Why are these 1987 DPRK stamps so expensive?

Q&A

This set of four stamps, listed in the “Korean Stamp Catalogue” (the North Korean catalogue), sometimes shows up on English (Ebay, Delcampe) and Korean (Kobay, Narauction) language auction websites. What is noticeable about this small set is how the set is listed for relatively high prices.

Normally North Korean stamps from the 1970s and 1980s are relatively cheap, often even very cheap. These days one can buy complete year sets for next to nothing. And this is from an era in which the DPRK printed set after set after set of stamps, all just to get hard currency.

KSC2754-2757 “International Stamp Exhibition ‘Philatelia ’87′”, issued 5 November 1987. Image from Kobay auction item.

But this set stands out, even in the official North Korean catalogue. Where other sets cost next to nothing, this one all of a sudden is listed at 80 dollars for the four stamps plus another 80 dollars for a souvenir sheet. Why? What makes this series so special that they have to be so much more expensive than the other stamps of this era?

As a side-note: one could say that these are in a way personalized stamps. If you imagine the grey frames being the standard stamp, with a space inside for your own picture, then it almost does look like someone from Germany decided to put a few photos of Berlin landmarks on North Korean stamps. Not that such a thing as personalized stamps could ever exist under current conditions inside the DPRK of course…

Tagged
KSS Korea Philately Editor
One of the earliest positions of the KSS. The position of editor of KP is, and has always been, the mainstay of the KSS.

9 thoughts on “Why are these 1987 DPRK stamps so expensive?

  1. I thought the shifting of the text “750 Years Berlin” on the stamp (top right) was an error. The same text appears on the top left corner of the other three stamps. But the file image of the same stamp on Naenara and the ‘proofs’ on Delcampe cast doubt on that hypothesis.

    Anyway the stamp design is awful. The face value in black clashes with the background. The same is true for part of the text “750 Years Berlin”. Design might have been better with a high or head-on long shot photograph of the building.

  2. This set was offered exclusively to European dealers and KSC didn’t have stocks.
    I’m not sure if it was sold at philatelic exhibition only. FDC existed.

  3. When the question was first asked, even though I do not normally collect North Korean stamps, I couldn’t help myself and started to look for these online. As Yi Fu Chen stated, there were FDC’s, as I found one example online. It had never been on an envelope however, as it still has the gum on the reverse side and has been hinged.

  4. The souvenir sheet is a rather ghastly design… Also, why would they use the 1936 Olympic Games (in other words: “Hitler’s Games”!) on the sheet? It’s a very weird choice, both for German organizers in the 1980s as for the DPRK.

  5. It reflects the unfamiliarity of Asian countries to European history. Actually for us Asians we didn’t really know how sensitive of Hitler’s history to your Europeans!
    1984, when there were still 2 Germany and 2 Berlin at that time, obviously DPRK had closer contact with East Germany but knew less of West. DPRK chose Berlin Olympic stadium, one of the icon in west Berlin as the design of souvenir sheet but didn’t understand its sensitive background. Maybe also because of that, this set was not welcomed in the western philatelic world so it became rare.

  6. As to the seemingly high price of this set – my Stanley Gibbons pt. 18 (2008) gives a price of £3.75/£1.20 mint/fine used, so perhaps those interested should try and use UK dealers who base their prices on SG – ?

    1. Indeed, now that you mention it: in the Scott catalogue (I have the 2008 edition at hand) the four stamps (Scott 2698-2701) are valued at USD 150 plus USD 100 for the souvenir sheet (Scott 2702), which is USD 250 total. But Stanley Gibbons (2014 edition) gives values (for mint condition) of just GBP 3.75 for the sheet and GBP 4.05 for the four stamps respectively. That’s quite a difference! Makes you wonder how that came about…

      1. The problem is finding these MNH with any dealer, much less a UK dealer. They are very to find used and in FDC’s. Since this question was first posed, I have been searching online on eBay, delcampe, StampWorld, etc for a MNH set and S/S and only found one set on StampWorld by a Russian dealer who wants $170 for the set of stamps and $120 for the S/S. There are many used ones on delcampe and eBay. One Polish dealers has sheets of used ones, which are CTO’s at very low prices. So, I think it is the MNH ones that are very hard to find.

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