Offices in China

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Russia was the first among the European Powers and America to establish postal relations with China.
In 1689, during the reign of Peter the Great, an agreement with China was reached concerning the transportation of mail, and in 1727 China granted various privileges for trade and postal communications to Russia.
An accord was included in the treaty of 1851 which provided for the mutual delivery of official correspondence, as was another with China in the treaty of 1858, which introduced a regular postal courier service for governmental and missionary correspondence.

The Main Post-and-Telegraph Administration Chief’s Circular of April 1899  introduced the Russian stamps of the 1889 horizontally laid issue with a large diagonal “Китай“, (China, Cathay) overprint for payment of postage on letters and wrappers submitted to Russian Offices in Shanghai, Chefoo and Hankow.

The forgeries of these issues are very plentiful.
To put it in perspective, no less than over 30 varieties have been identified.
On a site that had about 150 of these, roughly 1/3 were easily discerned as forgeries

1899 Kitai Issues
Overprinted in blue on the 1 , 3 and 5 kopeck values and in red on the 2 , 7 and 10 kopeck values .
These were carefully printed with basically no variations. It is noted that only the 7 kopeck value is inverted and extremely rare.
Any inverts or misplaced overprints should be considered as forgeries.

1907 Kitai Issues
The issue consisted of 4 , 7 , 10 , 14 , 15 , 20 , 25 , 35 , 50 , 70 kopecks , l , 3 . 50 , 5 , 7, 10 R .
These are much less common than the previous issue.
As with the 1899 issues, these were carefully printed with basically no variations.

1910 Kitai Issues
This issue is easily identified as all the stamps are on wove paper with varnish lines on the face .
It consisted of l , 2, 3 , 4 , 7 , 1 0 , 14 , 15 , 20 , 25 , 35 , 50. 70 kopeck, 1 and 5 R, all perforated .
This issue has many errors, color variations, doubles, shifts, paper folds and inverts.
The doubles and inverts are more likely forgeries.

Detection of Forgeries

The  overprint was typographed at the State Printing Works in St. Petersburg.
In typography, ink rollers are passed over the die thereby applying ink not only on the surface but the sides as well.
As considerable pressure is applied to overprint the paper, ink is squeezed out to the sides of the imprint resulting in a thick darker border.
This may not be visible to the naked eye but a 10x loupe will easily bring out this feature.
Also due to the pressure applied, mint/unused stamps will generally show some embossing on the reverse. Used stamps that were soaked tend to lose this feature.
The inks used on the genuine have a a binder that tends to produce a glossy finish. Holding the stamps to the light at an angle should show this. The forgeries are in dull ink with no shine.
Generally the forger draws an enlarged copy of the imprint and reduces it to approximate the genuine version. As the forgeries are photo reproduced, inevitably, some features of the original are lost.

All this results in 3 main characteristics;
1. The serifs become rounded or pointed.
2. White spaces tend to become larger.
3. A tendency for serifs to join each other.

The overprint is 16.75mm long and 2.75mm high. Most forgeries are at least 1mm less on the length.

Forgery angle
I have seen a note that states “in all genuine stamps from Scott numbers 1- 47 the angle of inclination of the overprint is approximately 57-58o, whereas the angle of the forgeries varies between 38 and 53o usually around 50 being the most common”
Generally that statement appears to be true. I did find a few at 38o but most were in the 51 – 53o range.
However, some forgeries are 57o , while there are some over 59o

On one site there was a notation that the ball in the first letter K had to have a specific shape with the left side flat and the right side rounded.
I did not find that this was necessarily correct or useful given the inking variations.

Genuine Overprint and Characteristics

Note that all the letters are clearly defined with square serifs and straight sides.
1. The top serif of the K extends more on the left side than the right side
2. The right side is is higher and lower than the left.
3. Note the size and shape of the openings.
4. Serifs all have spaces between them. Over-inking may blur this but magnification should provide a view of the edges.
5. The left side of the T is slightly longer.
6. The left side of the A is much thinner.
7. The right side is slightly thicker than the other letter.
8. The sign is very evenly shaped.
9. Note the shape and position of the crossbars. The left one is about 59o  , the right one 56o

Genuine Stamps

Both are in the 57-58o range

An enlargement of the genuine stamp


This is a chart of forgery types from an old catalog.
The first one top left is the most dangerous and was the most common one I found.
It is easily spotted by the thin right top arm of the K and the right foot curve being more open than the genuine.

More forgeries and the angles

52o and 53o

Both 51o

38o and a very crude effort


Other forgery features
These are some of the key features of the 30+ forgeries – genuine is on the left

The preferred stamps for forgers – these need certification
1899-1904 7k Dark Blue, inverted red overprint Scott #5a
1904-08 10k Dark Blue, red overprint Scott #11
1904-08 5r Multi-colored, inverted red overprint Scott #21a;
1917 $5 on 5r Multi-colored, inverted surcharge Scott #68a
1920 5c on 5k Claret, double surcharge Scott #80b

The next issues overprinted in cents and dollars to follow….