US Stamps

Stamps overprinted, surcharged for U.S. Postal Agency in Shanghai

Jun 3, 2020, 10 AM
The United States Postal Agency in Shanghai, China, $2-on-$1 violet brown Benjamin Franklin stamp (Scott K16) is missing from many U.S. collections.

Stamp Market Tips by Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

During the chaotic years of the early 20th century, many foreign nations, including the United States, maintained post offices in China.

Overprinted U.S. definitive stamps were placed on sale at the U.S. postal agency in Shanghai on July 1, 1919. These stamps were surcharged at double their face value and sold in local currency. They were valid for prepayment of postage at the agency in Shanghai for delivery to addresses in the United States.

After the office in Shanghai closed in December 1922, the stamps were briefly placed on sale at the Philatelic Agency in Washington, D.C.

The stamps are listed and valued in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers with catalog numbers prefixed with the letter “K.”

The stamps range in surcharged value from 2¢ to $2. One stamp that is missing from many U.S. collections is the $2-on-$1 violet brown Benjamin Franklin stamp (Scott K16).

The Scott U.S. Specialized catalog values the stamp at $425 in unused hinged condition and $925 in mint never-hinged condition. The stamp is valued at $750 in used condition with the value in italics.

Used examples must have the proper U.S. Shanghai roller, oval or dated circular datestamp. If a stamp is unrecognizable as postmarked in the U.S. agency in Shanghai, don’t buy it. If unsure, get it expertized.

In true very fine grade without faults, the stamp is a good buy at a high percentage of Scott catalog value in both unused hinged condition and mint never-hinged condition.

Prices for lower grades, with stamps in fine-very fine grade and unused hinged condition without faults, range from $150 to $200.

Forgeries exist of all Shanghai overprints on stamps in mint never-hinged condition in grades of very fine or higher. More expensive stamps should be expertized for authenticity and condition. Addressing the issue when buying saves you from finding out bad news years later.

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