The Hong Kong 'China' Overprints
British Offices In China 1917 - 1930

Useages at the Agencies

The links at left show the markings used along with the earliest and latest known useages of those markings as well as a census of covers from each of the Agencies. Transparencies, scans, updates and corrections to add to these are gratefully received. This information came from a number of sources and I have not listed cancels used outside the period 1917 -1930.

Contributions and updates to the census have come from a variety of sources, most of whom are listed on the acknowledgements page. Data regarding frequency and rarity of the various cancels have come from research done by Mr. Frank Drake and Mr. David Drake and published in the Hong Kong Philatelic Journal.

Where known, the source of the listed dates are marked as follows:

S - Schoenfeld
W - Webb

Index Letters

The primary function of an index letter in a circular date stamp is to positively identify the person who made that mark in case fraud or error should be discovered at a later date. With the use of the time slug, <used at some Agencies>, this is usually associated with a special duty where the time of posting is paramount.

It is believed that in most British Post Offices, the index letter A was the postmaster's private seal. Other letters were used by different clerks.

With respect to the date formats at some offices being found in both forms, month before day (MM/DD) and day before month (DD/MM), Mr. M. Pullan of London reported in the HKSC Bulletin 229 (Nov/Dec 1980) "At a small office with only one counter chop the postmaster is faced with a dilemma if his clerk goes home sick and he has to issue a different c.d.s. to a replacement clerk. He cannot issue the original chop for security reasons as it has already been used on that date. I am informed that it was common practice to alter the position of the index letter or reversre the numbers and letters of the month i e JA 23 instead of 23 JA to enable the same chop to be used by more than one person on the same day"

In addition to usages from the agencies, there were a number of other interesting uses of (and attempts to use) the overprinted stamps. Such uses are documented and shown under "Other Markings".

A couple of forged covers exist:

Forged registration handstamp on cover from Shanghai to Geneva dated 29 Jun 1922.

Also, a number of illegal or incorrect uses, particularly attempts to use the overprinted stamps in Hong Kong, have surfaced.

Hong Kong

Sent to New York
(US postage dues are possible later addition)

May 19 1917
Hong Kong   Sep 16 1918   Back
Swatow Not sent via British PO Apr 21 1920
Hong Kong Sent from Shanghai but not cancelled until Hong Kong Oct 23 1921
Hong Kong Size G C1 Reg Envelope Mar 7 1922
Hong Kong   Mar 10 1923
Shanghai   Nov 19 1924
Hong Kong   Apr 15 1926
Singapore Paquebot   Sep 12 1926   Back
Shanghai   1927
Kobe 1 1/2c on 1c Brown Postal Card Nov 14 1938
Australia Size G C1 Reg Envelope Mar 7 1947

The use dated 10 Mar 1923 is interesting as it came from the Perrin collection and was annotated as follows: "..large quantities of the China issue were left unused and were returned to London for destruction in 1924. There is some doubt whether they were offically acceptable in Hong Kong itself during 1923. This mixed card was passed by the British Post Office at Sheung Wan <?> on 10th March 1923, The total face value of 9 cents is in excess of the normal six cent rate for postcards to England."

Certain of the stamps are rarely found on cover. The following is a preliminary census of some of these high values:

Total Value
MCA $10 $10.90 Luggage Tag from Wei Hai Wei - Liu King Tau 21 Sep 1930
MCA $10 $10.00 Piece from Hankow ?? 2? 1922
MCA $3 $3.00 Cover from Shanghai Jul 26 1922

Finally, there are a couple of instances where overprinted stamps were used to forward mail and the following two covers are rather remarkable examples.

Letter from Scotland to Wei Hai Wei forwarded to Tientsin, USA and back to Scotland Nov 8 1926
Letter from Scotland to Wei Hai Wei forwarded to Tientsin, USA and back to Scotland Nov 8 1926