Home > Current Issue (Fall 2001) > "RAJ" Service overprints of Jaipur

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Type 2, composite
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"RAJ" Service overprints of Jaipur
- David Heppell


For Christmas 1944 my Great Aunt Kit gave me her copy of the Stanley Gibbons Priced Catalogue of Stamps of the British Empire, 15th edition, 1903 - the year in which she started on a round-the-world tour. I never discovered whether she had a stamp collection, as she died about a year later. Certainly she sent back postcards from all the countries she visited, the stamps from which ended up in my youthful collection. I still find that catalogue a useful work of reference as some of the information it contains is not to be found in the modern editions of the Gibbons catalogues. One entry that had been bothering me recently, as it was otherwise unknown to me, was listed in the section 'Stamps of India surcharged for use in Native States'. Apart from the expected Convention States issues, there were two illustrations of overprints, included under 'Jeypore' : '"RAJ" Service', the first in serif type and the second, with 'Service' all in capitals, in sans-serif type. The accompanying note read: 'Indian stamps surcharged with the above were employed by the Public Works Department of Jeypore, but the overprint appears to have been intended rather to prevent theft of the stamps than to distinguish them as an issue for the State, and to be more of a private nature than an official one (see Monthly Journal April, 1892, and July, 1893).' This article is an attempt to add a little more detail to the above bare facts about this now largely forgotten episode of Indian States philately.

Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal

While visiting the British Library in London, early in 2001, I took the opportunity to use the Crawford Library of early philatelic works and look up the above references. I did not discover until later that John Warren of Raleigh, NC, had copied out these articles and other relevant notes from the Monthly Journal in India Post in 1979 (Vol. 13 (60): 42-43). My run of that excellent periodical does not start until 1980 and, as I know of nothing published on this subject in the subsequent two decades, I suspect it is worth repeating the relevant information for the benefit of a new generation of Indian States philatelists.

The facts obtained from the Monthly Journal consist of a series of editorial notes, the first of which appeared on 28 February 1891 (Vol. 1 (8):174), referring to the overprint in serif type:
"We have been shown what purports to be a used copy of one of the stamps, which some authorities say were issued in this State and others maintain were not. The copy before us is the current ½ anna of British India, surcharged in red, in two lines '"RAJ" / Service' and it is postmarked JEYPORE / JU. 7 / 88. The postmark is plainly over the surcharge, and the stamp has all the appearance of being genuine. On the other hand a correspondent in India tells us that he made enquiries through a friend residing in the State of Jeypore and received the following reply: 'The Jeypore State stamp of which you have heard was only a rumour or a false report. I have thoroughly enquired into the matter, even from the High Officials of this State'. However, High Officials do not know everything, and their memories are proverbially short, so that it is possible that if these stamps were in use for a short time only, in 1888, they may be already forgotten."
This was followed by a list of the known values: ½, 1, 2 and 4 annas, each overprinted in red or black.

Another variety of overprint, with sans-serif type, was noted on 31 August 1891 (Vol. 2 (14): 27):
"We have received specimens of Indian stamps bearing a new variety of the surcharge employed in this State; it is now '"RAJ" / SERVICE' all in small block capitals, printed in blue-green." Again the same four values were listed with this overprint. Then, on 29 February 1892 (Vol. 2 (20): 211), Gibbons included illustrations of the 1, 2 and 4 annas overprinted in serif type and the ½, 1 and 4 annas overprinted with the sans-serif type, accompanied by the following note:
"We follow the example of several of our contemporaries, in giving illustrations showing the two types of surcharge found upon stamps supposed to have been used in, or prepared for the use of, this Native State. The set with the surcharge in Roman type, and printed in black and in red, was the first chronicled, but Le Timbre-Poste now places it after the one with the surcharge in block capitals.
"It is curious that although at least two, and possibly three, different lots of these stamps appear to have been printed, they should still be so rare. It is possible that we have not yet discovered their real home, as, according to information which we published twelve months ago, they are quite unknown in the State of Jeypore. We note also that Le Timbre-Poste (and The London Philatelist follows suit) doubts the existence of the ½ a. with Roman surcharge; but the only used copy of any of these stamps that we have ever seen or heard of, was a ½ a. with this overprint in red."

