Monday, July 24, 2006

Rare Item From Sirmoor

The feudatory state of Sirmoor is situated in the lower Simla hills between the Ambala and Simla districts. Its area in 1904 was stated to be 1108 square miles and population 1,35,000.

Postal stationary covers from Sirmoor are very rare - one would estimate that less than 10 non-philatelic covers (versus those done by favour) are known. Registered covers from Sirmoor are extrememly rare, this particular registered cover from Paonta to Nahan is probably one of a couple known. The usual franking is 6pies (half anna) for an ordinary letter.

From an article by Major Douie:

"In the majority of cases in the Indian Feudatory states, ununsed stamps are far commoner than used ones, and a large proportion of those that purport to be used are obliterated to order. The only used copies which can be taken as genuinely used in some states are those on original covers. Sirmoor stamps on original covers are exceedingly scarse, and the only copies that I have seen belong to the early printings. It is believed that the reason for this is that the state authorities gave a contract for the sale of used stamps to a local contractor during a large portion of the time the stamps were current. Consequently all stamps which arrived on letters were removed from their covers and handed back to the postman by the recipient. These stamps were then handed over to the contractor who disposed of them to dealers and others. ....

It may certainly be taken that the stamps bearing obliterations of post offices other than Nahan are unquestionably genuinly used copies, as are most of Nahan obliterations

While the process of extracting stamps from covers created a good record of the chronology of stamp issuance , it has resulted in very few genuinely used covers remaining.

References :

Notes on the Stamps of Sirmoor : Major F.M. Douie. Philatelic Journal of India , May 1922.
The Stamps of Sirmoor Major Evans. Philatelic Journal of India Aug 1939.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Jammu & Kashmir Telegraph Stamps (On Receipt Forms)

In 1878 a treaty was signed between Maharaja Ranbir Singh's government and the British to establish telegraph lines between Jammu & Srinagar as well as between Srinagar & Gilgit, the first being of primary interest to the Maharaja and the second to the British (as they were concerned about the Northern borders and central asia). Perhaps due to this reason, Jammu & Kashmir was the only princely state that was allowed its own issue of Telegraph stamps.

Patiala can be also considered to have issued telegraph stamps. Stamps of Patiala overprinted 'Telephone' were in reality telegraph stamps. Supposedly the Maharaja of Patiala wanted his own telegraph system like Jammu and Kashmir to the north. The (British) Indian Government said “No!” , so they set up a system whereby messages were dictated and transmitted by word of mouth instead of by morse, called it a telephone system and printed ‘Telephone’ on the stamps to prove it.

Jammu & Kashmir telegraph stamps are especially rare on piece (used on telegraph receipt forms). Dawson, Eames, Kashmir Blue - none of these famous collections had a single such item. The Haverbeck auction had mentioned two such forms. After a census, I have come to the conclusion that less than 10 such pieces (optimistic!) exist in collections. There were two types of telegraph receipt forms used - the standard British Indian Telegram receipt and a native receipt (totally different in design and with writing in persian). Of the latter perhaps just a couple exist (including one in my collection).

Another part telegraph form with three "TWO/ANNAS" (serif) on 2r dark brown and blue and "8 ANNAS" on 5r green and red.

References :

Frits Staal , The Stamps of Jammu & Kashmir

Hiscocks Document on Patiala

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Spectacular Item of 20th Century British Indian Philately

1926-33 1R Chocolate and Green, wmk Multiple stars, block of three Error Head Omitted. The second largest surviving se-tenant multiple of this amazing error and as per Stanley Gibbons the most spectacular item of 20th century British Indian Philately. From a sheet discovered in c.1929 in whch one right pane of 12 (4x3) showed total omission of the chocolate printing, while the left pane of 24 (4x6) below showed total omission from ten stamps and partial omission from two more - all in all 22 such HEAD OMITTED stamps exist. A 1929 souvenir cover was also printed by the authorities depicting the sheet with the error. The largest such surviving block is made up of four such stamps. (Description courtesy of Gibbons)

Holcombe Photo Certificate.

