The Revenue Stamps of Seoul City (part 2 of 3)

Revenue stamps

(Part 2 of 3) Like most countries which at one time used revenue stamps, South Korea has a long history of using local revenue stamps. Until the 1970s these local revenue stamps were produced locally, each with a unique design per province or municipality. From 1976 onwards local revenue stamps were produced nationally (with standardized designs) by the national printing company (KOMSCO) and then “localized” by simply printing the name of a province or municipality on these stamps. However, the city of Seoul has always used its own revenue stamps with a design unique to Seoul which lasted almost unchanged for 6 decades. 

3. First Won series (1962 – 1975)

The introduction of the hwan did not stop inflation in South Korea. Therefore, yet another new currency was introduced in 1962, the “new won”, which in turn necessitated a new series of revenue stamps. Unlike with the earlier series, a lot of documentary evidence has been found in the NAK files regarding this particular series, making it possible to determine the publication date of individual stamps. The earliest ordinance found describing this series is from October 1, 1962 (BA0089300; BA0089261), the last from September 1, 1970 (NAK BA0089317). Since the next series was introduced on October 22, 1975, it is reasonable to assume that the first series of stamps was in use between 1962 and 1975. However, apparently these stamps did not immediately lose their value: several documents issued in 1976 and 1977 are known with “mixed franking”.

Fig. 5: First won series.

Size: the sizes listed are the official numbers as mentioned in ordinances. However, this is the size of the “box” in the centre of the stamps. The overall size is larger: all the stamps below are 43mm x 30mm.
Perforation: the perforations are very crude. Buxsoft PERFOMaster 3000 measures the perforations as between 13 and 13¼, but most commonly as listed below.

This table lists all the stamps as one series in order of values:

Nr. ValuePublication dateColourPerf
SLR1_1 1 won 1 October 1962OrangeUNK
SLR1_5 5 won1 October 1962Red13?
SLR1_10 10 won1 October 1962Brown13? x 13?
SLR1_20 20 won3 May 1968Orange13? x 13?
SLR1_20b 20 won1962-1968?BlueRouletted?
SLR1_50 50 won1 October 1962Green13? x 13?
SLR1_100100 won1 October 1962Indigo13? x 13?
SLR1_500500 won7 March 1969PurpleUNK

Technically the first day of issue was usually the day after the date published in the ordinances.

The blue 20 won stamp corresponds to the 20 hwan stamp, but this colour variant is not mentioned in the regulations. All other colours mentioned in the table above are translations of the colours mentioned in the archival documents. However, the orange 20 won is only mentioned in 1968 for the first time. Possibly the 20 hwan was “reused” as a 20 won stamp from / after 1962 but was no longer in use by 1968. Then when the orange 20 won was introduced in 1968 perhaps the orange 1 won stamp, which itself was phased out in 1968, was reused for the 20 won value? The 1968 ordinance compares the 1968 text with that of 1962 to show changes, so it is unlikely that an unknown regulation was published between 1962 and 1968.(3)

Fig. 6: The KOMSCO printer’s mark can be found at the bottom of the sheets.

The table shows how the series evolved over time. The green fields indicate the first year in which a certain value is mentioned in an ordinance, the blue fields indicate years in which a value was listed again, a red field is the last year in which a value is listed. It is apparent from the ordinances that the 1 won stamp was introduced in 1962 but was phased out in 1968, while a new 20 won stamp was introduced in that same year.

Fig. 7: Release dates of first won value series.

The 500 won seal was added as last addition to the series in March 1969, with an example of this stamp shown in the ordinance. The October 1975 ordinance (see next series) lists the number of stamps of this series still available in 1974 per individual value, ranging from just 105.000 stamps of the 5 won value to 30.005.000 of the 50 won value.

Fig. 8: From a 1969 ordinance: a stamp with “specimen” imprint in Chinese characters (called “hanja” in Korean) but without value to the left, to the right a drawing showing the position of text and value (printed as numbers and above written in Korean) in the stamp. (NAK BA0089313)

New design?
The NAK files contain a document (BA0089313) from 1969 which shows a drawing of what looks like an alternative or new design for Seoul local revenue stamps. This design was never used and it is not known what building is shown in the design. The document does give the reason why a new value was needed: it turned out to be much more cost effective to produce a 500 won value stamp for use on documents needing higher values than to produce 5 times as many 100 won stamps for the same type of documents.

Fig. 9: Proposed design for a new revenue stamp of 500 won.

4. Second Won series (1975 – 2011?)

The second won series, easily recognizable due to the much smaller size of the stamps when compared with the first won series, was first listed in an ordinance dated 1975.10.22. At this time South Korea was going through yet another economy drive and creating smaller stamps meant more stamps on one (standardized) sheet of printing paper. Other than the size both the design and the colours of the stamps remained, value for value, unchanged.

Fig. 10: The rare 730 won value, with an extra 20 won to make a 750 won total value.

Quite a few values in this series were apparently very seldom used. The 5 won value has so far not shown up in any collection while values which were only included as needed later on during the 1980s have also been difficult to find. Details such as colours listed for these stamps are only known due to such details being mentioned in ordinances.

