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Glen Stephens
Monthly "Stamp News" Market Tipster Column

April 2010





Red China is RED hot!



I reported last month on the rampaging market for better Chinese stamps.

Even in the interim that market has roared ahead even further – and some key pieces have DOUBLED in recent months.

A client of mine is CEO Asia, for a very large Australian bank and he is based in Hong Kong.

He phoned me recently and told me the amount of mainland China money slushing around HK is totally beyond belief unless you are in the middle of it – as he is.

The real estate market has just burst there (again!) and stocks are looking toppy to many, so some of that money is trickling into other well respected fields like rare Chinese stamps.

A North American client of mine now living in HK attended the auction mentioned below. He said mainland buyers are VERY fussy.

They are not the slightest bit interested in Kangaroos, 1d Blacks or USA Zeppelins etc.

They ONLY want stamps that have Chinese language inscriptions, and NOTHING to with overseas country overprints like Germany, Britain and USA, as it reminds them of that despised “colonialism” era.

They also are not that keen on complicated specialist material – and the Cultural Revolution is easy to follow and understand.

They also really like the Cultural Revolution era as it is now decades old, and is a popular thing to collect.

Supply is very limited of the key pieces, and demand is sky high.

Another collector told me the key pieces doubling from even these levels by year end is readily possible in his view. Maybe treble.


The million dollar block


This block shown nearby caught my eye from a January 31 auction in Hong Kong.

People's Republic of China 1968 "Great Victory of Cultural Revolution" 8f prepared for use, but not issued. Depicting Chairman Mao and Lin Biao. A MUH imprint block, Yang W82.

The post office at Hebei had it is said, already begun selling stamps prior to the official issuance date - before the order was given to cancel the issue, and return the stamps to Beijing.

The block realised $HK6,670,000 -- or near a million dollars - $A970,000 as I type this.

This late January sale broke all kinds of previous records. A Vertical “All China Is Red” MUH pair got $HK1,725,000.

My column last month showed the corner block 4 that got HK2.3 million in November, and THAT was an all time record – now totally smashed!

  Price doubled in 4 months


The 1897 $1 on 3c “red Revenue” with toned perfs at top got double estimate $HK5,520,000 – or over $A800,000 at the same sale. There are 32 copies of this stamp recorded.

This is DOUBLE what another copy sold for in September in Hong Kong at the “Zurich-Asia” Auction .. and THAT sale of $US333,862 set an all time record for the stamp!

This PARTIAL stamp shown nearby with a crease and some grubbiness sold for $HK2,185,000 – or around $A318,000.

 HALF a stamp sells for $A318,000!


The stamp was the 1967 unissued 40th Anniversary of Establishment of Jing Gangshan Revolutionary Base 8f.

Chairman Mao & Lin Biao were depicted on a podium overlooking Tien An Men Square in Beijing.

Sold was the right half of the stamp, see Yang note following W84. Popularly known as the "Big Blue Sky", this stamp was intended to be part of a set to be issued in September 1967.

It was to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Chairman Mao's and his Autumn Harvest Army joining forces at Jing Gangshan in October 1927.

He planned to meet up with Zhu De and his Insurrection Army of August 1 Nanchang, and establish the revolutionary base there.

Only a few examples of the illustrated stamp survived. None are known of any other value in the set.

There are MANY theories on why the set was not issued.

They are all outlined here where we ran a poll, and very few had a clue it had just sold for anything remotely like $A318,000!

“Little Red Book” Treasure

Funnily, I got caught up in the Cultural Revolution excitement myself, and am now the proud owner of this kid’s special notebook shown nearby.

A third of it is filled with a youngster’s careful copying out of the Great Leader’s teachings into it by hand – the exact reason it was given out at schools.

 Now THIS is history!

The student has affixed a few used stamps to the cover of it .. which INCLUDED a copy of the great rarity - ”All China Is Red”!

As a mint pair of that just sold in same sale for over $A250,000, I figured the entire book at $A42,000 had to be a absolute steal to add to my Rarity page.

