Booklet of North Korean Stamps from the Period before the Siege of Pyongyang

North Korea

What a wonderful feeling to find something new, a philatelic treasure, a real “philagem”. And how wonderful to be able to add a stamp to your collection of which only 2 copies exist, or add both! A wonderful philatelic discovery, from a troubled era, from the philately of a closed country! The feeling when we first realized what we had in our hands was indescribable, a real “Wow!” moment!

The outside world knows very little about North Korea and North Korean philately, so when this album came out of a bequest, no one knew exactly what we had in our hands. Research over the following months answered many questions and proved that the album contains some fantastic philatelic novelties alongside several extremely rare stamps!

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Stamp Auction News
The KSS occasionally lists recent and future stamp auctions with items related to Korean philately. In this particular case one of our members, Priszcilla Szabó, who works for the Hungarian auction house Stampcurio, notified us of an item listed in their January 2024 auction. The text published here was originally published by Stampcurio for their website. Please note that the KSS has no legal/financial ties to Stampcurio (or any other auctioneer). This text was republished here for philatelic reasons only.
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7 thoughts on “Booklet of North Korean Stamps from the Period before the Siege of Pyongyang

  1. I think it’s a good idea to ask Korea Stamp Corporation about this booklet. There is a very low probability that they know about this booklet and that it was presented in Hungary. But a negative result is also a result. On the other hand, giving postage stamps to government representatives or the leadership of a country is a common tradition. So I heard a story (rumors) that the Soviet government (supposedly Beria himself), on the eve of the opening of the second front during World War II, ordered the preparation of a special album with very rare postage stamps of the USSR as a gift to US President Roosevelt (he was a philatelist). And rare stamps were specially made for this album, including inverted overprints.

    1. > I think it’s a good idea to ask Korea Stamp Corporation about this booklet.
      Unfortunately, the North Korean Stamp Corp. is currently unreachable – or we can’t find their correct contact details. We tried to contact them in July 2023.

      > On the other hand, giving postage stamps to government representatives or the leadership of a country is a common tradition…
      I forwarded your comment to our Head Philatelist, this is his answer:

      “Yes, this happened in the 40s and 60s as far as I know, but the stamps in such albums were never unique, they were produced in limited series. For example, the red Kim stamp, which is part of this album, but we already know it from other albums, but seriously less than 10 (5?) copies of this stamp are known (if my information is correct). So I think a few hundred copies of these stamps can be produced, and what was not given to foreign diplomats was lost when the UN forces demolished the Post and Printing House of Phjongjang. And there was an order to destroy all remaining propaganda products (including stamps). My personal opinion is that the “4th Anniversary of Liberation from Japan” variant in this album may be a unique pair because it was produced in late 1949 or early 1950, and the siege was so close… at that time only the Hungarian envoy had been deployed. Time will tell… like all new stamp variants, these need more time to see the situation better. If there are other copies, they will appear on the market, because this hammer price will bring them to light. If not, the new owner will be more than happy to own some very unique stamps…”

    1. Thanks for the comment! Yes, the red variant is a top rarity in North Korean philately, no doubt. Collectors have been trying to find them since Scott first listed them. So decades go by, but no new ones are found until now. That is why there are no pictures of it, because this stamp was not sold in this century until the Stampcurio auction…

  2. This is a genuine presentation book but the “stamps” inside were specially made for this album and not circulated elsewhere, that’s why many were previously unknown. That also raised another disputable question if they can be really called “stamps”, or just commemorative seals or cinderellas or something else.

    1. I forwarded your comment to our Head Philatelist, this is his answer:

      “Thanks for the comment, this opinion has been on “the desk” for so many years and relates to hundreds of stamps around the world… In my opinion these are clearly stamps because they were produced by the Post Office and could be used for postage if you wanted to… And maybe they were used, it’s just that there are no copies left/known yet… maybe we’ll never know. Just remember that there was a brutal war going on at the time, where the stamps were registered as propaganda products, and there was a strict order in the UN military to destroy them.

      I also have another counter-argument (I am a Hungarian expert, so I will now show examples from Hungarian philately):
      1. There is the 1951 minisheet “The 80th Anniversary of the First Hungarian Postage Stamp” in lilac, produced in 1060 copies, which was not allowed to be used for postage, but it is listed in most stamp catalogues and the market value of the pair is around 800 Euro.
      2. The 1900 Turul issue pairs with imperforated centre. We know that the stamps were produced by the Post Office as a gift in limited numbers (a few hundred), but some notable people who have them have started to use them on covers. The Post Office accepts them, of course.
      3. The 1871 litho. hungarian edition as imperforated stamps, only one separate sheet survived. These were given away by the post office in 1871, they were never used on covers. But still without doubt a top rarity of the edition and listed in all catalogues.
      4. There is the 1919 set of portraits of the Soviet republic, this is undoubtedly a commercial edition, we don’t know any common letters, only philatelic and political uses. But I have 2 money orders with these stamps, which were used internally in the post offices, they are one of the best items in my collection… So finally we can see that stamps are being used as stamps as they were originally intended.

      If you do not want your collection to be infected by commemoratives, it is best to collect only old stamps, where it is much easier to choose between commemoratives and regular issues.”

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