Visitors’ Plate

The second Kashmir plate appeared in the summer of 1867, possibly as early as June. It consists of two strips of five, the upper being of ¼-anna and the lower of 2-annas. These values served for the special half-rate provision on regular and registered letters, respectively, which was accorded visiting Europeans to Srinagar, provided that such mail also carry the requisite British postage for crossing the border. The ¼a is found in black watercolor only, and is quite a common stamp unused, though rather scarce on cover. The 2as was done in shades of yellow, and is even more scarce on cover. Oil reprinting was done with the plate in both pre-repair and post-repair conditions of the plate. The repair involved driving four rivets into the plate along the central line separating the denominations. Our letter codes for this plate are G for upper strip and H for the lower.

Plate Proof

The unique ¼a + 2as grey-black watercolor proof sheet of the visitors’ plate. It was found in the record book of its engraver, Rahat Ju, and now resides in the Hellrigl collection. Another proof of the ¼a as a single (position #1 on the plate) is chronicled, Haverbeck Lot 1395. Were it not for its recorded provenance, the stamp itself is indistinguishable from the issued type.

The ¼a ‘black’ watercolor on native paper. The series above show something of the range of presentation. The first on the left looks as if it has been thoroughly soused, the paper being left with only a kind of staining. These quarter-blacks are common, but not nearly so common in postally used condition or on cover as catalogue prices would suggest. It is possible that numbers of used examples were ruined when they were soaked off cover by early collectors who did not realize that the pigment was soluble.

2as Lower Strip

Two annas covered the visitors’ preferential registration rate for letters leaving the State. Apart from the unique proof shown above, the 2as is attested only in the ‘yellow’ class of shades, and seldom on cover. Though the plate was available for use since the summer of 1867, dated covers with the 2as may not now be attested for that year.

The early 2as buff watercolor on native paper, often ascribed to 1868. Despite the paucity of material, buff was a long-lasting issue. There is an example as late as January 1872 in the Jaiswal collection. The stamps are known, e.g. Haverbeck Lot 1436, cancelled by crossed strikes of the British TOO LATE marking.

This is the earliest known use of the 2as yellow watercolor, a rarity in the Hellrigl collection. It is an external registered cover Srinagar to Amritsar (Kaţra Ahlūwālian) dated 22 baisākh 1929 ~ 2 May 1872. The Native stamp is matched by two 1a British stamps, plus the 4a British stamp for registration, a total of 8 annas with the Umritsur cancellation in a rare red and a manuscript registration cachet. Séfi & Mortimer specifically mentioned their never having seen a dated cover of 1872 bearing the 2as.

First, Our regrets and apologies for displaying such a trenchantly disturbing crease on the 2as gold. This item is really classified among the yellows, though in daylight it has a distinctive cast that invites thoughts of gold. The lemon-yellow and moss concoction has clearly undergone some interesting chemical adventure, doubtlessly sulphurous. The printing business knows of a lemon-yellow powder called ‘auripigment’, arsenic sesquisulphide, which was the alchemists’ orpiment of yore. It was also used in painting.

Auripigment is also mentioned in the literature (e.g., Staal p 109) as referring provisionally to “gold-like specks” that appear sometimes in the yellow stamps. Masson I (p. 20) refers to specks of mica. In any case, we have two matters of interesting chemistry to explain, the Mystery of the Moss and the Secret of the Golden Specks.

To top of page