The “Corean Clown”: Tracing the history of a philatelic fantasy (1965)

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The strange looking label illustrated here has been around for a long time, as a matter of fact, since 1879, and for some reason it has become known to collectors of album weeds ad the “Corean Clown”. While its connection with the philately of Korea is remote, to say the least, the following facts concerning it may be of interest. 

The original label, differing somewhat in detail from the illustration, was brought to the attention of collectors in the “Timbre Poste” in 1879, the year of its first appearance. Purely fanciful in design, the central figure was said to be an effigy of the King of Corea, while the hodge podge of odd symbols and letters could best be described as out of this world. In a further description of the label which appeared in “Correire Dei Franco Bolli” in April 1879 it was scarcely necessary to indicate its bogus nature; seemingly it would delude no one. Nevertheless, copies are known “used” on cover in the famed Tapling collection in the British Museum and the durable nature of the fraud is attested to by its illustration in J. B. Moen’s Catalog of 1883 and again in 1904 “Hobbies” magazine felt called upon to further denounce the fanciful character of the label.

The original was found in only one form, with a saw toothed roulette and printed on blue wove paper in red ink. The passage of the years made the original label increasingly scarce, so it was that about 1930 a “reissue” was made, this time imperforate, and only in the colors of black on red, green, purple, yellow, blue and orange.

Seemingly, the market for such fantasies remained unsatisfied, so in more recent years a forgery of the original fantasy was created, probably in England where it appears that there is a certain affection for the perpetuation of old time philatelic hoaxes, despite the fact that there is an ample supply of more modern, expensive and well documented rubbish from such places as Sharjah, Umm Al Qiwain, etc.

The more current confection which is illustrated above, is found either imperforate or with saw tooth roulette, and it comes in a color to match or contrast with any album … deep red, blue, yellow, grey, orange, blackon green, or black on blue to name a few. With the passage of time the forgery has become larger in size and a few extra ornaments have appeared in the design.

The “Corean Clown” has proved to be a durable fraud, now 86 years of age it seems a sure bet to reach the century mark, but even at 100 years of age it will be no more convincing than it was in 1879. After all, the Korea philatelist has many more deceptive album weeds than this one to uproot from his stamp garden.

Further References:

  • Phantom Philately, Melville
  • Linn’s Weekly Stamp News, Mar. 15, 1965
  • The Philatelist, August 1964
Editor 2019: more information?
This article was originally published in Korean Philately Vol. XIV No. 4 (November 1965). If anyone has more information or graphics showing this “Corean Clown” please send us a message or leave your remark below.
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