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China Large Dragon Stamps

Uploader: NIKKOLast Edit: 2016-08-04
Basic Information Category: Stamps & Postcards Subcategory: Stamps (Cancelled) Year: 1878 CE Century: 19 CE Country of Origin: China Issuer: Imperial Maritime Custom Service
SpecificationWidth: 2.5 cm Height: 2.9 cm
Description
Chinese Custom First Cloud Dragon Stamps, also called Custom Large Dragon stamps, are known as Large Dragons philately. The Large Dragon set consists of three stamps and was the first set of stamps issued in Chinese history. The face value is denominated in Candarins: 1 Candarin in green for printed matters, 3 Candarins in red for regular mails and 5 Candarins in orange color for registered mails. The stamp has a picture of a dragon in the clouds and waves with text of “Qing Postal Office” (大清郵政局). The dimension is 22.5 x 25.5mm, and the perforation is 12.5. The stamps were copper plate, relief printed by the Printing Plant of Shanghai Imperial Maritime Custom Service (IMCS) Book Making Department.

China started experimenting its postal service via the custom offices. At the time, the term “stamps” (郵票) did not exist in Chinese language; Chinese people called it “letter tickets” (信票) until around 1899. In 1866, the Chinese custom of the Imperial Qing dynasty began offering postal services. In 1878, in order to expand its postal services to the public, the Chinese government established five postal offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Yantai and Newchwang (Yingkou), affiliated under the custom offices. The Shanghai Postal Office was the one that created the first set of stamps in Chinese history.

On March 23rd, 1878, after received an order from Robert Hart, Inspector-General of Chinese Imperial Maritime Custom Service (IMCS), Gustav von Detring of the Tianjin IMCS started offering postal service to the general public. At the time, people had to bring the mails to the custom office, pay for the postage, have the mails remarked by the custom, and, then, send the mails through either custom or local posts. The procedures were tedious compared to the postage stamp system adopted by the Western countries. On June 15th, Detring mailed Hart of Shanghai IMCS and requested new stamps to be made. In July, Detring received the first batch of 3 Candarin and 5 Candarin stamps, and started issuing them in both Tianjin and Beijing branch. 1 Candarin stamps were issued shortly after. The exact first issuing date of Large Dragon remains uncertain, but it is generally believed to be around July 24th, 1878.

Although there are only three types of denominations, Large Dragon stamps do have slight variations. There were three primary dies hand carved for each denomination, and 25 dies were molded from each of the primary dies. An extra 3 Candarin die was molded after one was destroyed during the printing process, so there were a total of 76 printing dies existed. Philatelists have already identified the characteristics of each die. Because the printing plant workers would rebundle the dies into 5 x 5 formation every time they print a batch, philatelists were also able to determine how many times the dies had been rebundled by examining the variations of relative positioning of each die. So far, there are 12 different bundle patterns for 1 Candarin, 22 patterns for 3 Candarin, and 14 patterns for 5 Candarins.

There are also three types of paper variations to consider:

1. Thin paper era (1878~1882)
2. Broad edge (extremely thin) era (1882)
3. Thick paper era (1883~1885)

The exact total issued number of Large Dragons remains unknown, but Juan Mencarini (1860-1939), a famous Spanish philatelist of British and Italian descent who specialized in Chinese stamps, estimated that there were about one million Large Dragon printed over its lifespan.
Ownership InformationAcquisition Date: 2015-04-11
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