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Provisional surcharges of 1906

Two Provisionals

In 1906, owing to a change in postal rates, two provisionals made their appearance. Various printings of the ½ chuckram value were overprinted "1/4" and "3/8". The overprinting was done by a typeset plate, and, with the exception of a sheet of each value with inverted overprint, the only varieties are such as are due to faulty inking. The two sheets bearing the inverted overprints were never issued. They were put aside to be destroyed but by some means they later disappeared from the printing room and the authorities do not know what became of them; in fact, when I first made inquiries about these inverted varieties I was informed that no such varieties existed. It was only when I pointed out that I had seen specimens, and that they were catalogued and known to collectors, that an inquiry resulted in the above information. I have seen forgeries of both the inverted. Some of these have evidently been made with a rubber stamp and are easily recognisable, but others have apparently been hand-struck from a wooden stamp, and these are more dangerous.

In November 1908 the ¼ chuckram provisional was replaced by a permanent stamp of the same value but expressed as 4 cash (1 chuckram equals 16 cash). The same engraver prepared the die and the plate contained 84 electros. The work of making this plate seems to have been done so hurriedly and so carelessly that there are almost enough minor variations to enable one to plate the stamps of a printing made from the plate in 1912. The same remarks apply to the next new plate made towards the end of 1909, when the other provisional, 3/8 chuckram, was replaced by a permanent value of 6 cash. This was first issued in February 1910, and, so far as I am able to gather, was the last work of the old engraver, who either died or was retired (my informant is somewhat ambiguous here), and a new engraver was appointed, coming from the same Madras firm, towards the end of 1909.

On the 11th March, 1911, a new value of 3 chuckrams made its first appearance. The design was new, and in the production of this stamp everyone concerned—the new engraver, the electro makers, the colour mixers, and the printers—made amends for the poor work shown in the previous stamps. The first printing was in a fine, deep shade, with every detail of tbe design beautifully clear. The second printing, made in 1912, is somewhat lighter in colour and provides more shade variations. These two printings were upon a paper with a new watermark about which more will be said later. The next printing of this value upon this paper with the new watermark of which I have really authentic information was made in 1916. Meanwhile, war had come with its interruptions of regular communication, and the difficulties of obtaining supplies was responsible for the emergency use of old paper stocks. As a result we find printings of this and other values on paper with watermarks sideways, on a thin machine-made paper, on a tough hand-made paper, and on a fine hand-made paper. Up to the time of writing I have not been able, even with the help of the best and most willing helpers in Trivandrum itself, to sort out and classify these war-time printings. As an example of the state of things just after the Armistice one need only mention a new value of 1¼ chuckrams wich was issued in December 1919 (not 1920 as given in the Catalogue). The same engraver made the die on brass as before, and the first printings were made upon a collection of remainders of every sort of paper the printing department had ever used, except the laid of the first issue. Specimens appeared on thick and thin, hand-made and machine-made papers, with watermark upright, inverted, sideways, and none, and with watermarks of both first and second types. The stamp, too, provides great shade variations.

end of Part 1 (August, 1931)

1 cash overprint of 1921

7 chuckrams, purple, of 1921

14 chuckrams, orange, of 1921

beginning of Part 2 (September, 1931)

Two More Provisionals

In March 1921 an increase was made in certain of the Postal Rates to meet an increase of salaries granted to the Post Office Staff. The rate on postcards was raised from 4 cash to 5 cash. The authorities had a quantity of postcards in stock bearing a 4 cash stamp and a provisional of 1 cash overprinted on 4 cash was issued so that these postcards might be used up. Another provisional of 5 cash overprinted on 1 chuckram was issued at the same time for use on unstamped postcards of private manufacture. The overprinting was machine done and not handstamped as has been stated, and as the condition of some of the overprints would seem to show. The 1 cash on 4 cash was in black, and was made on a 1915 printing of the 4 cash, a war-time printing on old paper, with watermark sideways or none, and the right-hand corner stamps of the sheet show the angle-piece around the watermarks. This provisional was only in use from March to October of 1921, when a 5 cash value was issued, on new postcards.

The 5 cash on 1 chuckram, in red, was also on printings of the 1 chuckram, with the sideways watermark, and it also had a life of only some seven months, being replaced by a 5 cash stamp in October of the same year.

Both of these provisionals are catalogued inverted, but I have not succeeded in obtaining any authoritative information regarding the origin or numbers of these.

Forgeries of the inverted overprint exist, but all those I have come across were on stamps not having the sideways watermark of the genuine stamps.

