The ½a Plate

Jammu Printings  Srinagar Printings


New Rectangulars likely came into use at Jammu on a day in May 1878 and the plates saw postal service to the end of the Native PO system on 1st November 1894. It is also likely that the ½a plate was the first carved and the first to see postal service. The somewhat involved matter of the plate states can be found in the Plate States section under Romance. Our letter code for this plate is M.


The Jammu Printings 1878-81

The earliest production at Jammu was mostly done on European laid papers. That was indeed a popular paper down in those parts, some of it being identical to that found in the experimental printings that were done with the circular dies and the old Jammu plate during the preceding year. In a continuing tradition, red issues were intended for primary use in Jammu, blues in Kashmir. Unsurprisingly, exceptions are known. The big innovation at this juncture was the use of blacks as official stamps for use in both provinces.

The early Jammu Reds (May-August 1878). We largely follow the account of Séfi & Mortimer: Perhaps the earliest productions, current catalogues notwithstanding, are woves: specifically a perforated “red” on thin bluish toned wove paper in May 1878. A thin wove in perforated condition is also attested by those authors for July 1878. SM do not mention a perforate medium wove (~ 0.10 mm) in this period. Such, however, are reported on cover for July and October 1878 in the Haverbeck (Lot 1473) and Garratt-Adams sales, which latter also offered a example unused. Are these the inspiration for the SG117 listing? Imperforate medium woves seem not to be reported before the summer of 1879.

It is truly difficult to tell with certainty that a stamp on cover is not laid paper without detaching the stamp almost entirely. We have done just that ourselves only to find promising candidates for an “early Jammu wove” to be of the common laid variety after all. Well, I suppose a “laid stamp re-attached” tag is a small price to pay for certain knowledge.

Still, the same month of May 1878 sees a red-brown perforated on thickish vertically laid paper at Jammu only. A full sheet, possibly unique, is in the Tapling collection. We do not know whether the woves mentioned above actually antedate the medium laid paper attested in a pair on a cover dated 20 May, the earliest date we have so far encounted in the literature for any half-anna.


Left: The ½a carmine-lake perforated on bluish-tinted laid paper. Séfi & Mortimer do not mention a bluish laid paper, just the wove. Perhaps the bluish tint in the laids (it is definitely noticeable in sunlight) is too subdued to count by comparison with the bluish woves, which we have never seen. Right: the ½a deep scarlet, perforated on vertically laid paper, also 1878. Horizontal laiding is also found on both types. The square black Jammu seal is not exactly a sign of particularly early use, for it is known until at least late August 1879.



Above: A ½a red, perforate on laid paper, dated 32 sāvan [19]35 ~ 14 August 1878. The date is written in the Persian, in the lower line of the Dogri, as well as across the stamp itself.



Above: The rare ½a black on laid paper, perforated. The Jammu cds is dated 18 bhadom 1935 ~ 1 September 1878. The scan is taken from Séfi & Mortimer Plate 34.



Above: The later of the two known perforated officials, also on laid paper; this from kātik 10 1935 ~ 25 October 1878.


May 1878perfed ½a red, thin bluish wove (used)still attested?
May 1878perfed ½a “red”, laidscarce
20 May 1878 —earliest attestation? Pair on coverunique
May 1878perfed ½a brown-red, thick laidscarce
May 1878 —as above in full sheet (Tapling)unique?
Jul 1878perfed ½a red, thin woveRef. SM
1878perfed ½a red, blue-tinted laidscarce
Aug 1878perfed ½a red shades, laidSG102
1878perfed ½a deep scarlet, laidscarce
1878?perfed ½a red shades, medium woveSG117
Aug 1878perfed ½a slate-violet, laidSG104
Aug 1878 —as above in full sheet~4 known
Aug 1878perfed ½a black, laidSGO1
1 Sep 1878 —one of two cover attestationsSM plate 34
25 Oct 1878 —one of two cover attestationsSM plate 34
1879perfed ½a red, thin wove (cf. M01)SG124



Imperforates. The ½a brown-red on thick vertically laid paper, 1878. The cancellation is the First Jammu cds, dated 18 poh ~ 30 December, with the 8-element inserted backward. The second stamp is a ½a dull vermilion on horizontally laid paper, 1878. But when, when?

Thick woves (> 0.12 mm) first appeared in 1878, and are scarce, especially on cover. A cover dated 20 shavvāl 129[6] ~ 7 October 1879 was offered in the Haverbeck sale. The catalogue has the year as 1292, but that cannot be correct.



Above left: The ½a dull scarlet on medium wove paper, 1879. It has a close shade counterpart in the 4a circulars. The image is a detail taken from a cover processed at Jammu and bears an uncommon octagonal seal (the mohrāk Jambu) known between April and August 1879. The second item is the ½a dull vermilion, also on medium wove paper, 1879.



