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Archived article from the January 2001 issue of Princely States Report

Alwar: The Postage Stamps and Forgeries
- David Heppell

Introduction

The postage stamps of Alwar are easily recognized by their design which remained virtually unchanged throughout the entire twenty-five year period of their postal validity; after 1 July 1902 the State postal service was taken over by the British Imperial post. Within the oval frame is a native dagger, or "kandjar", pointing to the right; this is a fiendish weapon for, when it is squeezed hard, the blades open like scissors inside the unfortunate victim. The State name "Raj Alwar" is written above the kandjar, and below it is the denomination, both in Devanagari script. Two different explanations have been given for the two characters which look somewhat like "31", following the denomination: either they are a sign indicating "of the value" or they are an abbreviation for 1931, the year which, in the Hindu samvat calendar used extensively on fiscal stamps, is equivalent to 1874 A.D. This was possibly the year in which the die was prepared from which the stamps were printed (compare the first issue of Jammu and Kashmir, issued 1869 [= 1286 A.H.], which have the date 1283 incorporated in the design) or, according to the Michel Katalog, the year in which Alwar set up its independent postal authority. The Alwar stamps were issued in two denominations, ¼ anna and 1 anna, printed by lithography. The ¼ anna value was first recorded in February 1877 buy may have been issued as early as September 1876.

The first issue of 1877

Unlike some other Indian States stamps, where each stamp on the sheet was individually cut, those of the first issue of Alwar were produced from a single master die for the ¼a value. Six transfers were taken from this to produce an intermediate matrix stone and that was transferred numerous times onto the actual printing stone. This makes it easy to detect forgeries for the design of all stamps on the sheet is identical and any deviation from it cannot have been produced from the genuine die. Probably twenty-five transfers were made from the matrix stone to the printing stone for the ¼a value, resulting in a sheet of 150 stamps each inscribed in Hindi "pav anna" (quarter anna). From an examination of the small flaws in the individual clichés of the matrix stone it has been shown that two distinct matrix stones were used and stamps can be assigned to the two separate printings. Collectors interested in the detailed variation and chronology of the Alwar postage stamps should consult the scholarly study by R.J. Benns (1972, revised 1982) in the Handbook of Indian Philately published by the India Study Circle.

The 1 anna stamps were produced by adapting matrix stones prepared from the ¼a die to the new value by erasing the word "pav" and inserting a tiny die plug bearing the word "ek" (one). As the position of this word varies slightly from one transfer to another it has been discovered that three different matrix stones were used for the 1a value, one of which had eight transfers from the original die instead of six. Sheets of 70 and of 150 stamps seem to have been produced in separate printings. The first issue of 1877 was rouletted, but this was not always perfect and pairs are known of both denominations which are imperforate between stamps, either horizontally or vertically. The frame lines at the left and bottom of the stamps are thick. The ¼a was issued in various shades of blue and the 1a in several shades of brown. All but one of the known forgeries are of the first issue; modern forgeries are of the 1 anna, but all the earlier ones were of the ¼ anna.

The redrawn quarter anna issues

In 1899 the design of the ¼ anna stamp was redrawn and a new master die was produced from which transfers were made to the printing stone without any intermediate matrix in ten horizontal rows of six. In these issues only the bottom frame line is thick and the stamps are pin-perforated 12. The horizontal arm of the "na" (in "anna") is set closer to the top bar than in the first issue, and the short line is missing from the upper edge of the dagger blade. It is believed that the same die was used to produce all four of the redrawn printings.

In the first printing of the redrawn issues, the stamps were set further apart on the sheet. The wider margins, averaging about 3mm, are obvious. Again pairs have been reported imperforate between, and others are known faked to appear totally imperforate by trimming off the external perforations - not difficult with such wide margins. The colour of this issue is a deep slate-blue, distinct from the paler shades of the first issue.

Towards the end of 1899 a printing of the ¼a was made from a new stone in an emerald green colour. These also have wide margins but the size of the sheet and their arrangement is unknown. They are the scarcest of all the Alwar stamps. Although this issue was not reported until 1904, it was probably the earliest printing of this value in green, because of its similarity in spacing to that of 1899. The only known used copy is dated 7 August 1901.

Between 1899 and 1901 another printing of the ¼a in emerald green was made, from another new stone, in which the stamps were set close together, with narrow margins, in eleven rows of seven stamps. The earliest recorded postmark for this issue is 3 January 1901.