Further information appeared two months later, on 30 April 1892 (Vol. 2 (22): 325):
"The Stamp News publishes an extract from a letter, dated Feby 17th, 1892, addressed by the Official Resident, Jeypore, to a correspondent in Calcutta, in which he says 'There are no Raj-Service stamps. The Engineering Department last year had these words overprinted on the British postal labels, for the purpose of keeping a check on those used in the service of the Durbar, but on the representation of the postal authorities this practice has been discontinued.' This seems, at all events, to show that Jeypore was really the home of the stamps that have been assigned to it, and possibly the letter refers to those with the surcharge in block capitals, which were first heard of a few months ago. 'Last year' is not early enough for the other type, which was certainly seen early in 1890 and which appears to have been forgotten by the beginning of 1891, when we were shown a specimen postmarked 'Ju. 7 / 88'."

This was corroborated by a further letter from a correspondent in India, published in the issue for July 1893 (Vol. 4 (37): 5). It was received by him from the Superintendent of Post Offices, Upper Rajputana Division, on reply to his enquiry about the overprinted stamps:
"'Jeypore 13th April 1893. Dear Sir, In reply to your letter of the 5th instant, I beg to inform you that some time ago the Engineering Department of the Jeypore State was using the Imperial stamps overprinted with the words 'Raj Service' by means of a rubber stamp, just as merchants print their rubber stamps over the postage labels on their letters. There are no special Raj Service stamps in the Jeypore State.' This confirms what has already been published upon the subject, and it seems open to question whether the stamps thus surcharged are of any special interest to collectors."

A final note on the subject appeared in November 1896 (Vol.6 (77)):
"We are indebted to a correspondent who occupied a short time back the post of British Resident in Jeypore for some more information upon the subject of the stamps surcharged '"RAJ" Service'. He tells us that these stamps were employed by the Public Works Department, that their use was fully sanctioned by the authorities of the State, and that they have as much claim to be considered an official issue as those of Gwalior or Patiala. Their use was discontinued owing to the fact that the Government of India objected to stamps being surcharged except by their own officials, all the other surcharged stamps being supplied thus disfigured by the Imperial authorities. It would seem, however, that there was no great necessity for surcharged stamps in Jeypore, since the officers of the Public Works Department, when forbidden to overprint the stamps for themselves, appear to have got on equally well without them."

India Post

As mentioned above, this information was republished in India Post in 1979, and was in answer to an enquiry from P.M. Medhora of Bombay in Vol. 12 (58): 111 (1978). Accompanying Medhora's letter to the Editor were illustrations of the four recorded mint stamps, with the overprint in serif type (presumably, though not stated, in black) and the four mint and one (1 anna) used stamps with handstamped sans-serif overprints in light green ink. The used stamp is postmarked 'JEYPORE / AP. 17 / 90'. Medhora stated that 'apparently the [printed] overprint was applied at the Government Printing Press, Calcutta' (but in view of the information from the British Resident in Jaipur this seems unlikely), and added the comment that 'examples of both these overprints, either mint or used, are hardly ever to be seen'.

A reply from G.M. Rosamund of London (India Post Vol. 13 (59): 26) added a further two used copies from his collection (face value, type and colour of overprint not stated) of which one had a legible postmark: JEYPORE / SE. 11 / 88, and mentioned that another used example of the ½ anna stamp was offered in the ISC General Auction 76/2 (lot 4104). The description did not note whether it was the red overprint or the green handstamp, and Rosamund did not vouchsafe what was the winning bid. He did, however, reproduce the paragraph commenting on these stamps from F. Melville's Phantom Philately (1923, and later reprints):
""Raj" Service: This overprint on Indian stamps is a frequent source of perplexity to collectors, but it only an imprint used in a government office to prevent the theft of stamps, and has no status as an official issue. There are many similar, if not so puzzling, overprints of this class on Indian stamps; a list of these is given in Hausburg's 'British India', page 53."
The book referred to is The Postage and Telegraph Stamps of British India ... Part I. Postage Stamps, by L.L.R. Hausburg, published by Stanley Gibbons, London, 1907.

