What do we know about these North Korean revenue stamps?


A KSS member asks about North Korean revenue stamps: what do we know about these? “A small number of stamps, many duplicates. I do not specifically collect such stamps, but sometimes buy them. Are these stamps all North Korean? I read that there is a catalog of Korean (or North Korean) revenue stamps, but I cannot find it. I would be grateful if you could help identify these stamps.

Not much is known about North Korean revenue stamps. The problem is that the DPRK is a completely closed country, it is simply impossible to do any serious archival research. And while South Korea, the ROK, has digitized most of its archives, North Korea has done nothing like that at all. Therefore, the only sources we have are all sorts of revenue stamps and a few listings of these stamps in a few highly specialized revenue stamp catalogues. The most important one is the Hasegawa catalogue. This publication is sometimes available on Ebay.

Fig. 1: All the stamps in one scan. The text below is about this particular scan.

Back to the stamps. One of the blue stamps is Chinese (agricultural tax stamp), not Korean. The other blue stamp is North Korean, from the Soviet period. Nothing is known about these Korea stamps, they only show up in unused condition, never on document. This stamp is part of a series. Two stamps in that series show something in their stamp image which can be used to show when this series was produced. That’s why I know these were issued in 1947-1948, so sometime within the Soviet period. One of those two stamps show for instance the so-called “Liberation Tower” built in 1947. That is also true for the red Pyongyang local stamp shown here, this also shows this tower.

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

6 thoughts on “What do we know about these North Korean revenue stamps?

  1. Ivo, as you know the revenue area is not something I collect, but this article is very interesting and there must have been a lot of research and knowledge you had in writing that article. Bob

  2. I have a revenue stamp which shows the People’s Assemby Hall for P’yongyang. The inscription reads 평양시 인민위원회 (P’yongyang-si inmin uiwon-hoe = P’yongyang City People’s Assembly). In 1946, the city called평앙특별시 (P’yongyang t’ukpyol-si = Special City of P’yongyang) and changed to simply P’yongyang-si in 1952. Consequently, I think that this stamp may date from 1952 or a little. I’d be interested to know what anyone else thinks or knows about this.

    1. Hi James, is the stamp you describe this 200 won revenue stamp?

      It is very probably part of the same series as the 50 won stamp which shows the “Liberation Tower”. This monument (for/by the Russians) was completed in 1947. I therefore think this set of stamps was issued in 1947 or 1948.

  3. That’s interesting. However, the Liberation Tower could appear at any point after its erection. It was the use of the name 평양시 rather than 평양특별시 that made me think that it was issued in 1952 or later. I don’t have any other documents from the period, but it would be interesting to know if stamps used the phrase 평양시 in the late ’40s.

    1. These Pyongyang local revenue stamps were “liberated” by UN troops during the occupation of Pyongyang which lasted until 5 December 1950 when Chinese troops entered the city. Since these weren’t produced by the UN troops or South Korean administrators (in which case we would have known about their production), they must have been produced by North Korean administrators before Pyongyang was taken by UN troops in mid-October 1950. It is unlikely that they were produced after the start of the war, so that’s why a moment between 1947 and early 1950 is the most likely moment of production.

      There is another reason why I believe these stamps were produced before the start of the Korean War, which has to do with a series of national revenue stamps produced before 1950. One of those stamps also contains the Liberation Tower, but another contains a reference to a very unpopular “payment in kind (by farmers)” law from the Japanese era which was discontinued in 1947. So that series must have been around since approximately 1947. Apparently the Liberation Tower was a popular subject, probably to appease the Soviet army and embassy in Pyongyang.

      Anyway, one of these days I should really write a proper article on North Korean revenue stamps, starting with the Japanese era (for North Korean cities/provinces), and then continuing into the 1940s and 1950s. By the late 1950s it is seems revenue stamps were discontinued. They show up postally used on post cards and envelopes to Eastern Europe around 1957, Anthony Bard has a few examples of those.

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