A short history of Chinese Stamps
Image: Wikimedia Commons
The postal history of China dates as far back as the Zhou Dynastym in the first millennium BC, when an organised network of riders would carry mail between the furthest outposts of the empire.
In the 12th century BC the postal system was controlled under the Mongolian Ortoo system, a complex system of relays allowing mail to travel faster than ever before.
While the first foreign post offices opened in China in 1844, in the aftermath of the Opium Wars, it was not until 1878 that the first official Chinese stamps were issued.
Known as the Large Dragons, they are among the most valuable Chinese stamps of all time, with the finest specimens regularly achieving figures around the $100,000 mark.
Another series known as the red revenue issue, which were produced as a stopgap between the 1897 and 1898 issue. The best examples can reach figures close to $1m.
Their successors, printed CHINESE IMPERIAL POST, went on sale in 1898.
The revolution of 1911 necessitated the design of new stamps. The first examples, issued in 2012, bear the profile of Dr Sun Yat Sen, first president of China.
One exceptional pairing sold for $707,000 at Zurich Asia in Hong Kong in 2012.
Other hugely valuable Chinese stamps include the rare Whole Country is Red error. This highly desirable issue features a red map of China – although the designer responsible made the mistake of not colouring in the contested territory of Taiwan.
The stamp was swiftly withdrawn and most were destroyed. Today they achieve figures in the $500,000 range.
One of the most fascinating stamps of recent times is the Golden Monkey, which was issued in 1980.
While a total of 5m were printed, demand is high among collectors and non collectors alike. This means that despite ubiquity, specimens easily sell for in the region of $1,000 – while sheets can sell for 100 times that.