Circular Rarities

Watercolor Period     Oilcolor Period     Laid Papers     The Wove

What follows in this and the other three Rarities pages are some sublimely audacious claims about the numbers of certain J&K stamps. So far as rarity alone goes, the listed items are in the same league as many a celebrated classic; indeed most classics are far more plentiful. Not listed here are usage and production anomalies, nor are proofs, essays, and other known-but-unlisted items of note. These pages owe a great and obvious debt to ► Wolfgang Hellrigl, and to him they are dedicated.

The SG catalogue entries that represent stamps for which fewer than about two dozen copies (both used and unused taken together) are marked with the dagger †. Undaggered means that the item is of that scarcity in either unused or in used condition, but not in both. The star * tags the entries for which there may not be examples currently attested in postal use.


Watercolor on Native Paper

†SG2.  The ½a ultramarine watercolor circular on native paper. Such is the rarity of this group that it easily makes the list even when both postally used and unused items of different shades are enrolled together. It is not possible to estimate numbers of unused copies because more candidates are claimed yearly now that the very existence of the category has become more widely appreciated. In the past, such half-blues passed perforce as shades of the Special Printing bright blues of a decade later, and others so mislabelled in older collections might be expected to emerge over time. A color image can be seen at Lot #565 in the Harell Sale.


Postally used, an example off-cover and cancelled at Jammu was offered in Lot 20 of the Sturton Sale. There are also the curious two-venue, or forwarded, covers: In the example shown above (the ‘Boggs’ cover’ [1941]) a ½a black circular watercolor at the upper right was cancelled with the Srinagar seal, while the ½a grey-blue or dull blue seen in the other corner was cancelled in manuscript at Jammu. A kindred example (the ‘Eames’ cover’) is chronicled for June 1866, as reported by Tim Eames in India Post 29 2 1995.


†SG3.  The 1a royal blue watercolor circular on native paper, perhaps better called bright ultramarine, is the earliest printing of the 1a blues. The checklist in the Staal reference puts the number as exceeding 100, but such a large number must include different blues of later vintage. Existence of the royal blue in unused condition is in doubt. Lot 21 in the Sturton Sale is conceivably an example, but it differs from the undoubted exemplars on account of its much rougher demeanor. A scan of a scan of a photograph of the cover of the Dawson catalogue (see also Sturton Sale Lot 22) might well afford an example of a transition stage. In any case, there was a rapid deterioration from the early high standard of printing, and all material after a certain point melds without clear boundaries into the generic ultramarines of the SG3a family.


The scan above of the SG3 on cover is in 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. Of the earliest shade and demeanor, fewer than a dozen are likely extant.


SG4.  The 1a grey-black watercolor circular on native paper. Unused copies, which are hardly mentioned in auction fare, cannot exceed a few copies. Whether these be errors of color or were meant to serve a special postal function is probably not knowable. Frits Staal considered that at least 100 of these existed in used and unused condition, but this checklist is known for its large numbers. The color-error theory also becomes implausible if the numbers are high.


Postally used, we have no clues for guessing numbers, even as to whether the total goes as low as the two-dozen cut-off. The scan above is from a piece in the Hellrigl collection, dated (possibly) 14 April 1866. 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.


*SG5.  The 4a royal blue watercolor circular on native paper. Possibly non-existent in the shade discussed under SG3. As to “its” postal use, well, that becomes a touch too metaphysical for this page. Case pending.


SG5a.  The 4a ultramarine watercolor circular on native paper. To judge by auction activity, this stamp in unused condition would seem to be rarer than the catalogue suggests (as rare as that already is). Even including all shades that can come under the aegis of ultramarine, such as dull blue, etc., there might not be as many as two dozen copies attested in unused condition. The Hellrigl showing of one:


Postally used, the stamp is merely scarce, and does not qualify for this exclusive, top-drawer, A-list listing.


