Victoria Stamps Used in Kashmir

Envelopes    Postcards    Essays

Séfi & Mortimer’s accounting of the British stamps that were used in Kashmir can be found through this ► on-site link. Their data has been slightly adapted for the table below, which no doubt wants ongoing amendment. The scarcity column refers only to J&K usage, where ‘plentiful’ means more common than ‘common’. Watermarkings are 1854 arms, 1856-64 unwmkd, 1865-78 elephant head, Empire 1883-91 star.

East India Co.18542as greenrare
1856½a bluerare
18602as dull roserare
East India18564as grey-blackscarce
18582as orangescarce
18608p purple/lilacscarce
18644as greenscarce?
1865½a blues Die Icommon
 "8p purplerare
 "1a brownscommon
 "2as orangescommon
 "2as yellowscarce
 "4as greencommon
18664as greens Die Icommon
18688as rosescarce
1873½a blue Die IImost plentiful
18766as pale brownrare
18784as blue-green Die IIcommon
Empire1883½a blue-greenplentiful
 "9p roserare
 "1a brown-purplecommon
 "2as bluescommon
 "8as dull mauvescarce
18854as olive-greenscarce
18864as 6ps yellow-greenscarce
1888‘2½’ surch in greenrare
18903as brown-orangerare
1891‘2½’ surch in blackrare

Whatever the official rates may have been for overseas mail, an alarming disparity of sums is seen in practice. Discrepant frankings are of interest to some collectors. In normal usage, the early 1868 overseas rate was native postage of one anna coupled with British postage of six annas (plus discretionary four-anna registration). Later mailings abroad often show native postage of 1a (often in the New Rectangular green) coupled with the UPU-rate British postage of only 4 annas 6 pies.

Speaking of which, the 4as 6ps yellow green was surcharged “2½ As.” in 1891, early enough to appear in Kashmir mailings of our period, but which may not be so known. What is attested is the type used at least once in the subsequent period from Leh. We stole the detail shown above (with hearty appreciation and zero remorse.) The cover also carried a pair of 1a scarlet Edward on those September days in 1906.

We must show this stately 5Rs (80 annas) Victoria cancelled with a SRINAGAR PAR[cel]. The stamp, issued in November 1895, is not within our period and so is not included in the Table above. The date of this mailing is here unknown. The Srinagar parcel marking was first attested (in an earlier cutting) in April 1891. Image lifted from the internet, with our thanks.

Embossed Envelopes

Of the six types of embossed Victoria-head envelopes seen in J&K usage (not necessarily originating within the state), only two exist aplenty, namely the ½a blue, used primarily between 1874-83, and the superseding ½a green.

18711a brownblue laidrare
1874½a bluewhite laidplentiful
18771a brownwhite laidrare
18814as 6p orange-yellowwovescarce
1883½a greenwhite laidplentiful
18872as light blue registeredwhite laidrare

The blue-colored embossed lion on the flap of the blue Victoria-head envelopes gave way to an albino version sometime in 1875, towards the end of the watercolor period. We are looking for an earliest sighting date for the albino in J&K usage. Unfortunately for dating work, the older blue lion persisted in force well into 1876 and occasionally beyond. Color does not come back; one does not look for green-colored lions on the flaps of the green Victoria-heads of the period post-1883.

The ½a blue embossment (1874-type) on white laid paper, here in 1877 Jammu to Amritsar via Sialkot usage with a ½a Jammu-plate oilcolor. Late usages in the blue (i.e., after the greens are well-established) are sufficiently common as to be not exactly anomalous. The latest blue we have seen is from February 1889, and it doubtless will come later still. British postage of any kind is scarce in the J&K mails in the 1892-94 period, seemingly a bit of diplomatic symbolism just prior to the British offices commandeering the entire operation.

Above left: The 1a brown embossment (1877-type) on white laid paper, as against the more elderly blue paper of 1871. This detail is from a cover dated 13 March 1888, a rare usage of the embossment in Kashmir, Jaiswal collection. The earliest we have seen is from 2 November 1886.

Above right: The 4as 6p orange-yellow embossment (1881-type). It was the only envelope on wove paper and the only oval embossment. This type was not actually issued for use in Kashmir and is therefore rather scarce. This detail is from an 1887 cover to Wales (image taken from the internet).

The green. There were three British offices from which this ½a envelope was administered for J&K doings, namely Leh, Sialkot, and Kashmir (Srinagar), thus the three shown above in that order. The Sialkot image also shows the Jammu 10-bar in use between 1887 and 1890.

The 2as light blue Registration type with an Amritsar marking pertaining to Majitha Mandi.


The two types of British postcards are the “EAST INDIA brown” for internal service and the “UPU blue” for overseas service. Both cards appeared later in the doubled-postage “reply” format, which are hardly known:

1879¼a brown cardcommon
18791½a blue cardless common
1884¼a+¼a brown reply cardscarce
18841½a+1½a blue reply cardrare

The 1½a UPU blue card is surprisingly scarce in J&K doings. The Universal Postal Union was founded on 9 Oct 1874, but British India did not assume membership until 1 Jul 1876. Though a dedicated UPU card is often given an 1879 issue-date, we have seen examples in J&K usage only from 1881. The example shown above was despatched on 6 Aug 1881 at “Serinuggur” with 1a in native postage. The Srinagar to Bombay leg of the journey took a full week. As the card took no postal markings upon its arrival in England, we’ll never how long the London to Worcestershire portion took. The message on the card, evidently from a climber, is perhaps interesting enough to copy:

“After having put my house letters in the box I just received yours of the 4th—Alright about going up in June next if you think advisable but I don't think I shall pair. Before I had an idea that if one failed once one could never go up again and I am rejoiced to hear to the contrary. As I shall be acting Adjutant for Lambert when I get back it will be deuced hard working for the Staff College and the mornings and evenings I’m afraid will be the only time but nous venons. Also tell Frank that the meat sacks were most useful going up Huramoor. I leave for Sopoor tomorrow and on the 15th must be wending my way back. SSHB.“

British India ¼a brown postcard, with that postage supplemented by ½a in Native postage. While the issue year of the card is said to be 1879, the earliest attested use of the brown card that we have heard of in J&K usage is April 1880, from Srinagar.

Convention Essays

Kashmir was poised to join the Postal Convention. That plan fell through for reasons here unknown, but a rare set of essays of the proposed overprint exists. The name “Kashmir” is rendered also at the top in nagari (no mention of Jammu) and the Kashmir arms are on the lower right. The idea behind this rather clunky configuration was to avoid printing over the lady’s dear tête. This b/w image of the 3as orange, wmkd star, was taken from the Billig Handbook, Vol III, p 265.

Below: More images of these rarities from the Harmers 2004 auction Lot KB364a. Even without the overprint some of these Victorias are not known in postal use in Kashmir, such as the 9p mauve and the 1a 6p sepia below, as well as the 3as orange shown above. It is reported [reference?] that there are 13 in all, of which 12 are accounted for here. So which denomination is missing?

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