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


Stationary Specimens

The British Library and internal notes show that Specimen overprints of the Postal Stationary were provided to the Crown Agents.  That said, examination of the Bechuanaland Archive at the British Library shows that the examples provided to them do not have the Specimen overprint.  This leads us to believe that those Specimens created were for internal use and that the examples provided to the UPU had no overprint, which would explain why no examples have ever been seen on the market (or, indeed, seen at all outside of the British Library archive)

2 Cent Green Newswrapper

An order for 1085 newswrappers was placed with the original Nil requisition for the overprinted stamps and 1480 were sent by De La Rue on that requisition.  (392 additional were also printed for specimens but did not receive a specimen overprint.)  In May 1917 an order was placed for an additional 1000 but by September 1918 only a total of 395 newswrappers had been issued. (Perrin p27)   No used copies are known and unused copies are rare.  The surviving stock was destroyed after the closure of the Treaty Ports in 1922 and we know that a total of 1630 were returned to London. (HKSC Journal 263-9)

1 Cent Brown Postal Card

An initial quantity of 5500 postal cards were ordered with the Nil Requisition Number 70/16 in December 1916 and 5073 were overprinted and supplied. These postal cards were printed at the same time as the 70,000 cards ordered by Hong Kong on De La Rue Requisition 72/16. An additional 10,000 were send with Requisition A.  The interesting thing about the additional 10,000 cards was that they were ordered separately from the A requisition on June 2 1917 and entered into the De La Rue Daybooks on June 23, 1917 as Requisition 63/17. Unfortunately the rate for postcards increased to 1 ½ cents on 15 February 1918 and so the entire stock of requisition A and the vast majority of the 1c Brown Postal Cards with reply (which were split apart) were overprinted in Hong Kong to create the 1 ½ cent surcharge.  Consequently very few examples of the unused 1 Cent Brown Postal Card remain and no used examples have been seen (or images found to date). (That said, Lee Scamp states that one copy is reported used to Hammersley, but not seen; HKPSJ, 12.2002 and Castiglione reports an EKU and an LKU which are listed in the census)

1 Cent Brown Postal Card with Reply

An initial quantity of 1540 were ordered and 1140 1c brown postal cards with reply were sent along with the Nil Requisition in December 1916.  The vast majority of these were split and combined with the remaining stock of the regular 1 cent brown postal card to be overprinted 1 ½ cents to cover the new, increased postcard rate.  One used example of the message portion of the postal card are known. One example of the reply portion of the card and very few unused and un-split examples are believed to remain. (Probably less than 10)

1 ½ Cent on 1 Cent Brown Postal Card

On February 15, 1918, the local postcard rate increased from 1c to 1 ½ c.  To meet the requirement of Post Cards at the new rate, existing stocks of the 1 cent Brown Postal Card and the separated 1c plus 1c replay card Postal Cards were overprinted locally to create a total of 11,360 cards with the new rate.  Consequently there are three distinct subtypes that existed; the overprinted 1c Brown Postal Card and the overprinted Message side and Reply sides of the split 1c Brown postal reply card. One used example of the message side of a split postal card has been certified by the BPA.

4 Cent Carmine Postal Card

A total of 8750 ordered and 8347 4c carmine postal cards sent for overprinting for the Nil Requisition and an additional 6000 were sent with the A Requisition.  It is unknown how many were sold or even how many were overprinted to create the short-lived 6c on 4c postal card but it is known that 2332 were listed in stock in Hong Kong in September 1926.  There is also something very odd, records from the DLR Archive seem to show a quantity of 6,000 cards as being printed along with Requisition D. What is intriguing is that this same requisition not only ordered 6,000 of the 4c postal card but also ordered 1,000 Size F, 7,000 Size G, 2,500 Size H, 1,000 Size H2 and 2,500 of the Size K Registered Envelopes.  No mention has been made in any of the literature of this requisition and this appears to be the first time that this has been noted.  The postal cards were provided to the individual offices wrapped in groups of 10.

6 Cent on 4 Cent Carmine Postal Card

Virtually nothing is known about the 6 postal card overprint.  Research has shown that there was a short lived overseas postcard rate of 6c (up from the previous rate of 4c) that was in effect from January 1922 until the closure of the Agencies in 1922.  Consequently it is not known if a separate issue of 4c cards were produced and overprinted in Britain or whether existing 4c cards were overprinted in Hong Kong.

1 1/c Cent Orange Postal Card

An order for 10,500 of the 1 ½ cent orange postal cards was ordered by the Crown Agents on thr 7th October 1918 and were sent to Somerset House later that month. They must have reached the Agencies by January 1919. (Perrin p25)  As there were still nearly 8,000 of the overprinted 1 ½ c on 1c brown postal cards still in stock in Hong Kong in September 1918, it is believed that very few of the 1 ½ c orange ever saw use.  Certainly unused copies are very rare and only one used copy has ever been reported.  The 1 1/2 cent postcard for regular Hong Kong use had been ordered by the Crown Agents on the 1st of August 1917 with a follow up on August 15th 1917 to inquire about the Chinese characters being used which were submitted to the Chinese embassy for clarification. On the 28th August 1917, the Crown Agents approved the design stating that thie Chinese Embassy had checked it.


