New world record for item from China’s 1894-97 Empress Dowager issue

A new world record for a philatelic item from China’s 1894-97 “Empress Dowager” issue was set at a Spink auction earlier this month.

Offered as Lot 731 of the Lam Man Yin Collection of Small Dragons, Dowagers and their Surcharges, the nine-candareen stamp with 10-cent surcharge hammered down for $6,100,000 HKD (more than $1 million Cdn.)—a world record for a Dowager stamp.

According to auctioneers, this lot was a “magnificent example of this legendary stamp, considered the rarest and most sought-after Dowager surcharge. Many of the finest collections were without an example of this stamp.”


When China’s new Imperial Postal Service was established in January 1897, it adopted cents and dollars as its units of currency rather than candareens.

Because of these changes, new stamps were produced; however, a printing delay required the unused candareen stamps to be surcharged with values in the new currency.

Each of the 25-stamp sheets for the nine-candareen issue was made with one corner stamp printed upside down.

Before these sheets were given a surcharge, the left column of stamps, including the invert, was removed; however, according to auctioneers, “a few” of these sheets did not have the unwanted stamps removed. They were applied with the 10-cent surcharge, and the upside-down corner stamp became the record-setting rarity recently offered at auction.

Only three examples are known, and this is the only unused example.

It was previously owned by Sir Percival David, who sold his world-famous collection in London in 1970.

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