Explosive growth of Chinese stamp prices in Europe
I’ve written to you in the past about what makes the Chinese stamp market so unique…
And, why it became the biggest bull market ever seen in stamps.
I’ve visited China and Hong Kong multiple times in the past 15 years, attended auctions and met with the key traders in the market.
The buzz in the stamp market there is like nowhere else.
There is no other market I can think of where I have witnessed prices rising 10% per month!
Inevitably, the Chinese stamp market saw quite a hefty correction between 2016 and 2018.
Prices then remained rather subdued, in the most part, from 2018 to 2021.
But, things are heating up again.
A new dynamic came into play last year…
And this dynamic is bringing jaw-dropping price realisations at auction.
But, not where you might think…
This time it is not the frenetic buying activity of the 20 million stamp collectors in China causing prices to rise.
Oddly, these new high price realisations are taking place in our own backyard.
New wave of growth from Europe
The highest prices realised for Chinese stamps in the year were at European auctions. Most popular were mint sets, miniature sheets and printing varieties from the Postal Administration of the People’s Republic of China (known as PRC issues).
An increasing number of prices realised at European auctions were well above their catalogue values.
Michel stamp catalogues are the most widely used by European collectors. The latest China catalogue was published in 2020.
Prices have clearly moved on since then…
For example, the 1968 “Mao Youth” issue, valued at €280 in Michel, sold for €1,300 at Auktionshaus Gärtner last year
Also, two values from the 1961 ‘Rebirth of the Tibetan People’ set saw bids 150% above Michel catalogue value for mint unhinged examples.
A classic of the PRC, the 1962 miniature sheet featuring the ‘Drunken Concubine’ saw a variety of realisations in the year…
Despite a Stanley Gibbons catalogue value of £11,000, an unmounted mint example achieved a top realisation of £19,000 in 2022.
20 million collectors and rising
There is clearly a rising interest in Europe for Chinese stamps, probably partly fuelled by speculation based on past price rises in the market.
However, there are also more Chinese buyers participating at European auctions seeking to repatriate their philatelic heritage.
The last big bull market in Chinese stamps ran from around 2005 to 2015.
No matter what the Chinese buy, they drive up prices. That is because of the size of their economy and population.
Westerners simply couldn’t compete with the prices the Chinese were willing to pay during that time and were completely priced out of the market.
That is apart from a few canny European and US investors I worked with who achieved big returns during the strongest ever bull market in stamps.
It was inevitable that the fast-rising prices would attract another group of buyers to the market at that time - the investors and speculators.
I remember attending auctions in Hong Kong in 2010 to 2015 and failing to buy hardly anything. The auction rooms would typically be full of Chinese millionaires who flocked to Hong Kong where the biggest auctions were being held.
A famous quote at the time from Louis Mangin, the Managing Director of the Hong Kong auction house Zurich Asia, summed things up:
“Some of the post-1949 issues rose 10 to 30 times. Others even turned to expensive stuff thinking it would go up another 10 per cent next month.”
It was an exciting time, but there was a sting in the tail…
This remarkable run led to a market correction, with some areas falling by as much as 50% within a few months.
The market then stabilised at this new level and is now in the process of taking off again to new heights.
A Fine Chinese Collection
As I said at the beginning, this is probably your biggest market opportunity in stamps for 2023.
To enable you to get on board the exciting, albeit sometimes volatile, Chinese stamp market ride, I have put together a great collection of Chinese rarities for you.
The collection covers the fast-growing modern issues, the classics of the Chinese Empire and rare printing varieties.
This provides a wide diversification within the collection across a range of collecting areas.
Stamps from China suffer more than most from condition issues. As such, premium prices are achievable for the ever-elusive high quality examples.
The collection is focussed on the finest quality examples you could realistically hope to acquire in the market.
The last Stanley Gibbons catalogue was published in 2018. The last catalogue value of the collection is £32,450.
You can secure the collection from me, however, for the price of £28,300.
That price represents a 13% discount to the catalogue value in 2018.
And, as I have illustrated, prices have moved upwards since then.
The table below details the individual catalogue values of the stamps in the collection since 2003…
The collection shows an increase in value of 353% in the 15 year period from 2003 to 2018, despite falling by 20% between 2013 and 2018.
Illustrating the importance of market timing, the collection rose in value by a staggering 355% in just 5 years between 2008 and 2013.
Catalogues by Stanley Gibbons and Michel are only published every few years. The prices above are from Stanley Gibbons catalogues with the last edition published in 2018.
Because of this, the most recent prices in the catalogues are behind market developments.
Clever buyers can take advantage of such phases.
Increases to catalogue values this year when new editions are released seem inevitable.
Let’s look at the stamps
China 1878 5ca Orange 'Candarins', thin paper 2½mm spacing, SG3.
A fine mint example with small part original gum. A pleasing example of the first postage stamp issue from the Chinese Empire.
The Chinese Empire Large Dragon stamps are one of the most attractive stamp issues of all time. When you soak up the intricate detail of this piece of artwork created with precise accuracy on a minute piece of paper, you can’t help admire the skill involved.
The dragon is an important symbol of Chinese culture. It is considered a symbol of power, strength and good luck.
Finding fine quality mint examples of China’s first postage stamps is challenging. Few examples you will find are as fresh as this.