*SG6.  The 4a grey-black watercolor circular on native paper. Numbers? No guessing. The stamp did not appear with the ½a and 1a blacks in 1866. Séfi & Mortimer speculatively classified this issue as one “prepared for issue” only. This black is perhaps best regarded as the high denomination companion to the Jammu plate printed in the same shade, either as a color trial for the plate or theoretically to serve the registration function. If so, its dating would be late summer 1867, given that the Jammu plate blacks are known only for about three weeks in August and September of that year. Postally used, the stamp might be unattested; once upon a day there was a rumor of a rumor about one on cover. In our own fussings we consider this a ‘non-postal’ item and would not have accorded it catalogue status. Fewer than six?


†SG7.  The 4a indigo watercolor circular on native paper. This stamp easily makes the list in both used and unused condition. Caution: This early shade is called “blue-black” in the older literature, and not to be confused with a “blue-black” in the 1876 period. Staal’s list is optimistic (pessimistic?) that as many as 25-100 may exist in both conditions taken together; more pessimistic (optimistic?) is Hellrigl’s estimate of some 10-15, some half dozen or so on Jammu covers. An example unused from his collection is shown here below:


The catalogue indeed lists this issue as “for use in Jammu only.” There is however an example (Boggs’ 1941 Blue Book article) of an indigo-type type circular from the same period that was cancelled with the Srinagar seal along with the Kashmir ½a ultramarine rectangular. We do not know how the shades of these two dark blue circulars compare, and we speak of a Jammu-use indigo and (see below) a Srinagar-use indigo:


This scan of a “Srinagar-use indigo” 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.” A color scan can be seen in Lot #574 in the Harell Sale catalogue. The cover 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 to British India do not bear British postage, perhaps for a reason.


†SG10.  The 4a orange watercolor circular on native paper. This stamp is unpriced in SG both used and unused condition.


Postally used, there is one attested on cover in the Hellrigl collection for 9 November 1872 (detail above) and at least one other is known off-cover. 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, at least for the 1a corner.


†SG11.  The 4a carmine-red watercolor circular on native paper. Masson’s ‘cherry red’ probably belongs to this group, and all together they surely cannot exceed the two-dozen cutoff, even half that, we dare say.


Postally used, 1876, here 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. Shown with it for comparison is the possibly unique and certainly uncatalogued ½a denomination from Hellrigl collection, ex Atkinson. Since it has no known postal usage, it is appropriate that it is uncatalogued. No 1a versions have been reported, so far as we know. Shade counterparts from the Jammu plate, known only postally used, are not recognized by the catalogues. We picture them downscreen with the Jammu plate material.


SG12.  The ½a red watercolor on native paper. Not uncommon in unused condition.


In postal use, fewer than a dozen known. The example shown above is a late usage, March 1877[?], a detail from a Jammu to Lun Miani cover in the Hellrigl collection. Another on cover is attested for 13 June 1877[?], Jammu to Amritsar, and thus just weeks prior to the first red oilcolors from the same office if the year dating is correct.


SG13.  The 1a red watercolor circular on native paper. These come in a range of shades, from an early pinkish, to later scarlets and bright varieties, and though scarce, are not in the higher rarities class. What is indeed rare is known postal use:


This pair in a salmon pinkish hue may be the only known postal use of the 1a denomination in any ‘red’, this a detail from a January 1870 cover in the Hellrigl collection.


†SG13b.  The 1a orange watercolor circular on native paper. Known in as many shades as there are examples, some half-dozen? One of which is below, from the Hellrigl exhibition. This example is much like some of 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.


Postally used, the stamp is unpriced in SG. Two are ‘reported’, one off-cover in the Hellrigl collection.


*SG15.  The 1a deep black watercolor circular on native paper. This item does not make the list in unused condition. Postally used, is it attested at all? Séfi did not know of a used copy and it is unpriced in SG in that condition. In effect it is not really a postal item.


SG16.  The 4a deep black watercolor circular on native paper. Scarce unused, but probably does not make the list. Postally used, there is an off-cover specimen in the Jaiswal collection. Séfi did not know of a used copy. Unpriced in SG.


SG17.  The ½a bright blue watercolor circular on native paper. Common in unused condition. There is a stark color variety, of deep imperial-blue persuasions for want of a name, that deserves catalogue recognition (and was indeed under consideration for just that by SG some years back under the name “royal blue” of all things). We cannot say whether it makes the list, probably not.


