The 4as Circulars

Watercolors   Oilcolors

We do not have a date for the earliest attestation of the 4as circular die, which was to serve for the regular registration rate. It may have come onto the scene even weeks after the introduction of the two lower-denomination circulars in March 1866. Again, care is needed with the earlier literature because most early commentators took this die to be the 1-anna denomination. Our letter code for this die is C.


The 4as Black Watercolor

The early 4as grey-black watercolor is not known in postally-used condition, so we prefer to list this stamp among the non-postals until we know better.


Early 4as Blue Watercolors

Some 4as blue has been recognized unpriced under the ‘royal-blue’ tag by Stanley Gibbons from the 2004 edition onward. The Haverbeck 1973 auction catalogue surmised the existence of fewer than 25 copies of the 4as royal blue, but this implausibly high number simply has to include ultramarines of later stripe, perhaps all of them. The vexed story of the royal blues is taken up on the 1-anna circulars page.



The 4as ultramarine watercolor on native paper, 1866. These stamps are known in a range of shades and demeanors, watery to relatively sharp, and lasted into the spring of 1867.

The 4as deep blue watercolor on native paper, late 1867. This rare shade, which has a rare counterpart in the Jammu plate, is shown in the Eames article on the blue watercolors: India Post 29, 2-5 (1995).



The 4as indigo watercolor on native paper, Hellrigl collection. It is listed in SG as “for use in Jammu only.” Perhaps only three or four examples in unused condition are now known, and some half dozen or so Jammu covers. But there appears to be a Srinagar indigo afoot that stands in parallel to the Jammu usage:


A 4as “indigo” watercolour circular and ½a ultramarine Kashmir rectangular cancelled with the Srinagar seal in red. The picture is from Winthrop Boggs’ 1941 review article and was Lot 1246 in the Haverbeck auction, which gives the shade of the circular as “blue-black.” That is an older designation found in the earlier literature for the indigo shade in the circulars. We do not know how the “Jammu indigo” and the “Srinagar indigo” actually compare. A much later 1876 anomalous printing at Jammu that currently goes under the blue-black heading is shown downscreen.

Where were we? Yes, the cover, the Boggs cover: It is dated in Masson’s hand ‘4th Shawal’ 1284 ~ 29 January 1868, which is ten days earlier than the javab dating seen here on the cover upside-down, namely 14 shavvāl ~ 9 February 1868, the javab closing date at Amritsar. This cover was described erroneously in the article as an internal cover destined to Jammu, possibly on account of the absent British postage. We say ‘absent’ in place of ‘missing’ because a good fraction of early javab covers do not bear British postage, perhaps for a reason.



The preceding is a rather famous stamp alteration, ex Dawson, ex Sturton (“Blue Sale” Lot #30), currently in the Mac Gillycuddy Collection. The horizontal pair consists of authentic 4-anna stamps doctored with “chinese white” (Dawson’s term) to pass as identical to the other pair, which the faker likely misconstrued as consisting of 4-anna stamps. That would make 16 annas for the altered lot, a sum that makes no postal sense. One solution is simply to suspect a variously uninformed collector. If there had been some unusual scenario at the originating post office, as would be suggested if traces of magenta could be found on the added pigment, then our conceptual difficulties really would begin. Still, some puzzle remains. The collaged Persian at the upper left reads “3 tola” ~ 1.2 ounces. To go by the postal rates of the period, one would expect a total need of only 3 annas, or as much as 7 annas if the registration charge is included. We are grateful to Tony Mac Gillycuddy for the scan of this curious rarity.

What follows is an excerpt from Dawson & Smythies book, wherein the piece shown above is the vehicle for expressing the authors’ cogent puzzlement about the denominations. They continue, however, to accept the traditional (mistaken) value assignments. Let us register our own puzzlement about their assertion that the faking was necessarily done “before use.” We should very much like to understand why.

“The 4as [really the 1a] is not nearly as rare as the 1a [really the 4as]. It [really the 1a] is found in singles and pairs on very light-weight letters that scarcely needed even a 1a stamp, nor is there any evidence of such letters having been registered. We have seen part of an original letter with two pairs of these ultramarine circulars with magneta postmarks. One pair consists of 4as [really 1a] stamps, while the other pair is the 1a [really 4as] value, but faked before use to appear as two 4as [so the faker thought] by the addition of a curved line in chinese-white below the stroke of the value, thus converting the 1 into 4 [so the faker thought] and, incidentally, making an extremely rare cut-square pair of 1 annas [really 4 annas] appear as a (philatelically) far commoner pair of 4 annas [really 1 annas]. The original dispatcher defrauded the post offices of six annas [really not] by his handiwork and created a unique piece for the subsequent philatelist. But why a small entire, weighing much less than 1 tola [3 tola to go by the Persian notation] should require 16 annas worth of postage stamps is altogether inexplicable.”


Red and Orange 4as Watercolors

The key modern reference on the red and orange watercolors is Tim Eames’ article: India Post 29, 42-44 (1995), which we have followed closely herein.


The 4as ‘red’ watercolor on native paper, collection Hellrigl. This cover, destined to the Amritsar depot at Kaţra Ahlūwālian, is the earliest of only three known 4as circular reds on cover: 6 māgh 1925 ~ 17 January 1869. As to such early reds, Dawson & Smythies (p 13) speak of a “sort of brown-red, unusually clearly printed, and somewhat resembling an oil-colour.” They bear the Jammu circular seal in black, and so must date between June 1868 and into the spring of 1870 when the iron-mine seal came into use. Is the preceding an example? Absent British postage, this cover should bear some sign of financial reckoning; the red-orange triangle struck at Sialkot is said to pertain to that. This item is pictured also on Staal Plate I.

