The 1a Circulars

Watercolors   Oilcolors

The 1 anna is the middle partner of the triplet of circular dies that came into use in 1866. Again the first attestations are from Srinagar, though the assumption is that the stamps were produced at Jammu. Care is needed with the older literature because there was a widespread misconception among collectors that this stamp was denominated 4 annas. The matter about which denomination to assign to which design was controversial for more than a century. The engaging history and resolution of the matter is given in Staal’s text, pp 61-85. The Scott listing was emended in the 1940s on account of the influence of Harrison Haverbeck and Winthrop Boggs on the American scene. The switch to the correct identifications was made in the Stanley Gibbons catalogue in the mid-1980s. Even up to recent years Michel still had the illustrations reversed though the stamp listing itself is correct, hardly the happy compromise. If paper-type is unspecified, read Native. Our letter code for this die is B.

Four-annas (ćahār ānā) in Persian notation accompanying a 1a stamp. Commentators speak of possible confusion among the postal officials themselves. Perhaps too, this being J&K, there came to be a permitted latitude as to the price and purpose of either version, dictated more by necessity or convenience. We do not know when the 4a die was first used. Perhaps some of the very early use of the 1a was tantamount to a provisional usage for the 4-anna function.


1a Watercolors

For this denomination it is the blues that are accessible to the ordinary collector and the blacks that are not, which is to say, precisely the reverse of the half-anna case. There is uncertainty as to how the early blues, particularly those known as “royal blue” were understood in the early literature, and there is uncertainty too about how they ought to be treated today. Pertinent India Post references are Tim Eames’ IP 29 2 1995 and Peter Röver’s postscript in IP 39 34 2005. A crucial and telling cover for this story is the following:



The 1a royal blue [bright ultramarine] watercolor on native paper. This cover from the Hellrigl collection, and taken by him to be the “royal blue” alluded to in the early literature, is one of the covers that Eames enlists for his own understanding of the shade in question. This cover also appears on Staal Plate 1, the reference point of Eames’ discussion. The hue of that reproduction is sufficiently distorted, however, that Eames understandably took the shade to be that of a group of stamps of rather deeper hue. The shade of the scan below (shown here in the ½a denomination, not the 1a) would seem to be an example, if we can go by Lot #13 in the Eames Sale:


We suggest that this distinctive shade is not the “royal blue” of the literature, and should be given a suitable name. This variety was once under consideration by Gibbons for inclusion as a shade variety among the so-called Special Printings of 1876, correctly we feel. The shade proposed was again to be “royal blue,” and certain to invite further mischief under that heading. Our own pet name for this shade is “imperial blue.” Mortimer spoke of a “blue-indigo” for some shade variety known to him, and the stamp shown above does have an indigo flavor in its darker regions. Hellrigl’s tag was “deep blue,” and deemed it a late printing, 1876.

Several erroneous reports, including that formerly appearing on this site, took Masson’s recording of the date of the first royal blue cover to be “27 Zaqahdah 1282.” Closer inspection of Masson’s annotation, however, reveals that Masson had emended the date by striking out the 1. The isolated 7 is corroborated by the 7 shahr zelqa'de 1282 ~ 24 March 1866 that appears on the reverse in the lower-left line of the Persian. The correction thus makes his conversion not wrong after all, and makes this a very early cover. In fact, it would at one time have shared honors as the first known cover, but now it has to settle for day two. Despite these clear datings, this item has been mentioned in the literature as being an internal cover despatched in mid-April, a week after its already delayed pick-up at Amritsar: the javab date in the center of the upper scan reads 21 zelqa'de [1282] ~ 7 April 1866. The name Amritsar can be seen in the middle of the top line of Persian on the non-stamp side.

