Guide to Hong Kong Stamps
The history of commonwealth stamps weaves into and is reflected in the history of the British Empire, and collecting stamps of former crown colonies often yields appreciation of the intricacies of that history. Hong Kong stamps epitomize this relationship between philately and history.
Always a bustling commercial hub, Hong Kong was the jewel of British possessions in China, so much so that the Crown retained control of the island-city from the end of the first Opium War in 1842 until 1997. Cognizant of Hong Kong’s value as a commercial power in its own right, the People’s Republic of China allowed it to retain a great deal of autonomy, including that of its post office.
From 1941-1945 Britain’s colonial rule was interrupted by four years of Japanese control, an economic and human catastrophe for Hong Kong. Refugees from the Chinese Civil War also helped to reshape the island’s demographics.
Victorian Era Hong Kong Stamps
Many rare Hong Kong stamps date from the earliest issues in 1862 and 1863. Hong Kong stamps under British rule featured the reigning British Monarch and the name of the colony in Latin and Chinese characters. Some of these highly collectible Hong Kong stamps, featuring the image of Queen Victoria, are also quite valuable. For example, some specimens of the 1865 olive bistre are valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. During this period, inversions and double-printings of overprints arose from printers’ errors, as did variations in hue and perforations. Another valuable Hong Kong stamp from the Victorian era, the 4 cents pale green perf. 12.5, attests to the esteem collectors accord such variations.
The third and final issue of the Victorian era was printed in 1882. All in all, including overprints, 61 stamps were printed in these three issues.
The establishment of the Treaty Ports in the mid-nineteenth century created an additional niche interest related to Hong Kong philately. The ports used Hong Kong stamps overprinted with the name of the particular port.
Postage Stamps of Hong Kong in the Twentieth Century
With the new century came a new monarch, King Edward VII. From 1903-1911 a series of three issues featured the nearly bald monarch. These “bald issues” comprised 39 individual stamps, but as is often the case in philately, consistent printing has blunted collector interest. With little variation among the stamps and a relatively abundant supply of each stamp, the “bald issues” garner little attention.
Edward was succeeded by the bearded George V, for whom the “Beard Issues” of 1912-1937 are named. Again, these definitives are not particularly rare or valuable. A commemorative issue at the end of Edward’s reign is of some general interest, because there are so few commemorative Hong Kong stamps. Hong Kong stamps overprinted “China” – used elsewhere in British China – are similarly interesting, but not especially valuable.
No Edward VIII stamps were issued during that king’s short reign. He was followed by George VI, during whose reign the Japanese seized the island, along with much of eastern China. Imperial Japanese definitives were used from 1941-1945, and are recognized as “Hong Kong” stamps by their postmarks and overprints.
Another commemorative – the Victory Issue – celebrated the re-establishment of British rule in 1946.
Of the 35 definitive George VI stamps printed between 1938 and 1952, the most sought-after is the 8-cents George VI definitive with perforation error. During Elizabeth II’s reign, 292 definitive stamps were issued.
The first Hong Kong Post issue of 1999 depicted a series of iconic public places in Hong Kong.
Popular Hong Kong Stamps Under Hong kong Post
Being so recently issued, the stamps of post-British Hong Kong are not yet noteworthy from the collector’s point of view, but many bear innovative designs that are interesting for their sheer beauty. In 2008, for example, a series of six stamps depicting glow-in-the-dark jellyfish were printed, causing some stir for their innovative and frankly delightful design.
Where to Buy Stamps of Hong Kong
For the serious collector, auction sites such as Herrick Stamps and Sandafayre offer pages of stamps at auction, meticulously catalogued. Many of these pages are not for the beginner; if you choose to build your Hong Kong collection through auction sites, search for one that starts at lower values, until you really have a feel for online auctions and for Hong Kong collecting. Lots of assorted Hong Kong stamps can also be found online.
To keep current with first-day covers and other current offerings of the Hongkong Post, go to http://www.hongkongpoststamps.com.
For general information on where to buy stamps online please visit my stamp collecting home page.
What’s my collection worth?
http://www.allworldstamps.com/ deals in Hong Kong Stamps (among many others as well) and provides a collection valuation service, for members who choose to subscribe to their service.
Stanley Gibbons also offers a valuation service and have an extensive database which includes stamps of Hong Kong. They charge an annual subscription fee for this service
You could also try we buy stamps who offer a free no obligation valuation for your collection. All you need to do is fill in an online form.
Clubs and Societies:
The Hong Kong Philatelic Society is active in promoting stamp collecting as a hobby as well as raising the local standard of exhibition through support of Hongkong Post’s Inter-School Stamp Exhibits Competition. They are also one of the founding members of the Federation of Inter-Asian Philately and a member of the Federation Internationale Philatelie (F.I.P.). They have a comprehensive website with articles, auctions, news updates and more.
The Hong Kong Stamp Society was formed in 1992, in the United States, to promote the collection, study, and sales of Hong Kong stamps, covers, and other philatelic items. More than 800 members from over 30 countries have joined. They have a web page with information on how to join and membership benefits.