stamps were manufactured in Beijing from 1915.  The series was re-engraved in 1923.

The 1920s – 
China produced new commemorative issues, of four stamps each, during the 1920s.   These are the 25th anniversary of the Chinese Post Office (1921), the Temple of Heaven / New Constitution (1923), Marshal of the Army and Navy Zhang Zuolin (1928), the Unification of China / Chiang Kai-Shek (1929) and the State Funeral of Sun Yat Sen (1929). 

The 1930s and 1940s – 
In 1931, new definitives depicting Sun Yat Sen and in 1932, the ‘Six martyrs of Kuomintang’ were printed in volumes and were well used in the next several years.  

Manchuria was invaded in 1931 by the Japanese and ‘Manchukuo’ issued its own stamps.  During World War II, some existing postage stamps from previous issues were surcharged.

25 cents on a stamp of 1931
Kansu surcharge on a stamp issued in 1940-41

Although not the first appearance of Chiang Kai-shek on a stamp, this October 1945 commemoration of his inauguration includes a broader array of nationalistic symbols.

Towards the end of the War, the Nationalist Government was still struggling with the Communist forces.   Still, the postal authorities were able to release some commemorative issues on President Lin Sen who died in 1943, the anniversary of Chiang Kai-Shek in October 1945, and for celebrating the Alllied victory.

Severe inflation required a steady stream of overprints; this $2000 value is from 1946

Needless to say, as with many European countries affected by the War, China experienced increased inflation in 1945 and 1946.  The need for postage of higher values necessitated the release of older stamps with surcharges up to $2,000.  A new design of Sun Yat Sen was inscribed with the value of $5,000 but in the following year another issue came out with $50,000 that was superceded with the 1948’s $5,000,000 stamp!

Adoption of a gold yuan standard delayed inflation only for a short time. This $1000 stamp was issued in early 1949.

In 1948, the ‘gold yuan’ standard was adopted and existing stamps were surcharged with values from 1/2c and up.   This currency reformation proved infufficient due to inflation as by early 1949, the overprinted values reached the $5,000,000 mark!  In desparation, the government printed undenominated stamps and sold them at the daily yean rate.  
Later, the silver yuan standard was adopted and more stamps were overprinted.  By August 1949, the Nationalists’ last issues were denominated in silver Yuan.

The postal system of the People’s Republic of China was established in Beijing in that year and was expanded to the liberated areas.  This enabled the authority to cease the sale of regional stamps by end of June 1950, with the exception of the Northeast Liberation Area and the Port Arthur & Dairen Post & Telegraph (by end of 1950).
The unified administration issued its first postage stamps in October 1949 that consisted of four with designs of ‘lantern and the Gate of Heavenly Peace’.

This silver yuan overprint on a revenue stamp was used for only a few months in mid-1949.

The first definitive series were released in February 1950 and featured the Gate of Heavenly Peace against a background of clouds. These stamps came in nine values ranging from $200 to $10,000.  
The design was modified several times over the next few years and today, philatelists have identified six issues.   By the end of 1950, all provinces were entered into the unified postal service.

Like much of the global economy these days, the center of the world’s multibillion-dollar stamp-collecting market is shifting east. Auction houses are sprouting up in Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing, and rich collectors are catching the bug, especially in China. All of that is helping breathe new life into a hobby—and for some, an investment strategy—that was starting to seem decidedly passé in the West. Without rich Chinese collectors, some experts say, stamp collecting would have continued its long, slow decline from mainstream hobby to near-extinction.

At least a third of the world’s 60 million stamp collectors are now in China, and the number is growing rapidly, Stanley Gibbons says. China, including Hong Kong, has also become a big stamp-trading hub, with at least six auction houses in Hong Kong and another four major houses on the mainland plus several smaller ones, most opening in the past four years. Stamp shows have proliferated, drawing hundreds of thousands of buyers and gawkers at a time when similar events in the U.S. are lucky to break into the five figures.

Online exchanges have also sprouted, with tickers scrolling across the screen like stock markets. Stanley Gibbons says Asian clients now make up 5 percent of the firm’s investments in terms of volume—but almost 18 percent in value, as they spend more.

How much more? Three years ago, two sheets of the first ever-issued stamps for Formosa, the name of the island that later became Taiwan, sold to a Hong Kong collector for HK$10.4 million, or over $1.3 million.

In 1895 China ceded Taiwan to Japan. The Taiwanese reacted by establishing the short-lived Republic of Formosa, which issued its own stamps.

In 2011, a block of four stamps from 1968 called “Chairman Mao’s Inscription to Japanese Worker Friends” sold for more than $1 million at a Hong Kong auction.

The stamps, which feature Chairman Mao’s handwriting declaring that the revolution would succeed in Japan, were printed but never issued—except through a post office in Hebei, China, which started selling them before they were canceled. 

This great rarity is understood to be the largest existing multiple and probably the only surviving block of four of the stamp.

Last year, a pair of 1941 stamps that featured Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary leader who began the Republic of China in the early 20th century, sold for $709,000 at an auction in Hong Kong. Like many other expensive stamps, their value was due to human error: The text and the $2 sign were printed upside down.

Chinese buyers tend to like alternative investments, from art to jade to homegrown liquors—and now stamps. According to a report by the private-wealth division at Barclays, China’s high-net-worth individuals put 17 percent of their wealth in these type of investments, compared to 9 percent of America’s rich and only 7 percent of the British wealthy. Stamps are also a relatively cheap collectible for countries that have new and growing middle classes and the hope is their young population will wish to take up Philately as a hobby, keeping the demand for their country stamps growing.

Fingers crossed!

How to Soak, Sort, and Store Stamps?

Every stamp collector has a few basic skills to master before they begin.

The Art of collecting used stamps


Now that you have gathered some stamps from envelopes that came through the mail how are you going to get the stamps off the envelopes? First you should decide if you really want to remove the stamp. Perhaps there is a special cancel or image on the envelope that appeals to you — in this case put the entire envelope in your album. But if you want to remove the stamps from envelopes, the best way is to soak them. Soaking most stamps is fast and easy. NOTE that many U.S. self-adhesives issued in 2004 or later will not soak easily, if at all. Read this helpful article for removing self-adhesive stamps.

  1. You first should go through and pull out any brightly covered envelopes (such as red or green) and lay these aside to soak separately as the color may bleed.
  2. Cut off the upper right-hand corner of the envelopes; be careful not to cut the stamps.
  3. Place them, stamp side up, in a few inches of lukewarm water in a shallow bowl (make sure the water is not HOT as it may damage the stamps). Don’t soak too many at one time, they should have room to float. And, if you are soaking a lot of stamps be sure to change your water after two or three batches.
  4. After a few minutes, you will notice the stamps begin to float free form the paper. Remove each stamp from the water. If you use tongs, be careful as a wet stamp is more easily damaged than a dry one. Be patient and do not try to pull the stamp free from the paper before it is ready as you may end up tearing it.
  5. Rinse the back of the stamp gently in fresh water to make sure all the gum is off. You may wish to place the stamps between two paper towels and put a book on top of them to prevent curling. Leave the stamps to dry overnight.

Sorting Stamps

Your stamps are soaked and dried, what is your next move? Before you mount them in your album you need to put them in some kind of order.

  1. Depending on the type of collection you are putting together you may want to first sort your stamps by country or by topic. Or, you may decide to sort them by the service which the stamp was meant to provide such as airmail stamps, special delivery stamps, postage due, parcel post or revenue stamps.
  2. During your sorting process remove any badly damaged stamps, unless of course it is valuable and may be hard to replace.
  3. If you have more than one copy of a particular stamp, select the best one (well centered and lightly canceled). The duplicates can be saved for trading.
  4. Sorting is a never-ending job as you will always be adding to your collection. And remember, there is no right or wrong way to collect.
  5. Store your stamps in glassine envelopes until you are ready to put them in a an album or stockbook

Mounting Stamps

Collectors often store stamps in albums. To attach the stamps to album pages, you may use peelable hinges or stamp mounts. Unlike tape or glue (which you should never use) hinges and mounts provide a way to remove the stamp from your album page without damaging it. So, should you hinge or mount? That’s another choice that is up to you.