In postally-used condition, an item of “great rarity,” in the words of Séfi. There an example on a cover in the Hellrigl collection, another on piece (shown above, miraculously in our own possession), ex Eames, India Post 29 2 (1995). There are a couple more in rumor, specifically a copy ex Hancock.


*SG18.  The 1a bright blue watercolor circular on native paper. Rather common in unused condition. There is also a counterpart in the ‘imperial-blue’ for this denomination as well, which deserves catalogue recognition if the ½a version does, and is much scarcer. We are not aware of a report of a used copy in any shade despite the relatively low pricing in the catalogue. Of course we hesitate to put a * on this item, but there it is until we learn better. Séfi does list it as known postally used in his day.


*SG19.  The 4a bright blue watercolor circular on native paper. Not uncommon in unused condition. The same comments apply here as with with SG18. Séfi did not know of a used copy.


SG23.  The ½a yellow watercolor circular on native paper. Very scarce unused, but would not seem to make the list when shade distinctions (bright, etc.) are counted together.


Postally used, there is one known copy on cover, a railway affair to Calcutta, 17 July 1876, of which the scan above is a detail. Collection Hellrigl.


*SG24.  The 1a yellow watercolor circular on native paper, 1876? The scarcest of the yellows, according to lore. If it does not make the list in unused condition, it is a near thing; we show a copy just in case, but mostly on account of its being one of our own for a change. We note that it has an orangey tinge that is not seen in the examples in the two other denominations shown here, preceding and next.


Postally used, it is unpriced in SG, and perhaps unattested. Séfi did not know of a used copy. For us, alas, it does not then pass muster as postal material until we learn of a postally used example.


*SG25.  The 4a yellow watercolor circular on native paper. Possibly makes the list in unused condition, though it is likely not so rare as the 1a.


But the stamp certainly makes the list on account of the absence of used copies. As with the 1a, Séfi did not know of a used copy. A possible candidate for non-postal status.


Unlisted. The ½a brownish-orange watercolor on native paper. Eames Sale Lot #30, possibly unique postally used, cancelled with the black Jammu square seal.



Unlisted. The ½a yellow-green watercolor on native paper, Jammu to Phugwara, 5 November 1876. This is a stark shade-distinction from the usual emerald (shown next to it for comparison) and should be recognized. While this color is at one end of the emerald class that passes in a continuum through ordinary emeralds and on to very bright emeralds indeed, the extremes are very different things. Hellrigl collection, ex Mortimer.


†SG25a.  The 4a deep blue-black watercolor circular on native paper. The Staal list suggests fewer than ten copies altogether.


And even rarer in postally-used condition, collection Hellrigl. The early-period indigo was often called blue-black in the early literature, but the example seen above cannot be an early type by virtue of the obliteration. The type is listed as indigo in the Scott catalogue [Sc35a].


Oilcolors on Native Paper

SG34.  The 1a slate-blue oilcolor circular on native paper. When all shade varieties are taken together, this is a common “issue.” When counted separately, however, certain distinctive shade types are easily rare enough to make the list. The same can be said of the half-anna.


Postally used, a true rarity; there is a copy (above) in the Hellrigl exhibition, reported there as one of perhaps two copies known, ex Masson, ex Mortimer.


SG35.  The ½a sage-green oilcolor circular on native paper is not uncommon when all printing varieties are included, some of which are usually relegated to reprint status. But that story is far from clear. Following Eames, we distinguish a darker ½a olive-green from the lighter-hued sage-greens. The darker olive-green is understood to be rare enough to make this listing even in unused condition. The low pricing in SG presumably reflects the more permissive range of material.


Postally used, there are two copies on July 1877 covers in the Hellrigl collection (a detail from one of which is shown above). With only a few others known off cover in postally used condition, this stamp should easily make the list. It is unpriced in SG in used condition.


SG36.  The 1a sage-green oilcolor circular on native paper. The considerations mentioned above under the half-anna denomination apply here as well, though one somehow expects the 1a denomination to be scarcer.


The example above is from the Hellrigl collection, ex Atkinson. Postally used, is it known at all? So it definitely makes the list. Since the other two denominations are indeed known in postal use (if just) we shall not bestow the dread * on this item either.


