Obliterations and Postmarks

From The Postage Stamps of J&K Simplified by Dawson & Smythies, pp 35-37.

The stamp obliterators fall into five classes (i) the Jammu and Kashmir seals of 1866 to 1879, (ii) the special obliterators of the State Post Offices 1879-90, (iii) the obliterators of the British Indian Post Offices from 1866 to 1890, (iv) the unified system of three concentric- circle obliterators for both the State and the British Indian Post Offices from 1890 to 1894, and (v) a few special postmarks that appeared between 1891 and 1894. The seals have been dealt with already, so we have to study only the four other classes of obliterators, and this we shall do as briefly as possible.

The special obliterators of the State Post Offices that succeeded the seals in 1879 consisted either of a circle with the name of the Post Office and the month and the day (these were sometimes omitted, and the year was never given) in Dogri, or a square of bars, with or without some central character, either singly or combined in a duplex obliterator, like the old duplex obliterators of Great Britain and India. They may be divided up as follows:

(1) The standard Jammu type, a circle 23 mm in diameter, with a Dogri inscription inside. First seen in July 1878.

(2) The square ‘barred minim’ of Jammu city. This consists of a square of 24 mm sides composed of eight long and eight short bars enclosing a character that looks like a musical ‘minim’. This became very worn in course of time, the separate bars being quite indistinguishable in the end; 1879-88.

(3) The ‘minim’ on a background of diagonal lines, enclosed in a square outer frame with sides 19 mm long; 1886-90.

(4) A square of six long and six short thick bars enclosing one of four different characters in the centre, 25 mm; 1888-90.

(5) A square of ten bars, partly broken in the centre, 23 mm; 1888-90.

(6) Three rare obliterators, (a) an octagon inscribed with Persian characters, (b) a large double circle outer diameter 36 mm with DAK JAMMU and a Persian inscription, and (c) a large circle 29 mm in diameter inscribed in Dogri.

(7) The standard duplex obliterators of Srinagar Province, consisting of a small ‘minim’ in a small diamond of lines on the right with a circle 19 mm in diameter and inscribed with the Post Office, month and day, in Dogri on the left. In use from August 1879 to December 1890.

The obliterators of the British Indian Post Offices established in the State were of many types until 1890. Up to 1879 there were three types of large duplex obliterators, with a special postmark and obliterator, like one type of duplex obliterator, but struck separately, for Leh. After 1879 four kinds of barred obliterators, with large capital L in the centre can be found; the commonest is a tall oval in shape, another is square, and two are circular. All have broad horizontal bars, and are unframed. The commonest postmark consists of a circle 23 mm in diameter with KASHMIR in a curve at the top of a single-lined circle 23 mm or 19 mm in diameter. Leh had a 25 mm circular postmark of its own.

Sialkot postmarks appear on letters sent to to through British India. There are many varieties.

Postage due marks in oblong frames are known both in English and Dogri.

From December 1890 all the special obliterators were abolished, and a uniform type of cancellation stamp was issued to all Post Offices in the State. This takes the form of three concentric circles, the outmost 28 mm in diameter, containing at the top between the two outer circles JAMMU AND KASHMIR STATE at the top between the two inner lines the name of the Post Office in English, at the bottom between the two inner lines the date in English, and in the middle the name of the Post Office and the date in Dogri. There were special and slightly larger postmarks for PAR(cels) and REG(istered) articles, as shown in the lettering at the foot of the postmark. There are a few minor variations from this standard type.

Finally, in 1891 there began to appear a few special postmarks, all, except one, with English inscriptions only, for a few small Post Offices or for the Jammu and Srinagar offices. The only one worth describing is that in which JAMMU AND KASHMIR STATE appears in white on a black background between two white circles, and across the centre are the name of the Post Office and the date. These postmarks can be found in violet and in black. It has been suggested that these were emergency impressions from seals used for sealing mail bags. At least eight offices used this type, mostly during the first half of 1891.


The last scene of all in the history of the State issues of stamps for Jammu and Kashmir takes place at Srinagar one day in February 1898 when all the available dies and plates were defaced by being heavily scored over. This was done to render them incapable of any misuse, to protect both the credit of the State and the pockets of collectors. There was a little ceremony at Jammu, the Provincial Governors and some other State officials, Captain Stuart Godfrey, as First Assistant in the British Residency, Mr Stewart Wilson, and Mr Masson were present.

All the dies and plates used for printing the genuine stamps, including the plate of the unissued ¼a, but excluding the single die ½a Kashmir, which could not be found, were thus treated. Impressions after defacement were taken in black insoluble ink. Only ten sets are understood to have been prepared.

Impressions of the defaced Kashmir 4a and the three circular dies are known in violet on very thin laid paper, but their history is a mystery.

Our task is now at an end. We have traced the stamps of this Himalayan State through all their tortuous career and their complications of water and oilcolours, reprints and forgeries, and we trust that the reader who has patiently gone through these pages is now viewing the stamps in quite a different light, and is taking in them an interest which he never before thought to experience.

Appendix on Identifying Circulars

One of the major difficulties in the study of the circular stamps issued for Jammu only is to distinguish between (a) the earlier watercolours of 1869-77 and the later oilcolours of 1877, (b) the genuine originals the reprints, and (c) the genuine originals and various forgieries (namely the DieIs of 1868-70, the Missing-Dies of 1890-94, and the Brightons of 1901-02). The following notes will, it is hoped, help to simplify the problem.