Hinges are small, thin, folded pieces of translucent paper or plastic with special gum on the once side. To use a hinge, moisten the short end of the hinge lightly and press it to the back of the stamp, placing the fold about 1/8 inch from the top of the stamp. Then lightly moisten the larger portion of the hinge and attach it to your album page pressing down to secure it. Many collectors prefer to use mounts for mint stamps, as part of the gum will come off of the stamp if the hinge is removed.

Mounts are small, clear plastic sleeves. To use a mount, you simply insert the entire stamp into the mount, lightly moisten the back of the mount, and attach them to your album pages. Mounts are a little more expensive than hinges, but they protect stamps from air, dirt, and moisture.

Hinges and mounts can be purchased from local stamp dealers. To find a Stamp Dealer in your area, look in your yellow pages or visit the On-line Directory where you can search in your state or city.


This article is from The Vault – dated August 23, 1971. BY Robert Boyle.

It’s the exact replica of Robert’s article. It’s so beautifully written – I wish to always go back to reading it so I copied it on my blog ( lest they remove the link). I have added my touch with the pictures 🙂


Not long ago Herman Herst Jr., who may be the world’s leading enthusiast of the hobby of stamp collecting, discovered that Dr. Irving Keiser, an entomologist who specializes in stamps with insects on them, had the 1939 U.S. baseball issue in his collection.

“What does this stamp have to do with insects?” asked Herst.

“Look at it,” said Dr. Keiser.

Herst peered at the stamp through a magnifying glass and said, “All I see is a guy ready to catch a fly.”
The original layout of the article

“You’ve got it!” exclaimed the doctor.

At this point a less understanding and dedicated man might have turned to collecting entomologists, but Herst, the author of Stories to Collect Stamps By and other works, was enthralled. Plunging ahead in search of further funnies, he found in the doctor’s collection a copy of the 1945 Turkish stamp showing the battleship Missouri. When Herst asked (hopefully) what relation that stamp had to insects, the doctor replied, “She’s in the mothball fleet.”

It takes no more than this to put Herst in heaven. Seven days a week, every day of the year, Herst looks at stamps, writes about stamps, talks about stamps and even dreams about stamps. “In color,” he says. To Herst, no hobby, sport or pastime can compare with philately. There is, he says, the thrill of the chase after an elusive stamp, to say nothing of the absolute joy of unexpected discovery. Just looking at stamps can give Herst a sense of pure esthetic bliss. Furthermore, there are the friendships to be found in philately, “friendships that transcend race, religion and nationality,” says Herst, a gregarious sort who has been to Europe 40 times in search of stamps.

Then there is the knowledge to be acquired from stamps. Heist’s mind is stuffed full of information, 99% of it gleaned from studying stamps. He can talk at length about the membership of the Confederate cabinet (the Confederate post office made such a profit that after the Civil War the North tried to get the postmaster general to take the job in Washington), dwell on the history of whaling or the settlement of South Africa. Mention sports, and Herst is off on a gallop about Ira Seebacher’s collection of sports on stamps, pausing to throw out the fact that the former British Colony of St. Kitts-Nevis in the West Indies once issued a set of stamps to raise money for a cricket field or that the Bahama Islands not only issued stamps with game fish on them but used a postmark of a hooked sailfish. He will tell how Fred Mandell sold the Detroit Lions so he could go into the stamp business in Honolulu or recount how a bunch of kids once made hockey pucks out of bundled sheets of the very rare Providence postmaster’s provisional of 1846.

Continuing in the sporting vein, Herst is fond of relating a racetrack incident that took place in Havana in 1940 when the American Air Mail Society held its convention there. The collectors just wanted to stand around the hotel lobby talking about stamps, and they were dismayed to learn that their Cuban hosts had scheduled an afternoon at the track. When a couple of collectors suggested no one would be interested in going to the races, the Cubans said, “They’ll be interested in this.” Out of politeness the collectors went to the track and picked up a list of the entries. To their astonishment, there was a horse named Stanley Gibbons running in the first race and Stanley Gibbons was the name of a well-known British stamp dealer. The horse was an improbable long shot, but the collectors bet him on the hunch. Stanley Gibbons won. The collectors looked at the second race entries. There was another long shot named Perforation. They bet; Perforation won. So it went through the rest of the card. In every race there was a long shot with a philatelic name that paid off handsomely.

“No one in the stands except the philatelists realized what was happening,” Herst says. “The American Air Mail Society convention was one of the few stamp meetings from which attendants were privileged to go home with more money than they had come with.” The Cuban government, which apparently had arranged the whole deal to make the Americans happy, was so pleased that it surcharged a stamp commemorating the convention.

Now 62 years old, Herst has been a stamp dealer and auctioneer since 1936. His slogan is, “If it’s U.S.A., see Herst first.” His home and office are in Shrub Oak, N.Y., and outside the driveway is an enormous painting of a postage stamp. The stamp is Barbados, Scott’s Catalog No. 109, the so-called “olive blossom” because it was issued in three colors. The stamp intrigued Herst as a boy, and he has adopted it as his trademark, painting out Barbados and substituting Herst.

Herst ordinarily arises at 8 and puts in a full day exuberantly examining stamps, cataloging lots for sale at auction (he has sold more than $10 million in stamps at auction since 1936) and trotting to a bank vault in Peekskill to examine his philatelic treasures. The workday ends at midnight, but around 4 in the afternoon Herst takes a break. He pours himself a small nip and relaxes by talking about stamps or writing letters about stamps to friends and acquaintances at home or abroad. Every day Herst dispatches 50 to 100 letters to philatelic pen pals, and it does not bother him that many of his correspondents haven’t bought a stamp from him in years. “I just love it,” Herst says. Indeed, one need not write a letter to Herst to get a letter. A recent visitor was astounded to get four letters in one week. “Thought you’d be interested,” Herst explained.

Herst has such a compulsion to write that when he goes off on a trip with his wife Ida, he pecks away at a typewriter on his lap in the front seat of the car while she drives. Besides Stories to Collect Stamps By, he has written a couple of other books, Nassau Street and Fun and Profit in Stamp Collecting, and co-authored the scholarly Nineteenth Century U.S. Fancy Cancellations and The A.M.G. Stamps of Germany. Several times a year he writes and publishes his own periodical, Herst’s Outbursts, copies of which are sent gratis to anyone sending in six stamped self-addressed envelopes. So far, more than 6,000 people have written in to subscribe, and recent issues include a photograph of Herst kissing the Blarney Stone on a trip to Ireland and a long piece on the infamous Jean Sperati of Paris, “one of the most dangerous stamp counterfeiters ever to wield stamp tongs.” Sperati, Herst told his readers, was a genius who even made his own paper, duplicating that of original stamps. Fortunately, Sperati’s American counterfeits were few, limited mostly to Confederate stamps, and, although the counterfeits were superbly done, Sperati tripped himself up by using the faked postmark of Middlebury, Vt.

Above and beyond writing his own magazine and books, Herst serves as an untiring correspondent for any number of philatelic publications. Last February he and Ida took a two-week vacation in the Bahamas and, as Herst reported to readers of the 1971 spring issue of Herst’s Outbursts, “Aside from the fishing, swimming and just relaxing, we spent the time producing this issue of Outbursts; 14 of our weekly columns for Mekeel’s Weekly Stamp News; 16 of our monthly columns on ‘Stamps’ for Hobbies; feature articles for Western Stamp Collector; a series of articles for First Days; two articles for Philatelic Magazine of London and one for Stamp News of Australia, for each of which we are American correspondent.”

Philatelically, Herst has received honor after honor. He is one of only five persons to receive the gold medal of the New Haven Philatelic Society, and in 1961 he won the John A. Luff Award of the American Philatelic Society, the most coveted in the country, for his exceptional contributions to stamp collecting. Herst himself is not only a member of the APS but one of its five accredited experts qualified to pass on U.S. stamps submitted for authenticity. He was the stamp consultant for the radio program The Answer Man. He is a member of the American Stamp Dealers Association, the Oklahoma Philatelic Society, the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada, the British Philatelic Association, the Texas Philatelic Association and five dozen other stamp organizations. He is a founder-member of the Cardinal Spell-man Philatelic Museum, and he was once pleased to hear the late prelate remark that it was easy to be a cardinal but difficult to be a philatelist.

