The 1897 $5 on 3c Red Revenue surcharge stamp - one of the most sought after in Imperial Chinese philately - has led a January 28 auction in Hong Kong.
The stamp, an exceedingly rare original gum example, sold for $103,791, just pushing past its $103,000 low estimate.
The Red Revenue stamps were first issued at the inauguration of the imperial postal system, when the changeover to the silver dollar system led to a demand for new values.
The $5 on 3c surcharge came with the introduction of a remittance system in 1898, through which a maximum of $10 could be safely transferred. The existing 3c revenue stamps were surcharged at $5 to meet this cost, the highest denomination of the series.
As they were created specifically for this new system, the surcharged stamps were mostly used on remittance certificates and, therefore, original gum examples are exceedingly rare. Adding to this rarity was the strict policy to destroy both the remittance certificate and stamps on redemption, making even used examples scarce.
These facts combined with the consideration that this was a temporary issue and only around 5,000 were ever printed, account for their popularity at auction.
An 1897 $1 on 3c Red Revenue became the most valuable Chinese single stamp in 2010, after selling for $710,000. It has since been knocked from the top spot by a Whole Country is Red stamp, which sold for $1.1m in May 2012.