Paper Heritage - China:
Unit Stamps of China 1949 and later surcharges

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The stamps of China can be a difficult area for railway philatelists, especially in the case of local overprints, where it is very useful to be able to read the handstamps in order to identify the location. There are many regional and local issues for China, but the listing of them is inconsistent with some stamps given full catalogue status by one major catalogue, whilst being excluded from another. This article is devoted solely to the 'Unit Stamp' in Orange and not only lists stamps that are in the major catalogues but attempts to provide a reasonably comprehensive listing of the local stamps, some of which are very scarce.

The so-called 'Unit' issues were first introduced in May 1949 for the parts of China still under the control of the (Nationalist) Government of Chiang Kai-shek. They were undenominated, a useful method of issuing stamps in a period of high inflation. Whilst NVI (no value indicated) stamps are widely used today, each one sold at the current rate for a certain class of mail, they were not so common in the 1940s. Of the set/4 issued in 1949, one value was for Ordinary Postage (it shows our locomotive), one value for airmail (an aircraft, in green), one value for Express Delivery (a motorbike, in magenta) and the last value for Registered Post (a mountain range, in red). We have used the symbol (-) to indicate 'no value indicated' on the stamp. Except for some very rare local / provincial overprints towards the bottom of the article, the stamps have all been illustrated, which should hopefully simplify these issues at least to some degree.

1949 Unit Stamps

The listing starts with the mainstream issues, found in most of the major catalogues, both before and after the Communist take-over. These are followed Local Overprints by the Nationalists. Although the Fukien overprint is perhaps rather more than a local overprint in status, we have included it in this section. The Nationalist postal authorities applied these overprints progressively as they were pushed back by the Communists, led by Mao Tse Tung. Finally, we show the Communist local overprints, many of which are extremely scarce, having served only briefly in a local area during a time of great upheaval when the postal service would have been under great strain.

Please note that the scans below include all the perforations issued to our knowledge, and that, quite frequently, a regional overprint was applied only to one stamp, either the perforated or the rouletted. Overprints are is BLACK, except where shown otherwise in illustrations, or where indicated in the text. Check-boxes have been provided, should you wish to print out this list and use it for reference.

In describing the different areas and regions, there has been a marked change in recent years in the way that Western languages transcribe Chinese. We have decided to follow the c.2005 SG catalogue for the spelling of these areas but readers should be aware that there may be several variations in the spelling of Chinese geographical locations, both in other stamp catalogues and in other publications. Even SG uses different spellings within its catalogue for issues from the same area but under different governments.

We have arranged these 'Unit' issues into THREE groups:

A. 'Mainstream Issues' as listed in major world catalogues (Mi, Sct, SG, Yvert) including regionals, People's Republic of China issues from 1950 and Taiwan.
B. Nationalist Government Local Overprints.
C. Communist Government Local Overprints.

A. Mainstream Issues .

1949 Unit Stamps Train

Above: from left to right (applies to the whole article):
China (National Issue) : 1949 (May 2) : (-) Perf 12½ (SG 1211A) [ . ]
China (National issue) : 1949 (July) : (-) Rouletted (SG 1211B) [ . ]
China (Kansu, Nigshia & Tsinghai Provinces only, (a nationalist area), (-) (Perf 12½) (SG 1223) [ . ]

We believe, but confirmation is required, that all the other stamps listed below, other than those for Taiwan, were issued by the Communist authorities.
South China ( Swatow ) : 1949 : (-) (Rouletted) opt is in red. (SG CC188) [ . ]
Note: SG number both Central and South China with CC numbers. SG CC188 was issued at Shantou (formerly Swatow). See also illustration below.

