Stamp detective: Manchukuo 1932

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The empire of Manchukuo ceased to exist in late 1945 but still issued around 160 different postage stamps, giving today's collector an intriguing 'dead country' to pursue, as our regular market insight article reveals.

In 1932, China’s three north-eastern provinces were transformed into a Japanese puppet state under the leadership of Chief Executive Henry Pu-Yi, writes Christer Brunström. Two years later, the country was turned into an empire with Pu-Yi adopting the name Kang Teh as the reigning emperor of Manchukuo. This fascinating story is told in The Last Emperor, an Italian epic drama film released in 1987.

The Chief Executive was depicted on the high values of Manchukuo’s first definitive set of 18 issued in 1932. The lower values feature a pagoda at Liaoyang. The five characters at the top translate as Manchu State Postal Administration.


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The empire of Manchukuo ceased to exist in late 1945 following a Soviet invasion and the provinces then reverted to China. As a more-or-less sovereign state, Manchukuo issued some 160 different postage stamps.

Manchukuo is very popular with stamp collectors and has been so for years. The first 1932 set has seen a slow but steady rise in value both mounted and unmounted mint. Major dealers in the United States currently pay US$160 for an unmounted mint and well-centred set. They obviously charge a lot more when retailing it to collectors.

This is a set which can be expected to see continued price increases. About £200 would be a good price to pay for the set but make sure that it is unmounted mint and well centred. A lightly mounted mint set should be a good buy at about £120.

Please note that the 1934 reissue has six characters at the top reflecting the change to an imperial administration.