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 by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hong Kong

1907 Scott 92 6c red violet & orange
"King Edward VII" wmk 3
Quick History
Hong Kong was ceded to Great Britain in January, 1841 as a result of the First Opium War, and the first stamps of the colony were issued in 1862.  Hong Kong is located on the South coast of China by the Pearl River Delta. Because of the strategic location, and deep natural harbor, Hong Kong grew to be one of the leading international finance centers.

The population was ~1,000,000 in the 1930s. Languages are Cantonese and English, with Mandarin assuming more importance.

Hong Kong circa 1915
Originally the colony consisted of Hong Kong Island, but was expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860, and the the "New Territories" in 1898. There was a 100 year lease on the new lands, and hence, in 1997 China regained sovereignty. Today Hong Hong is a "Special Administrative Region" (along with the nearby Portuguese influenced Macau and the Casinos). Hong Kong retains the British common law framework, but foreign relations and military defense is China's.

For a personal view of philatelic Hong Kong (and China), see:

1891 Scott 62 50c surcharge on 48c lilac "Queen Victoria"
Note handstamped Chinese characters on upper left (cancel partially obscures)
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic specialized catalogue has, from 1862-1949, 199 regular, 12 postage due, and 3 Japanese occupation stamp descriptions, for a total of 214 major stamp descriptions.

Screening for a CV of <$1-$1+, 60 stamps are found. "Affordability" is 28%, mostly the "younger" stamps.

As one would expect with a "China" philatelic area , a wealthy Hong Kong population, and the many British Commonwealth collectors, Hong Kong is fairly expensive for the classical generalist. 

But still, I found 21 "Queen Victoria" stamps (out of 77), that are CV <$20. And there are not a small number of the "Baldies" and "George V" stamps that can be found with a similar CV. So a nice "representative" collection can indeed be put together.

A closer look at the stamps and issues

The initial seven stamp 1862 unwatermarked "Queen Victoria" issue is expensive (CV $60+-$500+), and I don't have any. ;-)

On the other end of the classical era, the three 1945 Japanese occupation stamps (N1-N3) are also fairly expensive (CV $10+-$150+). I do not have any examples in my collection.

Hong Kong was under Japanese occupation from December 25, 1941- August 30, 1945. I visited the Hong Kong Historical Museum this past January, and the presentation room detailing the hardships for this era was sobering indeed.

1865 Scott 8 2c brown wmk 1
The first watermarked "Queen Victorias" were issued between 1863-80, and had 17 stamps. CV is $8-$60+ for 14 stamps.

The frame design has "Hong Kong" in Chinese script along the right panel. Of interest, save for a change in monarch, the basic design continued  even through the beginning of the Queen Elizabeth II years.

1863 Scott 12 6c lilac wmk 1
Another example of the series is shown above. 

One will not get very far with Hong Kong unless watermarks are checked assiduously. Basically, the watermarks are the familiar British Colonial and Crown Agent watermarks.

A Refresher.....

 Upper Left: Crown and C C (wmk 1)
Upper right: Crown and C A (wmk 2)
Lower left: Multiple Crown and C A (wmk 3)
Lower right: Multiple Crown and Script C A (wmk 4)
Fortunately, for the veteran WW classical generalist that has had to struggle with Argentinian or Brazilian watermarks, the British colonial stamp watermarks are a piece of cake. ;-)

1880 Scott 31 5c on 8c orange  wmk 1
Between 1876-1879, 10 stamps were surcharged to meet postal needs. CV is an expensive $60+-$8000.

BTW, all the Hong Kong definitives through 1962 (except for a few WWII era stamps) were typographed by De La Rue and Co. Here, the surcharge was applied by Noronha and Sons, Hong Kong.

1884 Scott 36b 2c carmine wmk 2
Type of 1862
Between 1882-1902, a thirteen denomination series with some similar, some different colors from the 1862 issue, was produced.  CV is $1+-$20+ for 11 stamps.

The watermark is now the Crown and C A (wmk 2). 

Of interest, Hong Kong has always had 100 Cents = 1 Dollar valuation.

1891 Scott 64 7c on 10c green wmk 2
Between 1885-1898, there was again surcharges (mostly-a few overprints also) applied to both wmk 1 and wmk 2 "Queen Victoria" definitives. An example is illustrated above. CV is $6+-30+ for seven stamps; the rest (15) are much more expensive.

