At the weekend, at a 'Stamps and Postal History' auction in Hong Kong, over 1,500 lots of rare Asian stamps were put up for auction.

But there was no doubt about the star of the show: an 1897 Three Cents Red Revenue stamp.

This rare Chinese stamp, with a distinctive red backing, has '3 cents' marked as the value, but also has '1 dollar' in both English and Chinese overprinted in black.

They were actually general payment stamps, not exclusively for postage, until 1897 when they were co-opted for the purpose by a hurried post office.

Red Revenue Stamp


50 of this kind were originally known to exist, of which 32 are accounted for.

The investment grade stamp sold for the equivalent of $331,671 to a bidder from Beijing, vastly exceeding the $250,000 estimate. 

This is the highest price known to have been paid for a single Chinese stamp.

The auction, which offered $1.55m worth of stamps, also presented a range of unissued stamps created by China's President in 1916, the year he tried to crown himself Emperor. Public resistance caused the monarchy in China to be annulled.

The sale of the 1897 Three Cents Red Revenue for $331k is an excellent example of the strength of the rare stamp market.

The stamp sale represents yet another benchmark for Asia in the collectibles markets. China's first-ever wine auction was a $1.3m success, and Asian art markets have also been generating excitement.


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