But it was thin wove paper that won the day in the end. When it comes to undated singles, some of the late Jammu-printed and the early Srinagar-printed material cannot be distinguished. The scan above is a rather scarce example in the Plate State I.


The Jammu Blues. For the ½a blues, SG speaks only of shades of slate-violet. Staal reminds us further of fugitive inks that have faded over time. As the range of hues is hardly minor, from indigos to slate-lilacs to deep violets, many collectors are forced to test their ingenuity in color naming. Sanity is also tested when any two checklists are compared. We spare the reader our own take, but here is the basic item from the early period, State I of the plate:


The ½a slate-violet on horizontally laid paper, medium thickness. The plate is in the requisite state I condition. This example is similar to Haverbeck auction Lot 1458. A reconstruction of the plate from perforated versions of the stamps has been assembled, surely an unlikely feat today. Of perforated intact sheets, only four or so are probably in existence. Vertical laiding would seem to be scarcer than the horizontal laiding.

Speaking of the Haverbeck catalog, a rare ½a dull blue is chronicled in Lot 1463. The Kashmir to Calcutta run on 20 August 1879.


Above: A few of the more highly-soluble slate-violet and deep violet dyes give rise to these distinctive blue washes when presented to water. Staal plate 11 displays an example said to be of true watercolor pigment, which, if like other watercolor stamps, does not bleed in the fashion of these soluble dyes.


An unmolested example of the ½a deep violet on laid paper that will suffer the kind of damage shown in the preceding entry. This is a detail from a cover dated 13 Poh ~ 26 December [1879], with 19 Poh ~ 1 January [1880] on the postmark here visible.



The ½a black imperforate on laid paper, Srinagar to Wazirabad, 1878-79. There are no known Jammu-printed wove blacks in this denomination (only in the 1a).


Aug 78-Mar 81½a red shades, laidSG113
Aug 78-Dec 78½a slate-violet, laidSG105
Aug 78-Mar 81½a black, laidSGO2
Aug 78-Feb 79½a violet, laidscarce
1878-79½a slate-lilac, laidscarce
1878-79½a deep violet, laidscarce
1878-79½a indigo, laidscarce
1878-79½a greyish-blue, laidscarce
1878-79½a dull blue, laidscarce
1878-79½a slate-blue water?, laidexistent?
1878½a dull vermilion, laidcommon
Dec 1878½a brown-red, thick vertical laidscarce
May-Oct 1879½a dull vermilion, thick woveSG121
Jun? 79-Mar 81½a reds, medium woveSG118
1879½a dull scarlet, medium wovescarce
1879½a dull vermilion, medium wovescarce
Mar? 1879-Apr 81½a reds, thin wove (I)with SG126
Mar? 1879-Apr 81½a black, thin woves (I)with SGO7


Srinagar Printings (1881-94)

In perhaps April 1881, all printing plates were sent to Srinagar (or perhaps returned there, the alleged site of their manufacture and the residence of their engraver, Rahat Ju). It is from sometime nowabouts that the plates assume their State II characteristics as told by rivet or screw repairs. Now ruling is the use of thin wove papers, which comes in broad ranges of toning and coarseness.



The ½a brown-red insoluble ink on thin wove paper, 1881. Srinagar Reds are hard to distinguish from Jammu printings without plate-state evidence, dated covers, or specialized knowledge of the shading gradations. This State II of the plate is characterized, among other things, by the four rivets in the four corners. The bottom-right rivet is something to watch in later conditions of the plate. Either it was removed and replaced occasionally, or it was removed and became clogged. Matter pending.



The ½a yellowish-rose perforated. This is the unique unused copy in the Hellrigl collection. Are there others? Check your pockets now. Postally used, there is a single copy in the Tapling museum (ref. Hellrigl) but we do not have a dating or information on the cancelling implement. Nothing of the kind is known for the other denominations. But see next:

The ½a salmon-red [perforated ?] A b/w postally-used example on piece can be seen in Eames’ Lot #125. It is obliterated with a short-base L-bar. A curious case of unknown date (possibly late, 1888?, according to the auction catalogue.) We chronicle it here with the preceding, either on account of its curious color or by virtue of its curious perforation, or both. We have not seen the short-base L on covers as late as 1888, but they do appear with either Jammu or Sialkot provenance in the 1881 period.




Srinagar Oranges. This is a family of thin woves that also comes in a gradation of reddish-oranges to purer oranges of duller and brighter persuasions. A large number of these reappeared in the post-1890 period as re-issues. We are not quite sure whether the unused ½a bright orange actually represents an autonomous late printing or belongs with the original Srinagar oranges. It seems somehow a class apart; matter pending.



The ½a orange in sheet form, thin wove, State III of the plate. The bottom-right rivet hole is now empty. There is a small elephant embossment in the upper-left.



The ½a red in sheet form, thin wove, State III of the plate. The bottom-right rivet hole is still empty. There is a small elephant embossment in the lower-right.