China Swatow Transposed
South China, Swatow, var.Columns of opt. chars. transposed.
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1949 Unit Stamps

North-West China - Shaanxi Province : 1949 (June 13) : (-) (Perf 12½) (SG NW46) [ . ]
North-West China - Gansu, Ningxia & Qinghai Provinces : 1949 (Sept) : (-) (Rouletted) (SG NW62) [ . ]
- ditto - but Overprint Double (NW62a) [ . ]

The final stamp in the scan shows a Forgery, Perf 12½. SG NW46 was issued at Xian and SG NW62/a at Lanzhou
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1949 Unit Stamps

North-West China - Xinjiang Province : 1949 (Sept) : (-) (Perf 12½) (SG NW90) [ . ]
- ditto - brackets omitted (SG NW90a) [ . ]
South-West China - Yunnan Province : 1950 : (14 Feb) : (-) Perf 12½ (SG SW56) [ . ]
South-West China - Yunnan Province : 1950 : (14 Feb) : (-) Rouletted (SG SW57) [ . ]

SG NW90/a were issued at Dihua and SG SW56/57 at Kunming.
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1949 Unit Stamps

People's Republic of China(PRC) : 1950 (Mar) : $500 / (-) Perf 12½ (SG 1424) [ . ]
People's Republic of China(PRC) : 1950 (Mar) : $500 / (-) Perf 14 (SG 1424a) [ . ]
People's Republic of China(PRC) : 1950 (Mar) : $800 / (-) Perf 12½ (SG 1425) [ . ]
People's Republic of China(PRC) : 1950 (Mar) : $800 / (-) Perf 14 (SG 1425a) [ . ]

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1949 Unit Stamps

People's Republic of China(PRC) : 1950 (Mar) : $1000 / (-) Perf 12½ (SG 1426) [ . ]
People's Republic of China(PRC) : 1950 (Mar) : $1000 / (-) Perf 14 (SG 1426a) [ . ]
People's Republic of China(PRC) : 1950 (Jun) : $800 / (-) Rouletted (SG 1430) [ . ]
People's Republic of China(PRC) : 1951 (May 2) : $25 / (-) Perf 12½ (SG 1502) [ . ]

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1949 Unit Stamps

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People's Republic of China(PRC) : 1951 (May 2) : $25 / (-) Rouletted (SG 1506) [ . ]

TAIWAN, island republic created by the Nationalists, after the Communists gained control of the mainland.
Taiwan (Republic of China, once known as Formosa) : 1949 (Oct 16) : (-) (Rouletted) (SG 86) [ . ]
Taiwan (Republic of China, also known as Formosa) : 1956 (Feb 10) : 20c / (-) (Rouletted) (SG 224) [ . ]
Taiwan (Republic of China, also known as Formosa) : 1958 (Dec 11) : 20c / (-) (Rouletted) (SG 304) [ . ]

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B. Nationalist Government Local Issues .

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There are numerous local or provincial overprints on the Train Unit issue, produced by the postal authorities under the Nationalist Government, most of which are scarce, some genuinely rare. We are greatly indebted to Bill Weinberger for the vast majority of the listing below, which has been arranged as follows:

** Three examples in large format, identified by province / locality.

** A scan of 29 overprints (one of them a repeat of the Nan Chi overprint, shown in large format immediately above), followed by their description in order (by row, left to right).

** A listing, without illustrations, of 19 further Nationalist overprints, reported by Bill Weinberger, but, in some cases, not seen by him in person.

** Two further overprints, this time on cover.

PERFORATIONS : Unless otherwise indicated below, the illustrated stamps are Perf 12½. However, it may be that some of them exist both Perf 12½ and rouletted. We have no information on perforation for the non-illustrated stamps.

1949 Unit Stamp Fukien Province Steam Train China Foochow Local overprint 1949 Unit Stamp Szechwan local overprint .

Scans Above : Left to Right :
c.1949 : Foochow City / Fukien Province : (-) Perf 12½ [ . ]
- as above - Reported also to exist Rouletted, confirmation required [ . ]
Foochow / Fukien again, but with additional violet overprint ( see footnote ) [ . ]
c.1949 : Szechwan (handstamped for Nan Chi) : (-) Perf 12½ [ . ]

Note on Double Opt (black and violet) above. We are informed that the postal authorities demonetised the original stamp (without overprint). The first revalidation overprint was 2 black characters. The reason for the second overprint may well have been to protect postal revenue, after the Communists had occupied part of Fukien province. Looting of stamp stocks is not uncommon during revolutions and civil wars.

