Auctions | July 18, 2023

Historic North Korea Stamp Collection Under the Hammer

Chiswick Auctions

Mint sheets of stamps issued in North Korea

The second tranche of a remarkable postal history collection, assembled by a former British journalist and presumed diplomat who gained access to some of the world’s most secretive countries during the Cold War era, comes up for sale at Chiswick Auctions this week.

The first part of the John Newell collection proved a sell-out when offered for sale in London in the spring.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, John Newell spent time in North Korea, China, East Germany, Russia, Tibet, Zanzibar, Alaska and Panama, for both work and leisure. At a time, many of these areas were largely ‘off-limits’ to westerners. 

The collection is being sold over the two sales without reserves.

Part two on July 19 again features a large number of stamps and items of postal history relating to North Korea. A lot of particular interest will be a series of mint sheets of stamps issued in North Korea from 1948-50 to mark the anniversary of liberation from Japan. Collectively these stamps, a total of 61 sheets in five different designs, have a catalogue value of more than £80,000. They are offered as a single lot with a guide of £5,000-£8,000.

“This superb collection boasts some extremely rare lots," said Director Matthew Caddick. "In relation to the Korean stamps in particular, the collection represents both a quantity and quality that’s seldom seen on offer all in one place.” The sale has been catalogued with specialist sale-partner Argyll Etkin of Wardour Street, London.

Other rare material from Asian territories includes:

  • a comprehensive collection of Chinese Tuva mint stamps issued between 1926-43
  • an archive of military covers from Russian Vladivostok
  • postcard of the city of Chita sent to the UK from the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1912, postmarked 263 to London, the message reads: "Our train stopped and sat on the line as something happened and we waited there for 4 hours. We are already 8 hours late."