Overview of Duttia Stamps and Details of the Rarest Item of India (The Duttia Cover)

The stamps of Duttia were first discovered in 1897 from notes supplied by Mr. Pigott which were also published in the Philatelic Journal of India (February 1897). When the stamps of Duttia were first discovered, SG3 (as per the 2004 Stanley Gibbons catalog) and the trefoil issues (SG4-7) were available. The late discovery by philatelists (It would seem that the Duttia Post Office started around 1894 as indicated by the writing on the control seal) is the reason why the early issues are extremely rare. Even though it was clear for a long time that the “current” SG3 was of a more primitive design, it was initially catalogued after the trefoil issues (What is a Trefoil?). It was the careful examination of the figure of the Ganesha and the discovery of this famous cover that the catalog numbering was changed in the early 1990’s.

Example of a Trefoil Issue - SG7. 1896 4a black/rose , no wmk, impref with blue control handstamp, stained and creased with thick paper adhesive on reverse. BPA certificate.

The control seal was used as a mechanism to prevent loss of treasury revenue – till the control seal was applied to a stamp/stationary it was considered worthless. The control seal is known in red, brown, blue and black.

The central figure in any Duttia postage stamp is the figure of the Ganesha. The trefoil issues (currently SG4-7) are known with breaks in the trunk of the Ganesha and other differences such as the pedestial not fully extending. This ultimately caused the clich├ęs being replaced by the newer larger Ganesha (SG8-11 are known with both the older and the newer figures). The current SG1, SG2 & SG3 are only known with the Ganesha’s figure intact and with a fully extended pedestial.

The cover is significant as it is the only usage known on cover (or piece) for the first seven issues (SG1-7) of the princely state !!! That too containing a unique stamp (SG2 with a red control seal – also the only Duttia Stamp with a red control seal) and another which is very rare (SG3a). The stamps were for registration charges on a half-anna postal stationary envelope (Deschl E4var - stamp printed on an inverted envelope and also rare).

In summary

  • SG1 and the trefoil issues are not known used. SG3 is known used/cancelled with a “barred D” cancel, but not on cover or piece other than in this item. What this means is that of the first seven issues of the state (SG1 – to SG7) – this is the only known cover ! In terms of rarity, approximately 7-8 copies of SG2 (with blue and black control seals) and a lesser number for SG3 is known – implying that the stamps themselves are extremely rare. Clearly this is a magnificent philatelic item and a critical historical item as well.

  • Extensively written about and documented over the last 50 years by Stoney, Douie, Garett Adams, Staal , Rover and others. There is no other particular piece of Indian philately that has been written about so much. This item was first discovered by Stoney in 1945.

  • The postal stationary envelope is of type printed inverted (Deschl E4 var) – also previously not recorded and rare.

  • All first issue stamps of Duttia (SG1-7) are rarities by themselves.
2006 Certification by the BPA with Dr. Philip Kinns signature.


The Duttia State Post - C.L. Pigott, Philatelic Journal of India , Feb 1897

The stamps of the Indian Feudatory States - F.M. Douie, Philatelic Journal of India ,December 1934

Duttia - R.F. Stoney - Philatelic Journal Of India (The cover was first mentioned here), 1942 (?)

Duttia , An issue of 50 years ago discovered - Garratt Adams, The Philatelic Journal, April 1950 (The cover was discussed in detail)

Duttia, Some further notes on the issue recently discovered - Garratt Adams, Philatelic Journal of Great Britain, Dec 1950 (an article solely devoted to the cover)

Dilemmas of Early Duttia - Frits Staal, London Philatelist, October 1992 (the cover and the early issues are discussed)

Duttia : Duttiah : Dutia : Datia 1893-1993 : A Stamp Centenary ? , Peter Rover (the cover and the early issues are discussed)

Duttia - Handstamp, Singhee, Philatelic Journal of India, October 1977.