1949 Unit Stamp 29 Locals

Row 1
Chia-Chiang [ . ]
Chi-Chiang [ . ]
Fu-Shun [ . ]
I-Pin [ . ]
Kan-Ting [ . ]
Kwang-Han [ . ]
Loin-Hsien [ . ]
Mou-Dong [ . ]

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Row 2
Na-Chiang (type 1) [ . ]
Na-Chiang (type 2) [ . ]
Nan-Chi [ . ]
Nan-Ping-Chen [ . ]
Pai-Sha ROULETTED [ . ]
Pei-Ling [ . ]
Shi-Chiao-Chen [ . ]
Shui-Ning ROULETTED [ . ]

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Row 3
Soong-Peng [ . ]
Ta-Chu [ . ]
Tai-Ho-Chen [ . ]
Tek-Yang [ . ]
?-Tze (first character not deciperable) [ . ]
Tzu-Liu-Ching (type 1) [ . ]
Tzu-Liu-Ching (type 2) [ . ]
Tzu-Liu-Ching (type 3) [ . ]

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Row 4
Tzu-Liu-Ching (type 4) [ . ]
Wu-Tung-Chiau (type1) [ . ]
Wu-Tung-Chiau (type 2) [ . ]
Yu-Shan-Chen [ . ]
Yung-Chuan [ . ]

A further 19 Nationalist overprints have been reported but we have no illustrations available. The towns are:
Chang-Ming [ . ]
Chang-Shou [ . ]
Chang-Shou [ . ]
Chiu-Chi-Chang [ . ]
Da-Ho-Chen [ . ]
Hsin-Kai-szu [ . ]

I-Pin ( black chop ) [ . ]
Lang-Chung [ . ]
Lei-Po [ . ]
Mei-Shan [ . ]
Mien-Yang [ . ]
Shi-Chiao [ . ]
Tin-Hai [ . ]

Tsin-Shan
Tung-Liang ( black chop ) [ . ]
Tung-Liang ( red chop ) [ . ]
Wu-Chin-Chung ( type 1 ) [ . ]
Wu-Chin-Chung ( type 2 ) [ . ]
Yu-Bin [ . ]
Yung-On-Chang [ . ]

1949 Unit Stamp Covers
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Covers (Nationalist Government - from additional locations to those in the lists above):
Left: Chiang-Chin - ( two character grey-black opt ) [ . ]
Right: (East Szechwan) Chiang Peh - (4-character red overprint - hard to discern in the scan) [ . ]

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C. Communist Government Local Issues .

China Stamps Communist Local Issue Li-Lin
Central China Li-Lin (Yang LCC24) [ . ]
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China Stamps Communist Local Issue Long-Xi
East China Long-Xi (Yang ELC47) [ . ]
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China Stamps Communist Local Issue Hop-Pu
South China Hop-Pu (Yang SLC1, rare stamp. Four Large Red characters, just visible in scan) [ . ]
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China Stamps Communist Local Issue  South-West Lo-Shan China Stamps Communist Local Issue  Lo-Shan local
South-West China Lo-Shan (Yang LSW 15; the overprint is in BLUE ). [ . ]
Two examples shown.
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China timbres-poste Communist Local Issue  Nai-Kiang
South-West China Nai-Kiang Local (Yang LSW 36) [ . ] .

China Briefmarken Communist Local Issue   Southwest Si-Chang
South-West China Si-Chang Local (Yang LSW 54) [ . ] .

China Stamps Communist Local Issue  Su-Ning
South-West China Su-Ning Local (Yang LSW 11) [ . ]
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Chinese Stamps Communist Local Issue   South-West Tai-Kiang
South-West China Tai-Kiang (Yang LSW 65) [ . ]
Image of overprint only available.
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China Stamps Communist Local Issue  South-West Ta-Wen-Chen
South-West China Ta-Wen-Chen but on Sun-Yat-sen issue. The train unit stamp exists with the same overprint.

South-West China Ta-Wen-Chen (Yang LSW 32) [ . ]
There are apparently TWO types of the above overprint.

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There is one further stamp, of which we are aware, for which no scan is available:

Southwest China Mian-Ning (Omitted by Yang in error) [ . ]

Our other two articles on this website on Chinese Stamps and Trains cover:
The Junk & Train design of 1913-33
The Transport Revenues used for postage.

They may both be accessed via the 'List of Railway Articles' link in the left panel - or the link immediately below.

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