Custom Search

German Empire

Offices in China - Postmarks


The German Empire established post offices in foreign countries to provide mail service where the local services were deemed unsafe or unreliable.  They were usually set up in cities which had some sort of German political or commercial interest.

Shanghai  (Forerunner)

The post offices in China began operation in 1886. Initially, contemporary German Empire definitive postage stamps were used. These are called "forerunners". Many of these are not expensive, and collecting these forerunner issues is very popular with German postmark collectors.

Post offices existed in the towns noted in the following table. In many cases, there are also variations in the German spelling of the town name.  Some of them are noted in the table below.  There were also variations in the style of hand cancels used in some of the postal facilities, as well.




Here are some town cancel examples.









Stamps canceled with "Tsintau" or "Tsingtau" were used in the German colony of Kiauchau (Kiautschou).  One is shown in the image directly above.

The following table lists the major Railway postmarks.

Tsingtau-Kaumi / Bahnpost / Zug ...
Tsingtau-Weihsien / Bahnpost / Zug ...
Tsingtau-Tsinanfu / Bahnpost / Zug ...

Tsingtau-Weihsien / Bahnpost / Zug 2

Of course, each of the trains for a particular railroad route had it's own number, which appeared in the cancel.  In the example above, it is "Zug 2" or "Train 2".  Each of the major railway postmarks has multiple train numbers, which can vary in value, according to their scarcity.

The following table lists the major Maritime (Sea Post) postmarks.

Deutsche Seepost / Ost-Asiatische Hauptlinie
Deutsche Seepost / Ost-Asiatische Zweiglinie
Deutsche Seepost / Ost-Asiatische Linie
Deutsche Seepost / Shanghai-Tientsin
Deutsche Seepost / Schanghai-Tientsin
Deutsche Seepost / Yangtse-Linie

Deutsche Seepost / Shanghai- / Tientsin / *

There are multiple variations in the hand cancels for each of the major maritime cancel types noted in the table.  There are actually six different types of the Shanghai-Tientsin postmark shown directly above.

During the Boxer Rebellion, the Germans established numerous military (Feldpost) post offices.  In the "Deutsche Kolonien und Auslandspostämter Stempelkatalog" book, there are SEVEN PAGES devoted solely to Feldpost postmarks. 

In the same book, following the Feldpost section, there are another two pages of "ship" postmarks.

One could truly spend a lifetime, just collecting the postmarks of the German Empire - Post Offices in China.  True, some of the postmarks are very expensive, but if you know where to look, there are great bargains to be found in the philatelic marketplace.

I haven't spent much time or money on German Empire - Post Offices in China postmarks at all!  The Seepost postmark shown above catalogs €60 ... and I believe I originally found it in a stamp circuit book for less than US $1.00.  The most costly item on this page, as of the time of writing this article, is the partial envelope with the railway cancel, which is shown above.  I bought it from a Germany eBay site seller for €11, against a catalog value of €35.

For anyone collecting or specializing in the postmarks of the German Offices in China, you MUST HAVE the following specialized catalog.

"Deutsche Kolonien und Auslandspostämter Stempelkatalog", published by the German Philatelic Federation. It contains illustrations and descriptions for all known postmarks and postmark varieties of the German Imperial post offices abroad and the German colonies, as well as their prices, in Euros, both on cover and on piece. It also contains listings for envelope transit markings, railway cancellations, ship cancellations, and feldpost cancellations.

Copies of the book described above can be a bit difficult to locate.  The 2003 and 2009 editions are the ones most frequently encountered.  Here are some links to sites that currently have them for sale.

PHILATHEK - Seller in Germany.
Phila Promotion Gmbh. - Seller in Germany
eBay - Germany Site - Lot Search
eBay - US Site - Lot Search

All of the products above, even on the US eBay site, are located in Germany.  Depending on the exchange rate with the EURO, the book will cost the buyer up to about $50.00 US, plus airmail shipping from Germany.  This is a MOST WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT though.

eBay Auction and Store Links

German Colonies & Foreign Post Offices

The following links feature category-focused affiliated seller listings on various eBay sites worldwide. They may enable visitors to shop for and to buy specific items for the particular collecting subject they've just read about. 

The affiliated eBay seller auction lots provided by eBay, Inc. are not the responsibility of the management of this website.  On high priced material, make sure the lots you are buying are properly authenticated.

Remember that the lots on European eBay sites are priced in EUROS.  Shipping charges may be more, and the lots may take longer to arrive.  Also, make sure the foreign seller ships to your country, before bidding on or buying his lot.

Return to German Empire from
Offices in China - Postmarks