In India Post Vol. 13 (60): 42-44, as well as the information from Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal submitted by John Warren, there were replies from Dr W.G. Anderson of Ontario and E.G. Oehme of Thornton Heath, Surrey. Anderson had obtained fifteen of these stamps, some overprinted in black and in red and some handstamped in green, from a dealer in Toronto, on two old album pages which were accompanied by the following typed explanation:
"Col. W.F. Prideaux, British Resident, Jaipur, wrote in the Philatelic World (Dec. 1894): 'In Sept. 1890 the Dir. Genl. Post Office in India enquired why stamps were in use from Jeypore, overprinted "RAJ Service". On enquiry Col. Prideaux ascertained that Col. Jacob, Suptdg. Engineer of the State, had such stamps put into use four years previously (1886?) but their use was discontinued after Oct. 1890 as the Indian Post Office objected to them'.
"In February 1895 Col. Prideaux, in the same Journal, stated that Col. Jacob said that the type-printed were first in use, and the rubber-stamped followed. No order was assigned as to whether the red or black prints were first. The green rubber-stamped were put into use about 1890. The type-prints were done in squares of four, producing four varieties of each value. All three kinds of prints were on the ½a., 1a., 2as. and 4as. values of the India 1883 issue only."

Oehme, in his reply, dealt with the use of the term 'RAJ', which was not, as may have been conjectured, an abbreviation of 'Rajputana'. He wrote:
"The term 'RAJ' being connected with the 'Convention States' working in co-operation with the Indian Imperial Post Office at first postally and then, after Dec. 1883, telegraphically, led to the introduction of 'Raj Telegrams'. The relevant information I can find regarding the origin of the Indian Imperial Service postage stamps to be used on 'RAJ' telegrams expressed in 'words', later to be expressed in actual overprinting, is contained in these quotes and appropriately underlined by me so that Mr Medhora may know where he must begin his researches:
"A 'RAJ' telegram is an inland telegram sent by an official of an Indian State on the business of that State."
"'RAJ' telegrams shall have the special instruction 'RAJ' inserted by the sender, and shall be paid for at the rates fixed for private telegrams, in service stamps of the Government of India, in cash or on the deposit account system."

Attractive as this alternative explanation may be, and inspection of existing 'Raj telegrams' should indicate whether the word 'Raj' was written on the Service stamp or elsewhere on the telegram, the quoted instructions presumably apply only to the 'Convention States'. Although S.C. Sukhani discovered an 8-page draft of a 'Postal Convention for the exchange of correspondence . . . between the Imperial Post Office of British India and the Post Offices in the territories of His Highness the Maharaja of Jaipur' (see India Post 25 (109): 125-129 (1991)), there is no doubt that this agreement was neither signed nor ratified. Negotiations for a Postal Convention between the Government of India and Jaipur State did take place in 1907, but nothing came of it, and no proofs or essays were produced (in contrast to Kashmir, where an essay for an overprinted Imperial stamp was prepared, but the Maharaja did not agree to Jammu and Kashmir joining the Convention). In any case the 1907 negotiations are too late to account for the Jaipur "RAJ" Service stamps which were in use at least as early as 1888 and possibly two years before that.


The "RAJ" Service stamps of Jaipur were prepared for the Jaipur Public Works Department between 1886 and 1890. The first issue, with typographed overprint in serif type, with '"RAJ"' is capitals and 'Service' in upper and lower case letters, was in use in 1888 and possibly as early as 1886; used copies dated June and September of 1888 have been recorded. Both red and black overprints are known and may have been in use simultaneously; the type was set in blocks of four, giving rise to four varieties of each value. The second issue, with handstamped overprint in green sans-serif capitals, is recorded used in 1890. Although these stamps should be regarded as Cinderellas rather than Official stamps, their obvious rarity makes the highly collectible items.

The accompanying illustrations, in the absence of actual examples, are composites, showing the two types of overprint superimposed on the Imperial stamps. Both overprints, therefore, are shown black instead of in their correct colours. If any reader can supply scans of actual "RAJ" Service stamps they would be very welcome. These, and any further information about these issues, should be sent to our Editor.

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