SG37.  The 4a sage-green oilcolor circular on native paper. A half-dozen or so are attested in unused condition. Again the same pigment considerations apply as for the two lower denominations.


Postally used, there is an example on cover in the Sturton Sale, Lot 133, which has a claim to uniqueness.


Oilcolors on Laid Paper

†SG38.  The ½a red oilcolor circular on European laid paper, not attested in unused condition, is developing some complications. There is an early type on white laid paper from spring 1877 near the beginning of the transitional oilcolor regime, and late types that comes in two very distinct shades, a bright red, possibly unique, and in brown-red, known on perhaps fewer than a half-dozen covers. We have no numbers for off-cover examples, but rare as rare they are.


The early version of the the ½a brown-red oilcolor on (white) European laid paper dated 14 māh baisākh 1934 ~ 25 April 1877. The lower pair are rose-red watercolor “provisionals,” so-called, of the early type that aims to mimic circular stamps.


The SG38 late versions. The Jammu cover from which the ½a bright red detail on the left was taken was Amritsar-bound, dated 2 March [1878] at Sialkot. It arrived at the postal station at Katra Ahluwalia on 4 March. Mac Gillycuddy collection. The brownie on the right, also on the laid paper, was delivered in Amritsar the day before. So far we can chronicle examples for early March (the two examples above), 13 March (Hellrigl) and for 1 April (ex Mix), all 1878.


†Unlisted.  The 1a brown-red oilcolor circular on European laid paper. Two unused example, one shown here below, are in the Hellrigl collection. Total numbers here unguessed, but clearly rare enough to be making this listing.


If no postally used examples were ever known, we must relegate the item to the non-postals category, and that is perhaps why the stamp is uncatalogued.


SG39.  The 4a brown-red oilcolor circular on white European laid paper. To judge by the slight auction action on this item, one expects this stamp in unused condition to make the list easily. Numbers here unhazarded.


Postally used, there is some auction activity. The Sturton Sale Lot #119 offers the item, undated alas, as possibly unique on cover. The example shown above, Collection Hellrigl, naturally.


†SG46.  The 4a slate-blue oilcolor circular on European laid paper. A counterpart in the native paper is unlisted. Numbers here unguessed, but the item expected to make the list on the basis of the absence of auction activity. Three copies at least are known used in the distinctive slate or slate-grey, so this strain at least will make the list, example above from the Hellrigl collection. Perhaps three or four copies? Notice the overlapping of adjacent impressions at the upper and lower edges. Hellrigl estimates 11-15 copies altogether, but makes no breakdown as to used vs. unused.


As to examples in postally used condition, well, no information here as yet, so we stay with the † and refrain from the *. The story is more than unusually complicated by the shade issue and the fact that laid papers are often difficult to verify on cover, shy of vandalism.


†SG47.  The 4a sage-green oilcolor circular on European laid paper. This issue might make the list in unused condition, with perhaps a couple of dozen known. The example below is one of two from the Hellrigl exhibition:


Postally used, there is an example on a registered cover dated February 1878, Sturton Lot 133. No postally used example was known to Séfi & Mortimer.


†SG48.  The ½a yellow oilcolor circular on European laid paper. It is a true rarity in both used and unused condition, tagged ‘R’ in the Staal checklist, and is unpriced used in SG. There are rare shade varieties in olive-yellow and ochre-yellow.


Postally used, there is what may be a unique example cut-round on piece in the Hellrigl collection, as per scan above.


Oilcolors on Wove

†SG49. The ½a dull rose-red oilcolor on wove paper, attested for eleven days in April 1878 in postally used condition only. This is the famous “sugar-wove,” a thick, coarse, yellowish-brown wove paper. Twelve copies, five singles and seven covers, were accounted for at the time of the Haverbeck auction, with five of them offered in that venue alone, Lots 1292-96. See also Staal Plate 4 and the Eames oil printings article India Post 29 p 89 (1995). The paper does not appear among the New Rectangulars very soon to come.


In Memoriam

Dr Wolfgang Hellrigl 1941-2010

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