Vintage Chinese stamp sells for record sum in Hong Kong

08:12, February 02, 2010      

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A rare Chinese stamp from 1897 sold for HK$4.8 million ($617,959) to an Asian bidder, setting a record price for a single Chinese stamp at auction.

The "Small One Dollar" is one of only 32 recorded copies featuring a one-dollar overprint on a stamp with a face value of three cents. The 15 percent commission paid to the auction house raised the price to about $710,600.

Another copy was sold for $333,862 in September in Hong Kong by auction house Zurich Asia, according to the company's Web site. The previous record price for a Chinese stamp was set in November when an unidentified Asian buyer paid HK$3.68 million.

Jeffrey S Schneider, director of Interasia Auctions Ltd, which put 1,800 lots under the hammer during the two-day auction that ended on Jan 31, said the market has "taken a very big jump in the last year."

"You can buy real estate and stocks and also get into collectibles," he said. "At the end of the day, no matter how wealthy you are, you look at how one day you might have to sell it."

Strong demand by collectors and dealers helped Interasia realize HK$57 million, including commissions, during the sale, the largest amount ever made in a Hong Kong stamp auction, Schneider said.

Map bloomer

The auction included the $748,000 sale of a block of four commemorative stamps issued at the height of the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976) featuring Mao Zedong and late Chinese military leader Lin Biao.

A bidder also paid $267,000, including a 15 percent premium, for a stamp called the "Whole Country Is Red" that was pulled within half a day of its Nov. 25, 1968, issue because its scarlet map of China omitted the Xisha and Nansha islands.

Another highlight was a half a stamp that sold for HK$2.19 million, compared with pre-auction estimates of HK$600,000 to HK$800,000. The 1967 stamp, known as "Big Blue Sky," features Lin standing on a podium in Tian'anmen Square. It was never issued for unexplained reasons.

China's first stamp was issued in Shanghai in 1878 while the port city was controlled by foreign colonizers after the Opium War. Before that, payment for delivery of letters and parcels was handed to a courier.

In 1897, a national postal system was set up by the ruling Qing Dynasty. The UK produced the world's first postage stamp - the Penny Black - in 1840.

The most-expensive stamp ever auctioned was an 1855 Swedish stamp that was mistakenly printed in yellow rather than green. The "Tre Skilling Banco Yellow" fetched $2.3 million at a Swiss sale in 1996.

A 1918 upside-down version of the US's first airmail stamp, dubbed "The Inverted Jenny" and with a face value of 24 cents, sold for $977,500 at a US auction in 2007.

Source: China Daily
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