Debunking Myths: The Reality of ‘Taegeuk’ Stamps Editions

Catalogues and books

In the world of philately, the distinction between different editions of stamps can be a matter of intense debate and interest. A prime example of this is found within the Korean stamp collecting community, particularly regarding the ‘Taegeuk’ stamps and the ‘Cheon’ surcharged series stamps. Traditionally, these stamps have been categorized into first and reprint editions, a classification detailed in the 2016-2017 Korean Stamp catalog published by Woomun-gwan. This categorization has been accepted by many within the philatelic community, guiding collectors in their pursuit of these coveted items.

Fig. 1: 2016-2017 Korean Stamp catalog, published by Woomun-gwan, pages 7-8

However, Oh Byeong-yoon of the Oh Byeong-yoon Philatelic Research Institute challenges this long-held belief. In his enlightening article published on December 21, 2018, titled “The truth about the existence of ‘Taegeuk’ stamps 1st and 2nd editions and ‘Cheon’ surcharged series stamps,” Oh presents a compelling argument that disputes the existence of separate editions for the ‘Taegeuk’ stamps. Through meticulous research and examination, Oh suggests that the differentiation between first and reprint editions may be a misunderstanding, calling for a correction to what he perceives as a significant oversight in the philatelic world. His critique not only questions the accuracy of current stamp catalogues but also urges the philatelic community to address these errors, emphasizing the importance of integrity and accuracy in stamp collecting.

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Dr. Joel Lee
Born in Korea, Vietnam war participation as ROK marine, Dr. of Ministry, Retired Presbyterian Pastor. 40 years collected for Korea stamps 1884-1905.

2 thoughts on “Debunking Myths: The Reality of ‘Taegeuk’ Stamps Editions

  1. Thanks for the interesting report.

    I only comment on the 1895/96 issue.
    The 1901 “chon” surcharge series distinguishing has always been kind of deliberate to me.

    There are clear indiciations for two “printing groups” of the Tae Geuk stamps, based on

    (a) printing colour
    (b) paper grid (mesh)
    (c) some plate details 

    Now the fresh archive research by Mr. Oh reveals, that there were no seperate (extra)  orders, but only two deliveries.

    The printing at Graham Co. happened in one period.

    Very well.

    But that does not change the material facts as (a) to (c) one bit.

    What is reasonable is to state that
    A. There are two clearly distinguishable printings.
    B. They occured at Graham, ostensibly using other paper stocks and a somewhat changed recipe for mixing colours.
    While executing a single,  one and only order.

    The reasons for that may be, originally used materials running out and buying or mixing new ones, finding cheaper materials ec ec plenty room for assumptions.
    But the two groups of different materials stamps are there.

    So the colour/paper change was an internal thing at Graham Co. and not related to an imagined “2nd” order.

    That has now been cleared thanks to Mr. Oh.

    Thats all.


    It appears that “editions” should be removed.
    As well as mentioning “2nd order” or “reorder” ec. hypotheses hich Mr. Oh refuted based on the archival sources.

    And replaced by “two groups”,
    Which are clearly distinguishable by physical facts (based on stamps, not archives) research.
    Clear physical evidence? This could be done e.g. by doing XRF testing of colour and papers ot the two “groups”.

    But “myth” and “debunking” and “orthodoxy” are thunderous words.
    Stringent research based on scientific approach does not need those I think.
    Facts are speaking.

    Thanks to Mr. Oh for his research and Dr. Lee for bringing us the quick information.

  2. That was nothing new. For several years this provocative issue has been a steady pending agenda.
    As far as I remember, Korean Philatelic Federation asked Mr. Oh so many times to clarify
    the issue and prove his argument in a practical manner on the official philatelic journal “WOOPYO”.
    But it never happened.
    That’s why I did not reflect his argument to the new Korean Specialized Stamp Catalogue.
    As Mr. Einhorn commented, the existence of the two distinguishable printings has been
    already a proven fact. It is not difficult even for the novice of the philately to identify the first printing
    and the second printing. The first one has rather dark and pale shade of the printing color, however,
    the lines decorating the symbol of Taeguek are consistent and evenly printed. It means that the ink
    was evenly and cleanly added to each component of the main design. That’s why they(1st print) look
    considerably clean and well-balanced shape in spite of the a little dark shade.
    On the contrary to the first one, the second one’s printing paper looks like possessing comparatively bright shadow.
    And the second printing’s lines are not even in terms of the thickness of ink and sporadically discontinued.
    Even though we assumed that that provocation was lacking the reasonable ground, but we accepted his
    agenda setting as it was. But Mr. Oh never tried to convince us with the article or report on an official philatelic journal.
    If he would like to justify hie argument, he has to show the vivid example that two different printings appeared
    in a same sheet, for example. Of course we better pay attention to his argument that the reason how so many
    surcharged and overprinted stamps were made after the second printing issue of Teaguek. According to his logic
    of reasoning, his doubt about the existence of 1st and 2nd issues might be grounded on the abundant number of
    surcharged and overprinted stamps using the first original printing plate.

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