Stamps aside, Herst is a rabid joiner and do-gooder. “I’m everything!” he exults. “I’m a Kiwanian, a 32nd degree Mason, a Shriner! I’m in the Baker Street Irregulars where I’ve been invested as Colonel Emsworth, V.C.” Herst is also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Manuscript Society, the American Feline Society (he feeds stray cats), the Bancroft Library of the University of California and various other organizations, including the Boy Scouts, for whom he is a merit badge examiner in stamp collecting. “I just can’t say no,” Herst says of his multitudinous memberships.

When it comes to memberships or honors, he is rivaled only by his dog Alfie, a gigantic German shepherd. Alfie is mascot of the destroyer Alfred, an honorary citizen of West Germany, an honorary postman of the Italian post office and recipient of a commendation promulgated by the German Shepherd Squad of Scotland Yard. Alfie’s honors have come about through the efforts of his energetic master. Back in the 1950s Herst discovered that federal law permits private carriers to issue “local” stamps in delivering mail to and from post offices that do not offer home delivery or pickup. Herst issued his own Shrub Oak local stamp, and in 1967 he put Alfie on a second issue. The stamp shows Alfie carrying a letter in his mouth.

Herst’s discovery of the local loophole in federal law has prompted several persons elsewhere to print their own stamps. A narrow-gauge railroad buff on Long Island issued a triangular stamp for local mail on his midget line, but the Federal Government confiscated his stamps and suppressed the mini-service because he had put the prohibited words “United States” on the stamp. Similarly, federal authorities seized the local stamps used for delivery to Rattlesnake Island in Lake Erie because they were “in similitude” to government issue. In Walpole, Mass. the members of the “906 Stamp Club,” all inmates of the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, operate a local post carrying letters from cells to the prison post office. Requests to have the route extended have been denied, says Herst, who is a patron of the prisoners and goes there once a year to speak and judge the inmate stamp show.

In the course of a year Herst gives 30 to 40 speeches before all sorts of groups. “I am the most in-demand speaker in philately,” Herst says. “That’s because I don’t charge.”

Before a staid audience of stamp collectors, Herst is fond of posing as a collector of tea tags. With a straight face, he solemnly talks about the pleasures of collecting tea tags, especially from unusual varieties of tea bags. Using philatelic jargon, Herst will hold up a tea bag and say, “This is the double string variety. Note the misprint, ‘TOOO-LONG.’ ” If the audience is receptive he will go on about tea bags all night. Several years ago Herst was paying a hotel bill in Portland, Ore. when a woman in front of him dropped her purse and the contents spilled all over the floor. “I’m terribly embarrassed,” she said to Herst. “You must think I’m crazy, but I collect tea bags.” Herst shouted, “So do I!”

A self-confessed screwball, Herst comes by his quirks naturally. His father was a somber lawyer who died when Herst was 4, but his mother was an individualist. A concert violinist, she played in an all-girl band that John Philip Sousa once organized and served as Lillian Russell’s accompanist. During World War II she was founder, president and sole member of IRCED, otherwise known as the Issue Ration Cards for Dogs society, and as such was the author of innumerable letters to the editor of The New York Times. Whenever Mrs. Herst was accosted by a panhandler, she would not give him a dime but would invite him home for chicken noodle soup.

Herst, who has been known from childhood as Pat because he was born on March 17, began collecting stamps when he was 8 and early on developed affinities for certain stamps and countries. He started collecting the Barbados “olive blossom”; the very name Straits Settlements smacked of romance to him; and he developed a deep love for Nepal. “Nepal is one of my countries,” he will confide to a fellow collector.

When not engrossed in stamps, Herst was an unruly youngster. Once a cop collared him for stealing apples from a grocery store and Mrs. Herst exclaimed, “Really! And I can’t even get him to eat fruit.” At the age of 12 Herst was shipped off to Portland, Ore. to live with an aunt. He attended high school in Portland and then went to Reed College, where he was graduated in 1931. He got a job as a reporter on the Morning Oregonian but, as he wrote in Nassau Street, his autobiography, “the increasing shadows of Depression fell across the lumber capital of the nation, and unfortunately I found my services dispensed with. I was given a letter to The New York Times calling attention to my abilities.” Bumming east on freights, Herst duly presented himself to the editors of the Times. He worked there briefly selling classified advertising and then moved to the Newark Star Ledger. But two days in Newark introduced Herst to two facts of life he had not previously encountered: first, commuting from New York to Newark was “a somewhat reverse form of existence,” and second, “people in Newark in 1932 did not believe in classified advertising.

Taking another job, Herst labored for two weeks like a busy elf, cutting imitation leather into fancy letters for theater marquees. Unfortunately, his rate of production slowed noticeably after using a razor-sharp knife to cut the letters “G” and “S,” and he left joyfully with bandaged fingers for a position in a Wall Street firm, Lebenthal and Company, dealers in municipal bonds.

Paid only $12 a week, Herst was not long in supplementing his income (and that of his fellow workers at Lebenthal’s) by forming a syndicate to buy up stamps and sell them at a profit to dealers on nearby Nassau Street. Talk around the office dealt less with bonds and more with stamps, and the head of the firm decreed that there was to be no more mention of stamps. Herst, falling back on what sociologists call collective representation, said, “Let’s call them worms,” and the Worm Syndicate at Lebenthal’s continued to do business. Given an hour for lunch, Herst spent four minutes wolfing down orange juice, coffee and a doughnut and the remaining 56 minutes discussing the finer points of philately with dealers and collectors. At Lebenthal’s Herst worked furiously because he believed in giving value for money received (“When Pat works,” says Ida, “things fly in all directions”), and he was promoted to cashier. Despite an assured future on the Street, Herst quit in 1935 to become a stamp dealer.

From the start, he loved being in stamps full time, and the saddest part of each day came when he had to lock the door to his office at 116 Nassau Street, an ancient, narrow thoroughfare as rich in characters as a Moroccan souk. To begin with, there were the “satcheleers,” little men, mostly East European Jews, who, with no overhead and no capital except their wits, made the rounds of dealers and collectors, toting stamps in voluminous satchels on speculation and consignment. Adhering to their cultural milieu, they spoke a rich patois that has surcharged stamp collecting with soul-felt Yiddish expressions. For Herst, deskbound, serving collectors during the day, the satcheleers were as necessary as bees to a flower, since they pollinated philatelically all over town.

Satcheleers still exist in stamps, and although Herst now lives 45 miles out of New York City he lets them know in advance when he is about to visit the metropolis so they may open their satchels and spread their wares before his eyes. For several years, Herst has been making notes on the satcheleer subculture, and he is particularly taken by the exploits of one known as Morris (“I wouldn’t kill a fly”) Coca-Cola, a diminutive Russian who wore oversized secondhand coats that cascaded off his birdlike shoulders and gathered in rich drapery around his ankles.

In Herst’s first heady days on Nassau Street satcheleers were not the only characters. At 90 Nassau Street lurked the Burger brothers, Gus and Arthur, elderly Germans who moved into the building in 1886 and hadn’t dusted a thing since. Their premises were awash with all sorts of papers and stamps, many of them rarities, including discoveries made by the brothers themselves when they bicycled through the South in the 1890s looking up Confederate veterans with “old letters.” The building that housed the Burgers was equally ancient. Five stories high, it had no elevator, and the rest rooms were marked “For Males” and “For Females.”

Despite the Victorian clutter around them, the Burgers knew the exact location of every stamp, and when they had finally fetched forth, amid clouds of dust and cobwebs, a superb sheet-corner margin copy of, say, the U.S. 3$ 1851 (Scott No. 11), their price was outrageous. Arthur would say to Gus, “What should we ask for this?” Gus would answer, “Twenty dollars.” Arthur would then tell the collector, in earshot all the while, “Just what I was thinking. Forty dollars.”

In Heist’s time, outfoxing the brothers, dubbed the Burglars, became a sport for experts. Anyone who outwitted them was elected to the Fox Club, which made its headquarters in the office of Percy Doane, an auctioneer. “The rules were simple,” Herst says. “One had to visit the offices of the Burger brothers, buy a stamp from them at retail and then put it in one of Doane’s auctions. If the buyer netted a profit on the deal after paying Doane the commission, he was in. But simple as the rules were, the attainment of membership was fraught with certain difficulties. In the first place, the stamp would have to be bought sufficiently below its value to permit a profit when sold at auction. Since the Burgers were usually anticipatory in their prices, asking a figure at which an item might be expected to sell 10 years hence, this made a profitable sale more than unlikely. The only way would be by finding the Burgers uninformed on the true value of something—and these Joves hardly ever nodded.”

