Why Collect Japanese Stamps
by Lois M. Evans-de Violini
Throughout my 60 years of collecting these stamps, this is the question I am most often asked. I don’t read or write Japanese and this makes the job of forming a meaningful collection a little bit harder. It might have been impossible without the help of Japanese Philately, the journal of the International Society for Japanese Philately. This journal has been by my side throughout these many years.
Was it love of postal history? The beauty of the stamps? Curiosity about how the stamps were produced? A need to acquire, collect, or have something unique to me?
Some form of the questions above is what I am asked most often. The unasked part of that question is why Japan instead of the stamps of the US, Canada, Great Britain or another English speaking country.
The question is difficult to answer because there were many reasons. My father was a stamp collector. He collected US, Canada, and Great Britain. I wanted something different and unique. I wanted beauty, history, a challenge to my mind, and a collection that would be uniquely mine.
Then I purchased a dragon stamp. It took a great deal of effort and many months to discover whether this stamp was a forgery or genuine. It was declared genuine by a US expertising service. I had a genuine certificate. But I still questioned the status of the stamp, I didn’t like the way it looked. It was long before the internet, so I don’t remember how, but I found the ISJP and sent the stamp to their expert at the time. It was declared a “common forgery.” It was a common forgery and thus started my desire to learn how to know what was genuine or forged for myself.
The early issues are challenging. The early postal history is entwined with the postal history of the US, Great Britain, France and other countries.
Japanese stamps throughout all the years are some of the most intricate and beautiful in the world. These stamps have history and uniqueness. Japan has some of the most interesting aspects of postal history, and production. The designs tell a story of a nation.
What other country in the world produced their first issues of stamps by hand etching each position separately on copper plates of 40 stamps. I have never counted the number of plates that were produced this way, but I know there were over 100 plates for the stamps. Also, there were postal stationery plates of a different size produced this way as well. That makes over 4000 different designs intricately hand etched from 1871 to1876. In my opinion, the work in those early issues in incredible and beautiful. Take a look at the graphic below of the stamp in Plate 2, position 27 of the 48 mon stamp issued in 1871. This stamp is called the “Mikazuki Ryu” or crescent moon dragon. 1. Is the big curved slip that gives the stamp its name. 2. Is a much small slip which is hard to see. 3. Is a black plate crack.
Most of my collections of classic Japanese Stamps and Postal History was sold at auction in 2011 in Hong Kong by Dynasty Auctions, I kept the more recent philatelic material. This philatelic material is now for sale on this website.