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1919-1922 Offices in China issues

For several years, the U.S. operated a postal system in Shanghai, China.  Other countries did the same in other enclaves, colonies or spheres of influence. In 1919, the Post Office Department overprinted the then-current Washington-Franklin definitives at double their face value and supplied the stamps to the consulate in Shanghai. The stamps were also sold to collectors and dealers through the Philatelic Agency in Washington.

Values on the lower denominations up to 40 on 20 (plate numbers < 9500) are from the original printing, whereas higher plate numbers ( > 10500) are from later printings, mostly to meet collector demand. There were no later overprintings on the high values (60 on 30, $1 on 50, and $2 on $1); or if there were, they were overprinted on the same plate numbers as were originally used and are indistinguishable from the earlier printings.

The stamps were valid for use within the U.S. but were rarely used thus. After the Shanghai postal agency closed in December 1922, collectors could buy the stamps for a short time through the Philatelic Agency.

The Offices in China overprints represent an area that is ripe for continued study. New plate numbers and positions are still being discovered.


1919 First issue

Scott K1, 2 on 1, plate number 13222

Scott K2, 4 on 2, plate number 9199

Scott K3, 6 on 3, plate number 8473

Scott K4, 8 on 4, plate number 12551

Scott K5, 10 on 5, plate number 13275

Scott K6, 12 on 6, plate number 7828

Scott K6 var, 12 on 6, overprint to left, plate number 7834

Scott K7, 14 on 7, plate number F12562

Scott K8, 16 on 8, olive green, plate number 7742

Scott K8a, 16 on 8, dark olive green, plate number 7742

Scott K9, 18 on 9, plate number 6918

Scott K10, 20 on 10, plate number 8438

Scott K11, 24 on 12, dark claret, plate number 7037

Scott K11a, 24 on 12, claret brown, plate number 6934

Scott K12, 30 on 15, plate number 7927

Scott K13, 40 on 20, plate number 7033

Scott K14, 60 on 30, plate number 6927

Scott K15, $1 on 50¢, plate number 7040

Scott K16, $2 on $1, plate number 5782


1922 Second issue

Scott K17, 2 Cts. on 1, plate number 11792

Scott K18, 4 Cts. on 2, plate number 13129

Related issues 

Occasionally, local postmasters would overprint current U.S. stamps without permission. Here is a plate number single of the 13¢ Benjamin Harrison stamp from the 1902-03 Second Bureau Issue, overprinted for use in Shanghai. This unofficial local issue is known as the Darrah overprint.

Scott 308 var, used, 13¢, plate number 3831

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This page last updated September 11, 2017.

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