A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


1900 "Chinese Imperial Post" 2c scarlet
Quick History
Located in eastern Asia, China is one of the oldest nations in the world.  China was an Empire until 1912, when it became a Republic. In 1936, the Capital was Nanking, and the population was 422,000,000. China's  relationship with the west has been ambivalent; more inward looking at times than outward "trade oriented". Consequently, China's stamp history is quite fascinating.

1/2c black brown "Junk": London, First & Second Peking printings 
Can you spot the differences? 
Hint: waves,sails,inner frame outline
Big Blue Picture
Big Blue '97, on seven pages, has 214 spaces for regular, air post, and postage due beginning in 1885.
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue, beginning in 1878 with issues of the Imperial Maritime Customs Post, has 580 spaces, not including Provinces or Treaty Ports.
Coverage by Big Blue is 37%.

A confession: I really like Chinese stamp issues. I remember as a young collector the Chinese "Junk" stamps; a window into an exotic world not known by a provincial Minnesota boy. Even now, this "sophisticated" world wise traveler finds them in the top 10 of all time best designs.

But if one wants to be successful evaluating the Chinese issues, better plan on using all of one's philatelic tools and skill. Challenging, to say the least. It is true that Big Blue generally requires very little of the collector as long as the space "fits". No problem- this is a hobby after all. :-) But if one would like to identify which stamp one has out of several possibilities, then use the magnifying glass for all the secret marks and re-engraving, the watermark tray, and the perforation gauge. It's actually a lot of fun!

Before we begin examining the stamps, what about cost? Well, many of the stamp issues are remarkably inexpensive. This includes the challenging 1913-24 "Junk" issues, the 1931-34 Dr Sun Yat-sen issues, the 1932-40 Martyrs issues, and the 1938-40 Dr Sun Yat-sen issues. So the thorny identification stamp issues are actually cheap. But the more classic "Imperial dragon" issues, and even more so the high value 1920's commemorative issues do cost a pretty penny. Here are the stamps that cross over the $35 threshold...

1928 Marshal Chang Tso-lin
279 $1 red ($50+)!

1929 President Chang Kai-shek
283 $1 dark red ($50+)!

But the most expensive stamp (not including U.S. or Canada) found so far belongs to.....China!
In 1897, China surcharged in black some Revenue stamps. One of them, the Scott 78 1c on 3c red, has been in Big Blue since at least 1941. The cost today? $240+!!!. Interestingly, the next stamp in the series, the Scott 79 2c on 3c red, was in Scott until 1969 when it was removed by the editors. Now the price is way north of $350. Scott still provides a blank space next to the designated 1c on 3c red  under a "1897" age date. Although one could argue that a surcharged Revenue stamp- such as the Scott 79 listed above-is the most appropriate to choose, it is not mandatory. Scott only lists"1897" as the limiting criteria. Fortunately, there were 60! regular issue surcharged stamps issued in 1897. The least expensive are $10+-$20+, and look very good by comparison.

Lets now look at some of the challenging series....

1913 -24 "Junk", "Reaping Rice", "Gateway-Hall of Classics"
This wonderful issue is fairly challenging. There are three printings, and they all differ from each other. Generally, the easiest to differentiate is the 1923 re-engraved second Peking printing. Examining the "Junk" stamp, it is clear that the shading lines at the top and sides of the picture have been removed. Above the top inscription, the shading lines have also been removed from the arabesques and pearls. The other two issues, the 1913 London printing, and the 1915 first Peking printing, require a closer examination. Look at the images I present here, look at your own collection, and review carefully Scott's discussion. The same goes for the "Reaping Rice" stamp and the "Gateway-Hall of Classics" stamp in the issue. Good luck!

1931-34 Dr Sun Yat-sen
The sun in the stamp image either has a double circle around the sun (Type I), or one darker circle(Type II). Easy.

1932-40 Martyrs Issue
Spaces consist of three issues: 1932-34 Scott 312-323 with perf 14; 1940-41 Scott 402-420 with secret mark and wmk 261, and Perf not 14; 1940-41 Scott 421-439 with secret mark and no wmk, and Perf not 14. So get out the perforation gauge, magnifying glass, and the watermark tray. Have fun!

1938-40 Dr Sun Yat-sen
Spaces consists of up to 6 issues!: Three original engraving types (Type I,II,III), a re-engraved issue, an issue with secret marks, and then different perforations, wmk 261 or no wmk.  Tools: a magnifying glass to check the engraving type (most common-Type III); a magnifying glass again to check for a re-engraved stamp, or for secret marks; a perforation gauge to narrow the choices; and finally if necessary a watermark tray. Actually, very satisfying.