Finally a printing of the ¼a with narrow margins was made, again from a new stone and again set close together, arranged in five rows of seven. In this issue the stamps were printed in a pale yellowish green; single copies may be difficult to distinguish from those of the previous close set printing. Rare totally imperforate examples of this issue are known, as well as horizontal and vertical imperforate pairs.

The Forgeries

The known forgeries of the Alwar postage stamps may conveniently be divided into three categories:

1. Early forgeries of the ¼ anna blue (two types);
2. Later forgeries of the ¼ anna (four types);
3. Modern forgeries of the 1 anna (one type).

My information about the first six types is derived form the study by Benns, and grateful acknowledgement is made to the India Study Circle for permission to include it here. It seems probable that the forgeries made during the period when these stamps were in use were made to deceive the postal authorities and not the collector. It is perhaps significant that no forgeries are known of the rare wide set emerald green issue of the ¼a. That is the stamp usually missing from collections and would presumably have been copied if the collector had been the target of the forger's art. Genuine stamps of the other issues are not difficult to find. Fortunately the various forgeries are poorly made and are not likely to deceive any collector who has seen genuine examples. The following guide is intended for those unfamiliar with the originals.

1a. (Benns Type F1) Distinguishing characters: imperforate, with a thin frame printed where the rouletting should be; dagger blade slightly too wide, its outer edges coinciding with the outer edges of the handles instead of with their inner edges; lower inscription too large, the first letter "pa" noticeably too tall. Printed on slightly thinner paper than the genuine stamps; shades vary from pale grey blue to lilac-grey.

1b. (Benns Type F2) Distinguishing characters: roughly perforated about 9, with traces of an outer frame as in 1a; more white space between leaves in corners; fewer beads inside oval frame (15 instead of 19 in upper left quadrant); 2 long and 2 short lines in upper half of dagger blade, instead of 2 long and 1 short; lower inscription has the characters "3" and "na" (of "anna") much too tall and with the "na" drawn more like "ta". Printed in light blue, c.0.5mm wider than the genuine stamp.

2a. (Benns Type F3) Distinguishing characters: no thick outer frame lines at left and bottom, design crudely drawn, with irregular oval frame; lower dagger handle almost touching oval frame; beads mostly very tiny and irregular. Frame only 23 × 19mm (genuine is 25 × 21.5mm). Benns comments that this forgery would not fool a child!

2b. (Benns Type F4) Distinguishing characters: crudely drawn, printed in the colour of the 1 anna!; the rouletting is imitated by coloured dashes.

2c. (Benns Type F5) Distinguishing characters: imperforate, crudely drawn, in the lower inscription the top bars of the characters "va" (of "pav") and "a" (of "anna") are level ("va" higher in genuine stamps).

2d. (Benns Type F6) Distinguishing characters: a forgery of the redrawn ¼a with narrow margins, in a bluish green shade with clear-cut perf.14; beads rough; oblique stroke under "va" of "pav". Paper cream without gum.

3. Distinguishing characters: a forgery of the 1a, imperforate, in fancy colours such as green or lilac.

The modern forgeries are more fantasies than forgeries for they are not in the colours of the originals and they are imperforate, but they are turning up in considerable numbers at auctions, on eBay and at stamp shows and the inexperienced buyer should be wary of the dealer unfamiliar with the genuine issues of the Indian States. As with the modern forgeries of many other Indian States stamps, the fine detail of the originals is lost because of the copying process used; although the details of the design are correct as they are produced by some facsimile process, the forgeries are easily recognized because of the coarse printing in wrong colours, on the wrong paper and with wrong perforation. The two examples illustrated here, and another in yellow-green, are printed on a coarse buff wove paper.


Genuine 1877 ¼a, ultramarine
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Forgery 1a
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Forgery 1a close-up
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Genuine 1877 ¼a, steel blue, with a fake cancel
(click to enlarge)

Forgery 1a with a fake cancel
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Forgery 1b
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Forgery 2a
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Forgery 2b
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Forgery 2c
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Genuine 1899 ¼a wide
margins, slate blue
(click to enlarge)

Genuine 1899 ¼a wide
margins, emerald
(click to enlarge)

Genuine 1901 ¼a narrow
margins, emerald
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Genuine 1901 ¼a narrow
margins, yellow-green
(click to enlarge)

Forgery 2d
(image not available)

Genuine 1877 1a, chocolate brown
(click to enlarge)

Forgery 3 green
(click to enlarge)

Forgery 3 lilac
(click to enlarge)
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