The high printing standard of the royal blue was not to be maintained for long, for a range of more typical ultramarines began to appear immediately, some more watery and duller than others, and evincing less care in execution. It was in this period that the 4a circular die is first attested. In this scenario, an evolution of bright ultramarines, it is unlikely that a 4a should exist in the precise “royal blue” of the first printing. Since 2004, however, the Gibbons catalogue has indeed recognized some royal blue in the 4-anna denomination. We do not know the story behind that addition. In any case, one hopes that this new catalogue entry was not based on a 4a version of the “deeper shade” shown above.




The example on the top left is very much like the first example on Eames’ Blue Color Plate, which dates from 24 April, some weeks after the first blues had seen their best days. Different shades proceed (e.g. top right) under the ‘ultramarine’ idea for at least a year, into perhaps May 1867. Postally used copies of the 1a with the magenta seal of Jammu eventually show up and are extremely rare. The example on the bottom is taken from the back cover of the Dawson auction catalogue, Lot 222. See also Sturton Sale Lot 22. This later shade, whatever it may really be like, was also described, alas, as “royal blue.”

The 1a indigo watercolor on native paper, 1867. Séfi speaks of this stamp in used condition as the rarest of all the watercolor circulars. Some commentators now doubt its existence, so too in the ½a. There was no copy in the Ferrari-Hind collection. The 4a version certainly does exist, which is seen on at least four covers. This rare high-denomination printing is associated with the well-known indigos of the Jammu plate, and it would have provided the accompanying registration stamp for a short period from the end of 1867 and into the new year 1868.


The Early 1a Black Watercolor


The 1a grey-black watercolor pair from a piece possibly dated 14 April 1866. Collection Hellrigl. Séfi & Mortimer report that none of these was known in Europe until May of 1869 when it was shown at the first General Meeting of the London Philatelic Society. Gibbons currently reports that these printings are known only from Kashmir. The stamps’ extreme rarity has prompted the oft-repeated suggestion that this printing might have been an error of color, though this and other such ‘switchings’ could also have been plausibly on purpose.


1a Red and Orange Watercolors

A detail of the only dated cover bearing a 1a red circular is shown in the next scan. Together with ½a counterparts, these red circulars evidently functioned as very occasional supplements to the concurrent Jammu plate reds of the same denominations. While different shades are assigned provisionally over the entire 1869-77 period, SG does not list any of the lower-denomination red circulars outside the Special Printings period 1874-76. Not to be contrary or anything, we do the opposite, and do not formally include any reds among the Special Printings. Somehow they seem a class apart.


The 1a ‘red’ watercolor on native paper. The pair in the scan is the only known postal use of the 1a denomination in red, January 1870, a gem in the Hellrigl collection. Pinkish hues, such as a salmon-red, are known in the Jammu rectangular from the same early period.

The 1a bright red watercolor on native paper. Tim Eames reports this shade for the post-1874 period. It has close counterparts in everything that comes in red, i.e., the other two circulars, the Jammu plate, and the Kashmir 8a. Another distinctive shade in the bright-red class is reported by Phil Lunn, a perfect strawberry smoothie, the stamp at least.



The 1a orange watercolor on native paper. A major rarity currently unpriced in SG. The example here from the Hellrigl collection. Another used copy is reported in Séfi & Mortimer for November 1872. The shade has a close counterpart in the Jammu plate rectangulars from the same period. Gibbons lists the 1a orange in the Special Printings period, reason here unknown.



Above left: The 1a orange-red watercolor on native paper, known postally used over a several year period antedating, codating, and postdating the Special Printings period of 1874-76. This entry really represents a range of shades more and less orangey. There are close counterparts in the other circulars and in the Jammu plate rectangulars. SG does not list a 1a orange-red for the period before the Special Printings.

Above right: The 1a orange-vermilion watercolor on native paper, a rarity in the Hellrigl collection. The shade is said to be much like the orange-vermilions of the late (1876-78) Jammu plate, a counterpart 4a circular, and even like some of the Kashmir 1a rectangulars of the same period, which are all subject to a similar and characteristic darkening.