Pictures From Duttia/Datia

Palace of Birsing Deo at Duttia

Palace of Birsing Deo and the Lake at Duttia

Rajgarh Palace At Duttia

Pictures are taken from the internet and seem to be attributable to Lala Deen Dayal

Overseas Philatelic Rarities

Note: The items in this particular article are not in my collection. All other items depicted elsewhere in this site are from my collection.

The rarest of items in philately have the following characteristics:

  • Unique or extremely rare - e.g. British Guyana One Cent Magenta.
  • Be genuinely used either on cover or extracted from cover. This is especially important as printers waste somehow enters into the philatelic market - e.g. Sweden's 3-skilling-banco "Error of Color".
  • It should be of the first/early issue of a country. Clearly the early issues of a country have the most historical significance and ‘cache’ in comparison to the later issues. Also as for many countries, stamps of some of the later issues were printed to order for philatelists – e.g. Mauritius Post Office
  • Last, but not the least it should have philatelic significance – e.g. The Dawson Hawaiian missionary cover .

Given the strict criteria above, there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind about the rarity of items satisfying the above conditions, not just in context of India but of the world of philately in general. Any item that satisfies all the above must be exceptionally rare/unique. A more detailed description is as follows,

The Dawson Hawaiian Missionary Cover of 1852 is the only known cover bearing a copy of the 2¢ Hawaiian Missionary issue. Also on the cover are a 5¢ Missionary and a pair of 3¢ stamps from the US 1851 issue. Seen on letters sent by missionaries in Hawaii, the stamps were printed at a newspaper plant in Hawaii. Last sold November 7, 1995 for $2,090,000 (inc. buyer’s premium) by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries

The "Treskilling" Yellow, or 3 skilling banco error of color, is a postage stamp of Sweden. In 1855, Sweden issued its first postage stamps, a set of five depicting the Swedish coat of arms, with denominations ranging from 3 to 24 skillings banco. The stamp was extracted from a cover found by a young collector in his grand mothers attic. In 1984 the stamp made headlines when it was sold by David Feldman for 977,500 Swiss francs. A 1990 sale realized over one million US$, then in 1996 it sold again for 2,500,000 Swiss francs

The British Guiana 1¢ magenta is among the rarest of all postage stamps. Issued in limited numbers in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1856, only one specimen is now known to exist. It belonged to the Ferarry collection that was willed to a Berlin museum following Ferrary's death in 1917, but was taken by France as war reparations following the end of World War I. Arthur Hind bought it during the series of fourteen auctions in 1922 for over US$36,000 (reportedly outbidding three kings, including King George V), and it was sold by his widow for US$40,000 to a Florida engineer. In 1970, a syndicate of Pennsylvanian investors, headed by Irwin Weinberg, purchased the stamp for $280,000 and spent much of the decade exhibiting the stamp in a worldwide tour. John E. du Pont bought it for $935,000 in 1980, and it is believed to be locked away in a bank vault, while its owner is serving a 30-year sentence for murder.

The Mauritius Post Office postage stamps are amongst the rarest and most valuable stamps in the world. They are also known as the Blue Penny and the Red Penny. Their value is due to two factors — they were the first stamps of the British Empire to be produced outside the United Kingdom and in their initial issue were printed with the wrong wording. These first issues of Mauritius catalogue at over ₤500,000 (the Mints are rarer and un-catalogued and have recently sold in excess of a million pounds) with around 10-12 individual stamps in total known and mostly exhibited in museums.

The United States 1¢ Z grill is the rarest of all US stamps, with only two known to exist (of a thousand printed ). Last sold to Don Sundman of Mystic Stamp Company in October, 1998 as part of the Robert Zoellner collection for $935,000 (inc. buyer’s premium) by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries. Exchanged by Sundman on November 2, 2005 for the unique inverted Jenny plate block auctioned two weeks earlier for $2.97 million to Bill Gross.