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From Dowager Empress Commemorative Issue & Surcharges The Wen Sun Kong Collection - Kelleher and Rogers Limited - December 5, 2023

Lot 183 - 1897, Large Figures narrow surcharges on Dowager, 1st printing, 2c. on 2ca. green (Chan 67. Scott 58), bright characteristic first printing color, usual rough perforations, centered to the lower left as are the other two recorded examples of this great rarity, unused with large part original gum, hinge remainders, a couple of small light red lines on reverse, possibly the offset from a quadrillé notebook in which some sheets were kept (the Quintin Tan Kok Tin example also had red marks on the reverse according to contemporary viewing notes), Fine to Very Fine.

Until now, there were only two universally recognized unused examples of the "Emerald Lady"

Provenance of these two recorded examples

The first example of the large figures surcharge 1.5mm. setting on the Dowager first printing 2c. on 2ca. was discovered in Shanghai in 1925, and verified as genuine by Dr. M.D. Chow, following his original doubts about its existence.

The two documented examples emanate from the following collections.

Example No. 1

  • Lt.-Cmdr. G.T. Baines, Robson Lowe (London), 13.1.1961. lot 391.
  • Dr. Warren G. Kauder, Robson Lowe (London), 10.11.1971. lot 435.
  • Mizuhara Meiso, who purchased the stamp in the Kauder sale.

Example No. 2

  • Sir Percival David, Robson Lowe (London), 22.7.1970, lot 180. Sir Percival had visited Shanghai in late 1942-43, and may have bought the stamp during this visit, since he had his philatelic acquisitions shipped back to England.
  • James Huangco was the purchaser in the David sale and was the first person to aptly name this rarity the "Emerald Lady"; however, he later died in an automobile accident.
  • Quintin Tan Kok Tin, Spink (Hong Kong), 21.1.2007, lot 214.

The third example, which is offered in this auction, was discovered by Mr. Wen Sun Kong in a classic China collection sold in the Stanley Gibbons auction of 26 June 1998, lot 675. Despite Mr. Kong's opinion that the stamp was, indeed, genuine, the paucity of any reliable expertizing methods, objective evidence, or comparative reference hindered the rendering of a definitive opinion. Since only a few stamps in the setting have specific surcharge characteristics, identification by this means is difficult.

The appearance of Quintin Tan Kok Tin's example (No. 2), which was auctioned by Spink in Hong Kong on 21 January 2007 (lot 214) was the "game changer" in proving the genuineness of Mr. Kong's stamp, which, as it transpires, is the lower stamp in what was originally a vertical pair with the Quintin Tan Kok Tin stamp.

The bottom stamp and its perforations at top are a match when it is placed below the second example, especially at the lower left corner of the top stamp where the perforation protrudes strikingly, thereby resulting in a missing corner perf. in the adjoining top left corner of the lower stamp. This distinctive perforation is clearly visible in the Sir Percival David catalogue (No. 2), as well as in the Prize Selections from the Rocpex Taipei '81, where Quintin Tan Kok Tin had exhibited his stamp. However, the protruding bottom left perforation is not visible in the Spink catalogue, and appears in the photo to have been folded under, while the reverse side of a perforation seems to show at the lower left next to the now missing corner perforation.

Finally, the most important criterion was to obtain the watermark positions of both stamps in order to confirm that these initially formed a vertical pair. According to Tony Kwan, "all Dowager stamps were printed on watermarked paper with its own pattern which is one of the useful tools to re-construct Dowager and its surcharged issues" (Asian Philatelist, 2013, p. 71). The viewing notes from the Quintin Tan Kok Tin catalogue show a pencil drawing of the watermark position on the stamp, which is a perfect match with the watermark position of this example, thereby enabling us to reconstruct the vertical pair.

Interestingly, the contemporary viewing notes for the Quintin Tan Kok Tin stamp mention "red stains at back". Could this also be similar to those light red lines referred to in the above description?

Dr. Chan Shiu Hon, The Empress Dowager Birthday Commemorative Issues and Surcharges (Hong Kong, 1996), p. 123.
Prize Selections from the Rocpex Taipei '81 (Taipei: Directorate General of the Posts, Republic of China, 1982), p. 137.
Robert Kong, "The New Discovery of the Third Mint Copy of the Emerald Lady", Asian Philatelist, Vol. 14 (August 2023), pp. 32-40. This highly informative article not only details the step by step story and investigation of the stamp's genuineness over a twenty-five year period, but also gives the well-known history of the other two recognized examples. Est. HK$1,500,000....Est. HK$1,500,000-2,000,000 Currently HK$ 750,000

Kelleher and Rogers LimitedKelleher & Rogers is a wholly owned subsidiary of Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions, America's Oldest Auction Company. Kelleher & Rogers is based and staffed in Hong Kong