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Animal magic

By Yang Ning | China Daily | Updated: 2011-02-12 10:42

Animal magic 

China's zodiac cycle is celebrated by the post office with an annual series of new editions of stamps, and some can bring untold fortune. Yang Ning reports.

Rabbits now can be seen on almost everything in China. That's because 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit, according to the country's traditional zodiac cycle of 12 animals. You can see rabbits on clothing, earrings, bags, toys and a plethora of other items. There is even rabbit-shaped food on sale. However, the hottest items of all are rabbit stamps. In early January, hundreds of thousands of people waited at midnight outside post offices across the land for the first-day release of rabbit stamps by China Post. Some post offices sold out within a few hours. Their popularity means that the price of rabbit stamps is now rising on a daily basis in the secondary markets. "On a sheet of 20 rabbit stamps with a face value of 1.2 yuan (18 cents) each stamp is now selling for about 80 yuan, more than three times its face value,?said Liu Lixia, a stamp trader at Beijing Madian Stamp Market, one of the biggest stamp trading markets in the country.

On Jan 24, Zhang Renping, a 65-year-old stamp collector from Beijing told China Daily that he had paid 67 yuan for a sheet of 20 rabbit stamps a week before.

"I came back to the market to buy more stamps as Spring Festival gifts for my friends, but to my surprise, the price had soared within just one week," he said.

"The stamp industry is very prosperous this year. The value of all stamps has appreciated," said Wu Caihong, general manager of Shanghai Post Company, in an interview with Channel News Asia.

The prices of many other old-edition zodiac stamps have gained as much as 20 percent. Those price rises have helped to end a 13-year depression in the stamp market, and so collectors are increasingly eager to purchase zodiac stamps this year, he said.

Yang Mo, a postgraduate student at Peking University, said: "I was born in 1987, which was also the Year of the Rabbit. At that time, my parents brought one rabbit stamp with a face value of 0.08 yuan. They never thought the price would jump to 700 yuan today."

China Post has been issuing Chinese zodiac stamps, based on the images of the 12 animals, annually since 1980. "Golden Monkey" stamps were the first to be issued.

On Jan 5 this year, a complete sheet of 80 golden monkey stamps from 1980, with paper margins and no folding marks, sold for 1.2 million yuan at the 2011 Suzhou Auction for Rare Stamps in Jiangsu province.

The same auction also saw a single golden monkey stamp from the first issue set a record, selling for 10,000 yuan. That's 125,000 times its original price of 0.08 yuan.

According to traders at Madian Stamp Market, each of the original golden monkey stamps is currently worth more than 12,000 yuan.

"Five million golden monkey stamps were released in 1980, but the vast majority were used for mailing letters, leaving only a few on the market, and thus pushing up the price," said Wang Hua, a market trader.

Sometimes those early stamps can bring unforeseen wealth to lucky individuals. In 1980, a former stamp seller who worked for the post office in Wuhan, Hubei province, was forced to buy his entire unsold stock of golden monkey stamps to clear the inventory. He is now a millionaire because of that enforced purchase.

He paid 96 yuan - the equivalent of three months' salary at the time - for 15 sheets of the golden monkey series, each of which had 80 stamps.

In the early 1990s, he sold two sheets at a price of about 300,000 yuan each to buy apartments for his two sons when they got married. He has sold three more sheets since then.

However, he still owns 10 sheets, valued at approximately 12 million yuan today.

(China Daily 02/11/2011 page8)

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