Reproductions – 100th Anniversary of Japan’s First Stamps (1871)

Dragon Reproductions – 100th Anniversary  (1971)

 

1971 Presentation Items – Engraved and Offset-Lithographed – First Dragon Issues

 

Engraved Sheet

Early in 1971, the Government Printing Bureau printed copies of an engraved souvenir sheet measuring 120 x 80 mm, reproducing the four mon Dragon designs in original colors. An inscription meaning “Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of the postal service, 1871-1971” is in the top margin. In the bottom margin are the imprints of the Postal Services Ministry and the Finance Ministry Printing Bureau. The sheet is imperforate and without gum on wove paper. This sheet is the top sheet below. Seemingly for political reasons, the sheet was never sold to the public and was not valid for postage. Many of the 60,000 sheets printed were destroyed, but apparently some were kept for presentation purposes.

1971 Ministry 48 mon reproduction from small sheet
  • The photo of Plate 1 has a large “slip” through the fire flame of the (east) dragon.  This slip is not present on some sheets of the 48 mon. Therefore it isn’t considered a consistent flaw. But this flaw appears in this reproduction.
  • The “secret mark”.
  • Spines on the west dragon’s back.  In most positions the back appears smooth.
  • Large point.
1971 Ministry 200 mon reproduction from small sheet
  • Missing line in two shippo on west side.
  • Extension at the southwest corner.
1971 Ministry 100 mon reproduction from small sheet
  • Unfinished line – top claw of west dragon.
  • Extra black dotted line.
  • 100 mon “Secret Mark”
1971 Ministry 500 mon reproduction from small sheet
  • Black point.
  • Extension southeast inner corner.
  • Unfinished design line.
  • Extension southwest inner corner
1971 engraved reproduction ss of mon dragons

Some of the sheets not destroyed were distributed in the following ways:

  1. The Ministry distributed some of the copies to invited guests (Japanese and foreign) at a ceremony held on 20 April 1971. Each sheet was in a folder with the design of an ‘ekirei’ (postal bell).
  2. One  copy of the sheet without the folder was attached to an unnumbered page of a book titled Nippon yubin kitte hagaki zuroku  [Illustrated Record of Japan’s Postage Stamps and Postal Stationery] by the Ministry and published on 20 April 1971.  Probably several thousand were printed.
  3. In 1974 in the presentation book given by the Japanese Government in May to delegates at the 17th Congress of the Universal Postal Union meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, a souvenir sheet was found.  It was affixed with hinges to the fifth page. This sheet has been compared with the 1971 sheet and they seem identical.

Offset- Lithographed Booklet Page

The second is a a page from a presentation booklet printed by offset- lithography. The booklet measures 182 x 128 mm and has four pages.

This booklet is described as having been given to “all postal workers” or “to people connected with the postal service.”

The two punched holes in the west side margin where the page was bound into the booklet do not show in this image. But they would be clearly visible on any sheet removed from the booklet.

No enlargements of the stamps are available.

 

See “Dragon Centenary Sheet,” Japanese Philately, Vol. 30, pp 170-175 for more information about both of these items.

1971 Ministry lithographed page from booklet reproductions of first dragon stamps

Japan Stamp Publicity Association –  100th Anniversary Souvenir Sheet

In January of 1971, the 100th anniversary of the Dragon stamps of 20 April 1871, the quasi-official Japan Stamp Publicity Association put on sale a souvenir sheet. The sheet had the JSPA imprint and that of the Printing Bureau, inscribed “CENTENARY OF JAPANESE POSTAGE STAMPS 1871-1971.” The sheet measured 144 x 94 mm and contained reproductions of the 48 mon Dragon, the British 1d penny black of 1840, and the British Guiana 1¢ magenta of 1856.

It was not a postal issue and was not valid for postage.  It is printed by photogravure in 5 colors, on unwatermaked white wove paper and ungummed.  The colors of the stamps shown are approximately the colors of the original stamps.

The sheet has a folder. The front cover, in black and orange, is printed by offset-lithography.  It has gray inscriptions on the back cover and inside the front cover.  The cover design shows a mirror-image (as they would appear on a printing plate) of part of the 48 mon Dragon design and a design that resembles the 1971 15 yen chrysanthemum regular stamp.

