The Hong Kong 'China' Overprints
British Offices In China 1917 - 1930

PLATE NUMBERS, REQUISITION LETTERS AND SHEET NUMBERS

From Perrin:

"Requisition Letters - In studying requisition letters on the CHINA overprint series, it must be borne in mind that the first consignment (dispatched in November, 1916, and brought into use on 1st January, 1917) had no requisition letter/numbers.  This resulted in a protest from P.M.G. Hong Kong, who argued that the CHINA series, like the normal Hong Kong issues, should be numbered.  He requested that “sheets of each denomination should be numbered serially as follows: A1 onwards for the first supply, B1 onwards for the second supply, C1 onwards for the third supply and so on”.

Since the sheets had to be re-issued by Hong Kong in varying quantities to individual Agencies, and separately accounted for, one can sympathise with the P.M.G.’s desire for a system which would avoid the necessity of counting each individual sheet.  The first reaction within G.P.O. was nonetheless surprisingly cool.  The proposal was considered unnecessary and uneconomic, and was referred upward for a policy decision. However, at the higher level “it is thought to be impolitic to refuse to facilitate work undertaken exceptionally by the Colonial P.M.G., especially as all other issues of Hong Kong postage stamps bear a serial number.  It has been ascertained from the Crown Agents that the cost And the final decision: “There are special reasons. A lot of work is done in Hong Kong without adequate remuneration. Go ahead.” Accordingly, the second consignment in the autumn of 1917 was printed with requisition letter A.

The number of surviving requisition blocks recorded is remarkably low, some printings have not been recorded, and dates can only be reconstructed approximately from incomplete evidence.  The above G.P.O. correspondence confirms what was already clear: that sheets produced for the CHINA overprint were numbered quite separately from the normal Hong Kong issue. Thus, the China 25c. M.C.A. exists with requisition A, whereas the normal 25c started at letter B, and by the time of the first CHINA issue must have reached about letter E.

Moreover, the CHINA serials were printed throughout in much bigger and thicker type (e.g. letter F is 6 mm. deep, letter I 7mm. deep, with numbers 4 ½ -5 mm. deep); and , whereas in the normal issues the numbers always followed immediately after the letter,  in the CHINA series a large gap was left (e.g. 14mm. from right of letter to first figure).  Also unlike the normal issue, the CHINA series included letter I, and in this case “No.” was inserted in the gap (e.g. I. No. 1528). In the final printing, “No.” was positioned over column 3, the serial number over column 4, and the requisition letter J appeared after the number at the top of column 6.  We have already seen (under Printing Arrangements) that these differences from the normal Hong Kong issue result from the fact that the CHINA serials were printed separately by Somerset House, instead of by De La Rue.

Requisition letters and numbers were normally printed in black.  However, there was a curious deviation in the case of letter D. Whereas D 5112 (10c.) was printed as normal in black throughout, there are cases (D 201 (6c) and D 633 (2c)) where the letter is in black but the number in blue."

Sheet/Serial Numbers:

The Nil requisition were not numbered as well as the H Requisition 50c.

This cover, dated April 2, 1922 from Shanghai to Berne, Switzerland is believed to be the only known example of a sheet number used on cover. In this particular instance, the 1 cent stamp probably paid the certificate of mailing fee.

First Issue Requisition Letters

Value

Color

Requisition

Image and Census

1 cent

Black-Brown

Nil

 

1 cent

Brown

A

1 cent

Reddish-Brown

D


2 cents

Deep Blue-Green

Nil

 

2 cents

Deep Green

A



2 cents

Green

D


4 cents

Scarlet

Nil

4 cents

Carmine-Red

A

4 cents

Carmine-Rose

D

6 cents

Brown-Orange

Nil

 

6 cents

Brown-Orange

A

 

6 cents

Orange

D


8 cents

Slate

Nil

 

8 cents

Grey?

A

 

8 cents

Grey?

B

 

8 cents

Grey

D

10 cents

Deep Bright Ultramarine

Nil

 

10 cents

Dull Ultramarine

A

 

10 cents

Ultramarine?

B


10 cents

Ultramarine

D



12 cents

Purple on Yellow/Yellow Back

Nil

 

12 cents

Purple on Pale Yellow/Yellow Back

A

20 cents

Purple and Sage Green

Nil

 

20 cents

Purple and Deep Sage Green

A

 

20 cents

Purple and Deep Sage Green

C

25 cents

Purple and Magenta

Nil

 

25 cents

Dull Purple and Bright Magenta

A



30 cents

Purple and Orange-Yellow

Nil

 

30 cents

Dull Purple and Orange-Yellow

A

 

50 cents

Grey-Black on Blue Green, Pale Olive Back

Nil

 

50 cents

Grey-Black on Emerald, Pale Olive Back

A

 

50 cents

Grey-Black on Emerald, Emerald Back

B

 