This stamp comes from the first stamp issue of the Chinese Empire in 1878 and holds the same collecting importance in China as the penny black in Great Britain.
Stanley Gibbons catalogue value: £1,500.
China 1897 12ca orange-yellow '60th Birthday of the Dowager Empress', from the unissued second printing, SG32.
A fine mint example with large part original gum, which is lightly toned as is common.
A rare and classic Chinese stamp and the 'key value' of this issue.
This printing was made for surcharging in the new currency.
Genuinely used examples are unknown.
China 1897 (Jan) set of 10 to 30c on 24ca rose-carmine, small figure surcharge on Dowager Empress, first printing, SG37/46.
A fine quality mint set with large part original gum.
The Dowager Empress stamps were the very first commemorative stamps issued by China. They were issued to celebrate the 60th Birthday of the Dowager Empress, one of the most powerful women in the history of China.
China 1897 “Red Revenue” large surcharge $1 on 3c deep red, SG91.
A fresh quality mint example with part original gum.
A scarce and popular stamp.
In 1897, the new Qing Dynasty government took charge of the Post Office. There was an immediate need for a large quantity of stamps, especially those of high value. While waiting for the delivery of new stamps from Japan a Provisional Issue was made using existing stock from the Imperial Customs.
A quantity of 600,000 of the 3c Revenue stamps received from England were surcharged with different values. The high value surcharged stamps, such as this $1 example, are very scarce and highly sought after by avid collectors.
The Stanley Gibbons catalogue value, last published in 2018, is £6,000.
China 1897 (Aug) Tokyo Tsukiji type foundry printing, 50c deep green error of colour, SG104b.
A fine quality example with large part original gum and some typical light gum toning.
This stamp, depicting a Carp, was from the first issues to be inscribed “Imperial Chinese Post”.
The error arose with the 10c colour being used in error instead of the intended bright yellow-green of the 50c stamps.
It is a rare stamp error of colour, yet remains available at a relatively modest price. It is very scarce, with only 240 examples believed to have been issued.
It is a particularly fine example for an early Chinese stamp with large part original gum and only light gum toning.
Although 240 examples of this error are known to have been issued, it is much rarer today. Fewer examples survived and it is the first example we have handled.
China 1897 "Imperial Customs Post' Tokyo printing $2 orange and yellow, SG106.
A fine mint example of this very scarce stamp with fresh colour. A couple of slightly short perforations with traces of original gum.
This classic stamp issue from 1897 depicts a wild goose (or Bean Goose). The bean goose was an important motif in Chinese poetry symbolising “bearing a message of love from afar”.
It is an apt and appealing symbol for this Qing Dynasty stamp. It reminds us of one of the wonderful uses of letter writing and the prepaid postal system which facilitate distribution - spreading messages of love.
This issue is from the first and rarer printing, lithographed in Japan. The paper used for these stamps shows a watermark in the form of a yin-yang symbol.
Mint examples are very scarce, particularly with such fresh colour. The few slightly short perforations do not detract from the quality of this stamp, which easily secures the quality grade “fine”.
China 1943 Kiangsi Province 20c on 13c blue-green, Type L, Peking printing, SG690c.
A fine and fresh unmounted mint example with full original gum.
Very scarce, especially in such fine unmounted mint condition, hardly ever seen.
China 1946 Air, C.N.C. surcharge $200 on $5 lake, error surcharge inverted, SG824a.
A fine mint example with original gum and lovely fresh colour.
Image: Junkers F-13 flying over Great Wall of China.
A rare error as only one sheet of 100 originally existed.
The Stanley Gibbons catalogue value is £600.
China People's Republic General Issues 1961 26th World Table
Tennis Match miniature sheet, SGMS1971a.
A fresh unused sheet in very fine condition.
Only 30,000 issued.
China People's Republic general issues 1968 Directives of Mao Tse-tung se-tenant strip of 5, SG2397a.
One stamp with tiny natural gum inclusive, lightly folded between fourth and fifth stamp, unmounted mint with full original gum.
Each of the five stamps in the se-tenant strip features a statement from Chairman Mao about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The stamps are distinguished by the number of lines of text over Mao’s signature.
This is one of the rarest and most famous philatelic items of the People’s Republic of China.
The bull in a China shop
The Chinese rare stamp market presents very attractive market dynamics when considering purchasing from an investment perspective:
- The nationalistic pride of the Chinese psyche manifests itself in philately
- There are 1.4 billion Chinese people, with only small numbers of quality stamps available to purchase
- Stamps are commonly used as an investment vehicle in China and more so than in any other country in the world
- China’s economic growth and rising number of wealthy individuals mean there is more money to pump into the market
- The trend of rising prices creates a momentum which brings rising demand to cause prices to rise further
The entire collection can be purchased from me today for the price of £28,300 ($35,000).
This is a 13% discount to the catalogue value of the collection in the last Stanley Gibbons China catalogue, published almost five years ago.
Please contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org to secure the collection.
Alternatively, give us a call on +44(0)1534 639998 or message us to +44(0)7700702962.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Don’t miss out on the most attractive buying opportunity of 2023 in rare stamps.
PS. Did you know that before President Nixon’s trip to China in 1972 it was illegal to import the Chinese PRC stamps into the United States.