Stamps return east as Chinese investors buy back country's philatelic history

Growing Chinese wealth has prompted a shift in the stamp collecting dynamic.

Once the preserve of British and American investors, the emergence of China as the world's second biggest economy has seen stamp collecting become big business in the east.

Stamp collecting was banned by Chairman Mao but since his death in 1976 the pastime has gained considerably in popularity, with the country now boasting around 18m philatelists.

"What happens when economies open up and there's an expanding middle class is that people start buying their stamps back," Hugh Jefferies, the editor of Gibbons Stamp Monthly, told the Express newspaper.

"A lot of stamps from China, the Middle East and India are all leaving Europe and going back to the ­countries they originated from and when this happens, prices rise."

Keith Heddle, the director of sales and marketing at Stanley Gibbons, told the publication that China stamps are continually breaking records, with the beautiful pre-revolutionary specimens particularly popular as opposed to the more utilitarian communist ones.

Chinese Red Revenue rare stamp
This 1897 specimen is China’s most valuable stamp

The most expensive Chinese stamp is an 1897 specimen which sold to an Asian bidder for $710,600 in 2010.

It is one of just 32 examples known to exist, and was produced by the Qing dynasty for the country's new postal service.


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