The Transition of Hong Kong's Philatelic Ownership

September 11th, 2013

The team of thanks its young friend philatelist Ethan Chiu for the collected and provided material on Hong Kong philatelic history.

Not many people know that stamps ever issued by Hong Kong cannot be considered as Chinese by origin, even if the city of Hong Kong is a part of today's China. Surprisingly, there are many British stamps featuring the words "Hong Kong". Let's see how it could occur.

On January 20, 1841, China officially ceded the island of Hong Kong to the British as result of the First Opium War. About 7 months later, the Hong Kong Post Office (HKPO) was founded. It was not until December 8, 1862 when the first set of postage stamps was issued. A set of Queen Victoria stamps was released. Specifically, the two-cent stamp of Queen Victoria came first.

This picture shows a whole unused set of Queen Victoria stamps. As you can see, in addition to the two-cent stamp, there are eight-cent, twelve-cent, eighteen-cent, twenty-four-cent, forty-eight-cent, and a ninety-six-cent stamp in the first set of stamps. The stamps were designed by Jean Ferdinand Jonbert. The stamps were printed by De La Rue & Co. Beginning from 1838, the stamps bearded a Crown CA watermark. In this time period, the HKPO made stamps showing famous monarchs of the British Empire.


In addition to the set of Queen Victoria stamps, the HKPO published their first set of King Edward VII (the son of Queen Victoria) between January and July 1903.

Unlike when the Queen Victoria’s stamp came out, the King Edward VII stamps had the Crown CA watermark. Similarly to the Queen Victoria stamps, the King Edward stamps were designed by Jean Ferdinand Jonbert and made by De La Rue & Co.

This picture features the whole King Edward VII mint set showing all the fifteen denominations present in the set of 1c, 2c, 4c, 5c, 8c, 10c, 12c, 20c, 30c, 50c, $1, $2, $3, $5, and $10. Five years before this set of stamps was published; Britain had been given an additional 99 years of rule over Hong Kong. This meant that Hong Kong would print British stamps as a colony of Britain until 1997.


Other notable stamps released by the HKPO as a British colony were the King George V, King George VI, and the Queen Elizabeth II stamps. The Queen Victoria set mint is hard to find as a whole. You should be lucky to find a whole mint set in good condition for 49 USD. Individual mint Queen Victoria stamps range from 20 USD to as much as more than 1000 USD based on specific details like perforation. Used Queen Victoria stamps are still not common but much less valuable.

Individual mint King Edward VII stamps bring a price range between 10 to more than 250 USD. As you can see, Hong Kong stamps are of a good value and a rich history. Moreover, Hong Kong overprints are really the unknown gems of Hong Kong philately.

Five years after the King George V stamps had been published; stamps from the HKPO were overprinted with the word "CHINA" so the stamps could be used in the China Treaty Ports (treaty ports were formed in China at the conclusion of the First Opium War for foreign trade). The other reason of Hong Kong stamps' overprint was the completely different currency of China and Hong Kong at the time. The Chinese dollar was worth 4/5ths of the Hong Kong dollar. The Hong Kong stamps could be overprinted only upon the agreement of the Post Office in London (GPO). In 1915, people began seriously considering the overprinting. On November 23, 1915, Hong Kong’s Postmaster General of Hong Kong Mr. Wolfe sent a detailed report after a tour for Treaty Ports.

After a little less than a year, the GPO ordered to overprint Hong Kong postage stamps (specifically the Crown CA KGY issue) with "CHINA". About 6 years later, Script CA watermark Hong Kong stamps were also overprinted with "CHINA". On November 1922, China Treaty ports were closed. The Crown Colony of Wei Hai Wei left the only one to use Chinese overprints until its closure in 1930.


HKPO began producing postal stamps as usual. 8 years after all the Chinese Treaty ports had been closed, De La Rue (the manufacturer of many Hong Kong stamps) was bombed during World War II. The printing company Bradbury Wilkinson and Harrison temporarily began to print the stamps on "rough paper Wartime printings” (thin coated paper). After World War II, De La Rue continued printing stamps again, specifically the King George VI issues. The HKPO printed stamps especially illustrating famous monarchs and Chinese New Year animals until Hong Kong’s return to China on July 1, 1997. On February 26, 1997, a set of “Neutral Definitive stamps” was issued bearing just the words "HONG KONG". The last British Hong Kong stamp was issued on June 30, 1997. It was the Hong Kong Classic Series No.10 stamp.

The stamp's value is $5. Arde Lam Bing-pui designed the stamp. Helio Corvoisier S.A. (Switzerland) printed the stamp using the process of Photogravure. This stamp also commemorated the 150th anniversary of Hong Kong Post anniversary. The stamp depicts a common mailbox in Hong Kong.


After Hong Kong’s return to China, the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) released its first set of stamps as part of China on July 1, 1997. The stamps were called Commemoration of the Establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, People's Republic of China.


The picture above is the complete set of these mint stamps. The values of the stamps are $1.3, $1.6, $2.5, $2.6, $3.1, and $5. The stamps' designer was Wand Huming. They were printed at the Beijing Stamps Printing Factory. This was the first time stamps were ever printed in China. All the previous stamps were printed in Britain, Switzerland, etc. These stamps show the famous attributes of Hong Kong like double-decker busses, boats, etc.


Right after Hong Kong's return to China most of the HKPO stamps have got a new view and construction. This fact characterizes the unceasing development of Hong Kong. An example of this is the World Bank Group/International Monetary Fund, Annual Meeting stamps seen in the picture below.

They were published on September 21, 1997. The process used was lithography stochastic. The stamps were designed by Colin Tillyer and printed by Ashton-Porter (Canada) Ltd. Although the Hong Kong Chinese stamps are not very valuable, they have a deep meaning. Like this 10-year anniversary stamp cover, for instance:

It commemorates Hong Kong’s return to China. The cover says that even if Hong Kong is returned to China, it is still part of "one country, but two systems." This means that while Hong Kong is part of China, it is still individually different from the rest of China. The cover declares: "Underpinned by the Basic Law, our freedoms and way of life have remained unchanged, and our legal, social and economic systems have stood the test of time."

As we were able to notice, even if Hong Kong is making stamps as part of China, it has a really special history. Hong Kong is thriving and it will be exciting to see new and intricate stamps issued by the HKPO.



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