In October 1921 a 5 cash value was issued. The Catalogue gives 1922, but I am informed that the stamp was put on sale at the Trivandrum office on October 30th, 1921. A 10 cash value appeared at the same time.

In December 1921 came two further new values, a 7 chuckram, purple, and a 14 chuckram, orange. These were all in new designs, and it is worthy of note that in the last two mentioned stamps the lettering of the value inscription is in coloured letters on a white ground, whereas all previous stamps had the lettering in white on a coloured ground. Further, on these two stamps the word "ANCHEL" appears with the Cochin spelling "ANCHAL." The first printing of the 7 chuckram was on a hand-made wove paper, while later printings are on a thin machine-made paper and in a much darker shade of purple.

No further printings of the 4 cash value ordinary or service, nor of the 6 cash service have been made since 1925, and in 1926 there were new printings of 5 cash, ordinary and official, 10 cash, ordinary and official, 3 cash and 1 chuckram, ordinary and official; and of the 7 chuckrams, 14 chuckrams, and 1¼ chuckram for official use only.

These were all on the new machine-made wove paper of a soft texture, which makes the stamps easier to separate than did the older papers. These all have the new watermark. There were, however, at that date large stocks of all denominations on hand at the Printery.

Three shell watermarks

The Watermarks

There have been three shell watermarks used in the series. The first was in use until 1910, when the second, a slightly smaller shell, came into use. The third, the present more ornate shell, appeared in a new paper sent out after the Armistice. It is interesting to compare these three types of watermarks with the three types of shell in the designs of the stamps of the first issue. (See illustration)

First service overprint, 1911


Fourth service overprint, 1930

The Service Stamps

Like the Service stamps of other Indian States those of Travancore provide a very interesting study. They were first issued in August 1911 when sheets of all the then current stamps from various printings were overprinted "On S. S." in the form, roughly, of an equilateral triangle. The overprinting was type set and was in red on the ½ chuckram and 1 chuckram values. "From information received," as they say in the courts, I gather that later on certain experiments in other inks were made, and it is due to this experimenting that certain values appear with the overprinting in blue, but I can obtain no really reliable information as to the values or numbers of the stamps so experimented upon.

Prior to the war-time it was the rule that all sheets used for Service stamps were gummed the same as the ordinary sheets, though this was not always the case, but shortly after the outbreak of war the supplies of good gum became scarce and the cost of good gum-arabic became prohibitive. To economise in this, as was done in the case of papers and other items, the Travancore Government issued orders that only the sheets of ordinary stamps need be gummed, and all official sheets were to be issued without gum. All post offices were supplied with gum for use with these official stamps for letters and covers containing official documents. Hence all official stamps printed and issued after the beginning of 1920 are ungummed, and herein lies the solution of one of those pretty little problems which add interest to the study of our hobby. From time to time there have turned up portions of sheets, margin blocks, etc., of Travancore stamps which appear to be on tinted papers. I have a block of the 4 chuckrams, and also a strip, both with margins which anyone could be forgiven for judging to be printed on a delicately tinted pink paper; also a piece of the 1 chuckram which appears quite as evidently to be upon a delightfully azure paper. These are but examples of many other such items. I referred the matter to headquarters at Trivandrum and was assured that no stamps had ever been printed for issue on any tinted papers. When I came to collect together all the examples of such tinting possible I discovered two things: Every specimen I could get hold of was an Official stamp; in every case the stamps and blocks were used. Of course I considered climatic infiuences, but ruled this out, as, if the coloration were due to rain, sun, etc., the ordinary issues would surely be similarly affected. Then I made another discovery. All the tinted specimens which bore a decipherable postmark were dated later than the year 1920. Hence the conclusion that the tinting must be due to the action of the gums used, and subsequent inquiry and searching has served to strengthen that conclusion. The gums supplied to the various offices for use with the ungummed officials was not of such good standard quality as that used for gumming the stamps in the printery and were responsible for spreading the colour of the stamp itself through the paper.

There have been four settings of the overprint. The chief characteristics of these are set out below and the values seen in each are given in accompanying table.

First Setting. The first stamps on the fifth and sixth rows have the "n" of "On" missing in late printings and the second "S" often does not show, especially in the red overprints.

By 1919 this plate became so worn that it replaced by:

Second Setting, made in 1919.

The first stamp of the top row, the first of bottom row, the sixth of the bottom row and one or two others, have what is known as the narrow setting of the two lower letters.

