How tourism created DPRK sheet size variations

North Korea

The design of the 2004 Lunar New Year stamp (Scott A1942, KSC4321) is adorable. A young boy and girl playing in Korean traditional clothing (Hanbok, or 한복) on Lunar New Year’s Day (Seollal or 설날), both relating to Korean culture. The design shows the political and economic changes in North Korea at the time (due to the Sunshine Policy), which shifted demand away from Chinese and Russian tourists and tourists from other communist countries to a massive inflow of tourists from south of the border. 

The large 5 x 11 sheet. Due to the size (notice the inches on the scale) it was not possible to scan the complete sheet. Instead, a photo was taken.

Stamps with designs friendly for visiting tourists from South Korea provided those same tourists with cheap souvenirs while at the same time providing North Korea with much needed valuable foreign currency while spending next to nothing. In order to both control the supply and demand and to properly supply and stock inventories (at for instance tourist shops), North Korea printed stamp sheets in variable sizes. As you can see the large sheet contains 5 x 11 stamps with a total of 55 stamps while the smaller sheet is 5 X 5 totalling 25 stamps. [Editor: the smaller sheet is listed in the “Korean Stamp Catalogue” for KSC4321, but the 5 x 11 sheet isn’t.]

The officially listed sheet. Photo copyright: “Lazer Horse

Also, you can see the same style of printing practices shown earlier on in a previous article. That article showed the 1997 issued “Juche Tower and Soldiers” stamps, which even though being two completely different stamps were printed on the same sheet. It is not clear when North Korea started to print sheets in this particular way, a practice not seen in other parts of the world.

A closer view of the larger sheet. It would be interesting to know whether the perforations are different between the sheets.
[Editor: if you have such sheets as well for other stamps, or know of even a third variation, please leave a remark below.]

1 thought on “How tourism created DPRK sheet size variations

  1. This is a good example of domestic (big sheet) vs. international (small sheet) versions of NK stamps after 1991. From late 1970s to 1990, KSC use different papers to print 2 versions of stamps and collectors can distinguish them easily, however, after 1991, the two versions of stamps look the same from the front but can be differentiated from sheet compostion or from back (without and with gum).

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