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Chapter V.

The Circular Stamps.

(a)  “Die I.” Tests and History.     (b)  Genuine and “Missing” Dies.     (c)  The Issued Stamps in Watercolours.     (d)  The Simons Controversy.     (e)  The Stamps Printed in Oil Colours.

The Design.

The first postage-stamps consisted of three denominations, circular in form, and having one design common to all. The design was separately engraved at Jammu on three brass dies, and was composed of native characters, within a double-lined circle, surrounding a central “sun” containing the numerals of denomination. The translation of the inscriptions can be readily followed by comparison with the [images shewn below].

In several important particulars, the key to the circular impression lies in the character, at the top of the outer circle, resembling the numeral “3”. This is the first character of an inscription in Dogra which, reading from left to right, means “Dak Jammu,” signifying “Post of Jammu, 1923,” the year being the equivalent of A.D. 1866 and known as the “Sambat” year. The second inscription, commencing from the left of the “3” and translated as “Dominions of the Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir,” is in Persian, and is read from right to left.

The three characters within in the central “sun” are the native numerals for ½, 1, and ¼, respectively, the former implying ½-Anna and 1-Anna, respectively, and the latter a quarter-rupee or, as it is more generally known, 4 Annas. These numerals were framed on the idea that a straight stroke should represent “1”; if the stroke were outside a curved line it should represent a one-quarter anna, and the half-anna numeral is therefore written with two strokes after a curve as “two-...

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 ...quarter-anna.” with the stroke inside the curved line the “quarter” (rupee) would be indicated. This system of notation is not confined to Jammu-Kashmir.

We have now briefly to apply our diagram to the subject of forgery. The early classification of the Circular stamps became involved in a mass of confusion, owing to the implicit belief, held by collectors, in two distinct series of forgeries which are now known as (a) “Die I.” and (b) “Missing Dies.”

Both sets of imitations met with an astonishing amount of success in deceiving collectors, considering that neither are, in the light of present knowledge, at all dangerous. The ground must, however, be cleared of them before proceeding to an examination of the originals, and we now give their respective histories and the tests by which they are to be identified.

“Die I.” Tests and History.

Die I.” consisted of two denominations only—the ½-Anna and 4-Anna. They were always printed in watercolour, and were produced long before the “Missing Dies.” Masson, writing in 1899, stated that they had successfully deceived collectors for some thirty years, in which case they must have been produced in or soon after 1870. It was not until 1890, or twenty years later, that the “Missing Dies” appeared.

“Die I.” owes its title to the fact that collectors, including advanced specialists, believed in it to such an extent that, even when it was proved to be false, they advanced a theory that the dies now known as original must have been engraved later, but that earlier ones, i.e., “Die I” had preceded them. Many experienced collectors, indeed, went further than this and, while rejecting originals as forgeries, paid (what, for those days, were fancy prices) in order to secure the “Die I.” forgeries which they believed to be the only original impressions. We have, in our possession a 4-Anna blue “Die I.” to which the price paid by some bygone collector is still attached. This is noted at £50!

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Masson’s invariable practice of never removing a stamp from its cover enabled him to support the conclusions of the official enquiry by proving that two of the colours used for the forgery—green and purple—could not possibly have been employed with any genuine Die; and in 1899 he made the exposure public under the title of “Die I. — Kashmir.” (Philatelic Journal of India. Vol. III pp. 69-70.)

In view of an Editorial annexed to this article, it is difficult to understand how these notorious imitations managed to hold their own for so many years:—

“We had a perfectly open mind on the subject until we visited Jammu lately, and saw the merriment caused to some of the State Officials by the supposition that such a die could ever have been passed by even an intoxicated Official, or could have been cut by even the most ignorant seal-cutter. We consider it a forgery, pure and simple, made in Europe...”

Masson believed that France was entitled to the honour of production, but even if no native could have done the engraving, it would appear that it was done in India: for Pemberton noted, in the Philatelic Journal of May, 1872, that, having received a specimen “from an unimpeachable source,” no reply could be expected “for several months” to a request which he had sent for further information. This almost certainly indicates India as the source to which Pemberton referred.

Although these forgeries merely amused the native officials, they are sufficiently deceptive to European eyes to need a brief description of tests for identification. All varieties will be found classified in the chapter on “Forgeries.”

Tests for “Die I.”

Generally, the impressions are too coarse, and the uncoloured portions too broad and conspicuous: the two containing lines are not circular.

The ½-Anna. The Dogra “3” is too short and too narrow, and its upper half equal to the lower in width instead of, as in originals, being much the wider of the two. The rays of the “sun” are also too short and thick.

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The 4-Anna. The Dogra “3” is, again, far too narrow. The line of the central numeral which, if prolonged downwards would, in originals, almost touch the character resembling a long-tailed “R” (turned to the left) would, in the forgery, pass far to right of it.

We conclude our remarks on the “Die I.” forgeries with a note on the celebrated Tapling Collection in the British Museum—a collection formed when “Die I.” was still believed to be authentic. In the first two-sided frame which shews the watercolour circulars the whole of the “stamps” on one side, and about half of those on the other, are composed exclusively of these notorious forgeries.

The Genuine and “Missing Dies.”

These forgeries, which included Old (Kashmir) Rectangulars as well as Circulars, were made in 1890 by the Postal Officials themselves, but not, as we shall prove, with the connivance or knowledge of the State.

They owe their title to the fact that when, in 1898, the dies and plates were called in for defacement, the forged dies—at that time still believed to be genuine—were not included or, in other words, they were missing.

All three circular denominations were imitated and, in the case of the 4-Anna, by two dies, probably owing to the first one having received some injury.

(Plate 3, fig. 2c. probably shews this 4 anna counterfeit in the damaged condition, of which prints are extremely rare). They were produced in enormous quantities, and the fraudulent officials must have reaped a rich harvest, not only from collectors but, by a system involving their substitution in the Treasuries and Post Offices for sheets of genuine stamps, from the State in addition.

They are not in the least degree dangerous, and a single test—one for each of the four circular forgeries—will be found amply sufficient for their immediate detection.

[The images on the left below] shew the three denominations of the original dies, and, on the right, those of the forgeries.

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Tests for “Missing Dies.”

Apart from the last-named, the key to identification again lies in the Dogra “3”:—

The ½-Anna original. The curved foot of the “3” curls away from the character on its left, and the two are widely separate. Forged. The foot curls towards and joins the left character.

The ½-Anna.

The 1-Anna. Original. The straight stroke of the central numeral would pass to the right of the “3”. Forged. The stroke would pass through its centre.

The 1-Anna.

The 4-Annas (First Die) Original. The stroke of the central numeral would, if prolonged, just touch the right edge of the Dogra “3”. Forged. The stroke would pass through the upright of the character on the right of the “3” (which is far too long and narrow).

The 4-Annas (First Die).

The 4-Annas (Second Die). Forged. In this case the direction of the central numeral is correct. The simplest test (of many) lies in the third character to right of the “3” resembling the letter “n”. In originals the two downstrokes of this character are pinched together at the foot, till they nearly touch. In the forgery these are parallel, and the “3” is also too small.

The 4-Annas (Second Die).

Essays and Proofs

No Essay for, or Proof of, any of the Circular Dies is known.

► Chapter V continued: The Issued Stamps.

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