The 1/2 sen design was based on an illustration of a vermilion ship found in an ancient Buddhist temple near Nagasaki. Sometime after the unification of Japan in 1585, shoguns authorized limited international trade under a vermilion seal, hence, “vermilion ships.” Later trade could proceed out of only one port, Nagasaki, and death penalties existed to keep other ports closed to all commerce.
The stamp designer, Kimura Masaru, substituted a Japanese flag instead of the private flag shown in the original. This is something of an anachronism, as the Japanese flag was not in existence at the time of vermilion ship trade. Trading Ship [Scott #257: $0.60 new; $0.28 used] was printed by typography from 1937 until 1945 as the lowest denomination of a series of nineteen stamps. Undeniably common, it is at the same time quite elegant, a true gem of stamp design.
Image Size: 4" x 5"
Paper Size: 9.75" x 13"
Paper Type: Rice Paper, Legion Mulberry White 38 [Utrecht #19118]
Edition Size: 50
Inks Used: Speedball Water Soluble violet [No. 3408]
Date cut: 1997-05-09
Shipping: $15.00 with tracking