Eames reports a 4as vermilion for the early period, and to our disadvantaged eye trying to judge color done on a different scanner there is indeed something of the vermilion to the preceding as well, say you? In any case, the Jammu rectangular was undoubtedly produced from the same batch of paint, and vermilions in the rectangular are known from this period cancelled with the black seal.

The 4as orange-red watercolor on native paper, 1872. There was a range of shades more or less connecting the two extremes red to orange, the latter being at the scarcer end.



The 4as orange watercolor on native paper. The image is a detail from a cover in the Hellrigl collection dated 9 November 1872. Fewer than a dozen true oranges are likely in collectors’ hands now. An identical pigment was used with the Jammu plate, which is an equally rare issue in the 1a.



The 4as orange-vermilion watercolor on native paper. Eames reports this shade (also in the 1a circular) from 1875 onward as occuring in a wide range of darkening of the pigment through sulphuration. A similar shade with similar discoloration is seen on 1a Kashmir rectangular watercolors.

The 4as lake watercolor on native paper. Eames distinguishes this printing from the later carmines, which are of the same emotional class. The link takes us to the ► Jammu plate counterpart of the lake, ca. September 1875.



The 4as carmine-red watercolor on native paper, 1876. This is the famous “cherry-red” of the classical literature, and this example is the only attested example in postally used condition, Hellrigl collection, ex Earl.

The late 4as ‘reds’ watercolors on native paper. Eames records other reds in the 1875-76 period, including a particular bright red. Whether these belonged formally to the Special Printings project, we do not know.


Late Watercolors 1874-76

The 4as deep black, 4as yellow and the 4as bright blue watercolors on native paper are not known in postally-used condition. Examples of all three are shown shown on the circulars Nonpostals page.


The 4as emerald-green watercolor on native paper. The scan is a detail from a Jammu-to-Amritsar cover dated 21 February 1876 in the Hellrigl collection, ex Yardley.



The 4as blue-black watercolor circular 1876. This stamp is a rarity both used and unused; a dozen or so? It is listed as indigo in the Scott catalogue [Sc35a]. The early-period indigo was often called blue-black in the early literature. The example seen here cannot be an early type by virtue of the obliteration. Collection Hellrigl.


4as Oilcolors on Native Paper

The key modern references are T. Eames India Post 29 88-90 (1995) and India Post 29 129 (1995). Four-anna blacks on either the native paper or the European laid may not be attested. In this respect the 4as die stands allied with the 1a die in not wanting to serve in black oils for postal duty. Common native-paper reprints, however, exist in the black oilcolor for all three denominations of the circulars.



The 4as slate-grey and 4as violet oilcolors on native paper. The latter is an unlisted shade, ex Masson, Hellrigl collection.



The 4as red oilcolor on native paper. Varieties come in a range of hues that tend toward the brownish-red. Demeanor is even more varied, from the rather smooth and heavy printing of the item on the left through to the...


... mottled ‘dry’ type of impression as seen above. They are all rather scarce, and used copies are scarcer still.



A 4as coral-red oilcolor on native paper, status unknown, quite possibly a reprint. We include it here because it is somewhat reminiscent of the orange-red listed by Eames in the 1-anna. Yet another 4as orange-red is reported in a unique occurence (Haverbeck Lot 1281) on a registered cover, Jammu to Amritsar dated 7 April 1878.


Eames in India Post 29 89 (1995) reports a previously unrecorded 4as yellow-orange oilcolor on native paper in both used and unused condition. One of the latter shows traces of olive green pigment on the back, and so he dates it to the transitional period. No postal issue in yellow oilcolor is known in this denomination on either the native or the European laid paper.



The 4as olive green circular on native paper is very rare, with probably fewer than a half-dozen known in unused condition, despite the very low price in SG. Postally used, there is an example on cover in the Sturton Sale, Lot 133, which has a claim to uniqueness. Scan: collection Hellrigl.


4as Oilcolors On European Laid Paper

The 4as slate-blue oilcolor on European laid paper. Though very rare, it is known in both used and unused condition. A native paper counterpart is not listed in Gibbons.



The 4as slate oilcolor on European laid paper paper. This variety is attested in only three copies. Notice the overlapping of adjacent impressions at the upper and lower edges. Hellrigl collection.

Non-postal. A 4as bright blue on European laid paper. Séfi and Mortimer mention such a curious beast as a possible candidate reprint on the laid paper.



The 4as “red” oilcolor on European laid paper. In used condition, perhaps fewer than a half dozen are now attested. Collection Hellrigl. It would seem to be more of brownish-red persuasion. Cf. Sturton Sale Lot #119, claimed to be unique on cover.



Another 4as brown-red oilcolor on European laid paper. Status? Its shade and striated demeanor (a sometime diagnostic for a reprint) is notably different from that of the 4as brown-red oilcolors on European laid paper that are known on cover.



The 4as olive green circular on European laid paper is extremely rare, with perhaps a dozen known in unused condition. This example is one of two in the Hellrigl exibition. A used example can be seen on a registered cover dated February 1878, Sturton Sale Lot 133. The issue may or may not have a counterpart on this paper in the ½a denomination (rumors conflict) but likely not in the 1a, and neither is given an SG number.

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