ASG Grades 1980 China 8 Fen Year of the Monkey Stamps

Posted on 5/29/2019

Behind this famous Chinese Stamp, there is a hidden story about an artist and his monkey.

Authenticated Stamp Guaranty™ (ASG™), a leading stamp authentication and grading service, recently certified two four-stamp blocks of the 1980 China 8 Fen Year of the Monkey stamps (known as the Gengshen Monkey). This design is among the most beloved of all Chinese postage stamps.

Experts at the ASG office in Shanghai authenticated the blocks and graded both of them ASG XF/Superb 95 Mint OG. The number indicates their condition is near the top of the 100-point grading sale, while Mint OG indicates that each block of stamps has never been used and has at least 80% of its original gum intact.

These valuable stamps are now encapsulated in ASG Oversize Holders, which are designed for long-term preservation and contain numerous security features such as an advanced hologram.

Gengshen Monkey was issued in 1980 as a zodiac stamp for the Year of Monkey. As the very first stamp in the Chinese zodiac series released by the People’s Republic of China, it quickly ignited people’s enthusiasm for collecting the series.

The stamp design is unique. It bears a realistic and lovely golden monkey painted by famous Chinese artist Huang Yongyu. The monkey sits against a red background, conveying a feeling of happiness and auspiciousness.

Click image to enlarge.

Huang Yongyu, who created the original artwork of the monkey, is an acclaimed Chinese artist. The Times, a British newspaper, devoted six pages to report his life story and artwork. When talking about his initial inspiration in creating this monkey, Huang said it was only to commemorate Yiwo, a little monkey who lived with Huang and kept him company when he was drawing, bringing Huang a lot of joy. Huang was saddened by its passing, but he immortalized it through the image on the stamp.

Huang Yongyu and his monkey, Yiwo.

A closer observation of this stamp reveals it is a perfect integration of design and printing. The monkey image's characteristics and charm were outlined only by several simple brush strokes. The stamps were printed in a method of photogravure. The elaborate printing plate carved by the engraver makes the golden monkey so vivid that hairs of it are clearly shown.

The Chinese characters on the stamp (“The People’s Post of China” and “the Year of Gengshen”) are very graceful in strokes. Under magnification, the red net-shaped underprint is delicate and even. The black ink on the design is thick with gloss. Outstanding design, together with exceptional printing techniques, makes the Gengshen Monkey stamp a classic in collector’s eyes.

As the first Chinese zodiac stamp issued by China, the Gengshen Monkey stamp is obviously of high significance. Moreover, its production was extremely limited. Only 5 million pieces were issued. The surviving monkey stamps have become highly sought-after rarities.

It is because of their huge popularity that the monkey stamps are counterfeited by unscrupulous people. Spurious pieces appear on the market from time to time. As counterfeit technologies become more sophisticated, some fakes could easily be mistaken for genuine pieces. But these fakes could mean a substantial loss to a stamp collector or dealer. Though fakes do exist, there are ways to avoid them, such as by purchasing a stamp in an ASG holder.

ASG was established in 2017 to provide an accurate, consistent and impartial assessment of a stamp’s authenticity and grade. Every stamp that ASG certifies is backed by the comprehensive ASG Guarantee, which helps to protect consumers. To learn how to submit stamps to ASG, click here.


  • Baidu Baike

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