Period Watercolor Forgeries

Die I   Die X   Long-tail   Old Jammu   Old Kashmir   New Rectangulars   Table

The most noteworthy of the period forgeries is known as the ‘Die I’-type (Die A in Scott). The name comes from the fact that they were once widely accepted to be the rare first issues of the State. Their dates are not known, but Séfi has deduced that they could be not much later than 1870. £50 prices are said to have been paid in the 19th century, obviously a considerable sum for a stamp at that time. Their star fell after they were deemed forgeries by David Masson [“Die I Kashmir: Is It a Forgery?”, The Philatelic Journal of India 3 69 (1899).] He was of the opinion that it was a manufacture of Paris, though his reasons are not given; others say India.

It is in reference to these forgeries that the SG catalogue appends the following note: “Forgeries exist of the ½ and 1a in types which were at one time supposed to be authentic.” The 1a should read 4as, this being an uncorrected holdover from the pre-1980s when the catalogue had the designations of the two dies reversed. Though Scott had the those designations correct decades earlier, that publication too cites the incorrect denominations on these forgeries. There is a similar forgery, also discussed by Masson, that we call Die X (for want of a standard term). For these the situation is reversed: the 1a denomination exists, but the 4as apparently does not.

4-Anna Die I Forgeries

The 4as Die I Forgeries in grey-black, indigo, deep rose, and ultramarine watercolors on native paper, the latter cut-round. Séfi & Mortimer list a blue-black, which may be the indigo, as they did for the postal indigo. They also list (pp 258-9) an orange-red and a red on buff ‘rice’ paper. The literature speaks also of a deep purple, which again might be the indigo.

½-Anna Die I Forgeries

At left, the ½a black watercolor forgery on native paper. At right, the same on buff “rice-straw” paper. Evans felt that such paper was not manufactured in India. Séfi & Mortimer (p 258) chronicle also a 4as red in the straw paper.

The ½a sap-green forgery on native paper. The item shown here does not pick-up in the familiar way of watercolors in water tests; we have some doubt as to whether it should be deemed watercolor. Why were forgeries made in green when there were no greens to forge?

Die X Forgeries

These scarce period forgeries exist in the ½a and 1a denominations, but apparently not in the 4as, a situation that reverses the Die I case, for which it is the 1a that is absent. One of the several features that distinguish the ½a from the Die I type or the original is the pronounced curvature of the first stroke in the central symbol as well as the peculiar rendering of ‘Jammu’ at the 1 o’clock postion:

The ½a and 1a grey-black and brown-black watercolor forgeries on native paper. The purple ‘cancellation’ on the left is in evident imitation of the Jammu seal, and the red cancellation (which looks suspiciously like the die used for their red forgeries) is in imitation of the Srinagar seal. Of the ½a brown-black, a version in oilcolor is listed in Séfi & Mortimer.

The ½a and 1a ultramarine watercolor forgeries on native paper. Again, a version in oilcolor for the ½a is listed in Séfi & Mortimer.

The 1a grey-blue watercolor on a distinctive stiff “rice” wove paper.

More Die Xs. The stamp paper of the specimen on the right is precisely that of the piece to which it is attached. Other shades of red are listed in the table at the bottom of the screen.

½a Long-Tail Forgery

Long-tail Forgery. The ½a? black watercolor “long-tail” on native paper. Quoting from Séfi & Mortimer, p 259: “The central numeral, instead of showing three strokes, appears as an uncolored square having a small projection... Opposite this projection, the native character resembling an “R” [i.e., the in sarkār] in the outer inscription has its tail much longer than that of the character in originals.” This scan is from their Plate 51.

Jammu Watercolor Forgeries

The rose-red watercolor on native paper, produced from the iron-mine seal. Yes, we do ally ourselves with the cult that regards these as counterfeits (postal forgeries), not a “provisional issue” SG86. There is an early version (25 April 1877) that mimics Jammu circulars and a late verion (several seen in the September 1877 period) that mimics a Jammu rectangular. In every case the same seal provides a self-obliteration in black.

Speaking of rose-red watercolors, here is a curious thing from our own collection, date and status here unknown. It too has features of a circular cancelled appropriately at Jammu, but it also exhibits straight edges and other features of geometry hard to account for. The distinctive rosey cast of the iron-mine productions is a shade otherwise unrepresented in the circular reds, so far as we know. But it is really the combination of pigment, straight edges, and the established precedent for such a production that bolsters the probability that this is part of the same saga. Provisionally, of course.

Three single-die forgeries in imitation of some ½a Jammu plate variety exist in black, blue, and red watercolors, sometimes with faked cancellations. The 1a section of the plate does not seem to find itself burdened with such forgeries.

