Red hot stamps from red China

Liberation of Tibet 1952.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) postage stamps are good investments.

Collectors are lucky because PRC stamp prices have risen drastically in recent years driven by the increased purchasing power of millions of Chinese collectors.

Of course, nothing is a good investment until it is sold, and profits taken, and that is especially true for stamps where prices can go down just as sharply.

In the early days of the PRC they issued normal looking stamps for the time. The above stamps are from a 1952 set called Liberation of Tibet. Note the use of Tibetan script.

Huangshan 1963.

By 1963, China was issuing very attractive stamps such as this one depicting Huangshan, a beautiful mountain.

Anti-American declaration 1968.

Then came the Cultural Revolution (remember the Little Red Book?) and most of the stamps issued at the time featured Mao and his thoughts. The above stamp from 1968 is called the Anti-American Declaration.

It probably says something like “Stop bullying us America, we’ll revalue the Yuan at our own pace”.

Revolutionary arts 1968.

Even the arts were not spared from propaganda as this battalion of ballerinas shows.

There are a few interesting PRC philatelic rarities as well.

Tiananmen 1956 (version I).
Tiananmen 1956 (version II).

The above left view of Tiananmen Square was withdrawn before it was released. Because the sun rays were thought to resemble the glare from a nuclear explosion.

The version on the right was issued instead. The stamp on the left sold for HKD920,000 (RM478,150) in an auction, well above its estimate of HKD500,000 (RM259,864).

1968 great victory.

This 1968 Great Victory of the Cultural Revolution stamp depicting Mao and Lin Biao (Mao’s heir apparent) was distributed to post offices but withdrawn before the official issue date.

One post office in Hebei was said to have sold a few before the issuance date which explains the rarity of the stamp (whatever happened to the postmaster!)

There’s no known reason why the stamp was withdrawn but Lin Biao died in a plane crash three years later after a failed coup attempt.

A similar block of four of these stamps sold for nearly HKD7million (RM3,638,102).

The Whole Country Is Red, 1968.

This last stamp is the 1968 “The Whole Country Is Red”. It was withdrawn when it was noticed that the Xisha and Nansha Islands (the still disputed Paracel’s and Spratly islands respectively) were missing from the map of China.

Since these islands are so microscopic the artist could have argued that they were in the crowds somewhere, but Mao wasn’t a person to argue with, so the stamps were destroyed apart from a few whose lucky owners can now sell it for HKD750,000 (RM389,806) a piece.

This article first appeared in Thrifty Traveller