Reader’s question: Why are local 1930s revenue stamps never offered “used on document”?


Since first seeing a South Korean revenue stamp in 2010 (when I needed one for a visa document while already in Korea) I have been collecting information about Korean revenue stamps. What is noticeable in my database of 6000+ notes on Korean revenue stamps that some stamps are very easy to collect “used on document” (such as the 1976-2018 localized series) while other revenue stamps are easy to obtain in unused (often even 100% MNH!) condition but never on document. Why is that?

Case in hand: the provincial and municipal local revenue stamps of Japanese era Korea. Here are some examples of these stamps offered recently on auction websites such as Ebay:

Provincial revenue stamps (강원도 / Gangwon-do).
Provincial revenue stamps (충청남도 / Chungcheongnam-do).
Provincial revenue stamps (top left: 전라북도 / Jeollabuk-do, other two stamps from 충청북도 / Chungcheongbuk-do).

I am not saying these stamps are false. To the contrary, here is for instance quite conclusive documentary evidence the Japanese Government General issued municipal revenue stamps for a number of Korean cities:

Image from National Archives of Korea website.

Of course, it could be that the documents with local revenue stamps on them were used differently from other revenue stamped documents. Documents with “national” revenue stamps (“national” as in Japanese, not Korean, revenue stamps) are very easy to obtain. Here is one example of such a document, in this case about a piece of land on the island of Jeju:

Document from 1936 about land on Jeju. Notice the two Japanese era revenue stamps. These are very easy to obtain for collectors today, both on document and in MNH form, for just a few dollars a piece at most.

But notice that the “local” usage can’t have been the reason in itself why local revenue stamps from the 1930s are so difficult to obtain used on document: the example from Jeju is a very local example as well, it is just that it was paid for by national revenue stamps. What then creates this difference in availability? And what happened to the documents on which local revenue stamps were used to pay for local governmental services?

Ivo Spanjersberg
Currently KSS Publisher/Webmaster, previously KSS Chairman (2018-2019). Living in Amsterdam. I collect Korean revenue stamps, see my website:

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