One character Herst knew well, Y. Souren, was out of a Peter Lorre-Sydney Greenstreet movie. Souren, whose real name was Souren Yohannasiants, was a Georgian who had fled Russia during the revolution with a $100,000 collection of clocks hidden under the hay in a donkey cart. In the late 1930s Souren occupied a fancy office on Park Avenue, and visitors were admitted only after scrutiny, as though suspected members of a spy ring. He kept a private dossier on stamp dealers, collectors and those stamps that had passed through his hands. He had X-ray machines, ultraviolet apparatus and cameras at hand, and he was fond of bringing forth, with appreciative Near Eastern chuckles, photographs of what Herst describes as “unquestionably the same item, perhaps with a straight edge [of a stamp] reperforated [to make it more valuable], a fancy cancel added or other stamps added to the cover.” Souren also had photographs of ads by stamp dealers offering items that were misleading. “Comes in handy whenever I want something from someone who doesn’t want to cooperate,” Souren told Herst.

Years ahead of the FBI, Souren had a camera hidden in the ceiling of his front door, “He was always afraid of being robbed,” Herst recalls in Nassau Street, “and with good reason, for in his heyday it is doubtful whether any premises short of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving and the stamp vaults in Washington held a more valuable accumulation of stamps. He showed me photographs of every person who had passed through that door in recent days. I saw my photograph several times.”

With Herst, Souren unveiled his treasures, including his gem of gems, a block of the U.S. 24¢ 1869 inverted center, which went with him everywhere. Souren had the block mounted between glass panels in a small holder that he secreted in a special coat pocket. “Several times over a sandwich or a meal he would take it out and admire it,” Herst says.

Always a keen student of stamps as well as a collector, Herst was not long in putting his knowledge to profit. While examining some minor purchases one day, he happened to notice that a copy of the U.S. 30¢ 1869 looked a bit odd. The flags were on top of the stamp instead of the bottom. It was a rare error, Scott No. 121b, which then cataloged at $4,500. Herst had paid $3 for it, and he sold it for $3,300. He bought a car and steamship tickets for himself and his mother for a trip to Europe, where he made several coups. In London, Herst learned the Coronation issue of Southern Rhodesia had suddenly become scarce because it was withdrawn from sale. The set had a face value of about 30¢, but a British dealer offered Herst $4.03 for a set. Herst called New York, where the set was selling for only 40¢, and asked a dealer to ship as many sets as possible. Herst wound up selling some for $5 each. In Paris, Herst made a find at one of the bookstalls along the Seine, an old album containing at least 500 copies of the U.S. 50¢ Omaha, Scott No. 291. He bought the collection for $20 and within six weeks had disposed of all the stamps for almost $1,000.

Back home on Nassau Street, Herst also prospered. On Pearl Harbor Day he reacted with philatelic foresight. The minute he heard news of the attack, he addressed five envelopes to fictitious addresses in Tokyo. When Germany declared war on the U.S., Herst sent five envelopes to fictitious addresses in Berlin. Eighteen months later all the envelopes came back to Herst with a series of unusual postmarks and censor stamps, and they have been in his World War II collection ever since.

Over age for service, Herst talked about stamps to wounded veterans at hospitals. He believes stamps are excellent therapy. He also asked any servicemen he knew to remember him wherever they went. Most did, and Herst now has the first letter mailed by the Marines from Guadalcanal, a collection of stamps used for espionage purposes, copies of Hitler’s personal mail and the only propaganda leaflets dropped on the Japanese on Kiska and Attu.

“I don’t collect the conventional things,” says Heist. “Philately has no limits. There’s nothing in life that philately doesn’t cross.” To prove his point, Herst once made a bet with a collector that he, Herst, could start a specialist collection that would win a prize at a major stamp show, and that he would assemble the collection at a total cost of less than $5. Herst won the bet with a collection of wanted notices sent out on postcards by sheriffs in the 1870s and 1880s. “In those days, mail service was faster than criminals,” says Herst, who has scant regard for the present U.S. postal system.

In 1946 Herst moved from Nassau Street to Shrub Oak. “I had to get away,” he says. “I couldn’t get any work done. My office had become a lounge. There were all sorts of people there. One guy and his wife wanted to spend their honeymoon there.”

In Shrub Oak the bane of Herst’s existence is getting common stamps from people who send in a “rarity.” Herst will run to his stock, pick out a copy and send both back with the reply, “Now you have two of them!” He is often called in by estates to appraise collections, and from time to time genuine rarities do come his way. A 10-year-old boy in New Brunswick, N.J. discovered a copy of the 5¢ Kenya stamp showing Owen Falls Dam with Queen Elizabeth upside down. Herst acted as agent for the youngster and sold the stamp, the only copy known, to the Maharajah of Bahawalpur for $10,000. The money was set aside for the boy’s education.

When Herst pays a bill he often mails out a mimeographed sheet headed, “My hobby is philately” in which he notes that stamp collecting can not only be fun but a profitable hobby if one collects intelligently. In Herst’s opinion, too many neophytes and collectors buy foolishly. “Age does not make value” is one of Herst’s favorite sayings. Other Herst commandments are, “Cheap stamps never become rare,” “Condition is a factor only in relation to value,” “Demand is a more important factor than supply,” “Beware of pitfalls that trap the unwary” and “There is no substitute for knowledge.”

Herst is the first to admit he doesn’t know absolutely everything about everything philatelic. Several years ago in one of his auctions he offered a cover (the collecting term used for an envelope) postmarked Harrisburgh, Alaska. A collector in Chicago called up and told Herst that he wanted to bid $400 for it. Flabbergasted, Herst asked why, and the collector said, “Harrisburgh is the original name for Juneau. When Alaskans chose the name Harrisburgh, post office officials in Washington said they already had enough Harrisburghs and to change the name. This is the only cover I know postmarked Harrisburgh.” Herst says, “The collector got the cover for $40 and he was overjoyed. You treat collectors fairly, and you’ll never lose.”

A couple of months ago Herst was in Albany, N.Y. to judge the show put on by the Fort Orange Stamp Club. As he walked by the exhibit panels his enthusiasm appeared to flag. Was Herman Herst Jr. beginning to falter? Then he came upon a display of the intricate and seemingly boring regular U.S. issues of 1908 and 1921. “Ah,” said an acquaintance, “don’t bother with those.” Herst stopped short. “Don’t say that,” he said. “They’re exciting.” Peering closely at them, he scribbled a high mark on his scorecard and said, “I can talk to these stamps—and they answer.”

Herman “Pat” Herst, Jr

And he continues to inspire……!

Where to Get Stamps?

As a beginning stamp collector, the first thing you must do is gather some STAMPS! There are lots of places where you can get stamps.

Here are some good sources:

Your Mailbox

Save stamps from envelopes, packages, and postcards that come to your house. One needs to register oneself with the local post office and infact some countries also allow for international registrations. So go ahead and join them.

Local Post Office

You can purchase new (mint) stamps from your local post office.Friends, Relatives and Local Businesses

Ask friends, relatives, and local businesses to save their stamps for you.

Pen Pals

Find a pen pal, perhaps a friend or relative, so you can send each other letters with cool stamps.

Stamp Dealers

Stamp dealers are a great source of older stamps and often offer inexpensive packages containing many different stamps from all over the world. To find a stamp dealer in your area visit the online.

Local Stamp Clubs.

Join a local stamp club where you can trade with members or ask for help getting started.

Stamp Shows

Find stamps and meet other collectors at stamp shows thta happen periodically across many cities an countries.

The Kheyati online stampstore (to be launched shortly) and Kheyati Sales by Mail are excellent sources for our blog lovers to buy stamps.

What stamps to Collect?

Worldwide Collecting

Many people begin by collecting everything worldwide. The countries of the world issue a total of about 10,000 postage stamps each year! Unless you have a lot of money, space, and time, at some point trying to collect every stamp ever issued is probably unrealistic.

Country Collecting

Traditionally, collectors specialize by choosing a single country to collect, most often their home country, the country where they spent a memorable vacation, or a country whose stamps just look interesting. For a few countries obtaining every stamp issued is possible without having to spend a fortune. However for most countries, there will probably be at least a few stamps that most of us cannot afford. Thus some collectors will narrow their specialty even further, perhaps limiting themselves to stamps issued since they were born.