Date and Req. #

Quantity ordered from De La Rue

Quantity Sent by De La Rue for Overprinting

Quantity Delivered

2c Green Newswrapper Dec 1916 Nil 1450 1480 1085 None None None Known
2c Green Newswrapper Nov 1917 A 1000 1110 1000 N/A N/A N/A
1c Brown Postal Card Dec 1916 Nil 5500 5073 4673 ? Dec 23 1919 May 10 1920 1919
(Castiglione - Not Seen)
Dec 23 1919
May 10 1920
1c Brown Postal Card Nov 1917 Unknown 10000 10260 10000 N/A N/A N/A
1c + 1c brown reply paid card Dec 1916 Nil 1500 1540 1140 Jun 18 1917
(K.K. Ho collection
Image 1
Image 2
Image 3 )
  Jun 18 1917
(K.K. Ho collection
Image 1
Image 2
Image 3 )
1c Brown Postal Card Message Half Dec 1916 Nil 1500 1540 1140   Jul 28 1919 Jul 28 1919
1c Brown Postal Card
Reply Half
Dec 1916 Nil 1500 1540 1140 Feb 23 1918   Feb 23 1918
(Scamp - Harmon Fine Collection)
1 1/2c on 1c Brown Postal Card
(Made from overprint on 1c Brown Postal Card)
Local O/P     11360
(Approx. as this included the two types listed below)
Mar 5 1918
(Gartner 12.2007 Lot 4191)
Nov 9 1929
(John Bull 2.2004)
Mar 5 1918
May 24 1918
(Scamp - Spink 11/2001)
Oct 16 1918
Aug 3 1920
(Scamp - Spink 11/2000)
Aug 25 1920
Jun 29 1921
Aug 31 1921
Jan 9 1922
Jan 25 1922
(Scamp - Spink 11/2000)
Sep 25 1922

Oct 30 1922
Nov 30 1922
May 12 1927
(Scamp - Spink 11/2001 - Incorrect philatelic usage)
Nov 9 1929
Nov 14 1938
1 1/2c on 1c Brown Postal Card
(Made from overprint on Message portion of split 1c Brown Postal Card)
Local O/P     1100
    One Example
(Certified by BPA)
1 1/2c on 1c Brown Postal Card
(Made from overprint on Reply portion of split 1c Brown Postal Card)
Local O/P     1100
4c Carmine Postal Card Dec 1916 Nil 8500 8750 8347 Apr 25 1917 May 9 1926 Apr 25 1917
Oct 3, 1917
(Spink 1.2008)
Nov 2 1917
Dec 24 1917
Mar 25 1918
Apr 2 1918
May 25 1918
Oct 26 1918
Apr 10 1919
May 19 1919
Jul 24 1919
Jan 20 1920
May 8 1920
May 20 1920
Aug 12 1921
Feb 17 1921
Oct 3 1921
Jan 16 1922
Feb 18 1922
May 9 1926
4c Carmine Postal Card Nov 1917 A 6000 6200 6000 N/A N/A N/A
4c Carmine Postal Card Jul 1920 D 6000     N/A N/A N/A
6c on 4c Carmine Postal Card 1922   Unknown   Oct 19 1922 Dec 28 1922 Oct 19 1922
Oct 20 1922
Nov 30 1922
(Scawin collection)
28 Dec 1922
(Scamp - Spink 11/2000)
1 ½ c Orange Postal Card Jan 1919 10000 10500 10500 May 9 1923 May 9 1923 May 9 1923
(Castiglione - not seen)

Most of the above information has come from the China overprint section in the HKSC online postal stationery monograph and the absolutely amazing research done by Mr. Lee Scamp at:  Hong Kong Study Circle Papers (scroll down the link to find)

2 Cent Green Newswrapper

Of the 2085 wrappers that were sent to the Agencies, 1630 were returned to London and destroyed upon their closure.

1 1/2 Cent on 1 Cent Brown Postal Card

One example with a favor cancel from Shanghai is known dated 30 Nov 1922 (Zurich Asia Auction HK013) but it had no message, no address and did not pass through the mails.

The example listed and shown dated Nov 9, 1929 was probably philatelic, given the difference in the date of the message and the c.d.s. date.  Underpaid for 2c rate from W-H-W to Shanghai (Chinese 2c post card rate applicable to Wei-Hai-Wei 1922 - 30), but not postage due. (courtesy Lee Scamp)

New Discovery.  The De La Rue Private Day Book, Page 212 in the possession of the British Postal Museum and Archive prove that 10260 of the 1c postcards were printed from requisition 63/17 and sent to Somerset House on June 23, 1917.  This was separate from the A Requisition of October 3 1917 and included a curious requirement for 125 sheets of the 25c