Stamp collecting has been a longstanding favourite hobby for casual collectors and rich folk alike. Regardless of your financial status, those little bits of paper are like owning a slither of history. As with any other collector’s item, the rarer items are even greater.
Many countries have a rich history of producing fascinating stamps, and India is certainly amongst the very best. In truth, the South Asian nation boasts some of the great works of art and culture. So it should come as no surprise that their history of stamps is particularly important to the world.
India has produced some of the most eye-catching stamps over the centuries, and many of them have fascinating stories to tell. Here are the rare stamps from India that will have all collectors drooling.
The 1854 Half Anna (Die 2 Edition)
Where better to start than the first official postage stamp of India? Following initial requests to make the stamp via Great Britain, the 1854 half anna was printed in Calcutta. In total, over 35 million were made, which were spread over the course of three designs.
While the basic design of all three half-anna designs is similar, the differences between Dies I, II and III are noticeable. The first design was printed to a run of 30 million, whereas only 2 million of Die II were ever made. Ultimately, though, all those stamps depict Queen Victoria.
Of course, all three slight variants are a rarity in modern times. But there’s no question that the pale chignon Die II design is the most sought after.
The 10 Rupees Gandhi Stamp
Stamps often signal a big moment in history. In August 1948, India celebrated the first anniversary of its independence. To commemorate it, they launched a special 10 rupees stamp depicting Mahatma Gandhi.
This stamp was released alongside denominations of 1.5 annas, 3.5 annas and 12 annas. A total of 250,000 stamps were produced, with each sheet containing five rows of 10. The stamp has seen been illegally reproduced by many con artists, which is perhaps a testimony to the real item’s value.
Nearly 70 years later, the 10 rupees edition of the 1948 Gandhi stamp is quite a rarity. But they can still be found.
The 10 Rupees Gandhi Service Stamp
The standard 10 rupees Gandhi stamp isn’t easy to source, but there were enough printed for it to be obtainable. However, the very rarest stamps are those that start with a small print run. With a production of just 100 stamps, the Service variant of this stamp is certainly one of them.
This version with the “service” overprint was released specifically for government use. Combined with the non-public presence, the low print run makes it one of the rarest stamps in Indian history. Given the cultural context, it’s also one of the most wanted.
But it’s not even the rarest of all. There was actually a private collections edition, which was limited to just eight!
Scinde Dawk ½ Anna
The adhesive stamp was quite common across Asia in the mid-19th century. This was part of a system led by runners known as the Dawk, who would be paid based on weight and distances travelled. London-produced red sealing wax die became the most regular form throughout the region. But the one-half anna stamp of 1852 is one that stands out from the crowd.
Despite being quite commonly used, less than 100 items are now known to exist, giving it the status of being very rare. The item was used in parts of what is now Pakistan as well as India. In either case, they signal a big part of India’s history at that time.
The fact they are so rare just makes the 1852 Scinde Dawk stamp even greater.
The First Stamp Of Independent India
The Gandhi commemorative piece of a one-year independence is certainly a special stamp. Meanwhile, the Service edition is arguably the rarest too. However, the first stamp following independence helps document an even greater occasion.
This 1947 stamp, which was worth 3.5 annas, was released in November but carries the significant date of August 15th. Its design depicts the Indian flag along with the words Jai Hind, a declaration of Long Live India.
Unsurprisingly, this is another commonly forged stamp. But those with an authentic version are blessed with a true rarity.
The Second Stamp Of Independent India
Alongside the First Stamp of Independent India, a domestic stamp worth 1.5 annas was produced in 1947. This stamp shows the National Emblem Of India, which is the Ashokan lions capital. Like the first stamp, it carried the 15th August date.
The fact it was a domestic stamp makes it even rarer for foreign collectors. Thousands were printed but only a small number of genuine articles remain in existence. Meanwhile, a foreign usage stamp depicting a Douglas DC-4 aircraft was also produced.
The 1902 King Edward VII
Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, a new series of stamps was introduced to India, depicting the head of King Edward VII. These continued for a few years and were printed in various denominations, up to 25 Rupees.
However, the original 1 rupee edition of 1902 is the most sought after by collectors and is widely considered the most valued. This is partly due to the vast number of fake 25 Rupees versions knocking around.
Any genuine Edward VII depiction is a worthy addition to any collection, but the 1902 postage stamp is certainly the jewel in the crown.
The New Delhi Celebration
Many of the rarest stamps are those reserved for commemorating special occasions. The fact that the Indian Security Press only used lithography for these iconic editions made them all the more important during this era. And in 1931, they released arguably the most iconic.
The 1 rupee series celebrating the inauguration of New Delhi stands out as a fantastic design. The depiction of the Secretariat and Dominion Columns make it a truly marvellous piece. More importantly, though, it symbolises a crucial moment.
At this point, the Security Pass had only handled the stamp duties for just over five years as it wasn’t possible during World War I. Almost a century later, they are one of the most loved rare stamps from India.
Early De La Rue’s
From 1855, Indian stamps saw a new De La Rue design. This print method would last throughout the rest of the century and into the early 20th. These depicted Queen Victoria inside an oval on top of a rectangle. It would last for several years, but the period would be split in half by one very noticeable design change.
A decade after its initial launch, those stamps would carry an elephant designed watermark. But if you can find one without it; those stamps without it are a true collectors item.
The 8 Anna Queen Vic
The Queen Victoria depictions were the hallmark of the 19th century, but the age of those stamps mean that they’re all pretty rare. However, some designs are rarer still, which make them a very attractive prospect for collectors.
Another telling element with this 1866 purple design is that it’s valued at 8 anna. At a time when 1.5 and 3.5 annas were more commonplace, this only adds to the charm. The added value also means that they were less commonly available at the time, which makes them an even rarer in today’s climate.
Quite frankly, the combination of rarity and aesthetic design make this edition a collector’s dream. Sadly, sourcing a genuine is difficult and affording it is even harder still. Nevertheless, it’s certainly a beautiful item.