Topical Collecting

Another increasingly popular method of collecting is by topic. Topicals give you an opportunity to explore all types of stamps from all over the world. Most are relatively inexpensive and allow you to customize and organize your collection however you want. Think of any topic and someone probably collects it. Animals, birds, flowers, ships, space, scouts, Disney, and sports are some of the most popular topics. However, exhibits have been put together on far less common topics such as rainbows and even outhouses on stamps. Topicals are also great because you can choose what types of material to include. Most topical collectors look for special postmarks that relate to their topic. First day covers and postal stationery also offer great opportunities for topical collections.

Mint or Used

Most people come to prefer either mint stamps or used stamps. Mint stamps have never been used and look the way they did when they were sold at the post office. Used stamps have served their intended purpose of carrying the mail. There are several advantages to collecting used rather than mint stamps. Most stamps cost less used than mint, although there are exceptions. You do not have to worry about preserving the gum on use stamps and can use inexpensive stamp hinges to mount your stamps on album pages. Sometimes the cancellations on used stamps are of interest. The choice to collect mint, used, or even a mixture of the two is your decision alone.

Collecting by Type

Some individuals collect stamps based on the type of stamp, such as airmail stamps or coil stamps. This category may appeal to you if you are interested in stamps used to pay special services such as special delivery or postage due. However the majority of philatelists collect stamps of all types.

Souviner or Miniature Sheet

souvenir sheet or miniature sheet is a small group of postage stamps still attached to the sheet on which they were printed. They may be either regular issues that just happen to be printed in small groups (typical of many early stamps), or special issues often commemorating some event, such as a national anniversary, philatelic exhibition, or government program. The number of stamps ranges from one to about 25; larger sheets of stamps are simply called “sheets” with no qualifier.

Both the stamps and the entire sheet are valid for mailing, although they are almost always sold above face value and kept in mint collection by collectors; a handful of usages may be found as philatelic covers.

Other Traits

Some collectors prefer to collect stamps of a certain shape or color. Be creative! If you see colorful stamps coming in the mail that interest you, collect them! One individual may choose to collect only yellow stamps, another stamps issued on their birthday, and aa third may be building a collection with cancels numbered one to one million. The important thing about stamp collecting is not the value of your collection or how many other people collect the same thing, but rather personal enjoyment.

Is Philately worth it ?

Unlike stocks and shares, the majority of transactions in the philatelic or stamp market take place informally, by mail order, or in retail environments, and therefore the size of the market is hard to determine. The market is certainly much smaller than the financial markets but it is not trivial. It has been estimated at £5 Billion. The majority of these transactions, however, are likely to be low value items rather than investments. In a 2007 it was estimated that about $1 billion of rare stamps trade annually in the $10 billion-a-year stamp market. The number of collectors worldwide was estimated at 30 million in 2004.

© Kheyati Philately 1995

World’s Most valued Stamps 11-20 (Part II)

I hope you enjoyed reading the earlier post on the 10 highly valued stamps in the world, this post is in continuation to do justice to some of the most prized and sought after philatelic treasures that are truly rare keepsakes.

11. 3¢ George Washington B-grill Rose , 1867

Value: $1,035,000
Country: U.S.

A pink 3-cent stamp issued in 1868 and depicting George Washington, the first U.S. President.

Stamps of this design are common and usually worth only a few dollars; but what made this one worth a million dollars is a distinct, waffle-like grill pressed into the back of the stamp as part of a short-lived government experiment to prevent fraudulent re-use. The Post Office tried out various sizes of grills, and only four 3-cent stamps with this type, called a B-grill by collectors, are known to exist.

The four were rediscovered in 1969, on a single envelope from a letter mailed to Germany. The stamp is one of the keys to assembling a complete collection of American stamps.

This particular example last sold at auction in 1993 for $85,000; another of the four sold in 1998 for $155,000. In a New York auction in 2018, an anonymous bidder bought it for $1,035,000.

This exceedingly rare version of the 1867 3¢ George Washington stamp in rose is one of America’s most sought-after philatelic treasures.

GEORGE WASHINGTON1867 rare stamp

12. The Alexandria “Blue Boy”, 1847

Value: $1,000,000
Country: U.S. 

The Alexandria “Blue Boy” is a very rare stamp. It takes its name from the feature that makes it unique: its color. One of the few surviving stamps from a rare issue—the Postmaster’s Provisionals produced in Alexandria, D.C., beginning in 1846, only seven of which are known—the Blue Boy is the sole example printed on blue paper (the others are on buff-colored paper). Postally used, the Blue Boy remains affixed to its original envelope, which last sold in 1981 and still holds the record for the highest priced cover of United States philately.

The single surviving Blue Boy today remains attached to the yellowish envelope on which it was originally mailed, cancelled with a “PAID” handstamp. Its last recorded sale took place in 1981, when a German collector acquired it through the dealer David Feldman for one million dollars.

The Blue Boy paid postage for a letter written by James Wallace Hoof on November 24, 1847, and sent in secret to his second cousin Janette H. Brown, whom he was courting against the wishes of her family. The stamp only narrowly escaped destruction, for at the bottom of his letter James wrote “Burn as usual.” He and Janette had to wait almost six years before they could marry, at last tying the knot on February 17, 1853.

Given that the Blue Boy was a provisional and local—rather than regular and national—issue, there is room for disagreement over whether it fully merits placement in the elite category of one-of-a-kind stamps alongside the Treskilling Yellow of Sweden and the British Guiana one cent magenta.

The Blue boy

13. The Red Revenue – Small One Dollar, 1897

Value: $970,000
Country: China

The Red Revenues are Qing dynasty Chinese revenue stamps that were overprinted (surcharged) to be used as postage stamps in 1897. Their limited number, fine design and the intaglio process made the stamps in this series some of the most sought-after in the world.[

There are several varieties of Red Revenue stamps, with the “Small One Dollar” being the rarest and most valuable. It has been called “China’s rarest regularly issued stamp”. In a 2013 Hong Kong auction, a single stamp was sold for HK$6.9 million. Another was sold in a 2013 Beijing auction for 7.22 million yuan. A block of four, considered the “crown jewel” of Chinese philately, was reportedly sold in 2009, together with a different stamp, for 120 million yuan (US$18.8 million).

In January 1896, Censor Chen Pi of the Qing government petitioned the Guangxu Emperor to issue revenue stamps. The proof was submitted to Sir Robert Hart, the Inspector General of Customs, for approval. Of the revenue stamps ordered from England, only a portion of the 3¢ stamps was printed and shipped to China. They were stored in the Shanghai Customs Department. The 3¢ red revenue stamps were printed by Waterlow & Sons in London. Of the overprinted denominations, the $1 was made first. Because of complaints that the size of the overprinted Chinese characters was too small, only two panes (each with 25 stamps) were made before they were changed to larger characters. Owing to their rarity, the “Small One Dollar” stamps have become some of the most valuable stamps in the world. Only 32 are known to exist

The Red Revenue – Small One Dollar, 1897

14. 10¢-on-9-Candareen Dark Green Dragons and Shou stamp, 1897

Value: $ 933,300
Country: China

China’s rare unused 1897 10¢-on-9-candareen dark green stamp with the small figures surcharge inverted (AKA Dowager issue) was auctioned in Jan,2019 for HKDollars 7.32 million, or approximately USD 933,300 . This stamp was previously in the world famous collection formed by Sir Percival David which was sold in London in 1970.

When the new Post Office was established in 1897 the currency was changed from candareens to dollars and cents, so new stamps were required. Delays at the printers meant that the unused candareen stamps were surcharged with values in the new currency. The original sheets of the 9 candareen were formed of twenty five stamps but each sheet was made with one corner stamp printed upside down. Before these sheet were given their new surcharge, the left column of stamps, with the offending invert, were removed. All available stamps were utilised, including any returned from country post offices. Unfortunately a few of these sheets did not have the unwanted stamps removed and were applied with the 10c. surcharge which was being used on the sheets of 12 candareen stamps, this the corner stamp which was printed upside down became this rare variety. Only three stamps have been verified, this being the only unused example. The stamp is part of the Lam Man Yin collection of Small Dragons.

15. Olive-colored Queen Victoria’s Head, 1864

Value: $824,648 
Country: China

The Olive-colored Queen Victoria’s Head, printed in 1864, is the most expensive historical postage stamp of Hong Kong. The face value of the stamp was 96 Hong Kong cents (12 US cents) and it should have a brownish-grey tone. However, due to a printing error, 52 sheets of the stamp were printed in olive color. The watermark was wrongly styled, and the word “CC” was printed in the wrong place.