In the seventh stamp of the top row and the fifth of the third row the "n" of "On" is raised. The first-mentioned is in all printings from this plate, but the second was not in the first printings. In these this particular letter "n" is poor and misshapen but present in its normal position. I am of opinion that a repair was made here by the usual method in such cases of cutting out the poor letter and inserting an "n" from the type case, soldering it in position, and that it was put slightly out of alignment.

The seventh stamp of the bottom row has the second "S" dropped and inverted, while its righthand neighbour has the same defect in the other "S."

The fourth stamp of the bottom row has the wide setting of the two lower letters.

The first setting of 1911 is found upon all values of the stamps current at that date and the plate was still in use in 1921 for it appears upon the 10 cash value issued in that year. From what I am able to gather, the two type-set plates were in use concurrently from 1919 to 1921 when the first setting plate was, I am informed, broken up.

Third Setting. This came into use in 1926. The new plate was prepared in March 1926, and the first printing from it was made upon the 1¼ chuckram value on the 7th April of that year. The chief characteristics of this setting are:

The spacing of the overprint is more regular and the type more uniform in size. Almost without exception lines joining the three parts of overprint form an equilateral triangle.

The ninth stamp of the top row has only one "S". The right-hand "S" is entirely missing from the plate.

The right-hand "S" of the ninth stamp of the fourth row is dropped and inverted.

In the fourth stamp of the fifth row the distance from one "S" to the other is only 9 mm while the normal distance is 11 mm.

There is another way in which this third setting and the fourth setting which followed it differ from the two earlier settings. The earlier settings were often found upon sheets of stamps having double or even treble rows of perforation at the margins; this never occurs in the third and fourth settings. Major Evans, I believe, came to the conclusion that this double or treble perforation was an intentional characteristic of sheets meant to be used as officials. I am told from the printery that this was not the case, and that these double and treble lines of perforating holes were simply due to the workmen getting the perforation in the wrong place and repeating the process until it was correctly placed.

Fourth Setting. Early last year, 1930 (a correspondent gives me January, and this is probably correct, though I have not yet verified the point), a new setting appeared of which the chief characteristics are as follows:

The overprint is more widely set. "On" is in distinctly smaller type. The sixth stamp of the top row has defective "0" and "n", and the eighth stamp a defective "0". The last stamp on the sheet has the first "S" dropped and defective. The third stamp of the fifth row has "0" raised. Other stamps have defective "n".

So far I have full sheets of the 10 cash and the 1¼ chuckrams in this setting, both on the new white wove soft paper and with single rows of perforations in the margins.

Quite recently when on a visit to my friend Mr. G. B. Routledge of Tarn Lodge, a keen student of these and other Indian Native State stamps, he showed me three sheets he had just received. They were of three different values in three different settings, none of which agreed at all with any one of the four settings described above. There was a sheet of the 1 chuckram, one of 2 chuckrams, and one of 3 chuckrams, all on old paper and having double rows of perforations in the margin, at the bottom of the sheet. They provided an interesting puzz1e, but with the help of Mr. Routledge's practical knowledge of types and printing, a letter I received from Travancore, the knowledge of the previous settings, and a note in Gibbons' Stamp Monthly, I think the puzzle is solved.

First of all a supply of these particular values was wanted in a hurry. There have been no recent printings of any one of them. It has already been mentioned that in the Fourth Setting of the official overprint the overprint was more widely set. It was evidently too widely set to be used for the sheets of the values wanted, for the 1 chuckram and 2 chuckrams sheets are at least ½ inch narrower than the sheets of later stamps, and the 3 chuckrams sheet over a ¼ inch narrower. Hence the overptinting plate in use would not do and the difficulty has evidently been met by printing supplies direct from set-up type. This may easily be verified by the fact that the type has almost cut clean through the paper, and is very evident on the back of the sheets. Further, the type has been reset for each of the three values wanted as there are distinguishing marks peculiar to each value, eg. in the 2 chuckrams sheet the last stamp of the bottom row but one, has the "n" of "On" raised out of alignment. It is evidently one of these emergency sheets which is referred to in the note, in G.S.M, September 1920. These sheets are all from old stock, on old paper, with more than a single row of perforations at bottom of sheet.

The confusion of the war years, resulting in the use of emergency economies, and the interruption of communication, make it very difficult to classify the various papers and printings, but the following table shows what I have been able to sort out up to date of the various papers and settings. The term Old Paper refers to the original paper of the early issues and includes the various emergency papers used during the war. While Paper refers to the new machine-made paper sent out after the Armistice, and still in use.


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