1971 JSPA SS
1971 JSPA SS Front Cover
1971 JSPA SS 48 mon reproduction
The 48 mon Dragon stamp is ‘canceled’ by a large framed ‘chinsen kitte zumi’ marking. (This marking was used only as a prepaid marking and was never supposed to be used as an obliterator on stamps.)

Philatokyo ’81 stamps – Reproductions of the 1871 Dragon Stamps

(Reproductions issued 9 October 1981 (Scott #1481-1484, Sakura #C899-C902)

Philatokyo '81 stamps
  1. Stamps as issued 9 October 1981 for the Philatokyo ’81 International Stamp Exhibition in Tokyo from 9-18 October.

As Mike Ruggiero points out in Japanese Philately, v37, pp34-35. We do not know the name of the engraver of the intaglio stamps of the PHILATOKYO ’81 stamps, but he did a remarkable job of copying faithfully the characteristics of the original Dragon stamps.  What the 1981 stamps reproduce is not just any Dragon stamp but specifically position 1 of plate 1 of each denomination – including the unintentional “slips”, “dots” and other inaccuracies that enable us to plate the original stamps by position.  The only flaw he did not reproduce on the 48 mon is the long diagonal “slip” on the west side of the 48 mon, plate 1.  This “slip” does appear on the photograph displayed here, but it does not appear on other sheets.  Thus, it can be assumed that either this slip developed after the earliest printing or was not constant.

1981: 48 mon Philtokyo reproduction
  • The photo of Plate 1 has a large “slip” through the fire flame of the (east) dragon.  This slip is not present on some sheets of the 48 mon. Therefore it isn’t considered a consistent flaw. But this flaw appears in this reproduction.
  • The “secret mark”.
  • Spines on the west dragon’s back.  In most positions the back appears smooth.
  • Large point.
1981 200 Mon Plate 1, Position 1 reproduction
  • Missing line in two shippo on west side.
  • Extension at the southwest corner.
Genuine photo and reproduction of 100 mon plate1, position 1
  • Unfinished line – top claw of west dragon.
  • Extra black dotted line.
  • 100 mon “Secret Mark”
1981: 500 mon Philtokyo reproduction
  • Black point.
  • Extension southeast inner corner.
  • Unfinished design line.
  • Extension southwest inner corner

1981 – 1989 Souvenir Sheets

Unlike the stamps above, this souvenir sheet reprinting the first four dragon stamps was issued by the organizing committee of Philatokyo in October of 1981. It doesn’t have the same status as the stamps issued above.  The sheet is 210 x 110 mm and has the imprint on the bottom under the red band reading in Japanese “Produced by the Finance Ministry Printing Bureau.”  It was not valid for postage. Note the two black lines through the postal inscription and the 60 yen denomination.

The sheet was distributed in an envelope also with the PHILATOKYO ’81 notation. Another sheet at a slightly smaller size 206 x 100 mm was also produced in black.

There are no inscriptions on the reverse of the sheet in the positions of the stamps revealing that these are 1981 reprints. The stamps are the same size as the originals and have the “secret marks” found on the genuine stamps.  But the paper is a thick glossy foreign paper instead of the thin native paper of the originals.  Otherwise these stamps would be very deceptive if cut from the sheet.

There were many of these sheets left after the show. These were used for the next 9 years with a new exhibition date printed over the original 1981 date. The dates of these overprints were April 20, 1982, April 20, 1983, April 17, 1984, April 16, 1985, April 15, 1986, April 15, 1987, April 19, 1988, April 18, 1989, and April 17, 1990.  A faded sample of the overprinted sheet for April 1989 is displayed below with the original souvenir sheet and its envelope.

 

1981 Souvenir Sheet with First Dragon Issue
Souvenir Sheet as Issued in 1981
Outside Envelope 1981 Souvenir Sheet with First Dragon Issue
Envelope for Souvenir Sheet
1989 Souvenir Sheet with First Dragon Issue
Faded 1989 Souvenir Sheet