InterAsia Auctions

Sale 36

Lot 513

China, 1897 Red Revenue 3c. red without surcharge, perforation 14 x 14½, deep vibrant colour on crisp white paper, excellent centring within large balanced margins, very fine unused with much original gum, tiny gum skip at lower right, hinge remainders, an outstanding and noteworthy example of this rare stamp in the traditional rich red colour. Chan R1.
Estimate HK$ 400,000 - 500,000


The 3c. stamp inscribed "China" and "Revenue" was originally produced in 1896 by the London printers Waterlow & Sons as a revenue stamp for Customs Department use, following an initial request by Sir Robert Hart, the Inspector General of the Imperial Maritime Customs, to James D. Campbell, the Customs Commissioner in London, in November 1895. The stamps were printed in sheets of 100 and perforated on three different machines and are line perforated 12-16. Waterlow & Sons shipped the 650,000 stamp order to China in September 1896. The 3c. revenue stamp was, however, never put into use, because of local opposition to the taxation scheme that the stamp was intended to serve.

At about the same time (1897), China was preparing to introduce a new silver dollar currency and a national postal service, the Imperial Post, supplanting the Customs Post, and a new definitive stamp issue reflecting these changes was ordered from printers in Japan. When the new issue was delayed because of production difficulties at the Japanese printers, the 3c. revenue stamps were surcharged by the Shanghai Customs Statistical Department as a stop gap measure in the first months of 1897 - producing the iconic and preeminent issue of Chinese stamps, the Red Revenues - as were existing stocks of the Empress Dowager issue.

A small number of the 3c. revenue stamps, though, were not surcharged, including examples which were presented to officials, as well as 761 stamps that were later transferred to the General Post Office. Of the latter, the entire stock, except for ten stamps that had been given to the Chinese Postal Museum, was tragically destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, as recounted to Dr. Chang Min-Sheng by Mr. Wu Feng Gang, a former Director of the Postal Museum. In addition, a few unsurcharged 3c. red revenues were retained by the printer Waterlow & Sons. It is thought that less than 100 unsurcharged 3c. red revenue stamps exist today, making them a rare and important element in the red revenue issue.

All surcharge positions are believed to be accurate, but cannot be guaranteed as such.

Realized HK$ 460,000

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