Bidding skyrockets for Chinese cover with rare customs marking

May 2, 2021, 11 PM

The rarity of this 1883 cover lies in the oval customs marking under the Hong Kong stamp. It tripled Interasia’s presale estimate, bringing $148,000.


The Interasia auction firm based in Hong Kong held a sale Nov. 1-4, 2014, that saw total realizations of some $8.7 million.

One highlight was a creased, torn and somewhat ratty-looking 1883 cover with a not-uncommon 10¢ lilac stamp of Hong Kong (Scott 14 or 42, depending on the watermark). What makes the cover special is a prominent oval “Newchwang Customs/Mail Matter” handstamp underneath the adhesive.

Before China developed its own postal system at the end of the 19th century, international mail was handled by one of the foreign-dominated systems: the Imperial Customs Post, the Shanghai Postal System or the several foreign agencies operating throughout China.

Discovered only a few years ago and considered unique, the cover from Newchwang (present-day Yingkou, in the northeastern province of Liaoning) is one of the earliest uses of a Customs Mail Matter handstamp in all of China. This particular marking was previously known only on a cut-out fragment. It sold for the equivalent of $148,000, or about triple its presale estimate.

Further highlights of the November Interasia sale, too numerous to summarize here, can be found on the firm’s home page