What follows is Séfi & Mortimer’s account of these period forgeries:

“A considerable amount of confusion has arisen respecting this rather dangerous watercolour imitation. Masson wrote (Part I, p 35) that he included it with the missing dies on the authority of Major Evans. Evans subsequently wrote [Philatelic Journal of India, Vol VI, p. 286 (1902)] that Masson’s statement must have arisen through some misunderstanding, inasmuch as he had never seen the forgery; and Masson’s note is the more puzzling since he believed he had seen copies genuinely used with the square black seal of Jammu, an obliteration that ceased in 1879, while the missing-die type did not come into being until 1890. We have tentatively classified this forgery as one that was postally used to defraud the revenues, in deference to Masson’s profound knowledge of the early obliterations; but we are bound to admit that, in our opinion, those which we have seen, and notably those purporting to be the first Jammu obliterations in magenta, are unquestionably forged, and that we consider this imitation to have been merely made for collectors. Masson classified the forgery as that of a ½a from the Jammu plate, having the fatal inaccuracy of possessing a complete frame-line around the impression, instead of on two sides only; while Evans held that the complete frame proved the forgery to be intended as one of the types of the Kashmir ½a. The forgery is, however, only known with Jammu obliterations (whether genuine or false) and this, no doubt, influenced Masson in the view he took. This forgery is from a single die, and is of some rarity. It may always be identified by the “sun” at the top of the outer oval having the ends of the rays truncated instead of pointed; and by the downstroke of the character immediately to the right of the sun, being straight instead of bent in the middle.”

½a Kashmir Single Die Forgeries

½a black watercolor on stout white wove. The image is Séfi & Mortimer’ illustration of this (now scarce) forgery was based in turn on a figure in a 19th-c number of Le Timbre-Poste. The design, though not accurate, was used to illustrate the authentic item in Scott for a few decades too many. The switch to digital images has corrected the error. The central tableau looks like a field of elephants, sheep, buffalo, and some nice birds and clouds in the sky. The forgery has itself been variously forged.

Kashmir Plate Period Forgeries

A 1a bright ultramarine watercolor on native (left) and on European laid paper (right). The blues on native paper are rare, the example here being ex Ferrari/Hind, ex Eames. Dating ca. 1870? They are rather good imitations of position #3 in the lower strip of the plate. A key clue is that the vertical white lines in the spandrils are missing. A version in dull ultramarine is also known, as are examples in black and orange. The laid paper variety was unknown to early commentators, and is added here to the chronicle (cf. Dawson-Smythies p 22). Versions in dull black and orange-red are also reported by Séfi & Mortimer (p 267), the latter on both wove and European laid papers.


The 1a blue, grey-black, and indigo watercolor on native paper, 1870? The name “flying-yek” has been used for these on account of the distinctive and excessive upward tilt of the Persian yek. The grey-black was once listed by Moëns as being a genuine stamp, and the example on Staal Plate 8 from the Spellman museum (passing for the authentic 1a blue) is also another example of this type. The Gibbons catalogue once listed several colors in numbers SG97-103, assignments long since supplanted, and these may have involved the flying-yek type. Masson discusses this forgery in his 1900 book in Chapter VII, the “Three Hoary-Headed Impostors” chapter (on-site).

The 1a red of the “flying-yek” type, tête-bêche pairing on thin, slick, almost waxy paper (damaged unfortunately). Red might seem a little curious for Kashmir half- and one-annas as there were no such reds to forge on the Kashmir side. The item on the right below has a distinctive plummy cast to it in daylight:

And finally, below, a ½a orange-red watercolor on native paper, produced from an illegitimate single-die that proves itself wrong in a number of particulars:

New Rectangular Watercolor Forgeries

According to reference notes made by C.H. Mortimer in 1932, a number of watercolor forgeries of single-die type were produced between December 1889 and January 1890 to defraud the revenue. They were used at the Imperial office at Srinagar where British officials were not responsible for inspecting native stamps. The scans below that pertain to Mortimer’s accounting were taken from Harmers of London auction catalogue for 17 March 2012, with our thanks. Correcting annotation was done by Anthony Bard.

Left: The ½a dull rose watercolor postal forgery cancelled at Srinagar. Of this undated example Mortimer wrote: “This example in dull rose is, at present, (1932), unique. It was, unlike those in orange, unknown to Masson or any of the other old writers. Obtained from an old collection auctioned at Zurich in 1932.”

Above right: The ½a orange on thin wove, the early die. This example of a postal forgery (image taken from scans of the Mortimer reference collection) is the earliest reported date, 21 December 1889. It shows the DFC ~ DEC error on the Kashmir postmark for 1889. These forgeries are also known with a strike of the L-bar obliterator in addition to the usual pen-cancellation. Here is Mortimer’s commentary, which includes a quotation of Masson:

This forgery is rare owing to the early substitution by the ½ Anna following, the forger having, according to Masson, been dis-satisfied with his first effort. Masson, who believed that the last watercolour forgery of the “Old Rectangular” 1 Anna was by the same hand as above, noted it in his Collection as follows:— “I am confident that I possess unused copies of this forgery in oils, but I am arranging those sheets while marching into Kashmir, and the stamps I refer to are left behind in Lahore. The watercolours I have were all used in the Kashmir Province, (none in Jammu), between 4 January 1890 and 26 January 1891. The forgery is much larger than the 15-type Plate.” With reference to this note it will be seen that Masson’s copy shows an earlier date than the earliest mentioned by him. This Collection, as received by me, contained no other example, nor any oil-impression from the Die such as he suggests.