1903 Scott 80 50c red violet & gray green
"King Edward VII": wmk 2
The "Baldies" were issued beginning in 1903 with fourteen wmk 2 stamps. CV <$1-$20+ for nine stamps. Except for the lower denominations, they were bi-colored. Shown above is a rather heavily cancelled example. ;-)

1904-11 Scott 97 20c orange brown & black
Found on ordinary and/or chalky paper: wmk 3
Beginning in 1904, wmk 3 "Baldies" (23) were issued with some similar, some different colors from the 1903 set.
Some stamps can be found both on ordinary and chalky paper. CV is <$1-$10 for thirteen stamps.

Again, the higher denominations are bi-colored.

Rather attractive!

At the same time, of course, Great Britain was issuing similar bi-colored "King Edward VII" stamps for the home country.

Altogether, Hong Kong had 38 "Baldies" stamp issues- quite impressive.

1912-14 Scott 113 8c gray "King George V": wmk 3
1912 marked a change in the Monarch portrait with the issuance of the "George V" stamps. A sixteen wmk 3 denomination issue was produced with a CV of <$1-$7 for eleven stamps.

1914 Scott 117 25c red violet & dull violet (Chalky paper)
wmk 3, Type I of 25c
The 25c denomination is found in two types. Here the short "vertical" stroke crosses the bottom of the top Chinese character on the left panel. This is type I. Type II has the absence of the "vertical" stroke. CV is $30. The stamp was redrawn (Type II) in 1919 with wmk 3 (CV 60+), and then is found also redrawn with the 1921-37 issue ( wmk 4) (CV <$1).

I actually didn't know I had Type I (Type II is much more common) until I read the note in Scott, and noticed my stamp! The wmk 3 agrees. A pleasant surprise. ;-)

1912-14 Scott 119 50c black/blue green (chalky paper) wmk 3
1914 Scott 126 50c black/green (surface colored paper) wmk 3
In 1914, the 12c, 50c, and $5 denominations were printed with surface colored paper, the back of the stamp is white. I should have just shown the back of these stamps. ;-)

1921-37 Scott 136  8c orange wmk 4
Types of 1912-14 issue
Watermark 4 ( Multiple Crown & Script C A) paper was introduced in 1921, and hence a new series. Between 1921-37, eighteen stamps were issued, some with new colors. CV is <$1-$2+ for thirteen stamps.

1921-37 Scott 144 $2 black & red (chalky paper), wmk 4
The George V have higher denominations ($1,$2,$3,$5), as well as the preceding "Baldies" ( $1,$2,$3,$5,$10).

But here it appears justified, because Hong Kong actually seemed to use these higher values. Contrast with the many British (and other nations) colonies where it appears the higher denomination values were a way to milk the stamp collector.

1938-48 Scott 154 1c brown "George VI"
With the change in monarch, a new 23 stamp series was initiated in 1938. George VI was surrounded by a familiar design, although now there are crown images in the top corners. CV for 18 stamps is <$1-$3+.

The George VI series: Initiated in 1938 and continued until 1948
1940 as a cut-off year for collecting is not always "clean". Here, 10 stamps were issued from 1941-48. Deep Blue (Steiner) does provide pages for the British Commonwealth countries up to 1952. Big Blue only has spaces for the 1938 year issue, which can be confusing. One could consider adding a page for the later stamp issues in the series.

1938 Scott  156 4c orange, Perf 14, De La Rue printing
1941-46 Scott 156a 4c orange, "Coarse impression"
14 1/2 X 14 Perf, 
Remember I mentioned that all the definitives up to 1962- save for a few during WWII- were De La Rue printings? Well here is the exception. The left stamp is a perf 14, De La Rue. But the right stamp was printed by Harrison & Sons (and Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co Ltd, printed some others), is perf 14 1/2 X 14, and has a more coarse impression. The coarse impressions were printed for the 2c,4c,5c,10c,30c, and 50c denominations. I found this rough print 4c orange in my collection by checking perfs and impression printings for these denominations. You might harbor some of these too. ;-)

1941 Scott 172 25c deep blue & dark brown
"Hong Kong Bank"
A nice pictorial six stamp set ( CV <$1-$10+) was released in 1941. The Hong Kong Bank at the time was the tallest structure in the city. It still is there- I saw it- but it is dwarfed by the skyline now.

