New Issues of the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, and Macau
Collecting the new stamps issued by the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, and Macau provides multiple windows into the culture, history, and geography of China. To make collecting new issues from the Chinese agencies easier, this page provides guides to the sources, as well as some other information regarding their philatelic products, and tables listing all of the stamps issued during the past year. These tables are posted as soon as Scott catalogue numbers have been assigned to the entire year set.
Sources of New Issue information
There are several ways to keep abreast of developments in the issuance of new stamps from the four Chinese stamp agencies. Use these links to the English language versions or translations of the following agency web sites: People's Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, and Macau. (In the Macau site only click the English tab in the uppermost right corner for a translation). For further information on the issuance of various stamps, especially sheetlets check the several eBay dealers that specialize in new issues, as well as xabusiness.com, a non-eBay dealer in Xi’an, China, or Fidelity Trading Company in California, both specializing in PRC stamps. On eBay simply search “[currient year e.g. 2012] china stamps”, to see what is currently available.
Types of Philatelic products
Like most other countries there are different categories of stamps issued for use as postage: definitive (regular), special, commemorative, and special use stamps (also called “individualized” in PRC). Definitive and special stamps are printed in large quantities and used the most on everyday mail. New sets of definitives are issued rarely, i.e. every ten years or so, and have simple designs, for example, the early PRC Tien-an Men stamps. Commemorative stamps are issued on a significant date such as an anniversary, to honor or commemorate a person, event, or place. Special stamps tend to be used to commemorate cultural, historical, or geographic features. Most postage stamps are published in the familiar sheets of 10 to 20.
An example of a definitive stamp from the new set (Beautiful China), issued May 19, 2013.
Special stamp: Mother’s Day stamp, issued on May 11, 2013. On most PRC stamps the tiny numbers in the bottom, left corner gives the serial number of the set. Here 2013-11 indicates the 11th issue of the year, and (1-1)T in the lower right corner, indicates the stamp is the first in a set of one. The T indicates it is a special stamp.
Commemorative stamp: 2013-4, issued March 5, 2013. This commemorates the 12th National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China; the tiny J in the lower right corner indicates it is a commemorative stamp.
Accompanying some sets of commemorative and special stamps are souvenir sheets, which are defined as “a mint miniature sheet comprising one or more perforated stamps, printed with a background design matching the stamp issue theme”. When these stamps have a different design and/or denomination from others in the set, Scott gives these a separate catalog number.
Souvenir sheet: This souvenir sheet includes a single HK$150 denomination stamp, which accompanies a set of six other stamps, celebrating the 150th year of stamp issuance in Hong Kong.
A souvenir sheet is different from a sheetlet (also called a minisheet), which is “a small sheet of stamps comprising one or multiple sets of stamps of a commemorative [or special] issue” and commonly has a background design. In some instances the distinction between the two types of sheet is not obvious. Sheetlets, like “panes” from U. S. Postal Service, are commonly issued as a supplement with the collector in mind. In the brief descriptions in the accompanying tables mention is made of the supplementary products that have been issued.
A miniature sheet issued on April 21, 2013 to supplement the Cloisonné issue (2013-9). This sheet contains two copies of this set of six. The characters in the gutter, 景泰蓝, Jing tai lan, is the Chinese name for this art form.
Since 2002 all four agencies have issued one or more sets of individualized, personalized or special-use stamps each year. All individualized stamps have an attached label that carries a design, but not a denomination. Individuals, companies, schools, or organizations can apply to release stamps with customized patterns or logos on the labels. Some stamps are issued multiple times with different labels. The PRC special-use stamps are not part of the series of commemorative and special stamps issued during the year, and therefore, are not given a serial number. See for example, Scott #3911, Communist Party Emblem, special-use stamp with label, issued 5/21/2011, in the table below. The Republic of China (Taiwan) uses “Personal Greeting Stamps” for such issues (see Def.133, issued May 27), while Hong Kong uses “Heartwarming Stamps”, like those issued on November 11. Macau normally offers “Love and Blessings” and “Celebration” varieties of personalized stamps, but none seem to have been issued for general use in the past year.
Special-use stamp issued on May 19, 2013, as part of the National Tourism Day.
Some other things to look for in newly issued stamps
Both Hong Kong and Macau stamps are printed on paper that their web sites described as “paper with security fibers”. The sparse fibers, up to 3 mm in length, are straight or slightly curved and randomly scattered in the paper. A few fibers are colored red or green; some are colorless, but fluoresce in long-wave ultraviolet light. Most stamp catalogs have long applied the term “granite paper” to these papers, but the abundance of fibers is nothing like that in the “granite paper” envelopes and stock paper that can be purchased at your local stationary supplier. In these papers the fibers are dark gray or black, abundant, and crinkled, to give the paper the appearance of granite.
Hong Kong Post places fluorescent bars along one vertical margin of their stamps, to help orient envelopes in automatic sorting and cancelling equipment. Since September of 2002 all PRC postage stamps also have fluorescent tags, but these are numbers near the middle of the stamp. These are the same as the number of the sheet printed in black in one margin. Most souvenir sheets have these number tags, but are not necessarily on the perforated stamp in the sheet. Some stamps like PRC 2011-12 have some colors of the design printed with fluorescent ink. All these features can be observed in long-wave ultraviolet light.