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...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Japan 1871-1923

1872-73 Scott 10 1s blue, wove
"Imperial Crest and Branches of Kiri Tree"
Probable Wada Forgery
Quick History
Lying east of China in the North Pacific Ocean, the Empire of Great Japan existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to 1947, when a new constitution was created..

Imperial Japan elected to industrialize, and became a world military power, culminating in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), and the Pacific War (WW II).

Japan 1904
The Meiji period lasted from 1868-1912. During this era, the process of westernization began with the adoption of a judicial system and a constitution. The abolishment of feudal laws and customs brought the Meiji government in conflict with the Samurai.

Imperial Japan Expansion 1910-1939
Japan expanded its Empire to include Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and part of northern China. Japan was victorious in both the First Sino-Japanense War (1894-95), and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Korea was annexed in 1910. Japan gained the German territory of Tsingtau and Kiautschou in 1914.

Manchuria was seized in 1931. By then, the population in Japan proper was 70 million, in 1935, and the Capital, as it has been, was Tokyo.

Eight stamps were introduced in 1871 with native laid paper. They showed a pair of dragons facing characters of value. They are CV $100-$500+, and forgeries outnumber genuine by 10:1.
I will say no more about them here.

The second Japanese issue, called the "Cherry Blossoms" was issued between 1872-75. An example is shown for the post header. There are also some forgeries for these stamps. But, unfortunately, I have no knowledge in this area.

The "Kobans" were produced between 1876-92, and, along with the 1899-1907 "Chrysanthemum Flower Seal" issue, parallel the period of rapid industrial development. They are fairly easy to find, generally inexpensive, and fortunately, almost always genuine.

The next definitive issue, from 1913-1937, is just complicated enough with unwatermarked versus two watermarked varieties, ordinary versus granite paper, and different Die sizes, that I will devote a separate post just for them, after covering all the other stamp issues.

This post will otherwise cover the remaining stamp issues through WW I, and then until 1923.

The next post will cover the remaining classical years of 1924-1940.

1888-92 Scott 84 1y carmine"Kikumon"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue, has, from 1871-1940, 308 regular, 3 semi-postal. 8 air post, 5 military, and 64 for Offices in China and Korea. Total = 388. Of those, 164 are CV <$1-$1+ (53%).

Japan's CV is reasonable for about half the stamp output during the classical era.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
1000 Mon = 10 Sen
100 Sen = 1 Yen (En)
10 Rin = 1 Sen
1872-73 Scott 9 1/2s brown, hard wove
"Imperial Crest and Branches of Kiri Tree"
Probable Wada Forgery
The second issue, the so called "Cherry Blossoms", consisted of five sub-issues: 1872-73 (10), 1874 (25), 1875 (2), and 1875-76 (3); for a total of 40 stamps. Many had a design similar to the 1/2s brown shown above, but several illustrated birds: Wild Goose, Wagtail, and Goshawk. The Bird stamps, though, have a CV $150+, so I will probably not be acquiring any very soon. ;-)  Of the others, 15 stamps are CV $10+-$30.

Update: Unfortunately the 1872-73 Scott 9 1/2s brown above, and the post header stamps, the 1872-73 Scott 10 1s blue are probable Wada forgeries. I was alerted by a member of the The International Society For Japanese Philately. I'm not too surprised, as the early Japanese stamps are a forgery minefield, especially with the Wada forgeries. There are CDs available from the Society showing the Wada forgeries.

1883 Scott 73 2s carmine rose 
1888-92 Scott 81 20s orange "Sun, Kikumon and Kiri Branches"
1888-92 Scott 82 25s blue green "Imperial Crest and Kiri Branches"
The so called 1876-92 "Koban" issues had the Imperial Crest in various designs.  "Imperial Japanese Post" was inscribed in English. Of interest, the "Koban" stamps were designed by an Italian, Edoardo Chiossone. As it was taboo to use the emperor's portrait, he used other images, such as the imperial Chrysanthemum Flower Seal. The 30 stamp issue has a CV of <$1-$4+ for 20 stamps.

The Kobans are a specialist's delight, with paper varieties, color varieties, various perforations and cancellation types.

I found a wonderful website for the Kobans.


1876-77 Scott 57 2s brown olive 
1876-77 Scott 58 4s blue green 
More Kobans- note the interesting cancellations. I believe the first "killer" cancellation uses a bamboo cut.
 1894 Scott 86 5s ultamarine
"Cranes and Imperial Crest"
A two stamp set was issued in 1894 for the 25th wedding anniversary of Emperor Meiji and Empress Haru.
Beautiful stamps.
1896 Scott 87 2s rose
"General Yoshihisa Kitashirakawa"
For victory in the First Sino-Japanense War (1894-95), a four stamp issue was produced featuring two military leaders. I believe these are the first Japanese stamps with human portraiture.