Hong Kong skyline from Victoria Peak
An aside- To get to Victoria Peak from the central district, take the Peak Tram, which as been in operation since 1888. The Peak Tram and view from Victoria peak are not to be missed.

1946 Scott 175 $1 carmine & brown
Peace Issue: "Phoenix Rising from Flames"
Because of food shortages among other reasons, the population decreased from 1.6 million in 1941 to 600,000 in 1945. But after WWII, Hong Kong recovered quickly with the mass of refugees fleeing the Chinese civil war. With the ascendancy of the Communist Party, more migrants arrived, and corporations from Shanghai and Guangzhou (Canton) relocated to Hong Kong.

Postage Due 1923 Scott J2 2c green
"Scales Showing Letter Overweight"
The delightfully designed postage dues of Hong Kong were issued in 1923, and then again from 1936-47. Of the twelve postage dues of the classical era, ten are CV <$1-$10.

Deep Blue

Deep Blue (Steiner) has thirteen pages for Hong Kong, and follows the Scott catalogue.

1903 "Baldies" in Deep Blue
Because the classic pages for Steiner include the 1940-49 years for Hong Kong, the "George VI" 1938-48 set is included complete, and has spaces for the 1941 Pictorial series.  Nice.

1912-14 Scott 120 $1 blue & violet/ blue
"George VI": wmk 3
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on two pages has spaces for 75 stamps. Coverage is 35%.

There are apparently a couple of quite expensive stamps in BB for Hong Kong, but this requires a discussion. ;-)

BB shows "1890" (actually 1891) date, and image cut without handstamp
Leaves out much less expensive stamps shown above
The stamp cut image and the year-1890-clearly makes the 1891 Scott 52 20c on 30c gray green ($125) and 1891 Scott 54 50c on 48c lilac ($300 mint) the strict logical choice. But the prices! And there are cheaper alternatives!

1) 1891 surcharged issue with additional handstamp (The handstamp is NOT on BB's cut image)
(Note: the handstamp is on the upper left of the lilac stamp shown, but cancel tends to obscure)
1891 Scott 61 20c on 30c  gray green ($8+)
1891 Scott 62 50c on 48c lilac ($6+)-This stamp shown above

2) 1885 surcharged issue ((BB states "1890" which would R/O these issues)
1885 Scott 51 20c on 30c vermilion ($7)-This stamp shown above
1885 Scott 53 50c on 48c brown ($40+)

If one would like to substitute, change the date to "1885", or ignore image and put the cheaper 1891 handstamped issues into the spaces. I won't tell. ;-)

There are a total of twelve stamps on the Hong Kong pages that have a threshold of $10 CV. Only one (besides the two discussed above) reaches the $35 "Most Expensive stamps" list: the "Baldy" 1911 Scott 98 20c olive green & violet ($50). FYI, the complete list is after the checklist.

And, as one would expect, BB combines the different watermarked Queen Victoria, Edward VII, and George V stamps into one space. It still would behoove the BB collector to check watermarks, as there can be a great difference in price.

All in all, a solid presentation by Big Blue for Hong Kong.

1 or 8 or 9 or 36 or 36a or 36b* or 36c, 10 or 38*, 11 or 40*, 43, 44,20,47,(15),

1890*(See discussion)
52, 54,


71,86,72 or 87, 88,73 or 89, 90,
74 or 91, 92, 75 or 93, 95, 76 or 94, 77 or 96, 98,
78 or 97, 100, 79 or 99, (101),(102),(81),

109 or 129, 110 or 130, 111 or 133, 112, 113 or 135, 136,114 or 137,
115 or 125, 116, 117 or 128 or 140, 118, 119 or 126 or 142, 143, (144)

Next Page





Postage Due

1924-38 (Actually 1923-38)


A)Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1891 Scott 47 30c gray green ($20+)
1891 Scott 52 20c on 30c gray green ($125)
1891 Scott 54 50c on 48c lilac ($300 mint)
1904-11 Scott 91 5c orange & gray green ($10)
1911 Scott 98 20c olive green & violet ($50)
1911 Scott 100 30c orange & violet ($20+)
1903 Scott 79 30c black & gray green ($20+)
1904-11 (Scott 101) 50c red violet & gray green ($10)
1911 (Scott 102) 50c black/green ($10+)
1903 (Scott 81) $1 olive green & lilac ($20+)
1935 Scott 150 20c brown violet & indigo ($10)
1923 postage due Scott J4 6c orange ($10+)

