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Manchukuo Japan Reply Mail Coupon

These coupons are based upon the International Reply Coupon (Coupon Response Internationale otherwise known as an IRC). An International Reply Coupon is a coupon that can be exchanged for the minimum unregistered overland postage rate for a letter of up to twenty grams, sent to another member of the Universal Postal Union. The IRC was invented in China and they conform to a standard format and are used throughout the U.P.U.

Manchukuo was not recognised by the U.P.U. and as a result, the items below could only be used for mail between Manchukuo and Japan. A customer would purchase the coupon at their local Post Office and send it in a letter to Japan, the coupon could then be presented at a Post Office in Japan to pay for the return mail. This meant that the coupon values needed to reflect the Japanese postage rates for letters sent to Manchukuo (see the table below), these were often different to the rates for the sending of letters from Manchukuo to Japan. Prices in each case reflect the domestic fee for a standard rate letter within the basic weight limit (15 to 20g).

It is rare to find these coupons with both a seller and redeemers postmark. After the coupons were exchanged for stamps at a Post Office, they had no further use and were usually burnt.

There were two basic reply coupons a 4f and a 5f, these were up-rated or down-rated using hand stamps. To see a translation of the characters on this form click here. 4f black on dull pink to mauve, 5f black on a biste to olive background. Both issues are subject to much variation in the background colour, possibly indicating the work of more than one printer.

The Manchukuo Japan Reply Mail Coupon design is identical to that of a Japan to Manchukuo return version, the only significant difference being in the country name in the top panel and the currency used - fen instead of sen. Both featured maps of the two countries between which the coupons could be used.

The coupons are printed on un-watermarked paper. Design size 95mm x 65mm (the reverse side is blank).


14th March 1936   This is the first Manchukuo Japan Reply Mail Coupon, price 4 fen. The standard rate for the return postage from Japan was 3 sen, so the cost of 4 sen must include a 1 sen fee.

Image courtesy of Shanghai Hosane Auction Co., Ltd

The postmark shows the above coupon was bought at a post office in Harbin on 13th, November 1936, but not used as the return panel is un-cancelled.

The postmark is also from Harbin with an International date stamp dated 4th, February 1936.


1st April 1937   On 1st April 1937 postal prices changed and the standard rate for the return postage from Japan increased to 4 sen, again a 1 sen fee seems to have been added. As with stamps and imprinted postcards the remaining stocks or coupons were re-valued by use of an overprinted surcharge. The above item shows two blue lines which were supposed to strike out the value 4f, but missed, and the surcharge which reads "temporarily made five fen".

Image courtesy of Shanghai Hosane Auction Co., Ltd

17th April 1937   As the up-rated stock of 4f coupons were selling out a new 5f coupon came into use. It is clear from the subtle differences in characters in the central panel that a new plate was produced for this issue, (probably just for the black - it was not just a case of changing the 5 character). 

The above example is dated 20th April 1939 and has been date stamped in Hsinking.

This item was purchased in Mukden and is dated 2nd, November 1940.


The example shown is dated 23rd December 1942, with a Hsinking cancel, what this tells us is that when postal rates increased to 5 fen on 1st April 1942, the practice of charging a 1f fee must have been abolished.


From April 1937?   5f Manchukuo Japan Reply Mail Coupon overprinted 4f, (this overprint can occur in dark violet or blue). It is hard to explain why there should be two rates of coupon available at the same time (this is clearly the case from the circular date stamps on this coupon and the one above). The only explanation that I can come up with is that these coupons could be combined with the 5f coupon to increase the weight limit of the letter to 100g, this required an extra 4f. Please contact me if you come up with a better idea.

The above is unissued and has a blue hand stamp.

The above example is dated 6th June 1941 and has a Harbin postmark overprinted with a dark violet hand stamp.

The above example is dated 1st June 1941 and is also overprinted with a dark violet hand stamp.

1st April 1944  Japanese rates increased at this time from 5 fen to 7 fen. A 7 fen overprint in blue or dark violet appeared on the 5 fen coupons (see photocopy below). A version also appeared manuscript  (handwritten) in red, or blue and red. It is interesting to note that in the examples below that the surcharges now read from left to right.


Above is an example of a manuscript  (handwritten) surcharge in red 5 fen to 7 fen (7) This example dates to 2nd December 1944 probably from Harbin.
1st April 1945  The 5 fen coupons, now overprinted to read 7 fen were updated by manuscript in blue, this time charging 10 fen. (Not shown)
Japanese Rates   Manchukuoan Rates
Date Domestic Letter Fee Weight   Date Domestic Letter Fee Weight
1st August 1931 3 sen up to 15g   1st March 1932 4 fen up to 20g
1st April 1937 4 sen up to 20g   1st March 1934 3 fen up to 20g
1st April 1942 5 sen up to 20g   1st April 1937 4 fen up to 20g
1st April 1944 7 sen up to 20g   1st March 1942 6 fen up to 20g
1st April 1945 10 sen up to 20g   1st April 1944 10 fen

up to 20g 


This page has been written with a certain amount of speculation on my part, particularly with regards to dating. If anyone has further images or information I would be very pleased if you could share this with me. With a few more examples it should be possible reach some very firm conclusions concerning these elusive items. Remember - rates of the reply coupons shown above are based upon prices shown in the Japanese table.


Japan Manchukuo Reply Coupons - If you are researching these items I refer you to an article written by  Dr. Robert M. Spaulding Jr.,   In August 1962 he published an article in the Journal of Japanese Philately (vol. 17, no 4, pages 132/3) based, in part, upon information supplied by another philatelist Mr. J. H. A. Thivierge of the Society of Reply Coupon Collectors. This article covers quite extensively the Japan Manchukuo Reply Mail Coupons sold in Japan, of which he details 11 different coupons but states that there are 30 or more varieties of overprint. Information from this article has also been helpful in compiling the information shown above.