Late Watercolors 1874-76

The “Specials.” Any red-type circular, including orange-reds and oranges, that may have been part of the Special Printings program of 1874-76 are handled with the other reds. The 1a deep black watercolor on native paper is likely not attested in postally-used condition. For us it is then a “nonpostal” and does not rightfully belong to this page until we learn better. The same goes for the 1a yellow. That leaves the emerald and, possibly, the bright blue:

The 1a bright blue watercolor on native paper. Séfi and Mortimer affirmed its existence in postally used condition, but it must be exceedingly rare if still extant. Who has an example?



The 1a emerald watercolor on native paper, 1874. Examples in used condition are known as early as February 1874 (Haverbeck Lot 1265). Here is an example on a bad-square day. Strikes of that very deameanor are indeed known on other material, so we are not doubting it.


1a Oilcolors on Native Paper

Two key references are Tim Eames India Post 29 88-90 (1995) and India Post 29 129 (1995). Surprisingly, and rumor aside, blacks in postal use are unknown. Eames does report a unique example of the half-anna denomination faked to appear as a one-anna black, and which did see postal use at an unknown time. Yellows and oranges on the native paper are also unattested.

The 1a blue oils are handicapped by troublesome items that may or may not be collector reprints, or which may or may not be color trials.



The 1a slate-blue oilcolors on native paper. Some examples of this shade class quite well match the indigo of the SG Colour Guide. In spite of the low catalogue pricing, postally used copies are true rarities. There is a copy (shown above) in the Hellrigl exhibition, reported there as one of perhaps two copies known, ex Masson, ex Mortimer.


Above left: A class of brighter blues exists on both native paper and on the European laid paper. Tim Eames notes a 1a ‘steel-blue’ on the native paper as the latest known postal use for the circulars, namely a cover dated 20 May 1878 in the New Rectangulars period. Above right: There is a range of more neutral shades, “the greys,” that reside between the more overtly blues and the more overtly violets (following), thus giving us the grey-violets and the grey-blues of the literature. The item shown came to us as one of the “grey-violet.” Fair enough, though it has been presented also as a “slate-grey.” These exist on both native and the European laid paper. Such neutral shade varieties are rare in postal use.



And here are somethings at the more violet end of things, native papers both. We refer provisionally to these examples as a 1a dull violet and 1a deep slate-violet. It’s a bad habit that we feel compelled to name colors at all.



Above: The 1a vermilion-red on native paper 1877. This was printed in close spacing with another or more. Overlapping and wide spacings are also known. This shade may be the earliest of the oilcolor red issues, and is known also in the ½a and 4a circulars as well as in the Jammu plate. The extended hook in the central symbol looks quite wrong, but we believe it innocent.



On left, the 1a red oilcolor on native paper, 1877. As with the other circulars, the reds also appear in a range of deeper shades that find counterparts in the Jammu-plate rectangulars. Eames records covers in this latter shade from August to December 1877.



The 1a olive-green oilcolor on native paper. Also called sage-green. A rarity from the Hellrigl collection, ex Atkinson, with fewer than a dozen unused examples known off-cover; we do not know whether examples on cover are attested at all. Counterparts on European laid paper are not known in this denomination, but such are indeed known in the 4a.


1a Oilcolors On European Laid Paper


The 1a slate-blue oilcolors on horizontally laid European paper in two contrasting demeanors, comfortingly blotchy versus worrisomely striated. The striated are associated more with collector reprints, but not usually here on account of the paper.



A class of brighter blues is attested on both the native paper and on European laid paper (example above), the latter from the Faucitt collection.

A 1a violet-blue on European laid paper is chronicled by Tim Eames as being a trial printing on medium laid meshed paper with narrow laiding lines. Ref. India Post 29, 128-30 (1995). The type comes in a range between the steel-blue and lighter grey-blue shades.



Though Gibbons lists ‘red’ oilcolor circulars on European laid paper for both the ½-anna and 4-annas, it does not have a corresponding entry for the 1-anna version. There are, however, two unused examples in the Hellrigl collection. One is shown here just in case it is proved to be a postal someday.

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