1899-1907 Scott 96 2s light green
" Imperial Chrysanthemum"
An 18 stamp set was issued between 1899-1907, all having the Chrysanthemum design. The entire set is quite inexpensive, ranging from CV <$1-$5.

1900 Scott 109 3s carmine 
"Boxes for Rice Cakes and Marriage Certificates"
For the wedding of Crown Prince Yoshihito and Princess Sadako, this lovely stamp was issued in 1900. 
1906 Scott 111 1 1/2s blue
"Field-piece and Japanese Flag"
In commemoration of victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), a two stamp set was issued in 1906.

The fact that the Japanese had triumphed over the Russians was quite shocking, and announced that Imperial Japan had arrived on the world stage.

1915 Scott 149 3s orange & violet 
"Imperial Throne"
To celebrate the enthronement of Emperor Yoshihito, a four stamp issue was released. Included are the first bi-colored stamps.

1915 Scott 151 10s ultramarine 
The higher values of the enthronement set featured an image of the Enthronement Hall in Kyoto.

1916 Scott 152 1 1/2s green,red, & yellow
"Mandarin Duck"
The Prince Heir Apparent was recognized with a three stamp issue in 1916. This was the future Emperor Hirohito. Although the two lower values have a modest CV, the highest 10s value is CV $200+!
 1919 Scott 158 10s dark blue
"Dove and Olive Branch"
For the return of peace after WW I, Japan issued a four stamp set. The higher values have this striking design.

And this stamp provokes in me a remembrance.

My Father, as most in his generation, participated in WW II. When he was in Japan during the occupation, he picked up some mint stamps, including this example. I clearly remember admiring this stamp in my Father's "Modern Postage Stamp Album", the red album.

1920 Scott 159 1 1/2s red violet
"Census Officer, A.D. 652"
For the first modern census in Japan's history, a two stamp set was released in 1920. Of interest, this issue was not available for postage overseas, except to China.

1920 Scott 162 3s rose
A two stamp set was also released in 1920 for the dedication of the Meiji Shrine. The image on the stamp shows the shrine, which is located in Tokyo.

1921 Scott 163 1 1/2s gray green & red
"National and Postal Flags"
A four stamp issue was released in 1921 on the 50th anniversary of the postal service. The center design has the spareness of modern art. ;-)

 1921 Scott 164 3s violet brown
"Ministry of Communications Building, Tokyo"
The second design in the postal service set is more traditional in appearance, and is beautifully engraved. Nice!
1921 Scott 170 10s deep blue
"Battleships Katon and Kashima"
When Crown Prince Hirohito returned from a European visit, the occasion was celebrated with a four stamp set: not incidentally showing off the Navy might of Japan.

1923 Scott 177 1 1/2s orange 
"Mt. Nitaka, Taiwan"
Graphically illustrating the expanding Imperial Japanese Empire, a two stamp set was released when Crown Prince Hirohito visited Taiwan. The set was only sold in Taiwan, but was valid throughout the empire. A lovely engraved specimen.

We will end here, and take up the 1924-1940 stamp issues in the next post.

Deep Blue
The 1899-1907 Chrysanthemum issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 10 pages for the 1871-1923 issues, and follows the Scott catalogue for major number placement. Of interest, the 1914-1933 regular issue has some spaces for minor numbers. I will discuss the 1913-37 regular issues in a separate post.

1908 Scott 114 10y dark violet "Empress Jingo" 
A Legendary Figure
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on 3 pages, has the 1872-1923 stamp issues. There are 108 spaces. Coverage is 58%.

• There are 18 stamps with CV $10+-$20+, but none make the $35 threshold "Most expensive" list.

• A bit of a mess with the "1875" spaces.
-The '69 has a space for the 1/2s gray, with a notation that it is "like cut" for the illustration of the 1s. But it is not. ;-) The 1/2s gray is an A6 image, while the 1s brown is an A13.

*The '41/'43/'47 editions have a larger mess. Again, there is a space for the 1/2s gray with a "like cut" for the illustration of the 1s. But the 1s illustration cut does not compare to any design! I think BB means the A6 image, which would indicate the 1s cut is for the Scott 22 1s brown ($20+). But then BB asks for a 2s yellow! There are no other 1875 yellows except for Scott 54, which is given a space on the next line. One could put in a 1873 Scott 13 2s yellow ($20+). Perhaps that is why the 1875 spaces were reduced from 5 in the 1940s editions to 3 in the '69.

•  The 1913-38 definitive issues- Be aware that 1-3 stamps are eligible for a space- based on color and watermark. Also some stamps are not eligible because of BB's color specifications. There are additionally minor numbers eligible based on Old Die/New Die size differences. I will create a  separate post about these issues.









