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
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
K1, 2¢ on 1¢,
plate number 13222
K2, 4¢ on 2¢,
plate number 9199
K3, 6¢ on 3¢,
plate number 8473
K4, 8¢ on 4¢,
plate number 12551
K5, 10¢ on 5¢, plate
K6, 12¢ on 6¢,
plate number 7828
K6 var, 12¢ on 6¢,
overprint shifted to left, plate number 7834
K7, 14¢ on 7¢,
plate number F12562
K8a, 16¢ on 8¢, dark olive green,
plate number 7742
K8, 16¢ on 8¢, olive green, plate number 10785
The original printings for use in China were all dark olive green (Scott K8a), with 4-digit plate numbers.
The later printings to meet collector demand were all olive green (Scott K8), with 5-digit plate numbers.
Variations in regular stamps are of course possible, but examples having plate numbers are conclusive for distinguishing K8 from K8a.
K9, 18¢ on 9¢,
plate number 6918
K10, 20¢ on 10¢,
plate number 8438
K11, 24¢ on 12¢, dark claret,
plate number 7037
K11, 24¢ on 12¢, dark claret, overprint shifted to right, plate number 6934 (Image courtesy of Bill Langes)
K11a, 24¢ on 12¢, claret brown,
plate number F10621
The original printings for use in China were all dark claret (Scott K11), with 4-digit plate numbers.
The later printings to meet collector demand were all claret brown (Scott K11a), with 5-digit plate numbers.
Variations in regular stamps are of course possible, but examples having plate numbers are conclusive for distinguishing K11 from K11a.
K12, 30¢ on 15¢,
plate number 7927
K13, 40¢ on 20¢,
plate number 7033
K14, 60¢ on 30¢,
plate number 6927
K15, $1 on 50¢, plate number 7040
K16, $2 on $1,
1922 Second issue
K17, 2 Cts. on 1¢,
plate number 11792
K17, 2 Cts. on 1¢, overprint shifted to right, plate number 10600
K18, 4 Cts. on 2¢,
plate number 13129
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.
308 var, 13¢ Harrison, Shanghai postmark, plate number 3831
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This page last updated January 3, 2021.