Masson’s date range mentioned above must include the second die type as well, for the first rare type shown above may be attested only in December 1889. What follows are examples of the second die type, known as Masson’s ► Big-D Forgery. Masson speaks of a feature at the 5 o‘clock position that looks like a Big-D, and indeed there is such a feature of that description in that position. A feature that appears much more prominently on the examples that we have seen is the thick squared-off o at the 11 o‘clock position that has a little downward stroke on its right side. It’s a poor rendition of the 'a in adha ~ ½.

Example on thin laid paper, second die (Big-D) type, dated 4 January 1891. The stamp is on the reverse of a ½a green Victoria postal stationery envelope, Srinagar to Hoshiarpur City. Receiving notation 24 poh S1947.

Another example of the ½a orange watercolor second die (Big-D) type. Paper type (either thin wove or thin laid) is undetermined. In our limited experience with these, the laid paper is the more common; indeed we have not knowingly encounted a wove. The piece shows the DFC (~ DEC) error, this for 1890.

More examples of the ½a orange watercolor, these on soft thin European laid paper, horizontally & vertically laid, respectively. Séfi & Mortimer report that the laid paper printings appeared in the seven or eight months prior to the spring of 1891. These stamps are also known without cancellation.

The 1a bright rose on thin wove paper, possibly unique. Here is Mortimer’s commentary: “This forgery is, chronologically, no doubt the last, as it led to the prosecution and conviction of the forger. It is the the highest rarity, the eample above have been taken from the file of the prosecuting Court and given to Masson by the presiding Justice - Judge Mackenzie of Srinagar. The remainder of these forgeries were destroyed by order of the Court, and there is no evidence that it was ever actually used. The above copy was illustrated in Masson’s work ► Plate IX, last item in the top row).

Though it is not a watercolor forgery, we feel obliged to mention another item in the Mortimer account of postal forgeries in this period: The 1a greenish-slate oilcolor on medium wove paper. Here, again, is Mortimer’s commentary: “An excessively rare Forgery not shewn by Masson, or Séfi. W.T. Wilson informed me that he had only seen three copies: of these three the above is one, while Masson purchased one of the other two, and then lost it! The workmanship is very suggestive of the first form of the preceding ½ Anna, and the fact that it is in oilcolour suggests that Masson’s recollection of having seen the ½ Anna also in oil is very possibly quite correct.

A family of other pane-forgeries based on the 4as+8as composite plate are reported by Séfi & Mortimer to have been done by postal officials in water-soluble pigments. These are seen marked with 3-ring cancellations (commonly the Nowan Shahr and also the Jammu, sometimes themselves faked). An item was offered in the Haverbeck auction Lot 1524 that sported three of these 8as forgeries and a genuine strip of the 4as green all tied on piece with the Jammu 3-ring cancel, for total “postage” of 36 annas.

Period Watercolor Forgeries
Circular Die I½a grey-blacknative
½a grey-black‘rice’ wove
½a sap green oil?native
4as grey-blacknative
4as ultramarinenative
4as deep rosenative
4as orange-rednative
4as redbuff ‘rice’
4as indigonative
Circular Die X½a grey-blacknative
½a brown-blacknative
½a brown-black oilnative
½a ultramarinenative
½a ultramarine oilnative
½a blood-rednative
½a brown-rednative
½a orange-brownnative
½a orange-rednative
½a vermilionnative
1a grey-blacknative
1a brown-blacknative
1a ultramarinenative
1a grey-blue‘rice’ wove
Circular ‘long-tail’½a blacknative
Kashmir Single Die½a blackthick white wove
Jammu Iron-Minerose-red (fake circ. Apr '77)native
rose-red (fake rect. Sep '77)native
Jammu Single Dies½a grey-blacknative
½a bluenative
½a rednative
Kashmir-plate Dies½a orange-rednative
½a blackwhite wove
1a dull blacknative
1a dull ultramarinenative
1a bright ultramarinenative
1a orangenative
1a dull blackEuro laid
1a bright ultramarineEuro laid
1a orange-redEuro laid
“flying-yek1a bluenative
1a grey-blacknative
1a indigonative
1a bright rednative
1a dull rednative
1a plum rednative
New Rectangulars½a dull rosethin wove
½a orange (die A)thin wove
½a orange (die B)thin laid
1a rose (unique?)thin wove

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