B) * with Scott number indicates least expensive choice for a group selection

C) *1890
The stamp cut image and the year-1890-clearly makes the 1891 Scott 52 20c on 30c gray green ($125) and 1891 Scott 54 50c on 48c lilac ($300 mint) the strict logical choice. But the prices! And there are cheaper alternatives!
1) 1891 surcharged issue with additional handstamp (The handstamp is NOT on BB's cut image)
1891 Scott 61 20c on 30c  gray green ($8+)
1891 Scott 62 50c on 48c lilac ($6+)
2) 1885 surcharged issue ((BB states "1890" which would R/O these issues)
1885 Scott 51 20c on 30c vermilion ($7)
1885 Scott 53 50c on 48c brown ($40+)
If one would like to substitute, change the date to "1885", or ignore image and put the cheaper 1891 handstamped issues into the spaces. 

D) *1912-26
Some George V issues are at times excluded here because of BB's color or date criteria. Also the choice ( 119 or 126 or 142)- NONE of them exactly match BB's color requirements (50c black on emerald green), so ironically I need to include them all as choices. ;-)

E) (  ) around a Scott number indicates a selected blank space choice.

1941 Scott 169 4c rose carmine & violet
Liner "Empress of Japan" & Junk
Out of the Blue
Considering the wealth of the Hong Kong citizens, the Chinese stamp collector "influence", and, as a part of the highly collectable British Commonwealth, I was surprised prices are NOT higher for Hong Kong.

Of course they are not inexpensive, but not outrageous either.

I suspect part of the reason is the mainland Chinese stamp collectors today for the most part concentrate on the PRC era.

So collect a "representative" group of stamps before the mainland Chinese collectors branch out their interests. ;-)

Hong Kong - Bud's Big Blue

Note: Map, and Peak Tram photo appear to be in the public domain.

Your thoughts?

Peak Tram of Hong Kong


  1. Hong Kong is a very interesting place with a fascinating history, but apparently Britain had little to no interest in exploring that history or the culture of the area in the stamps they issued for Hong Kong The colonial stamp habit of monarch's pictures wears pretty thin pretty fast. Those few pictorials are very nice, though. I wish the British had been more adventurous in their stamp designs, particularly about such a place as Hong Kong where local culture, history, and so one would have provided for interesting designs. But then the British were generally not much interested in the places they owned, but far more interested in owning them and Anglicizing them. Unfortunately.

  2. Hi Drew

    Appreciate your comments.

    The British are what they are- stiff upper lip and all. ;-)

    I agree that the 1930 pictorials are really nicely done.

  3. Nice Blog. I really do enjoy these early Hong Kong stamps, even the "stiff upper lip" issues :) Thanks for sharing your collection.

  4. Thanks for the comments Rob.

    Your "Spare Time Collector" blog looks interesting - I've bookmarked it. :-)

  5. The bank on the 1941 25c stamp is of course the famous and infamous HSBC.

    1. You are probably right about it being the HSBC building, built in 1935. But, I must have been wrong about seeing this particular building when I visited Hong Kong in 2012, as this building was torn town after 1978 for a new modern HSBC building. ;-)

  6. Bought #150 for my 'virtual' BB collection for $0.02 the other day, and was pleased to find it listed for $10+ in Scott. #147-150 are really beautiful, and I noticed something interesting when I looked at used sets on eBay:



    In nearly all of the stamps (including the used one I just added to my collection), the cancellation is applied to the picture and not the portrait of the monarch. I assume the postal workers didn't want to deface the king's image?

    1. Quite possibly.

      Although there are plenty of Queen Victoria etc stamps quite heavily defaced - so not a universal thing.

      Other countries also sometimes follow that practice.

      Take a look at the "spider" cancellation for the stamp of the Spanish Queen. It is deliberately shaped to avoid defacing the queen.


      BTW, congratulations on your purchase and your "virtual' Big Blue!

    2. Very interesting! Seemed like an unusual pattern, but perhaps just a coincidence.

      And thanks - my 'virtual' BB consists of a set of envelopes at the moment, until I can save up the money and find the time to purchase the album and start filling spaces. (Such is the drawback of collecting in one's twenties - not much money, and not enough time!)