Japanese Occupation of China ‘Clandestine Surcharges’

The Japanese Occupation of Mengkiang Half-Value Surcharges (SG #66/103), first issued in June 1942, were the region's principal stamps for the next three years. Eventually, supplies of Half-Values began to run low, and an entirely new set of Mengkiang stamps was ordered. This was the so-called Kalgan series (Chan #JMUI/21). Before the new series could be issued, the Second World War came to an abrupt end, so the new stamps were never issued in Occupied China.

The Kalgans get their name from the fact that quantities of them were found in that city at war's end. Kalgan was Mengkiang's largest city, and it would have been the logical place to release any new issues. The stamps were actually produced in neighbouring Manchukuo, by the Government Printing Bureau in Hsinking. This printer produced most of that country's stamps from 1940 through 1945. Manchukuo's 1944-45 Lithographed definitives (SG #149/154) were identical to the Kalgans in printing method, paper, watermark, and perforation.

Kalgan designs were based on China's 1931-40 Sun Yat-sen and Martyr stamps. Therefore, they were imitative prints in the manner of 1941-44 New Peking issues, also used in the occupied areas. Unlike the New Pekings, which had to be overprinted to designate their use in either Mengkiang or North China, the Kalgan stamps were designed exclusively for Mengkiang. Mongolian characters were included in the design of each stamp, as they had been in Mengkiang's earlier commemoratives (SG # 104/ 110).

Sometime in mid-1945, before the Kalgans were available at post offices, Mengkiang postage rates increased dramatically. It is not known exactly what the new rates were, but they may have included Postcards at 20c, Ordinary Letters at 50c, Express Letters at $1, and Registered Letters at $1.50. The new rates rendered all stamps denominated below 10c virtually useless. At the same time, there was an immediate need for high denomination stamps, especially 50c and higher. The fact that the Kalgan series included I c, 2c, 5c, and 8c denominations suggests that these stamps were designed and their production begun before the rate changes were anticipated.

The decision was made to create higher denominations by surcharging various two-character Meng Kiang overprints, which were left over from June 1942, when they had been replaced by Half-Value surcharges. Small Type land Large Type II Mengkiang overprints on Y2c, 1 c, 2c, 4c, and 5 c values, originally issued in 1941, were used for this purpose. In addition, a quantity of New Peking stamps, in I c, 2c, 4c, 5c, and 8c denominations similarly overprinted 'Mengkiang' were surcharged with the higher values.

The surcharge consisted of two additional characters signifying new denominations of 10c, 50c, and $1. Stanley Gibbons lists this series as Mengkiang #124/138. Little is known about these issues, which are often inaccurately referred to as the Mengkiang Resurcharges. All surcharging is believed to have been done locally in Mengkiang. The Gibbons catalogue listing consists of 20 major varieties Due to several basic-stamp die types and paper varieties that occur, Ma assigns more than 30 numbers to this series.

After the war, many previously unrecorded Mengkiang stamps with high-value surcharges came on the market, variously surcharged 10c, 50c, $1, $2, $5, $20 in black or red. The type used for the surcharge characters differed markedly from that used on the previously known Mengkiang surcharges, and does not conform to any other typeface used on Chinese stamps It is likely that this type was 'cut' by a foreigner.

Similar mysterious surcharges were soon found on North China Hwa Pei overprints, with new values of 10c, 50c, and $1. Since North China, unlike Mengkiang, had never issued high-value surcharges, authenticity of the new finds was questioned. The subsequent appearance of Kalgan stamps with 10c, 50c, and $1 surcharges seemed to provide the answer. Since the unsurcharged Kalgans were never issued in Mengkiang, the surcharged examples could only have been produced posthumously Therefore, they must have been privately done, without any official authorisation. Since the surcharge characters on these Kalgans were identical to those on the unlisted Mengkiang and North China stamps, all of these were henceforth considered unofficial, privately-made products. F or this reason, they are often referred to as the Clandestine Surcharges.

A few years ago, a new variety was discovered among the recognised issued stamps, the 50c/4c Sun Yat-sen, New Peking print on Newsprint paper. This is now listed in Ma as #NCI074A. The basic stamp on this paper, with two-character Mengkiang overprint but without surcharge, has not yet been recorded. Since the discovery, this writer has often wondered if other paper varieties might be discovered, either in the issued stamps or among the Clandestine surcharges.

As part of an ongoing research project on the New Pekings, I recently had the opportunity to examine an extensive collection of more than 250 Clandestine stamps. All the different varieties found are shown in the tables that follow. Included is the Ma number of each basic stamp used for surcharging, with denomination and description of the original stamp, and paper type where this is significant. In addition, a letter 'X' appears in the right-hand columns to indicate whether the surcharge is known in black or red. Several surcharge/stamp combinations exist in both colours.

Of the 101 different stamps examined, 82 were New Pekings. These are indicated in the tables by the 'NPK' abbreviation. Although no unrecorded paper varieties turned up, three different North China surcharges were found on the 30c New Peking on White Paper with Gum. This basic-stamp variety has been known for more than 50 years, but has never been listed in Ma. Its status is similar to the Ma-Listed 2c and 4c Sun Yat-sens on White Paper with Gum (Ma #NC831/832). Because this 30c stamp does not have a corresponding Ma number, its listings in the table are indicated by the ‘*’ symbol. Since the Kalgans are not listed in Ma, they are referenced by Chan numbers.

This listing of Clandestine Surcharges is by no means complete. Nevertheless, it is the most complete listing of verified varieties yet published, and represents the first successful attempt to list the surcharged New Pekings by paper type. It is published here for the record, in the hope that interested collectors will take another look at their own examples of these frequently neglected stamps.

Steven C. Frumkin