Big Blue has presented a nice representative China collection. Naturally, there are additional stamps that can be added.  I found 64 stamps that would round out the collection.

Choices listed for the 1885,1897, and 1898 issues. (15 stamps)
(1912) issues NOT in BB: 146,147,148,149,150,151,152,153,155($2+),156($2+),157($2+),161,162($2+),($1+ eN)
(1912) Dr Sun Yat-sen: 181,182,183,($2+)
(1912) President Yuan Shih-kai: 194,195,197,($2+)
Postage due: J1,J2,J3,J4,J12,J13,J15,J25,J26,J27,J28,J30,J31,J67,J68,J69, J70,J71,J72,J73,J74,J75,J76,J77,J78,J79 (<$1-$2+)
Semi-postal: B1,B2,B3,($1+-$2+)
Special delivery:E10($2+)

"Reaping Rice": Upper row first Peking printing; lower row second printing
Did you find the differences?
Hint: Temple door, rows of pearls, top arabesques
Big Blue Checklist
Issues of the Imperial Maritime Customs Post
1885 Imperial Dragon
10 or 13 ($20+), 11* or 14 ($30+-$20+)
*Note 11 or 14: 3c "lilac" in Scott is "red lilac" in BB.
Note: Scott 10-11 is 1885; Scott 13-14 is 1888-vary by Perf.
Note: earlier Scott catalogues (1947) had all perf variations listed under 1885.

1894 Lithographed in Shanghai
Note: 16 is 1c orange red; 18 is 3c orange

Issues of the Chinese Government Post
1897 surcharged
28,($20+) or 47($40+) or 38($700+)
Note: 28,47,38 is 1/2c on 3c orange

1897 Revenue stamps surcharged in black
78,($240+) !
Blank space: suggest 48 or 49 or 50 or 66 or 67 ($10+-$20+)
Note: BB designates "1c on 3c red" :Scott 78 $240+!
Note: There are 60! regular issue surcharged stamps ( in addition to the very expensive revenue stamps) issued in 1897. The least expensive are the blank space choices. See BB Picture for more discussion.

1897 "Imperial Chinese Post" Lithographed in Japan
*Note: 88 "orange" in Scott is "deep orange" in BB; 89 "brown" in Scott is "yellow brown" in BB; 90 "rose red" in Scott is "rose" in BB. BB's colors "were" the 1947 Scott catalogue colors.

1898 "Chinese Imperial Post" Engraved in London
98, 99 or 111, 100 or 112, 101 or 113, 102, 103, ($2+)
104 or 117($5+-$2+), 105($10+),106($10+),107* or 120($30+-$20+)
Blank space: Choices not taken, or 110,114,115,116,118,119,($2+)
Note: The 1900-06 Scott 110-120 is considered/included as only difference is no wmk vs wmk 103 for the 1898 issue.
Note: BB  R/O some of the 1900-06 issue for color designation.
*Note: (Illustrated)  $1 red & pale rose: 107 ($30+) or 120 ($20+)

1905-10 "Chinese Imperial Post" 
124,125,126,127,128($5+),129,130($10+), ($2+ eN)
eN=except noted

1909 Temple of Heaven, Peking

Issues of the Republic
1912 overprinted
163,164,165,166,167,168,169($20+),170($2+),($1+ eN)

(1912) Dr Sun Yat-sen
Blank space: suggest 189($2+)

(1912) President Yuan Shih-kai
Three  blank spaces: suggest 191,192,193,($1+)

1913 -24 Junk, Reaping Rice, Gateway-Hall of Classics
1/2c black brown (Illust): 202 or 221 or 248, (<$1)
1c orange: 203 or 222 or 249(<$1)
1 1/2c violet: 240 or 250 (<$1)
2c yellow green: 204 or 223 or 251(<$1)
3c blue green: 205 or 224 or 252 (<$1)
4c scarlet: 206 or 225(<$1)
4c gray: 253(<$1)
5c rose lake: 207 or 226(<$1)
5c claret: 254(<$1)
6c gray: 208 or 227(<$1)
6c red*: 255(<$1)
7c violet: 209($5+) or 228($2+) or 256(<$1)
8c brown orange: 210($2+) or 229(<$1) or 257*(<$1)
10c dark blue: 211 or 230 or 258* (<$1)
13c red brown: 241*(<$1)
13c brown: 259 (<$1)
15c brown (Illust): 212($5+) or 231($2+)
15c deep blue: 260(<$1)
16c olive green: 213($1+) or 232 or 261 (<$1 eN)
20c brown red: 214($2+) or 233 or 262 (<$1 eN)
30c brown violet: 215($1+) or 234 or 263* (<$1 eN)
50c deep green: 216* or 235* or 264 (<$1)
$1 ocher & black (Illust): 217($2+) or 236(<$1)
$1 orange brown & sepia: 265(<$1)
$2 dark blue & black: 218*($10+) or 237*($2+)
$2 blue & red brown: 266(<$1)
$5* red & slate: 267($2+)
*Note: plenty of color designation changes from BB/'47 catalogue and 2011 catalogue.
Specifically: 6c red now scarlet; 257 now orange; 258 now blue; 241 now brown; 263 now purple; 216 & 235 now green; 218 & 237 now blue & black.
Note: *$5 denomination has 219($90+) and 238($20+) scarlet & black not BB eligible for color designation.