Would I rather have 8 of these books – or one HALF of a creased stamp for the same money was my thought!

Seeing the book is clearly unique (and the half stamp is not) it was a moot question, but the comparison was a valid one to make.

The other 4 stamps depicting the Red Guards, Mao, and his calligraphy Poem, all add to the appeal of it – even those as 4 used stamps have soared in value this year.

To me it has far more appeal and connection to the Cultural Revolution than any isolated mint stamp, but hey I am biased here!

Mao would have fumed if he saw this “All China Is Red” stamp, depicting “Renegade Province” Taiwan in WHITE, adorning the cover of his Communist manifesto I imagine.



Average AGE of collectors?


I have often wondered what the average age of collectors is, in this modern era.

As a dealer I’d have guessed my typical client is male, and middle aged or older.

Possibly due to the material I sell, my client base is a little skewed, but looking around me at any stamp show it seems to fit the bill pretty much exactly!

On recently I started a poll asking - “What age group are you?” lists the full discussion, and all the votes.

As you can see from the first 200 votes – which is a decent sample cross section, fully 80% of those responding are 35 or over in age.

You can still vote if you wish – the more votes . . the more accurate the data sample.

 Where do you fit in?


$30 very well spent

I am always surprised at how strong a “crossover” there is between stamp and numismatic collectors.

About 10 years ago I owned, edited and published the “Coin and Banknote” magazine. (“CAB”)

It is a great read each month, and has long been under the safe stewardship of John Mulhall.

I am sure if you email him on John will be pleased to mail you a recent copy as a sample.

Back then, we cross referenced the subscriber names against the stamp magazine subscriber names, and the overlap was about 25%.

Clearly a decent chunk collect both areas. With banknotes in particular, the recess printed notes are VERY akin to recess printed KGV and KGVI stamps etc, hence the ready appeal.

Back then I retained Greg McDonald as the editor – as he had been, since he founded the magazine.

So that introduction touches on why I have mentioned this new colour NUMISMATIC catalogue in a STAMP magazine.

It is the first ever colour edition of this well respected work …. this being edition 17, the first being published in 1993, so felt it was long overdue for a mention.

Greg kindly lists me in the “Special Thanks” section each edition, and for once I thought it was time to actually plug his book!

 Under $A30 post-free


The Pocket Guide to Australian Coins and Banknotes” by Greg McDonald is I guess pocket size ONLY if you have massive size pockets, as it is now 456 pages thick!

Current Australian recommended retail price is A$35, although a few large dealers are selling them under $A30 post free in Australia – check here for one instance -

There are two excellent and long standing, market leading sellers in this market – this volume, and the hard bound Renniks catalogue, which has been published for nearly 50 years, and is edited by Alan Pitt.

Both may have vanished about 10 years back, when a few folks on the Numismatic trade body Committee, had ideas to produce its own catalogue, and decide themselves the “retail” values.

I have had a lot to do with Alan Pitt, Renniks and Greg McDonald over the decades. All great people.

I made quite a nuisance of myself leading the industry charge to re-consider that idea, given 2 excellent, well respected and long standing books were already out there.

That point of view prevailed, and I really do feel the numismatic industry and hobby has stayed incredibly strong as a result, as tried and proven “arm’s length” price guides are absolutely essential for stability.

I cannot believe for under $30 a copy posted, how few stamp dealers and collectors buy these Coin catalogues. Even if you only buy one each decade, it is a valuable book to have around.

Just one vaguely decent thing turning up somewhere will re-pay it 10 to 100 times over.

As a dealer I very often get numismatic product turning up in stamp lots.

Often just circulated coins and notes – and more often Royal Mint and Perth Mint “product” bought in the last 20 years.

Do not assume this modern material is common and of little value.


Current catalogue value - $295 -

This ‘Year 2000’ proof set shown nearby is Cat $295 ... and has only $3.70 of face value coinage in there.

Did you have any idea such very modern issues were so pricey? I sold it on stampboards this year to a very happy collector.

