A rare Chinese stamp, known as the king of stamps, has sold for a remarkable HK$3.5 million, roughly £300,000.
The 1897 small one dollar stamp, of which only 32 are thought to exist, was actually printed in error, but in the world of collectibles an erroneous printing will often lead to increased interest due to extremely limited quantities.
The stamp was sold following a three day auction in Hong Kong, Asian stamps have become somewhat of a hot commodity in recent times, with £2 million raised by this past auction alone. Modern Chinese stamps are seeing big leaps in price as investors and wealthy collectors speculate that China’s growing wealth will only serve to keep the stamp prices climbing. In some cases stamp prices have quadrupled in the last two years, leading to record sales figures.
Louis Mangin, the man behind the auction and the director of Zurich Asia, said: “There's been a huge amount of speculation going on in the last year and a half in some of the more modern People's Republic stamps that were printed after 1949. Prices of old stamps are rising at perhaps 15 per cent a year, but the modern issues are growing at more than 100 per cent as clients speculate that values will continue to rise.”
“What is interesting is that the boom in Chinese stamps is flowing back into the West as collectors want to be a part of the boom, it's a bit like the stock market, people want to get into it,” he added.
Apparently the lure of Chinese stamps spreads far beyond the streets of Shanghai: “Like all speculative investments, international clients are coming in to benefit from the market. The biggest buyer this weekend was a London investor who bought more than HK$2m (£165,000). It's not just mainland Chinese” Mangin added. In fact international sales of Asian stamps have been described as “astronomical” by auctioneers.
Some stamps are known to command high prices without even being rare. A whole sheet of 1980 ‘Red Monkey’ stamps sold for HK$1 million despite five million sheets known to be in existence. The stamps in question attract interest due to their design- a Chinese zodiac symbol on a red background- a design that symbolises wealth.