Watercolours and Oilcolours: The following characteristics are conclusive, and it is only the the red and black stamps on native paper where confusion can possibly arise.

Colour. The watercolour stamps were printed in bright-red and orange as standard colours; in jet-black, bright blue, emerald, and bright yellow as ‘special’ colours; in dull red, dull black, sage-green [or olive-green], and yellow-ochre in the oilcolours. Hence confusion can arise only among the reds and the blacks, all the other shades being obviously distinct.

Solubility in water. Watercolour stamps cannot be soaked in water, as the colours run at once; oilcolours are not so affected.

Appearance. Generally speaking, the watercolour pigment appears more on the surface in lumps, while the oilcolour has sunk into the paper. Also, oilcolours are usually more smudgy and with details more blurred than watercolours.

Paper. The watercolours were printed only on the native paper, which usually has a somewhat shiny appearance on the printed side (not on the reverse) as if the paper had been slightly washed with albumen. The oilcolour stamps were printed on similar paper, but also on smooth white, non-shiny, medium to thick European laid paper, quite distinct from the native-made paper.

Originals and Reprints: As reprints were made only in oilcolours, the watercolour stamps can be separated straightaway as genuine originals, and thus we have to distinguish only between the oilcolour originals and reprints. The reprints are invariably more clearly printed. All clearly-printed oilcolour circular stamps should be regarded with suspicion. The reprints are in many colours never attested among the originals, e.g., vermilion, rose-red, pale red, dull orange, bright blue, bluish-green, and purple. The only colours for which confusion is liable to occur are blacks in all values, the 4a red, ½a slate blue, 1a slate blue, 1a sage-green, and 4a sage-green. The native paper of the reprints is normally thinner and more smoothly-surfaced than that of the original stamps. Séfi and Mortimer state that there were no reprints on the European laid paper. Reprints were, however, made on thin European wove papers, which is quite unlike the paper used for any of the originals, hence these prints are at once distinguishable. Thus it is only the black, red, slate-blue, and sage-green oilcolour stamps on native paper that confusion can arise.

Originals and Forgeries: With two exceptions (namely the ½a and 1a Brighton forgeries) all forgeries can be readily distinguished from all genuine stamps by differences of design. The early DieI forgeries, which are rarer than [many of the] the genuine stamps, exist only in the ½a and 4a denominations. The rays of the central sun are much too short and thick. The Persian lettering is mostly illegible and quite unlike that on the genuine dies. The two outer circles are wavy. Missing Die Forgeries of 1880-94 were made by subordinate postal officials in Kashmir, and the Brighton forgeries, said to have been manufactured in England about 1900-02, are seen in both watercolours and oilcolours.

The ½a Missing Dies: In the genuine die the curved line of the value does not meet the white circle, and the first Dogri letter does not touch the first Persian letter. In the forged die the opposite obtains.

The 1a Missing Dies: In orginals, the straight stroke of the value points between the first and second Dogri letters (while in the forgery the stroke is thicker and points to the first Dogri letter). In orginals, the right end of the curved stroke curls upwards much more than does the left (while in the forgery the curved stroke curves up equally at both ends). In orginals, the long Persian letter at 7 o’clock does not touch any of the rays of the sun (while in the forgery the Persian letter is more at 8 o’clock and does touch two of the sun’s rays). In originals the two outer circles are distinct (while in the forgery the circles are so close together that they usually print as one thickish circle).

The 4a Missing Dies: In originals, the figure of value tapers at both ends and points between the first and second Dogri letters (while in the forgery the firgure of value is broad-ended and points to the second Dogri letter). In originals, the left-hand dot of the pair of dots over the first Persian letter touches same (while in the forgery neither of the two dots touches). In originals, the pair of dots at 4 o’clock do not touch the rays of the sun or each other (while in the forgery these dots meet each other and also touch an elongated ray of the sun). In originals—and this is the most striking feature of the genuine die—the outer frame lines are widely separated (while in the forgery the circles are much closer together). A second type, Die B, of the 4a Missing-Die forgery exists only on wove paper, thus giving it away.

As to the Brightons, all these circular and rectangular forgeries were produced by a photographic process from genuine stamps, and hence are not distinguishable through mistakes in the design, except in the case of the circular 4a. Something went wrong with the plate of this forgery, so that the first three Persian letters are badly mis-shapen, thus rendering them easily recognisable. If readers would like to know what these forgeries look like they have only to turn up their Gibbons’ catalogue, and there, illustrating the genuine 4a circular die [called 1a in the editions of Dawson-Smythies’ day, ed.] will be found a reproduction of the Brighton forgery. This incorrect block has been used for the catalogue for the past 30 years or more.

Though the ½a and 1a forgeries are not distinguishable in this way, all of them are given away by their papers, which are different from the native and European laid papers used for the genuine stamps. The papers of the forgeries are seen in thin woves, thin laid, pelure, thick coarse grey wove, and thick white laids. The colours also do not correspond with those of the genuine stamps.

It is hoped that these comparisons will enable collectors to overcome the chief difficulty in the study of the Jammu circular stamps of 1869-78.

Copyist’s note: Two other appendices are not here reproduced. One of these is a checklist that simply brings together all the tables in the text. The other appendix consists of notes on the plating of the ½a, 1a, and 2a New Rectangulars. Plating studies are no doubt best done in a personal way by those so inclined, as the authors themselves do note.


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