Download (KSS Members Only): “Korean Kingdom and Empire Philatelic Catalog and Handbook”

Catalogues and books

The Korean Kingdom and Empire Philatelic Catalog and Handbook was an important milestone for the Korea Stamp Society, enabling members to deal with the confusing aspects of this period in Korean Philately. James W. Kerr, one of leading contributors to the KSS for many years, was the editor. He had the assistance of many other Society members who had extensive experience with the 1884-1905 stamps of Korea under Japanese control.

The catalog was published in 1965 by David G. Phillips, who was also editor and publisher of the KSS journal, Korean Philately. The Handbook covers only 83 stamps but provides in its 86 pages considerable detail on the many sub-varieties and includes a clear indication of varieties that had actual been observed by KSS members; a second edition in 1990 of the catalog updates for more recently observed varieties. There are also sections on postal stationery, revenues, postal markings, and a brief discussion about counterfeits.

Fig. 1: Cover of first edition (1965) from Robert Finder’s collection.

Some of examples of pages from the 1965 edition:

Member’s Experiences

When asked this is how Hal Klein described his experiences with the Kerr Handbook:

I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask about “thoughts & recollections” concerning the Kerr Catalogue. I had just graduated high school and was entering college when the Kerr Catalog/Handbook was published; at the time I was more interested in girls and college studies than stamps and Empire Korea stamps and covers. I only became serious about collecting Empire Korea and the Japanese Occupation-Period of Korea after College, in the mid to late 1970’s. John Talmage and Dave Phillips would be a better source on how Kerr’s Catalogue was initially received by the “seasoned” KSS members in the 1968-1972 period.

From a personal experience and perspective, I found Kerr’s Catalog a study… an “outline” to be used as a study guide and collection building resource. I had heard rumblings amongst a few KSS members that they found KERR’s Catalog confusing, not easy to follow and inconsistent; they also disliked it for reasons it lacked pricing and it seemed incomplete in areas. Unfortunately, many people are lazy readers and few probably failed read or misread Norm Townsend’s “Preface to the Catalog.” If they had read the Preface, they would had clearly seen the “Catalog” was, as clearly stated by the first word of the second paragraph, a “Compilation by the Editor…”

So, when viewing the KERR Catalog/Handbook, it must be viewed as a “compilation” — as a “catalog accounting” of Empire issues. Another problem is that English is a complex language and most people do not understand the difference in the use of the word, spelling, or meanings of Catalog versus Catalogue.

After I became the Publisher of the KP, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit with Jim Kerr, then Editor of KP, and his wife at their home in Northern Virginia to discuss how I wanted to update the publication. I had the rare opportunity to view his complete collection of Empire Korea.

Jim had built his collection while living in Korea as the child of an American Presbyterian Missionary in Seoul, during the 1920s-1930s Japanese Occupation period. Jim was fluent in Japanese, Korean and several other languages. Jim was a retired U.S. Army Colonel, and an Under-Secretary in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He was an extremely intelligent and fascinating individual.

After viewing Jim’s first volume, I asked if I could see more. Jim looked at me and said, “…later, let’s go to diner.” I looked at Jim and said, “You know the title of your Handbook is a great double entendre! You should have left ‘Catalog’ out of the title.” He looked at me and laughed heartily replying, “You’re the first person that has understood that!”, and continued, “…sit down…diner will wait, now I’ll show you the good stuff!”

After my second visit, I decided to see if I could duplicate Kerr’s Handbook findings. At that time, most Empire Korea stamps and varieties were not hard to locate and were relatively inexpensive. I was able to confirm nearly 85% of Jim’s varieties which was reported in the pages of the KP. We talked often over the years and became good friends.

For many users of the Handbook the publication was a living thing, updated whenever new information was found. Here is for instance how Hal Klein added his own remarks:

John Talmage, current and long-time secretary-treasurer, tells us the following:

I purchased the Handbook from D.G. Phillips or Forrest Calkins soon after joining the Korea Stamp Society in 1967 and found it to be immediately useful. I had been a stamp accumulator since the age of 10, mostly from material provided by my grandfather and father, both Presbyterian missionaries to Korea and avid stamp collectors. The Korean stamps that I had were all issued between 1945 and 1955. I noted the pre-1915 issues in Scott’s catalog, but had none.

After college and graduate school, I had more time and a bit more money to expand my collection. Stamps of Korea and Japan were my first priority. From advertisements in Western Stamp Collector and Linn’s I purchased accumulations of Korean stamps and was soon in possession of some very interesting stamps very unlike those I had – the mon and poon issues and all those overprints. This was a challenge for a detailed study.

The Korean Kingdom and Empire Philatelic Catalog and Handbook was just the reference that I needed to organize and understand these early stamps of Korea. It helped kindle my enthusiasm to learn more about their varieties. As Hal Klein mentions in his experiences about the reaction to the Handbook from a few other Korean philatelists, Jim Kerr’s presentation was sometimes confusing and hard to follow. For me, and I’m sure there were many others, the Handbook was a welcome guiding light.

Second Edition (1990)

The second addition of The Korean Kingdom and Empire Philatelic Catalog and Handbook was released in 1990. The editor again was James Kerr. At this time, Jim was also Editor and Publisher of Korean Philately, working closely with Michael Rogers, Inc. in Winter Park, Florida. The format and information are nearly identical to the 1965 edition. Additions were made to various varieties now seen that had not been observed before. The Preface to the Second Edition on page iii provides more detail on the new features.

Fig. 1: Cover of second edition (1990) from Robert Finder’s collection.

Download the catalog (1965 edition)

The complete PDF of the 1965 Kerr publication can be download by clicking on this link:

Korean Kingdom and Empire Philatelic Catalog and Handbook (James Kerr, 1965)

Note that only KSS members can actually download these files but becoming a KSS member is for free and applying can be done online in a matter of minutes. By becoming a member you get access to all the pages/articles on the KSS website including all (scanned) publications already online. And even more is coming soon!

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