The rarest and earliest of the bisects: The ½a orange actually functioning as ½a postage (not ¼a). The example shown above, of only two or three attested, is an external cover Leh to Amballa dated 27 April [1883] on the reverse. Others are known in the April to July period of the same year. Collection Hellrigl of course. Anthony Bard has kindly provided some background information on these bisects:

“Mails for India from Leh were carried via Srinagar in the summer season, and via Sialkot in the winter. The British Joint Commissioner (in 1880 I think), decided that the State was only entitled to charge State postage on mails routed via Srinagar. Consequently mails sent from Leh during the winter bore no State postage; recorded examples are all ½a EI envelopes. When the State authorities discovered this practice, they complained to the Punjab Government. Despite the Commissioner’s reasons for not charging State postage, he received a warning and was instructed to implement levying State postage on all mail from the Leh BIPO. As a result, stocks of new rectangulars were exhausted, and bisection was introduced as a temporary measure. Later bisects came about purely through breaks in the supply of stamps.”



The ½a black official on grey-toned and yellow-toned thin woves, respectively. As a class, these are the most common of all J&K stamps. It is not often that one can “plate” a 19th-century issue from any country with such ease and inexpense. What does not come cheap is a variety that comes printed on both sides, so be sure to turn them all over.


>Apr 1881½a reds, thin wove (II)SG126
>Apr 1881½a black, thin toned woves (II)SGO7
>Apr 1881½a black, coarse yellow wove (II)common
1881½a brown-red, thin toned wove (II)common
1881perfed ½a yellowish-rose, wove (II)SG130b
1881½a yellowish-rose, thin wove (II)rare
Apr 81-Mar 83½a dull orange, thin brittle wovescarce
1881½a orange, thin woveSG132
1881½a dull red-orange, thin grey-toned wovecommon


Srinagar New Colors. Though starting in 1883, examples on cover are scarce in the the first year. The New Color theme for the ½-anna denomination is red, not exactly new in this case. There are a great many varieties that ask for datings and distinctions, especially with an eye to distinguishing some of these printings from certain items of the pre-1883 material.



• This variant of plate-state III is characterized by the presence of a rivet impression with white annulus to the right of the stamp on the lower right. The rivet evidently caused the paper to tear, which might have had something to do with the fact that rivet goes missing altogether in later states of the plate.



The ½a rose on thin grey-toned wove paper, 1883. While rosey in a way and buffy in another, it should not be taken for the late buff or late rose of Séfi and Mortimer’s accounting, for both such come on the post-1889 bright white paper.


The ½a vermilion (1887?) on thin toned wove paper.


The Pratap Singh issues, beginning in 1887, are named after the Maharaja who had assumed powers in 1885. It had been his father, Maharaja Ranbir Singh, who had originally instituted the postal system of Jammu and Kashmir. The Pratap Singh issues are distinguished from the early New Rectangular laids by their thinness, i.e., about half the thickness of the earlier issues. The toning or texture, for reasons unknown to us, is traditionally called “creamy.” Perhaps some of the decidedly uncreamy dark toning of the paper has developed over the many decades since their issue, and since the catalogues have been adjusted. My old theory, yet to be discredited, is that it is all about yak cream.



The ½a orange-red on thin laid paper in one of the States III of the plate. SG refers to a scarce brown-red shade, attested only in used condition on March 1887. Séfi & Mortimer refer to an “exceptionally deep shade of 1894.” The lower-right rivet hole is filled again.



The ½a black official on thin laid toned paper; lower-right rivet hole empty.


It happened that a large stock of early printings was released in the 1890s to be sopped up in postal use before the demise of the native service. No new printing was involved:


The ½a dull red-orange on thin grey-toned wove paper, 1881. The postmarks are the only evidence of its its post-1890 reissue.


Apr 1883½a rose, thin woveSG146
1883½a dull chalky blue, thin wovescarce
1883½a dull grey-blues, thin wovecommon
1883½a Venetian red, thin woveuncommon?
1883½a orange-red, thin yellowish woveSG147
Mar? 1887½a brown-red, thin laid (Pratap)SG164
1887½a orange-red, thin laid (Pratap)SG165
1887½a black, thin laid (Pratap)SGO13
1887½a vermilion, thin woveref. SM
1889½a dull scarlet, thin white wovecommon
1889-92½a orange, thin toned woveuncommon
1889½a black, bright white wovecommon
 ?½a black ovptd CANCELLED, semi-pélurescarce
 ?½a orange-red ovptd CANCELLED, semi-pélurescarce
>1890½a oranges (reissue), thin wovecommon
>1890½a dull orange (reissue), wovecommon
1891?½a orange-buff, thin wovescarce
1892½a tea-rose, thin bright white wovescarce
1894½a bright blue, thin woveSG144 nonpostal
1894½a deep ultramarine, thin wovescarce nonpostal

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