Among all 40 pieces of the Olive-colored Queen Victoria’s Head that can be found in the world nowadays, there is only one block of four such stamps existing. It has been collected by a number of famous collectors. In January 2012, it was auctioned off for 6.4 million HK dollars (US$824,648), setting a record in the history of Hong Kong stamp auctions.

16. Tiflis Stamp, 1857

Value: $700,000 
Country: Russia

“The Tiflis Unica” is one of the oldest stamps of its kind. 

Printed in the year 1857, the Tiflis Unica was issued in the Russian Empire (in modern Georgia) for the city post in Tiflis (now Tbilisi) and Kojori in 1857. 

Tiflis was, basically, a province in Russia. In 1845 a Post office was set up and the work of the Tiflis province became more active. With Post office came Postage Stamps. To pay for the letters and packages special 6-kopeck stamps were introduced, which were then called “paper stamp seals”. 

These stamps, today, are known as Tiflis Unica Stamps. And are one of the rare and, hence, one of the most valuable stamps of the world. 

There are currently only five known surviving stamps. Russian collectors are willing to pay a lot of money for these rare stamps. One of these unique stamps was sold at David Feldman auction for € 480,000 i.e. $700,000 in the year 2008. 

17. Penny Red Plate 77 , 1863

Value: $708,000
Country: U.S.

The Penny Red was a British postage stamp, issued in 1841. It succeeded the Penny Black and continued as the main type of postage stamp in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until 1879, with only minor changes to the design during that time.

Plate 77 Penny Reds, which date from 1863, are viewed by collectors and investors as the holy grail of philately because Plate 77 stamps were not meant to exist. The stamps were created but never sold by post offices after they were not considered to be of good enough quality. The original printing plate was destroyed, but a tiny handful made their way into circulation. As a result they are highly prized by collectors.

Plate 77 Penny Red is one of only five used examples known to the world of philately – another of which is held in the British Museum

A rare Plate 77 Penny Red stamp was sold by Stanley Gibbons for $708,000 (£550k) to a client in Australia. Plate 77 stamps were considered poor quality and all examples were supposed to have been destroyed. The five that survived are regarded as the holy grail of British philately.

21 billion Penny Reds were printed

18. The Inverted Sun Yat-sen, 1941

Value: $707,000 
Country: China

Dr Sun Yat Sen was not only a Chinese revolutionary but also, the first president of the Republic of China. Moreover, he was instrumental in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and is often referred to as the “Father of the Nation”.

The Dr Sun Yat Sen invert is an error issued originally in the year 1941 which bears his head. The stamp is one of the rarest stamps in all of the Chinese philately, with just one sheet of 50 stamps ever issued featuring the inverted centre error. The pair comes from the collection of the renowned philatelist Huang Ming Fang and is one of only two vertical pairs known to exist. 

The stamp also comes with the denomination of $2 which is also peculiar for this stamp to go rare. The pair was sold for $707,700 in the Hong Kong auction. 
Only two pairs of the error stamps are still found today, making them a rare collectible.

19. Hawaiian Missionaries, 1851

Value: $600,000
Country: Kingdom of Hawaii 

The Hawaiian Missionaries are the first postage stamps of the Kingdom of Hawaii, issued in 1851. They came to be known as the “Missionaries” because they were primarily found on the correspondence of missionaries working in the Hawaiian Islands. Owing to their crude engraving and the use of poor quality paper, only a handful of them survived, making them a rarity.

The 2-cent is the rarest of the Hawaiian Missionaries, with 15 copies recorded, only one of which is unused. When Maurice Burrus sold this unique unused example in 1921 the price was US$15,000; when Alfred H. Caspary sold the same stamp in 1963 the price was $41,000, the highest value ever paid for any stamp at that time.

The most valuable of all Missionary items is a cover sent to New York City bearing the only known use of the 2-cent value on cover, as well as a 5-cent value and two 3-cent US stamps. This is known as the Dawson Cover. It was in a bundle of correspondence shoved into a factory furnace around 1870, but packed so tightly that the fire went out (though one side of the cover bears a scorch mark). The factory was abandoned; 35 years later, a workman cleaning the factory for reuse discovered the stuffed furnace, and knew enough about stamps to save the unusual covers. In 2013 it sold for $2.24 million to an American collector making it one of the highest-priced of all philatelic items.

1851 2¢ Hawaiian Missionary
Dawson Cover

20. Buenos Aires 1859 1p ‘In Ps’ Tete-beche pair

Value: $575,000 
Country: Buenos Aires

The Buenos Aires 1859 1p “In Ps” tete-beche pair are the only existing pair of a postage stamp error on a tête-bêche pair of stamps issued by the government of the State of Buenos Aires and one of philately’s great rarities. 

In philately, tête-bêche (French for “head-to-tail”, lit. “head-to-head”) is a joined pair of stamps in which one is upside-down in relation to the other, produced intentionally or accidentally. Like any pair of stamps, a pair of tête-bêches can be a vertical or a horizontal pair. In the case of a pair of triangular stamps, they cannot help but be linked “head-to-tail”. The Caspary vertical tete-beche pair sold in 2008 at auction for $575,000 dollars.

Buenos Aires 1859 1p “In Ps” tete-beche pair

The 10 highly valued stamps in the world

In 1967, a stamp enthusiast went to his local post office in the north England town of Rochdale to buy a pair of Great Britain stamps. He paid one shilling and nine pence (less than 10 US cents) for a pair that celebrated the invention of the television and featured a silhouette of Queen Elizabeth II.

What he didn’t realise until later was that one of the stamps was missing the queen’s head. It was a lucky purchase. In 2014, he sold the stamp, known as SG 755b, at auction for £23,600 ($36,260).

Although the advent of email has hurt postal mail service in recent years, stamp collecting remains a passionate hobby as well as a valuable business and investment strategy in many countries. Billions of stamps have been issued since the British Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive stamp, debuted in 1840, and many are laced with romance and lore — transporting collectors to exotic destinations, critical moments in history and, for some, elusive future fortunes.

Mauritius postage – two pence

In 2014, the one-cent magenta — an unassuming magenta octagon with handwritten black script released in British Guiana in 1856 — set the record for the most money ever paid for a postage stamp. The sum was $9.5m, nearly a billion times its original penny value.

Though numerous collectors have deep pockets and decades of knowledge, anyone can become a rare stamp aficionado.

And even if you aren’t as lucky as the Rochdale collector, you can quickly become knowledgeable about a range of topics and geographic locations as you build a stamp collection. Knowing what and how to buy is key.

If you think stamp collecting is just for hobbyists and not something a shrewd investor would consider, you may want to think again. Mint condition specimens have appreciated by up to 45.5% over the past 10 years, according to a recent analysis by Forbes, easily beating typical returns on real estate, gold, fine wine and the broad stock market. And the rarest philatelic treasures can sell for millions. Feast your eyes on the 30 most valuable stamps of all time.

The beauty of rare stamps and coins is their complete lack of market correlation, which is driven by the passion of high-end collectors spending money on their hobby.

During the height of the financial crisis in 2008, the GB30 index [which tracks the prices of Britain’s 30 most expensive stamps available on the open market] went up by 38% in one year.

1. British Guiana 1-cent Magenta, 1856

Value: $9,500,000 
Country: U.K.

Printed in black on magenta paper, it features a sailing ship and the colony’s Latin motto “Damus Petimus Que Vicissim” (We Give and We Seek in Return). The one-cent issue was intended to be used on local newspapers. Only a single copy has been discovered to date, which is in used condition and cut into an octagonal shape.
It was sold in 2014 to shoe designer Stuart Weitzman for just under $9.5 million (£7.4m).

‘British Guiana One-Cent Magenta’ stamp dating from 1856, on June 2, 2014 in London, England.
The stamp was initially discovered in 1873 by a 12-year old Scottish boy living in British Guiana, South America who sold it to a local stamp collector for several shillings.

2. Penny Black, 1840

Value: $5,000,000 
Country: U.K.

A British cultural icon, the stamp depicted a portrait of Queen Victoria against a black background. It was the first adhesive postage stamp in the world. Only two pieces of the early issue are found today. The 1d Black is the world’s first adhesive postage stamp – as such the 1840 stamp and all of Britain’s subsequent stamps do not include the country’s name.