The last ordinance in which these stamps were listed for usage in the entire city was published in September 2011 (for “localized” stamps in 2015), but there is no exact “last date of usage” known. The next ordinance mentioning local revenue stamps for Seoul, published in August 2013, ordered all remaining stamps to be burned(!) at the local (neighbourhood) offices. This was regrettable, as it seems this was done too rigorously leading to a report by the Seoul Ombudsman regarding archival duties of the municipality for historical purposes. (See below for more information.)

Examples of most of the values in the series:

Fig. 11: Second won value series.
Nr. ValuePublication dateColourSize
SLR2_5 5 won October 1975red25mm x 22mm
SLR2_10 10 wonOctober 1975brown25mm x 22mm
SLR2_20 20 wonOctober 1975orange25mm x 22mm
SLR2_50 50 wonOctober 1975green25mm x 22mm
SLR2_60 60 wonFebruary 1983red/pink25mm x 22mm
SLR2_100 100 wonOctober 1975indigo25mm x 22mm
SLR2_200 200 wonFebruary 1976black25mm x 22mm
SLR2_220 220 wonFebruary 1983azure25mm x 22mm
SLR2_250 250 wonDec-1985pink25mm x 22mm
SLR2_300 300 wonOctober 1979dark grey25mm x 22mm
SLR2_330 330 wonFebruary 1983yellow25mm x 22mm
SLR2_350 350 wonJune 1990yellow25mm x 22mm
SLR2_450 450 wonJune 1990azure25mm x 22mm
SLR2_500 500 wonOctober 1975purple25mm x 22mm
SLR2_550 550 wonMay 1988dull brown25mm x 22mm
SLR2_600 600 wonJune 1990yellow25mm x 22mm
SLR2_730 730 wonMay 1988“mazarine” blue25mm x 22mm
SLR2_750 750 wonJune 1990“mazarine” blue25mm x 22mm
SLR2_1000 1000 wonFebruary 1976red37mm x 25mm
SLR2_3500 3500 wonJanuary 1991bordeaux red37mm x 25mm
SLR2_5000 5000 wonFebruary 1976azure blue37mm x 25mm
SLR2_1000010000 wonFebruary 1976turquoise37mm x 25mm

The publication date in the table above is the date of publication of the ordinance. The stamps were usually sold “from the day following publication of this ordinance”. The 250 won listed in the 30 December 1985 ordinance was therefore sold from 1 January 1986 onwards.

Size: the sizes listed are the official numbers as mentioned in ordinances. However, this is the size of the “box” in the centre of the stamps. The overall size is larger: all the stamps below 1000 won are 31mm x 28mm, while the 1000 won and higher values are 43mm x 30mm. Note that the larger stamps are identical in size to the regular stamps in the first won series.

Perforation: when using BuxSoft PERFOMaster 3000 different perforations are returned. For the values below 1000 won the perforation is usually between 12½ and 13¾ (both horizontal and vertical), but the highest quality stamps are rather consistently 13¼ x 13½. The larger stamps are more “stable”: they are usually 13½ x 15¼.

Graphical overview of the whole series of stamps, using the years mentioned in the ordinances for each of the values, with emphasize on first (Start) and last (End) years:

Fig. 12: Release dates of second won value series.

What this overview shows is how stamp colours changed position. For instance: when the 5 won stamp was discontinued in 1983, the 60 won inherited the red colour. The same “inheritance of colour” is true for the 330 and 350 won stamps and the 730 and 750 won stamps.

Fig. 13: Combination of stamps making 330 won total value in 1984 explaining the need for a 330 won stamp.
The Revenue Journal / The Revenue Society
This article was published in three parts during 2018 in the Revenue Journal, the magazine of the Revenue Society (Great Britain). For more information see the website of the Revenue Society.
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Ivo Spanjersberg
KSS chairman and webmaster. I collect Korean revenue stamps. Currently living in Amsterdam.

3 thoughts on “The Revenue Stamps of Seoul City (part 2 of 3)

  1. Not a revenue stamp collector but these came with the batch of North Korea stamps that I’ve recently purchased from eBay. Can someone enlighten me about North Korea revenue stamp?

  2. Some information (but actually more questions) can be found in these two KSS articles: “North-Korean revenues postally used” and “Revenue stamps of North Korea“.

    I do have a lot more information about DPRK revenue stamps, but not enough time to write about them. The real problem is that there is simply zero information available on them, I haven’t seen a single document with these stamps on them. For South Korea the situation is completely different: the National Archive of Korea website is easy to access and a lot of information on revenue stamps can be found.

    The only “used” stamps have postal cancellations (such as the one in your scan), which was a consequence of foreigners from communist countries such as the DDR living in North Korea in the 1950s putting them on envelopes. Therefore we know for sure when some of these stamps were in circulation, but how they were used is unknown.

  3. Hi Ivo, collecting regular postage stamps from Korea is difficult enough and this revenue a very difficult area to collect. I find your articles on these revenues and the reader’s North Korean revenues very interesting, and this is such a challenging area. How did you come about to collect revenue stamps from Korea in the first place?

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