Buyer Beware: The 1948 Observatory Issue and 1951 Surcharge

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Another Korean issue that confuses collectors and dealer alike is the 1948 issue that pictures the Cheomseongdae Observatory, (Hangul: 첨성대) in Gyeongju, South Korea. The tower is said to be the oldest astronomical observatory in Asia, and maybe in the world, according to Wikipedia. It was built during the reign of Queen Seondeock of Silla, during 632-647 AD. It is considered one of the Korean National Treasures. See Figure 1 for the image of Chemoseongdae Observatory issue.

The confusion about this 14 won stamp that was issued on October 1, 1948, along with the 4 won issue picturing Li Jun, concerns the various colors shades of the stamp. Florian Eichorn in his KSS article of June 12th, 2018, about auction news, shows three different shades of colour of this observatory issue. The Scott Catalog lists the dark blue stamp as 94 and calls the color “deep blue”, with a value of only 75 cents.

Figure 1: Cheomseongdae Observatory on Korea 1948 Postage Stamp
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9 thoughts on “Buyer Beware: The 1948 Observatory Issue and 1951 Surcharge

  1. Hi Bob,
    I called it “cobalt blue”, but it is indeed more similiar to SG “light blue”, perhaps a sort of dull light blue.

    Here we have the SG colour key overview of blues and the terms used by SG:

    Posted in Dec. 2017 by fellow poster “emason” on (Australia):
    The thread is about what “prussian blue” could be…. including some wishfull thinking.

  2. Hi Bob,
    With regards to the “6 stars” variety, I assume that this is due to plate wear, as in this aspect of the plate broke towards the end of the printing run.
    I think this because I have seen and inspected full sheets of this stamp in dealers shops in Seoul when I lived there, and when I was looking for this variety, that do not have any stamps with this variety. On some sheets it is present in position 63 (in a 10×10 sheet of 100). I have also seen a variety labelled “8 stars”, which has a small white dot which is counted as the eighth star, but this was not on the full sheets I inspected that did contain the “6 stars” stamp.
    If you are correct in your assumption that the light blue colour variation comes form the first printings (which is a sound assumption that I agree with), and if I am correct in my assumption that the “6 stars” variety is plate wear, and comes later in the print run, then it may be safe to assume that there are no “6 stars” varieties in the light blue colour.
    Of course, if anyone has seen, or better yet owns, a “6 stars” variation in the light blue colour, I would love to hear about it, and even better, see it.
    Thanks for the great article.

  3. Hi again Bob,
    Having thought about this, I went back through some material and found a copy of an exhibition entry by Lee, Bok Kyo (이복규) entitled “The First Regular Stamps of the Republic of Korea (1948 – 1949) (대한민국 제1차 보통우표 (1948 – 1949))
    In these exhibition frames Lee states that some of the values (including the light blue colour variety) were printed by Choseon Book Printing Co., Ltd, while other values (including the normal dark blue colour stamp) were printed by Koryeo Culture Co.
    Which means that the two ‘main’ colour varieties (light blue and dark blue) were actually printed by different private companies, so would have been printed using different plates.
    My earlier comment about plate wear would still be true.
    This would still mean that we are unlikely to find the “6 stars” variety in the light blue colour.
    I will continue to research this group of stamps.

  4. Hi Alexander, fascinating information. But I was wondering something: why would the two companies necessarily need different printing plates if they were not printing at the same time? What if the plate(s) were first used by the Choseon Book Printing Co (light blue) and then by Koryeo Culture Co. (dark blue)? That way the information in your two comments can be combined into on story line.

    1. Hi Ivo,
      I don’t know exactly how the plates were set up, but it is very easy to tell the printings from the two companies apart as the guide lines (for perforation operation) and corner marks in the margins of the sheets are different. In my basic understanding of the printing process used (offset printing), the details or features in the margins are part of the complete plate. If my understanding is correct, then the two companies would have used different plates.

      1. Thanks for the great information Alexander. As Ivo suggested, why not combine your comments, plus anything else you would like to add, and with a few graphics, (especially if you have a copy of the 8 stars variety, or know where there is an image of one), you could have a great article we can publish here on the KSS website. Best regards, Bob

  5. Did a quick search in Korean on Daum and Naver (and Google images) and found a few examples showing the name of the printing company of the light blue version. Here are some of them. They are from different websites, at different sizes etc., but this should give an idea of some of what to look for:

    I couldn’t find an example of the dark blue type with printer’s name, this is what I could find:

    No name of the printing company there. Perhaps that name was at a different spot on the sheet?

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