Stamp values: China Tu Fu poet stamps


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There are stamps which have seen spectacular price increases over the years, including this Chinese pair celebrating the life of poet Tu Fu, as our regular 'Stamp Detective' guide reveals.

The 4th edition of the Stanley Gibbons China catalogue was published in 1989. It lists a set of two values (SG 2027/28) marking the 1,250th birth anniversary of Chinese poet Tu Fu. The 4 fen value features a portrait of the famous poet while the 8 fen stamp depicts the poet’s memorial in Chengdu.

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In 1989 the catalogue assigned a value of £8 to the two stamps in mint condition. In a June 2023 European auction sale, an unmounted mint set sold for an amazing £277!

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Who then was Lu Fu or Du Fu, which is the contemporary spelling?

Du Fu (712-770) was one of the greatest Chinese poets ever. His poetry deals with themes like morality and history. He also served as a politician during the difficult times of the Tang dynasty (618-907). Du Fu is the first person who is known to have been diabetic.

It should be stressed that the market for Chinese stamps is extremely volatile and it is difficult to keep track of all the fluctuations and changes. The Fu Tu set is unassuming and could very well be discovered in a dealer’s stockbook at a cost which reflects the valuation of all those years ago.

It is very likely that the sale mentioned at the beginning of this story was to a collector/investor in China. They tend to be very choosy about condition, looking for stamps with unblemished gum.