1923 "2 Cts" surcharged(R)

1925 surcharged(R)

1930 surcharged(R)
288($1+) or 289(<$1)

1921 Yeh Kung-cho and others

1926-33 "Junk" types of 1923

1923 Temple of Heaven, Peiking

1928 Marshal Chang Tso-lin
279 $1 red ($50+)!

1929 President Chang Kai-shek
283 $1 dark red ($50+)!

1929 Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum
287 $1 dark red ($30+)!

1931-32 Dr Sun Yat-sen
290, 291 or 297, 292 or 298, 299*,300($1+),293*,303,(<$1)
Blank space: suggest pick up other choice from (291 or 297) or (292 or 298)
Note: 1931 Scott 290-296 is Type I; while 1931-37 Scott 297-306 is type II.
*Note: 299 is a '33 issue. See BB Picture for fuller discussion.

1931-34 Dr Sun Yat-sen
301,294 or 304, 295 or 305, 296 or 306, (<$1-$2+)
See BB picture for discussion.

1933 Tan Yuan-chang
329 $1 red ($30+)!

331,332,333,334($5+),(<$1 eN)

335,336,337,338($5+), (<$1 eN)

1933-37 surcharged
*Note: 339 "blue" in BB is "deep blue" in Scott.

1932-40 Martyrs Issue
1/2 c: 312 or 402 or 421(<$1)
1c: 313 or 403 or 422 (<$1)
2 1/2c: 314 or 405 or 424 (<$1)
3c "deep brown": 315(<$1)
3c "deep yellow brown": 406 or 425
8c "brown orange" (Illust): 316(<$1)
8c "deep orange": 409 or 428(<$1)
10c: 317 or 410 or 429(<$1)
13 "blue green": 318(<$1)
13c "deep yellow green": 411 or 430(<$1)
15c: 412 or 431(<$1)
17c: 319 or 413 or 432(<$1)
20c: 320(<$1)
25c: 414 or 433 (<$1)
30c (Illust): 321 or 418 or 437($2+) (<$1 eN)
40c: 322 or 419 or 438(<$1)
50c: 323 or 420 or 439(<$1)
Note: Spaces consist of three issues. See BB Picture for discussion.
Note: any '41 issues have been removed as choices.

 1938-40 Dr Sun Yat-sen
2c: 349 or 368 or 370(<$1)
5c: 351 or 371 or 381(<$1)
8c: 353 or 369 or 383(<$1)
15c: 355(<$1)
25c: 358(<$1)
30c: 385(<$1)
50c: 386(<$1)
$1(Illust): 344($10+) or 347 or 359 or 372($10+) or 376($5+) or 387(<$1 eN)
$2: 345($2+) or 348($2+) or 360(<$1) or 373($2+) or 377($5+)
$5: 346($10+) or 361(<$1) or 374($10+) or 378($5+)
$10: 362($1+) or 375($10+) or 379($10+) or 390($2+) or 400($10+)
$20: 363 ($40+) or 380($10+) or 391($2+) or 401($10+)
Note: spaces consist of up to 6 issues!  See BB Picture for discussion.

(1938-40) Regional surcharges on Dr Sun Yat-sen 5c Green*
Six blank spaces: These regional surcharges consist  of a 4c surcharge for Hong Kong, and 3c surcharge for Shanghai, Hunan, Kansu, Kiangsi, Eastern Szechwan, and Chekiang. The surcharge colors are carmine, black or red.  Some surcharged stamps have watermarks. *Big Blue specifies the 5c "green", but that is a mistake (in my opinion), and the 5c "olive green" should also be collected. The regional surcharges appear on the 5c "green" and 'olive green" Scott 440,441,442,443,444,445,446,447,448. So mix and match, and obtain a nice selection for the six spaces*. See Scott for details.
*Note: For a detailed analysis of how to maximize Provinces and surcharge colors, see Sniggy's suggestions in the Comment section below.