The owner had toyed with taking the coins out and using them at Woolworths - from this and several others sets. He assumed as they were “modern”, they’d have little or no collector value!

Some of the quite ordinary looking (non bullion) product from around this era are listed in McDonald for much higher than this figure.

This week I found in a box from an estate, a 2001 “Centenary Of Federation” $5 coin that is cat $550 to my enormous delight. If anyone needs one please let me know!

Even well circulated currency notes are often worth SERIOUS money – even from the relatively modern KGVI era.

The very common orange 10/- note design circulated during the entire KGVI reign 1939-1952 is rated in MID grade “VF” for the VERY cheapest type at $A300.

Scarce signature combos go to $A4,500 in this mid grade, and of course “Star” notes go to $A40,000. This is all for the 3rd grade of the 6 listed. (The lower grades they do not even list!)

 Even these are VERY serious dollars.


For crisp uncirculated notes taken from a pay packet etc similar to the one in the nearby photo, you start at $A1,700 for cheapest possible type, and go to $A215,000.

And that is for the lowest face value KGVI note … I will not bore you with detail re the value of KGV notes and higher face values!

They can get into the 7 figure region. There is a scarce KGV Australian 10/- note shown on page 9 of this catalogue that sold at auction for $A1,909,000. Well over a million pounds Sterling.

I get dozens of circulated KGVI 10/- notes (and other values) a year in stamp collections, popped on a Hagner sheet and stockbook page as a curio etc, and assumed to have only a few dollars value.

If these folks spent under $A30 on such a book, they would realise their curio is clearly be worth 10 times that!

Knowledge Is Power” is the mantra I keep preaching for such things – and have done all my life.

As a young kid in the 1950s, my grandmother always mailed me a 10/- or £1 (or sometimes £5!) note with my birthday card. That was a very common thing to do.

Indeed the most “common” 10/- KGVI signature combination – Armitage/McFarlane as shown nearby has a MINIMUM catalogue value of $1,700 when never circulated.

 A $1,500,000 catalogue coin!


Even Australian coinage can be worth big dollars. A proof copy of the 1930 Penny is catalogued at $A1,500,000. That is WAY over a million $US, and near a million pounds.

The example shown nearby is such a coin, that seems to be on offer for about $A2 million in recent times from the Melbourne dealer.

Anyway a most useful catalogue, and good to see it now is released in colour. At under $A30 post-free you’d be nuts not to have one.

I do not know any stamp catalogue that has a colour listing of all the popular “PNC” issues – the Philatelic Numismatic Covers that Australia Post sells.

McDonald does of course list, illustrate and price them all. Again I see tons of these turning up in FDC collections and the owners have no clue they are valuable.

The 2000 “For Valour” PNC cover shown nearby is cat $A360, and cost under $A10 to buy from Australia Post.

Ditto the 2002 QE2 PNC - cost $A9.95 and Cat is now $A325. I bet a ton of readers have both bought at issue price, and had no clue these were so valuable?

 Cost $9.85 – now cat $360.

The only drawback I ever have is Greg’s odd decision not to assign ANY catalogue number, ANYWHERE in the book, to non banknote areas.

Given the vast amount of mint coin product being issued it is near impossible to identify anything with precision.

Why on earth Greg does not sit down and give EACH section logical catalogue numbers that can be used universally by the trade is one of life’s great mysteries.

For instance - why not take the PNC section and give them a “P” prefix from issue 1.

Thus the 1999 “Year Of Older Persons” is McP1 - and so on. Proof year sets are McPR1, and a 1911 halfpenny is McH1, a 1911 Florin is McF1 etc.

I cannot ask, as Greg is near impossible to contact by phone, indeed email is an annoying new beast for him, and as for having a website .... !

He’d double his business if all 3 worked as they normally do in commerce, but old habits die hard I guess.

Anyway, that bugs me every edition - and others too, so hope he can sit down and give each section a logical number system ... soon.

The work covers all the 19th Century sovereigns etc, indeed goes back to the 18th Century “Proclamation” coins etc, and the “Holy Dollar” and “Dump” issues.





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