50 cents

Grey-Black on Blue Green, White Back

D



50 cents

Olive Bistre on Emerald, Blue Back

E






50 cents

Grey on Blue Green, Blue Back

F

 

1 Dollar

Reddish Purple and Bright Blue on Blue

Nil

 

1 Dollar

Reddish Purple and Bright Blue on Blue

A

 

1 Dollar

Reddish Purple and Bright Blue on Blue

B

 

1 Dollar

Grey-Purple and Blue on Blue

E



2 Dollar

Carmine-Red and Grey-Black

Nil

 

2 Dollar

Carmine-Red and Bistre

A

 

3 Dollar

Green and Purple

Nil

 

5 Dollar

Green and Red on Blue-Green, Olive Back

Nil

 

10 Dollar

Purple and Black on Red

Nil

 

Second Issue Requisition Letters

Value

Color

Requisition

Image

1 cent

Brown

F




Block of 3 F 374
Strip of 4 F 90

1 cent

Dark Brown

G

 

1 cent

Dark Brown

J

2 cents

Green

F

 




2 cents

Blue-Green

I


4 cents

Carmine-Rose

F



Block of 48 F 250

4 cents

Carmine-Red

I


6 cents

Orange-Yellow

F





8 cents

Grey

F



Pair F 143


10 cents

Pale Ultramarine

F




10 cents

Bright Ultramarine

J

 

20 cents

Dull Purple and Sage-Green

F




20 cents

Reddish Purple and Sage-Green

H

20 cents

Purple and Deep Sage-Green

J

 

25 cents

Dull Purple and Magenta

F





25 cents

Brownish Purple and Magenta

J





50 cents

Dark Grey on Emerald, Emerald Back

H


50 cents

Bistre on Emerald, White Back

J

 

1 dollar

Grey-Purple and Blue on Blue

F

 

1 dollar

 

H

1 dollar

Purple and Blue on Blue

J

 

2 dollars

Carmine-Red and Olive-Bistre

F

 

2 dollars

Scarlet and Beige Brown

H


2 dollars

Carmine-Red and Grey-Black

J

 

Plate Numbers

The stamps were printed in sheets of 240, divided into 4 panes each of 10 rows of 6 stamps and using two printing plates, one for the head of King George V, known as the head plate or vignette and a second for the frame, which was known as the duty plate.  One duty plate was used for each value with the exception of the 25 cent value which was used until 1919 when it was discovered that it contained a wrong Chinese character and a new plate was made.  One common head plate was used for all values and sheets exhibit just that number. Consequently the only plate number that appears on all of the China overprints is that of Head Plate Number 1 which appears on the panes above 1-2 NW and 1-5 NE and below 10-2 SW and 10-5 SE.

.


Denomination Image

First
Issue

 
1c
2c  
4c
6c
8c
10c
12c
20c
25c
30c  
50c
$1
$2
$3  
$5  
$10  
   
Second
Issue
 
1c
2c
4c
6c
8c
10c
20c
25c
50c
$1
$2

Plate number examples used on cover recorded to date are:

10c Shanghai 21 Sep 1921

Half-and quarter-Sheets

From Perrin:

"Both Surgeon-Captain Bishop and Colonel Webb pointed out that some sheets of the normal Hong Kong series were divided before dispatch, in which case “the requisition details may be found on left panes or in the ‘stamps paper’ margin of lower panes”. In such cases, each half was composed of either the two upper of the two lower panes.

There is ample evidence that this practice also applied to the CHINA series, at least in the early printings. The Requisition A (1917) 25c. sheet used for the initial study of the overprint setting (see Plate) comprises in the N.W. and N.E. panes only, the bottom margin having been bisected and showing no sign of perforations. As regards the 1916 printing, Inland revenue records show that the consignment delivered to Somerset House for overprinting in many cases included not only some half-sheets but also quarter-sheets. A detailed breakdown is given in Appendix D.

The rationale of these partial sheets is by no means clear. In correspondence between the G.P.O. and Hong Kong there is no evidence that Hong Kong asked for them, and returns dealt only with full sheets of 240-though these must have included partial sheets, since the totals of “240” forwarded to Hong Kong in most cases exceeded the number of full sheets overprinted.  The breakdown to half- and quarter-sheets is found only in correspondence between the G.P.O. and Somerset House.  Moreover, the quantities themselves are perplexing.  It might have been expected that the high and the little-used dollar denominations would be subjected to this bisection in order to facilitate distribution in smaller quantities; whereas these were only printed in full sheets. Nor is it clear why, among the lower values, the 8c. and 25c. alone escaped bisection (especially as the 25c was bisected in the 1917 printing); nor why, although the 2c. and 4c. denominations were produced in almost equal quantities, nearly twice the number of half- and quarter-sheets were printed for the 2c compared with the 4c. I can only present the available facts for speculation and further evidence."