Next Page






115 or 127 or 239, 116 or 128, 117 or 129, 118 or 130, 119 or 131 or 241, 120 or 132, 121 or 133 or 243,
134,136,122 or 137,123 or 139, 124 or 140 or 249, 141*, 143*, 125 or 145 or 252,


Next Page







171a* or 171,173,175,



To be continued in next post... 

A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1872-73 Scott 9 1 1/2s brown ($10+)
1872-73 Scott 10 1s blue ($20+)
1872-73 Scott 13 2s yellow (20+)
1872-73 (Scott 14) 4s rose ($10+)
1875 Scott 40 1/2s gray ($20)
1875-76 Scott 53 1s brown ($10)
1875-76 Scott 54 2s yellow ($10+)
1876-77 Scott 55 5r slate ($10)
1876-77 Scott 59 5s brown ($20+)
1876-77 Scott 65 20s dark blue (10+)
1879 Scott 70 3s orange ($20+)
1894 Scott 86 5s ultramarine ($10+)
1915 Scott 150 4s carmine rose ($10)
1915 Scott 151 10s ultramarine ($10+)
1919 Scott 158 10s dark blue (10+)
1921 Scott 165 4s rose & red  ($10+)
1921 Scott 169 4s rose red ($10+)
1921 Scott 170 10s deep blue ($10+)

B) (  ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.

C) *55-BB calls for the Scott 55 5r slate ($10), based on dates. Be aware there is a 1889 Scott 76 5r gray black @ <$1!

D) *1913-38- Be aware that 1-3 stamps are eligible for a space- based on color and watermark. Also some stamps are not eligible because of BB's color specifications. There are additionally minor numbers eligible based on Old Die/New Die size differences. See my separate post about these issues.

E)*141 is 30s orange brown. Not eligible is Scott 142 30s orange & green based on BB's color criteria.

F)*143 is 50s dark brown. Not eligible is Scott 144 50s yellow brown & dark blue based on BB's color criteria.

G)*171a is 1922 4s green (Old Die). The 171a is BB's specified stamp. Scott 177 4s green (New Die) is a 1937 issue. I include it now because it is the major number.

1919 Scott 155 1 1/2s dark brown "Dove"
Restoration of Peace after WW I
Out of the Blue
Japan is an interesting country for the WW classical generalist. The early issues are difficult, and forgeries are reported. Later definitive issues can be parsed to a point where one is heading into specialist territory. But the designs are attractive indeed.

Note: Map images appear to be in the public domain.

Japan - Bud's Big Blue

Love to see a comment!


  1. Re, Edoardo Chiossone... I was re-mounting my collection of Italian stamps yesterday, and I came across with this commemorative on topic.

    1. Thanks Keijo- great link, and a fine looking stamp portrait of Edoardo Chiossone.

  2. Hi, i have some stamps, one of them is like the one you posted as - 1894 Scott 86 5s ultamarine "Cranes and Imperial Crest", do u know the value of it? Thank you.

  3. Hello Kanamori

    You will need to do the work yourself. ;-)

    Find a Scott catalogue that covers Japan (check Libraries, Stamp Clubs etc), identify the stamps you have (not that difficult to do), and you will then know the catalogue value.

  4. nice intro to japanese philately ... on topic kobans ... visit http://kobans.blogspot.ca

  5. Thanks Mack

    Your Koban webpage is interesting indeed.


  6. Connie- glad you liked it.

  7. Interesting info: I have a brown coloured stamp with # 5 on bottom left corner and where it should be Sn in the bottom left I have Rn. Is this a printing error by the company printing the stamp, or are there ones known with Rn in the bottom right corner other than the Sn.?

  8. 10 Rin = 1 Sen

    The lowest denomination stamps for some issues was 5 Rn.

  9. Hello,
    shown stamps 1872-73 1/2 S. brown resp. 1 S. blue are Wada-forgeries. Check menu "expert" on www.isjp.org for detailed information.

    1. I really appreciate that information. I alerted the reader that those stamps are probable Wada forgeries. Should I order the CD about forgeries from the Society? (I am not a member.)

    2. I went ahead and ordered the forgery CD!

  10. Im building a japan stamp collection - its hard and challenging I have 1899 issues and the perfs are giving problems - can you please tell me the genuine perf for 1899-1907 issues as I have contrasting info on them and there shades differ also - greg- facebook @ stampmancollections

    1. I'm afraid the 1899-1907 Chrysanthemum eighteen stamps issue can come in varying perfs- from 11 1/2 to 14 and Compound. The Scott catalogue does not give more information. I suggest joining the The International Society for Japanese Philately (http://www.isjp.org/), and get your questions answered.