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Philately Auction

The "Sun" Collection of the 1897 Red Revenue
Surcharge of China - June 23, 2001

Matthew Bennett, Inc.

 Sale - #234 


This highly important collection was assembled by a prominent Philatelist during the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's and includes many items never before offered publicly. While this holding was never exhibited competitively, it was shown once in 1981 at ROCPEX at the request of the Taiwanese government. This impressive collection, to be sold as 94 lots with presale estimate of $2,500,000, contains many of the great rarities of this issue, with strength in multiples and Covers. Among the highlights is the unique pair of the Small One Dollar Surcharge, an item that is widely considered to be one of the most singular pieces in all of Chinese Philately (estimated at US $500,000 - 700,000). Other important items include: the finer of the two known un-surcharged blocks (est. US $150,000-$200,000), one of the finest of nine recorded examples of the Small 2c Surcharge in Green, the finer of the two known blocks with double surcharge on the Small 2c Surcharge (est. US $75,000-$100,000), and one of only three recorded pairs of the Small 2c Surcharge showing a double surcharge inverted, this one being unique by virtue of the bottom stamp additionally having an inverted "s" in cents (est. US $100,000-$125,000). The $5 Surcharges are highlighted not only by singles with surcharges, but also by the unique inverted surcharge pair tied to a Remittance Certificate by a Shanghai postmark. The 20 covers are truly remarkable and include many of the most spectacular franking from the issue. 


1897 Small "1 dollar." Surcharge on 3c Red (Chan 86), the mint "horizontal pair" of this most sought-after rarity, being positions 1-2 in the surcharge setting of 25, beautifully centered, deep rich color, full original gum, some usual climatic gum toning, the left stamp with a trivial shallow thinned spot, Very Fine (Scott #83, $450,000 for two singles). Chan Cat. as two singles is $480,000.****"The unique pair of the small "1 dollar." surcharge and widely considered one of the most singular items in all Chinese Philately." This legendary stamp is the most sought-after and consequently the most valuable stamp of China, though other Imperial Chinese stamps are actually rarer. There are two shades of the small "1 dollar." surcharge and three surcharge types, which indicates that several panes of 25 of the overprint setting must have been prepared and issued. Today there are only 34 known examples, these include the unique block of four, the unique horizontal pair offered here, about 23 mint singles and a solitary used single now in the PRC government collection. Of the three types of surcharges this is Ty. II, which shows the "1 dollar." positioned above "REVENUE" and is by far the rarest type, with only this pair, three mint singles and the unique used copy known.****Ex. Adolphus Diercking, who purchased it in 1897 at a Post Office in China and sold it 60 years later in sale conducted by H.R. Harmer on 5-6 November 1956 as lot 213, Sir Percival and Lady David, who were the buyers and later sold it as lot 2149 of the "David" sale conducted by Robeson Lowe on 13 November 1969, and Mr. James Huangco.****Illustrated in ~The Revenue Surcharges China 1897 (Vol. 1)~ on page 37 and again in ~Prize Selections from the Rocpex Taipei '81~ on page 143. Est. $500,000-750,000.

1897 "2 cents." Surcharge on 3c Red, Surcharged in Green (Chan 84T), Pos. 1, a lovely mint example of this World Class rarity, very well centered, deep rich color, strong clear surcharge, original gum which has been somewhat disturbed during hinge removal, small thinned spot, choice Very Fine. Chan Cat. $200,000.****This enigmatic stamp has long puzzled philatelists. The official Post Office archives in Peking burned down in 1900 destroying the records of the production of the Red Revenue surcharges. Originally, it was believed to have been regularly issued. In the 1940's it was the subject of much attention when it was touted a being "The Rarest Chinese Stamp." Over the years specialist in the issue have come to believe that it is a trial printing of the surcharge that was ultimately rejected as being too light.****One of the key items required in forming an important collection of Red Revenue Surcharges, in all "only nine examples have been recorded," including one with an inverted "s" in "cents" from the "Roseway" collection and a top marginal vertical pair that appeared in the 1980's, which is itself an enigma as its cliches, known as #16 and #17 are arranged vertically rather than horizontally, suggesting an new setting of the surcharge plate! Of the nine known examples, nearly all have faults to varying degrees, this example, with its beautiful centering and original gum is "considered to be one of the finest extant."****Ex. James Huangco, illustrated in ~The Revenue Surcharges China 1897 (Vol. 1)~ on page 14 as cliche 1 and in ~Prize Selections from the Rocpex Taipei '81~ on page 151. Est. $150,000-200,000.

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1896 3c Deep Red, Un-surcharged, Perf. 14 (Chan R1), an exciting mint right marginal block of four, well centered, quite fresh and with rich color, full original gum, some small natural gum skips mostly on the top left stamp, hinge remainder at top, the top left stamp with a sealed tear at left, light stain and thin in the selvedge only at bottom right, Very Fine.****In early 1896, due to advice provided by Chen Pi, Supervisory Official of the Chinese Imperial Government, the Emperor was petitioned to approve the issuance of stamps for revenue purposes, and a quantity was subsequently printed by Waterlow & Sons in London and shipped to China. The public, however, resented this form of taxation and these stamps were never issued for the purpose for which they were produced. They were stored in the vaults of the Shanghai Customs Statistical Department until they were called to service for surcharging upon the formal opening of the Imperial Post Office on 20 February, 1897.****This block is one of the cornerstones of an International Gold Medal winning exhibit of the Red Revenue Surcharges, as it is "one of only two recorded blocks of four of the un-surcharged 3c Revenue stamp," with no larger multiples being known, "one of the most significant multiples in all Chinese philately."****Ex. Sir Percival and Lady David, from where it made its last auction appearance in a 22 July, 1970 sale held by Robson Lowe of London, illustrated in ~The Revenue Surcharges China 1897 (Vol 1)~ on page 3 and again in ~Prize Selections from the Rocpex Taipei '81~ on page 141. Est. $150,000-200,000.


For more information please contact us at: 

Matthew Bennett, Inc.
601 Washington Ave
Baltimore, MD 21204
Phone: (800)638-4223
Fax: Fax: (410)321-5747

Online viewing of sale at Bennett Stamps


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