Around HK$45 million (€4 million) worth of rare Chinese stamps are going under the auctioneer's hammer this weekend in an event organizers are claiming is the most important of its kind in years.
The sale is being hosted by Interasia Auctions Ltd at the Park Lane Hotel January 30-31 (http://www.interasia-auctions.com) and features 1,800 lots of Chinese, Hong Kong and Asian stamps and postal history, including the Five Treasures of the Cultural Revolution - considered the rarest stamps made in the People's Republic.
Stamp collecting was considered a bourgeois hobby during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s and frowned upon both as a way to spend time and money.
These days, as the nation's wealth rapidly grows, it is being seen as a smart way to invest both in terms of collateral and culture.
This weekend is a prime example. The "Five Treasures'' are expected to go for more than HK$17 million (€1.5 million) and feature the rarest item on offer - half of a stamp that once featured Chairman Mao alongside the military leader Lin Biao. The stamps all but disappeared after Lin was branded a traitor following his death in 1971.
Dr Jeffrey Schneider, director of Interasia and an expert on Chinese and Asian stamps, said at a press briefing Wednesday this weekend's event was a "once-in-a-generation auction."
"Stamps have always had a special place in Chinese culture, being seen as important cultural icons and treasures, just like art and in fact are often referred to as art in miniature,'' he said.
"We're also no doubt seeing the results of the almost unprecedented economic growth of Mainland China and the resultant investment boom in almost anything China-related.''
Another highlight of the event is the appearance of a 1897 "Small One Dollar" Red Revenue stamp, one of only 32 copies recorded and considered among collectors as one of the world's great rarities, according to Dr Schneider.
It is expected to go for close to HK$3 million (€274,000) after a small one-dollar overprint on a three-cent Red Revenue stamp last year went for HK$2.5 million (€226,000) - the most ever paid for a Chinese stamp.