World Stamps

Japan’s stamps for offices in China present collecting challenges

Sep 18, 2014, 12 PM

Fifty years ago, George Fisher tabulated Japan’s 24 rarest 20th-century stamps in an article published in Japanese Philately, the journal of the International Society of Japanese Philately (

Last month I wrote about those issues, but not about the stamps issued for Japan’s offices in China.

Among the stamps with the smallest printing figures are nine released for the offices in China between 1908 and 1921, and a 1921 military stamp.

These stamps are found in the Scott catalogs following the airmail issues in the back of the book.

Because each of these 10 stamps is overprinted, care must be taken that the example tendered is genuine.

It is recommend that you acquire your stamps from a knowledgeable source, and certification by a recognized expert is preferred.

Used material should be canceled in the correct time period.

The table accompanying this article provides some insight into these stamps, including the quantity issued, and the value for the unused stamp as listed in Vol. 4 of the 2015 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.

Keep in mind when reviewing the quantity figures that not every example remains available today for collectors. Most were lost to philately.

Those that are in collectors’ hands tend to show the signs of the times. If these definitives come well centered, it wasn’t on purpose.

Unused examples most often exhibit their age with multiple hinge marks on the reverse.

The Japanese Stamp Specialized Catalogue 1871-1946, more familiarly known as the JSDA, is primarily written in Japanese and illustrated only in black and white. It is not easy to locate. That aside, there are enough symbols and English text in this reference to understand much of the message.

These scarce issues are further divided by the attention that specialist collectors pay to shades and perforation studies. Blocks and imprint pairs often trade at impressive premiums. With the JSDA, the collector has a road map.