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Interasia holds one of the largest Chinese stamp auctions ever
People’s Republic of China 1968 unissued large format “Whole Country is Red” from the Cultural Revolution period, of which less than ten examples are thought to exist, realized HK$5,020,000 (Lot 2426; presale estimate HK$3,500,000).

HONG KONG.- Hong Kong-based Interasia Auctions held this year’s first major international auction of Chinese and Hong Kong postage stamps and postal history this past weekend, realizing an astounding total of HK$81,846,075 (US$10,554,000), eclipsing the HK$60,000,000 (US$7.7 million) presale estimate and making it the third largest auction ever of Chinese and Hong Kong stamps (exceeded only by two previous Interasia auctions). This massive auction will no doubt also prove to be the largest auction of Chinese and Hong Kong stamps anywhere in the world this season, as has been the case with Interasia’s other recent twice-a-year auctions.

The 3,600 lot sale of China, Hong Kong and Asian stamps and postal history took place January 11–14 at the Excelsior Hotel, Hong Kong, where over 140 room bidders keenly competed over the lots, along with 60 bidders on the telephone and hundreds of clients who had submitted written bids in advance of the auction or participated through Interasia’s live-auction internet bidding.

“We are gratified by the broad support and keen interest from collectors for both China and Hong Kong stamps. They reflect a very healthy and vibrant market and produced our strong results. Notwithstanding economic uncertainties, collectors continue to actively pursue their hobby, across all price levels,” remarked Dr Jeffrey Schneider, Director of Interasia Auctions and noted expert for China and Asian stamps.

“With such a strong market, as you can imagine, the competition was especially fierce for rare and elusive pieces,” said Dr Schneider.

Among the outstanding realizations, in the Classic China, rare envelopes with the 1878-85 Large Dragons – China’s first stamp issue – were particularly fiercely competed over, with the very rare “Postage already paid/Do not demand, do not pay” framed handstamp applied to Large Dragons on cover (one of only two such recorded usages) (Lot 95) bringing HK$1,955,000 (versus a presale estimate of HK$1,000,000) and an outstanding Large Dragons-U.S. combination cover realizing HK$1,840,000 (Lot 110; presale estimate HK$1,000,000).

The ever-popular 1897 Red Revenue stamps, considered by many to be China’s first true national postage stamp issue as the previous stamps had been issued by the foreigner-dominated Customs Department and now the most popular issue of Classic China, saw a used part sheet of 80 of the Small 2c. sell for HK$1,380,000 (Lot 545) and a spectacular used corner pane of 25 of the Large 4c. realize HK$920,000 (Lot 604). In the Republic period, the set of imprint blocks of four of the 1914-19 first Peking printing Junk set brought a robust HK$1,150,000 (Lot 739).

People’s Republic of China likewise showed many strong realizations, highlighted by the HK$5,020,000 paid by its new owner for the 1968 unissued large format “Whole Country is Red” from the Cultural Revolution period (Lot 2426; presale estimate HK$3,500,000), of which less than ten examples are thought to exist and which the previous owner had purchased four years earlier at another Interasia auction for HK$3,450,000. Depicting workers, peasants and soldiers before a map of China with one worker holding up Mao’s little red book, it was to be part of a set commemorating the Great Victory of the Cultural Revolution, but is thought to have been rejected because of its large size and ordered destroyed.

Other notable People’s Republic realizations included HK$1,725,000 for the 1968 unissued Victory stamp (Lot 2425; presale estimate HK$400,000); HK$1,610,000 for the 1953 unissued Air Force military stamp (Lot 2569; presale estimate HK$1,000,000); as well as HK$1,150,000 for the pristine marginal example with printer’s imprint of the 1968 issued “Whole Country is Red” vertical-format stamp, the most iconic stamp of the People’s Republic (Lot 2427; presale estimate HK$600,000).

Dr Schneider said, “We are gratified by the keen interest in these rarities, and the results far exceeded our presale estimates.”

The 134-lot “Hugh Lawrence” specialized collection of the East China Liberated Area, representing stamps issued locally in areas liberated by the Communists before the issuance of stamps for the People’s Republic itself in October 1949 and related postal history, was actively competed over, bringing a staggering HK$2,436,900 – almost five times its HK$506,000 presale estimate (Lots 2001-2134), reflecting the increased popularity of the forerunners to the People’s Republics, as well as the outstanding nature of this collection formed in the U.S. over many years.

Three exceedingly rare 1883-84 envelopes from the early Customs Post in Southern Taiwan to the Princely State of Oldenburg in Germany brought a staggering HK$5,922,500 versus a presale estimate HK$1,700,000 (Lots 3764-3766), with the 1884 registered envelope alone bringing a riveting HK$2,990,000 after fierce bidding (Lot 3766; presale estimate HK$1,000,000). A 1918 Chinese postal stationery postcard used at the Chinese Post Office at Kiachta in Mongolia realized a staggering HK$2,530,000 to the amazement of a rapt auction room – over six times its HK$400,000 presale estimate (Lot 3927).

Dr Schneider remarked “Postal history has become increasingly popular in recent years, as collectors expand their collecting scope, complementing the collecting of the stamps themselves.“

He continued “With its increasing wealth and almost unprecedented economic growth, China is producing a new generation of major stamp collectors, who have taken their place among great world stamp collectors. Complementing this is the Chinese tradition where stamps hold a special place in Chinese culture and are regarded as important cultural icons and treasures, just like art. It is personally a great privilege and honor to be part of this fabulous dynamic. They are joining a whole group of collectors of China within the rest of the rest of the Greater China area as well as abroad, who include both members of the Chinese diaspora and non-ethnic Chinese. In fact, over the past few years, we are seeing serious new interest from Westerners, who choose China as a collecting interest, no doubt at least in part because of the excitement of being in one of the world’s most dynamic – if not the most dynamic stamp collecting market.”

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