Rowland Hill is credited with inventing the postage stamp after issuing a pamphlet on postal reform, he described the idea as ‘…a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and covered at the back with a glutinous wash’.

‘Treasury Competition’ was run in the lead up to the stamp issue, asking members of the public to design the new labels. None of the designs were deemed good enough and a portrait of Queen Victoria was used.

The authorities also issued a postal stationery lettersheet at the same time as the Penny Black. Called ‘Mulreadys’ after the artist whose illustration was used on them, the sheets were expected to be more popular than stamps, but were widely ridiculed by the public and often mocked by other illustrators. The lettersheets were withdrawn within months.

A reported 68,808,000 copies of the stamp were printed, meaning the Penny Black is not a rare stamp. However, examples in mint condition and with neat margins can command very high prices. The only known complete sheets are owned by the British Postal Museum. Penny Blacks can be highly collectible, with one set of four unused 1840 stamps available on the market for a whopping £140,000, while used versions can still sell for around £870.

With no perforations, each Penny Black stamp was cut from the sheets of 240 using scissors, meaning the margins of each stamp can vary greatly, depending on the dexterity of the postal worker.

The Penny Black went on sale on to the public on 1 May 1840, although it was not valid for use until 6 May, 1840. Despite this, some examples of the Penny Black stamp were used before 6 May; such covers are extremely rare and most desirable.

The letters in the bottom corners of the Penny Black stamp refer to the position of the stamp within the sheet of 240. The very top left stamp in the sheet would have the letters ‘AA’, moving right, the next stamp would have ‘AB’, moving down, the stamp would have ‘BB’ and so on.

The second adhesive postage stamp was the 2d Blue, which followed on 8 May, 1840.

The black ‘Maltese Cross’ cancellation used on the Penny Black stamps proved difficult to see and prompted the introduction of the 1d Penny Red stamp, which replaced the Penny Black in 1841.

The Penny Black was the world’s first postage stamp and Great Britain is the only country to not include the country name in the design. The Penny Black was included in the redesign of the 2016 British Passport.

3. The Two Penny Blue, 1841

Value: $4,000,000
Country: U.K.

Issued after the Penny Black, it depicted Queen Victoria against a blue background. The Two Penny Blue or The Two Pence Blue was the world’s second official postage stamp, produced in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and issued after the Penny Black.

Initial printing took place from 1 May 1840, and in all 6,460,000 were printed from two plates until 29 August. Officially the stamps were valid for postage from 6 May but were only available from 8 May. Except for its denomination, the design is exactly the same as the penny black and was struck from the same die.

The largest known surviving block of the Plate 1 printing of the 1840 Twopenny Blue. In mint condition, the 38-stamp block was purchased by King George V in the 1920s.

4. Benjamin Franklin, 1867

Value: $3,000,000
Country: U.S. 

The Benjamin Franklin Z Grill, or simply “Z-Grill”, is a 1-cent postage stamp issued by the United States Postal Service in February 1868 depicting Benjamin Franklin. While stamps of this design were the common 1-cent stamps of the 1860s, the Z-Grill is distinguished by having the so-called “Z” variety of a grill pressed into the stamp, creating tiny indentations in the paper. Although the 1-cent Z-Grill is generally cited as the rarest and most valuable of all US postage stamps, the 15-cent Lincoln Z-Grill is just as rare and the 10-cent Washington Z-Grill scarcely less so. All three of these stamps were produced at the same time, along with more common Z-grill versions of the contemporary 2-cent, 3-cent, 5-cent and 12-cent stamps.

The purpose of grilling was to permit the canceling ink to be better absorbed into the stamp paper, thus preventing reuse of stamps by washing out the cancellation marks. The use of grills was found to be impractical and they were gradually discontinued after 1870.

There are currently only two known 1-cent 1868 Z-Grills, both with cancellation marks. One is owned by the New York Public Library as part of the Benjamin Miller Collection. This leaves only a single 1-cent 1868 Z-Grill in private hands.

Late October 2005, Sundman traded his Z-Grill to financier Bill Gross for a block of four Inverted Jenny stamps worth nearly $3 million. By completing this trade Gross became the owner of the only complete collection of U.S. 19th century stamps.

Benjamin Franklin 1¢ – Blue 1,000 – Z Grill – 1867 2 copies still survive

5. The Treskilling Yellow, 1855

Value: €2.6 Million
Country: Sweden

The Treskilling Yellow is considered one of the most expensive postage stamps in the world due to the fact it should be printed in a blue-green colour with the three-skilling print, but it was actually printed in yellow. This Swedish misprinted stamp issued in 1855 is believed to be the only surviving copy to exist, which is why it is worth over €2.1 million. The stamp has been sold more than once, each time climbing with value.

Upon its release, five different stamps were issued including 3 and 8-skilling ones. The three-skilling stamp was green. The eight-skilling one was of yellow-orange color. One day, for unknown reasons, the three-skilling stamp of yellow color was issued. Experts suggest that employees forgot to change the paint and issued a sheet of yellow stamps, which were successfully sold later. Despite the fact that a whole sheet of yellow rare stamps was printed, at present, only one yellow stamp has been found. Therefore, the value of the three-skilling stamp is determined by its color.

This stamp was discovered in 1885 by a young man who saw it among old letters and papers. A year later, he sold it for 7 kronor, which was a large sum of money at that time. The person who acquired the stamp was Heinrich Lichtenstein. He could not determine the authenticity of the item so he decided to ask for expert opinion. Experts confirmed that the stamp was genuine. After that, several people owned the Treskilling Yellow. Finally, in 1894, a well-known collector bought the stamp for $3,000. Since no other Treskilling Yellow stamps were found since 1885, it became clear that this stamp was unique.

The owner of the stamp, Philippe Ferrari died in 1917, and the French government confiscated his collection. Interestingly, his collection was sold in parts despite the will he left. After the death of the stamp owner, its lifecycle became volatile. Here’s what happened to the Treskilling Yellow after Philippe Ferrari died:

• 1992 – The stamp was sold to Baron Eric Leijonhufvud. He bought it for $4,300-$5,000.

• 1923 – Claes A. Tamm acquired the stamp at a price two times greater than the previous one.

• 1928 – Johan Ramberg tracked the lifecycle of the stamp and bought it at an auction. Its price rose to $15,000.

• 1937 – King Carol II acquired the stamp in his collection. The price of the yellow stamp was doubled. The Treskilling Yellow became one of the most expensive stamps ever printed.

• 1950 – Rene Berlingen acquired the three-skilling stamp. The price is still unknown.

• 1971 – The stamp was put up for auction on behalf of the owner for $500,000. Despite the unusual story of the stamp, no one dared to buy it.

• 1974 – A scandal was brewing around the item. The Swedish Postal Museum planned to purchase the unique item for $1,000,000, but during the evaluation experts claimed that the stamp might be fake. A year later, another examination dispelled all the rumors and confirmed the authenticity of the Treskilling Yellow.

• 1978 – Edgar Mohrmann bought the unique stamp. The price was 1 million deutsche mark.

• 1984 – The Treskilling Yellow was acquired by a secret buyer from Scandinavia for almost $500,000.

• 1990 – A successful businessman buys the unique item for $1,3 million. However, the contradictions between the buyer and the seller led to the cancellation of the deal.

• 1996 – The price of the item reached a record value at all the subsequent auctions. A Swedish stamp dealer purchased it for $2,3 million, but again the buyer could not pay for the stamp.

• 1998 – A secret buyer from Copenhagen acquired the yellow stamp. The price has not been disclosed yet.

• 2010 – A group of people bought the Treskilling Yellow for $2,3 million.

• 2012 – A scandal erupted. The Andre family tried to file a lawsuit against a bank, claiming that their Treskilling Yellow stamps (which they allegedly kept there) were missing. Their claim was rejected.

• 2013 – A well-known Swedish politician has bought the unique stamp and continues keeping it in his collection.

