Reviewed by Ted Hallock
Jayson Hyun

D.P.R.K (North Korea) 1946-l957 plate identified: A handbook

Extracted from Korean Philately, November, 2000 -vol. 46, No, 4
EDITOR: Dr. Gary N. McLean.

Author: Maeda, T. (2000).
Tokyo, Japan:
Author. 117 pp. (Available for 2,500 yen in International Money Order, postage included, from:
Taizo Maeda,
2-13-18 Himon-ya, Meguro-ku,
Tokyo 152-0003 Japan.)

Determining differences between North Korea’s original issues circa 1946 to 1956 and its officially issued reprints (or some prefer “new printings”) has never been simple. But unlike the P. R. China reprints, NK’s are usually identifiable, but often only when you have both the original (0) and the reprint (R).

The reprints aren’t forgeries. They were printed and released by Pyongyang. They were postally valid, and during my 45 years of collecting this material, I’ve accumulated a number on cover.

Neither the Michel nor Gibbons catalogues help much. The North Koreans’ own stamp catalogue shows color photos of both 0 and R, but they’re so small one can’t really focus on useful details. This catalogue simply offers date of issue for the reprints; virtually all were given a 1957 date.. .which I know is wrong as I have some on cover with prior dates.

Scott doesn’t list North Korea, but with the hard-won easing of diplomatic relations, rumor has it that Scott will list in 2001.

For years I’ve had to make do, gratefully, with a Dec., 1957, article in Yushu by Tanikitiy Koshibas (pen name of Meiso Mizuhara), a good job that was never given adequate publicity in the West.

But now the subtle, evasive, and in a few cases almost undecipherable, points of difference have been solidly researched and researched by another Japanese scholar, Dr. Taizo Maeda of Tokyo (a KSS member). He’s also collected NK for 45 years, has probably the world’s outstanding collection of North Korea, is an elderly man, and a longtime pen pal of mine.

His 9” x 12” book, stitch-bound, is black-and-white, running 117 pages. covering Michel 2/121 and Gibbons N- 1/N- 122. Dr. Maeda has photocopied the stamp images, putting originals on the left and reprints on the right. He lists the overall impression sizes--height and width; color (based on the Stanley Gibbons Stamp Color Key); paper type or types--many originals went through several press runs; perforations (reprints come in a multitude of perfs--most of which Dr. Maeda has in his personal collection), and gum. The author then circles on his illustrations and numbers the most distinguishing “design details,” then lists them all with word descriptions of the differences between OandR.

Dr. Maeda gives us bonuses, showing the difference between the original typographed and lithographed Michel 24, 26, 29, 27, 28 and, later, some new findings on the “thin” and “fat” plates of Michel 50, 49. He also details another of his discoveries--the large and small “won” of Michel 121.

As a specialist, I found his information on Michel 34, 36, re lithography and typography, as well as the 0 vs. R differences, superb. Similarly, I can now distinguish between Michel 42 and 42NA with ease; ditto Michel 44 and 44NA, 40 and 4ONA, 51 and 51NA, 55 and 55NA, 56 and 56NA.

There are other tough ones: Mi 69, then the ultra mysterious Mi 72. After going four decades without even seeing one, I almost wrote it off, until Dr. Maeda sent me a color photocopy of his copy on cover, The difference between 0 and R leapt out at me.

In all, his work is a gold mine. And its appearance is magnificent timing, as NK seems ready to enter serious relations with the west. You simply cannot collect North Korea without this book.

Until its distribution plan is in place, one can order the book from Dr. Taizo Maeda, 2-13-18 Himon-ya, Meguro-ku, Tokyo- 152-0003, Japan. He plans to sell it for $20 U.S.

A final note: Dr. Maeda, during the past few years, has exhibited parts of his beautiful collection in Beijing, London, and Madrid. Not once did he receive a gold—only silvers and vermeils in national shows, and vermeil in international shows. I feel strongly that this discrimination against a major collecting specialty is due solely to ignorance of the judges. I can’t blame them, considering the general aura of secrecy surrounding North Korea itself.

Perhaps ironically, Dr. Maeda’ s pioneer work will help erase the mysteries that have, until now, kept NK collecting to a minimum. Perhaps a year from now, as his book circulates throughout the philatelic world, he will join the gold medal courts of honor everywhere he exhibits.

Reviewed by Jayson Hyun

With the thawing of the cold-war relationship with North Korea, the interest in the postage stamps of North Korea has been increasing steadily, and the publication of this book is most timely for those collectors who are about to start collecting North Korea or who want to check collections to weed out forgeries or reprints. The recent trip to The Stamp Show 2000 at London readily revealed the popularity of North Korean stamps among western collectors. To my amazement, I was not able to buy a Korean Stamp Catalogue (1946-1998) issued by the Korea Stamp Corporation of Pyongyang at the official booth, indicating that they have a great deal to learn about philatelic merchandising.

It is my true pleasure to review Dr. Maeda’s book, as I am aware of his decades long philatelic scholarship on North Korea. Dr. Maeda has been well known throughout the world as the editor of the Bulletin of Korea Section of JPS. His award-winning collection (Vermeil at Beijing and London) on North Korea, on which this handbook was based, is world famous.

The major problem with the philately of North Korea is a paucity of philatelic information emanating from North Korea. So-called official reprints of most issues of 1946-1956 have been a source of confusion for many years. Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue defines REPRINTS as 1. Issued by North Korean Postal Administration and 2. Could be and have been used for postage, without citing examples or sources of the information. The catalogs of German languages refer to them as Neuauflage (New Edition or New Print), implying that these so-called reprints came from the printing plates, entirely different from the original plates.

Dr. Maeda has gone through hundreds, if not thousands, of so-called reprints for his research. Anyone who is familiar with these reprints is aware that entirely separate printing plates were used to print in the hundreds, if not in the thousands. Therefore, they are much less valuable than the originals. Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalog lists a brief description of each reprint but does not illustrate them. Here lies the true value of Dr. Maeda’s book. The book lists 77 genuine stamps side by side with reprints. Large and clear illustrations, with circles and numbers make crystal clear the differential markers between both types. Unfortunately, the handbook is in black and white since striking color differentials often give instant recognition.

Correlative study of the texts show that Dr. Maeda’s information, does not necessarily corroborate all the data listed in Stanley Gibbons Catalog, indicating that there may be more varieties to be discovered. However, there is substantial agreement on the information in both sources. Dr. Maeda’ s catalog does not list prices of each reprint. Theoretically, Stanley Gibbons (S-G) is supposed to be able to sell all the stamps they list in their catalogs, and, therefore, it is theoretically possible to buy these reprints directly from them. Unfortunately, prices are not listed in the S-G catalog.

For the collectors of North Korean stamps of earlier years, this handbook is highly recommended.

(Dr. Maeda’ s book receiyed a Large Silver at Madrid 2000.)

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