1939 Chinese & American Flag & Map of China
364,365,366($1+),367($2+),(<$1 eN)

Air Post
1921-29 Curtiss "Jenny" over Great Wall
C6(<$1) or C1($20+)
C7($2+) or C2($20+)
C8($5+) or C3($20+)
C9($5+) or C4($30+)
Note: Even though BB's illustration is from the '21 issue (C1-C4), I include the 1929 issue (C6-C9), as BB has "1921-29" for dates.

1932-40 Junkers F-13 over Great Wall
C11 or C21, C12, C13 or C23, C14, C15, C16, C17, C18, (<$1)
Two blank spaces: suggest C19(<$1) or (C20($3+) or C30($1+))
Note: Consists of three issues: 1932-37 Scott C11-C37; 1940-41 Scott C21-C30 with wmk 261 and secret marks; and 1940-41 Scott C31-C40 no wmk and secret marks. The C21-40 stamps are mostly ineligible because of a '41 date, and a few for a different color.

Postage due

1912 Overprinted(B)
J34 or J35, J36,J37,J38, (<$1-$2+)

J43 or J51, J44 or J52, J45($1+) or J53, J46 or J54, J47 or J55, J48 or J56, J49($5+) or J57($1+), J50 ($2+) or J58($2+),(<$1 eN)
Note: 1913 Scott J43-50 is engraved by Waterlow & Sons; while 1915 Scott J51-J58 has engraving differences from the Chinese Bureau of Engraving & Printing.

J59,J60,J61,J62,J63,J64,J65,J66, (<$1)

1931-37 Dr. Sun Yat-sen
Type I-sun double circle; Type II-sun darker circle
Kinds of Blue
The "97 and '69 editions are identical in content.

The'47 (and '41) have some significant differences compared to the '69 and '97.
The most obvious is the inclusion on one page of China Province stamps, or "China: Offices Abroad". This page was removed by the '69 editors, and did not return in the '97. I will have much more to say about this topic in a separate post.

There were some quite high value classic stamps that were removed by the '69 editors.
1885 Imperial Dragon (In '47 and '41)
3c greenish yellow: Scott 12 or 15 ($40+)

Issues of the Chinese Government Post
1897-1907 surcharge (In '47 and '41)
1c on 1c red orange: Scott 48($10+) or 66($10+) or 29($20+) or 39($170+) or 57($240+)
2c on 2c light green: Scott 49($10+) or 30($10+) or 67($20+) or 40($250+) or 58 ($3000!)

1897 Revenue stamps surcharged in black (In '47 and '41)
The '69 and '97 have a blank space, so I found some modestly expensive 1897 surcharged - but not the uber expensive revenue stamp variety-to put there. But the '47 (and '41) make their intentions clear. They specify the 2c on 3c red revenue stamp (Scott 79). The cost? $350+!!!!! Perhaps the '69 editors removed it for that reason.

1898 "Chinese Imperial Post" Engraved in London (Stamp switch)
The 5c "yellow" in the '47 and '41, rather than the 5c "salmon"(Scott 102) in the '69 and '97. The "yellow" is now minor number Scott 115a ($20+).

No Blank space in '47 and '41 for the 1898 series. Eliminates a large choice selection: "Choices not taken, or 110,114,115,116,118,119,($2+)" In the plus camp for the '69 and '97!

No other differences in the '47 compared to the '69 and '97.

The '41 has some major differences with the '47 ( and '69 and '97) In fact, because of a totally different layout for 1-2 pages, it became a headache correlating the editions. But here goes...

1931-34  Dr Sun Yat-sen  (missing four stamp spaces in '41)
301, 294 or 304, 295 or 305, 296 or 306 (<$1-$2+)

The '41 does have the three 1920 semi-postal stamps -B1,B2,B3 ($1+-$2+)- that I suggested under "additionals". So these were removed in the '47 and subsequent editions.