The Treskilling Yellow
Count Gustaf Douglas, a Swedish nobleman and politician, bought the unique 1855 error of colour by private treaty in May 2013, and included it in a display to the Royal Philatelic Society London on October 31, 2013.
Douglas, the owner of the firm Securitas, is the 423rd richest person in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

6. The Sicilian Error Of Color Stamp , 1859

Value: €2.6 Million
Country: Italy

The stamp depicting King Ferdinand II is known as the “Error of Color,” because it was mistakenly printed in blue instead of orange. The original exemplar of this stamp was yellow, but a small run of 1859 was released in a blue color for some reason. Today, philatelists know about two exemplars of this stamp existing in the world. It goes down in history as the most expensive Italian postage stamp when it was sold at Galerie Dreyfus’ international stamp auction in Basel to an anonymous US bidder for $2.6Mn in Nov 2011. 

Only two such stamps are known to exist. 

The Sicilian Error Of Color Stamp , 1859

7. The First Two Mauritius, 1847

Value:  € 2,000,000
Country: U.K.

The Mauritius “Post Office” stamps were issued by the British Colony Mauritius in September 1847, in two denominations: an orange-red one penny (1d) and a deep blue two pence (2d). Their name comes from the wording on the stamps reading “Post Office”, which was soon changed in the next issue to “Post Paid”. They are among the rarest postage stamps in the world.
With only 26 known copies known to still exist and being the first British Commonwealth Stamps to be produced outside of Great Britain, it is no wonder that the Mauritius stamps hold a value of over €1 million each.

The words “Post Office” appear in the left panel, but on the following issue in 1848, these words were replaced by “Post Paid”. A legend arose later that the words “Post Office” had been an error.

The sale of two of philately’s most prized items took place in Geneva on Dec. 1, 2016, when the famous Mauritius “Post Office” copper printing plate was hammered down by David Feldman for €1.1 million, and the famous Bombay cover franked with two rare 1-penny “Post Office” Mauritius stamps realized €2 million. The new owners, who remain anonymous, are reported to be private collectors.

Mauritius was the first British Empire territory (outside of Great Britain itself) to issue postage stamps. The tiny Indian Ocean colony was just the seventh country in the entire world to introduce stamps for the prepayment of postage, after Great Britain, Brazil, three Swiss cantons and the United States.

The issue was undertaken locally on the initiative of the governor, Sir William Gomm, who commissioned the engraving of the plate by Joseph Osmond Barnard, an Englishman who was said to have stowed away on a ship to the island in 1838. Just 500 examples were printed before the plate was retired.

Many of the stamps were used up by the governor’s wife for invitations to a ball. Just 27 are thought to have survived. The rare remaining “Post Office” covers are considered among the greatest treasures in all of philately.


The First Two Mauritius Post Office stamps,
Issued in 1847 in Mauritius during the British Colony, these stamps were modelled on the British stamps with an image of Queen Victoria.

Franked with two rare 1847 1-penny “Post Office” Mauritius stamps, the 1850 Bombay cover was auctioned Dec. 1 by David Feldman in Geneva, Switzerland, for more than $2.5 million.

The piece de resistance of the sale was the famous Bombay cover. Discovered in a street market in India in 1895, the cover bears two large-margined examples of the 1d “Post Office” stamp, tied by barred cancels on a cover addressed to Bombay.

The cover was bought by Raymond Weill in H.R. Harmer’s 1968 sale of the Dale-Lichtenstein collection for $380,000, then a world-record price for any philatelic item.

It had changed hands only privately since then, and had been exhibited at the Interphil exhibition in Philadelphia in 1976, where its contents, a letter about a shipment of scriptures to the island, were revealed for the first time. The cover has now gone to a new owner for $2,548,000. 

8. The Whole Country Is Red, 1968

Value: $2,000,000
Country: China

The Whole Country is Red is the most wanted stamp in the burgeoning Chinese philately market, which has helped to raise the price to a seven-figure sum in recent years. It is the most expensive stamp ever have sold in China, beating a record set in 2012 of 7.3 million Chinese Yuan by the sale of another Big Red stamp. 

The Whole Country is Red is a Chinese postage stamp, issued on 24 November 1968
during Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the stamp features an image of China in red , which contained a design error. The stamp featured a map of China with the words “The Whole Country is Red” , with a worker, farmer, and soldier standing below with copies of Quotations from Chairman Mao. The face value of the stamp is 8 fen.

The stamp features Communist slogans such as “Long live the total victory of the Cultural Revolution without the bourgeoisie” and “All mountains and rivers across the country are a sea of red”.

There are only nine of them remaining in circulation. It was issued by the Communist Government to celebrate the “full victory of the Great Proletarian Culture Revolution” and the establishment of 29 Revolutionary Committees across China.

Taiwan was not shaded red as at the time of printing, it was under the control of the Republic of China instead of the PRC. The official reason given for the withdrawal of the stamp was that the Spratly and Paracel Islands were missing from the map, as well as the borders with Mongolia, Bhutan, and Myanmar being incorrectly drawn. The stamp had been distributed for less than half a day when an editor at SinoMaps Press noticed the mistake and reported it to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. As a result, all Chinese post offices had to stop selling the stamp and return all copies, with only a small quantity making it to private collectors.[ The designer of the stamp, Wang Weisheng, said in an AFP interview, “For a long time I was really worried that I would be jailed”.

9. Baden 9 Kreuzer Error Stamp, 1851

Value: $1,545,000 
Country: Germany

The Baden 9 Kreuzer Error is a postage stamp error produced by the historical German state of Baden in 1851. Baden’s first postage stamps were issued on 1 May 1851. The “9 Kreuzer Green” stamp was a color misprint of the 9 Kreuzer denomination that was printed in green instead of pink. Green color was planned to use while making 6 Kreuzer stamps. The 9 Kreuzer error was not discovered until 44 years after the stamp was issued. Two letters initially were in the collection of Baron von Türckheim.

Only 4 copies of Baden 9 Kreuzer Error are known to exist. The only one of them is unused and it was auctioned on April 3, 2008 for 1,314,500 euro by David Feldman.

10. Inverted Jenny, 1918

Value: $1,350,000
Country: U.S. 

The Inverted Jenny is a 24 cent United States postage stamp first issued on May 10, 1918 in which the image of the Curtiss JN-4 airplane in the center of the design is printed upside-down; it is probably the most famous error in American philately. Only 100 copies managed to make it through printing, which is why the Inverted Jenny is valued so highly.

Initial deliveries went to post offices on Monday, May 13, 1918. Aware of the potential for inverts, a number of collectors went to their local post offices to buy the new stamps and keep an eye out for errors. Collector William T. Robey was one of those; he had written to a friend on May 10 mentioning that “it would pay to be on the lookout for inverts”. On May 14, Robey went to the post office to buy the new stamps, and as he wrote later, when the clerk brought out a sheet of inverts, “my heart stood still”. He paid for the sheet, and asked to see more, but the remainder of the sheets were normal.

In a 2016 auction in New York City, one of the stamps sold for a whopping $1.35 million. The Jenny invert is so famous in the philatelic community—and the general public as well—that the complete history of all sales have been publicly documented.

There are numerous publications and memorabilia dedicated to this historic stamp. a good reference to start with would be a published articles call the Books of the Times.

The U.S. Postal Service on September 22, 2013 issued The Inverted Jenny souvenir sheet featuring a new version of perhaps the most famous error in the history of U.S. The sheet includes six Inverted Jenny stamps, reprinted with an updated denomination and surrounded by an illustration that includes the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.; the route of the first regularly scheduled airmail service between Washington, Philadelphia, and New York; and aviation pioneer Reuben H. Fleet, who was in charge of the first group of airmail pilots. The intaglio printing plates for the new stamps were created using proofs made in 2013 from the original Inverted Jenny dies. Issued to commemorate the start of the first regular airmail service in the United States, the original Jenny stamp was designed to show a Curtiss JN-4H, or “Jenny,” the biplane used to deliver the mail.

The Inverted Jenny celebrated its 100 years milestone last year. U.S. Postal Service began the celebration of the 100th anniversary of U.S. scheduled airmail service by issuing a U.S. Airmail Anniversary stamp in Washington, D.C. The nondenominated (50¢) horizontal blue forever stamp shows a Curtiss JN-4H “Jenny” biplane similar to the first planes used by U.S. Army pilots to move the mail by air. A curved banner across the top reads “United States,” while a second banner along the bottom reads “Air Mail.” A ribbon inscribed “Est. 1918” is positioned just below the vignette, which shows the front of the Jenny biplane with its propeller turning.

1 Sheet of 6 Inverted Jenny officially issued USPS Unused Fresh Bright US Postage Stamps – 2013
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