1933-37 surcharged ('41 missing three stamps)

1932-40 Martyrs Issue ('41 missing four stamps)
3c deep yellow brown: 406 or 425
8c deep orange: 409 or 428
13c deep yellow green: 411 or 430
15c brown carmine: 412 or 431

Other stamps missing in the '41 include:
1938-40 Dr Sun Yat-sen
2c:349 etc
50c dark blue:386 etc
$5: 346 etc
$10: 362 etc
$20: 363 etc
The '41 does have the 10c green -Scott 354(<$1)-that is missing (for no good reason!) from the '47 and subsequent editions. The '41 also has a space for the "50c green"-Scott 439(<$1) that disappeared in the '47 and subsequent editions. Looking at these "removal" decisions, they really make no sense from a philatelic point of view. :-)

1936 Scott 332 5c green "Emblem of New Life Movement"
Big Blue Bottom Line
Challenging: The 1938-40 Dr Sun Yat-sen issue.
Classic: "Imperial Dragon" design
Expensive: Scott  78 1c on 3c red ($240+)
Wonderful: 1913-24 Junk, Reaping Rice, Gateway-Hall of Classics issue
Why? Removal of Chinese Province stamps

You may have noticed another iteration in the Big Blue Checklist design, with the numbers in bold and the issue headings underlined. It did take more time to do, but China's complicated issues may be the reason for that.

If you enjoyed this post, or have some information to share, or have some constructive criticism, please share your thoughts and reactions in the "comment" section. Thanks!

Note: You will need to consult a Scott catalogue for specific pricing. I only give a very "ball park" price, and never the actual catalogue value.
<$1= less than a Dollar
$1+= more than a Dollar
$2+= more than two Dollars
$5+= more than five Dollars
$10+= more than ten Dollars
$20+..and so on.


  1. May I suggest, and I believe it to have been the intent of the original authors as well, a layout for the six spaces provided for the 1938-40 regional surcharges:

    Six Blank Spaces: suggest 440, 441 or 443, 442*, 444 or 445, 446, 447 or 448

    *Note: Scott 352 (c3), Hunan surcharge or Scott 352 (d3), Kansu surcharge. One space provided.

    That would provide one with enough space to collect Scott 440 - 448 with one specimen of all but one of the provincial surcharges in each of the three available colors. The choice to be made of course would be as noted, between 442 (c3) and 442 (d3) but both are overprinted in black so it isn't that big of a sacrifice for a Big Blue collector. I agree that both green and olive green should have been specified. In fact, if limited to green only, then 440, the only 4c surcharge and the only stamp surcharged in carmine which makes it the unique example, would have to be declared ineligible strictly because of its color. That, I think, would be a bigger deal than having to choose between the two varieties of # 442.

    The current Scott numbers, choice of provinces and their order of presentation differ slightly from the 1940's: 345 or 347 or 351 (Shanghai), 348 or 352 (Kiangsi), 349 (E. Szech.), 353 (Chekiang), 346 (Hunan), 350 (Hong Kong), but the same general result would have been achieved.

  2. Sniggy-

    Thanks for the detailed analysis of how to maximize the six spaces for Provinces and color surcharges. Nicely done! I will alert readers with a referral note to your comments.


  3. Hi, Totally agree with China's reputation in stamp collecting. My dad was in Malaysia in the 1950's and I kicked off my stamp collecting, though not seriously in 1964 aged 7. I had Chinese and most of the Asian countries in small boxes. I am so glad I still have them. Along with my Japanese, Russian, and France I would never part with the ones I have from China. Though sadly what the Japanese did to the Chinese is not discussed when people talk of occupation overprints. Postmarks are so interesting on Chinese stamps. Have you noticed how SG jumped to the front of the queue to get Chinese, Hong Kong custom? My wifes Chinese and she thinks I'm mad.

  4. I'm glad you find China and their issues fascinating. Me too.

    I have visited China recently,and my daughter-in-law is Cantonese.

    There is a reason the Chinese are still resentful and wary of the Japanese because of the occupations as you mentioned.

  5. Absolutely Jim. Another point though I don't want to get into the political or propaganda arena is that the issues (politics not stamps) with Tibet and the fact that a lot of Buddhists prefer people to say Republic of China, Taiwan or just China and not the Peoples Republic Of China. I notice that some stamp dealers in their adverts in a well known stamp magazine just say they need Peoples Republic of China. It's a prickly issue that a lot of persons are not aware of.

  6. Hey Jim, I just got the new China Stamp Society specialized catalog for China 1878-1949. It is amazing, have written a review of it on my blog. Price for non-members is US$69.95 plus shipping (CSS is in California). Might be something to add to your growing library of reference catalogs :) Gene aka DJCMH

  7. might help if i gave you link LOL


    1. I joined the China Stamp Society last year as it is my intent (sometime!) to dig deeper into the issues of China. I have the catalog and indeed it is wonderful!