Queen Victoria, India, philatelic definately, stamp not exactly

Welcome readers to todays offering from The Philatelist. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage and sit back in your most comfortable chair We have an interesting story to tell of excitement, disappointment, and redemption when we consider the definition of philatelic.

I was very excited when I spotted this stamp. Queen Victoria is such a long ago figure that to see her on a stamp raises my interest. On the throne for so many years and at the height of Empire. I may get some push back on that with the American colonies breaking away 1776-1781. In 1857, however there was a rebellion among the soldiers hired by the British East India Company that caused present day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to be brought more directly under British rule, the Raj. The population and economic clout that this brought in was beyond the relative few Colonials and Native Americans lost in North America.

During the period of the British Raj, there was a lot of institution building. Educational, judicial, economic, and military institutions were constructed closely following the British model. These were lead by British appointees, but over time  local Indians began to fill out the ranks of the systems. A large railway system and public works projects were also funded.

As you can imagine, this worked well for people with connections, but the vast majority of the large peasant population was still very poor. There were periodic deadly famines as late as 1943 only a few years before independence.  The taxes imposed by colonial masters required forced labor to satisfy.

There became a feeling in the population of what they called swaraj. The desire for self rule. There were divisions as to whether the British founded institutions should be continued or whether anything not local should be discarded. There was also divisions between the Hindu majority, and the Muslim minority. For the most part, the British institutions were retained but with less and then no British involvement and Pakistan broke away taking many of the Muslims. Today India is the worlds largest democracy and is very close to the worlds largest population with well over a billion people.

That brings us back to this stamp. I was excited by the high denomination in the hopes that it would be an expensive stamp. 2 Rupees 8 annas was quite a bit of money under Victoria, much more than to mail a letter. On closer inspection, this stamp does not appear to involve postage in India. Rather I believe it signifies the paying of a government fee. Perhaps on a legal document or even on a bottle of alcohol. Probably not worth much. But still philately. Remember the root of the word that was taken to mean stamp collecting in the 19th century. Going back to the ancient Greek, they constructed a word that means the lover of prepaid government fees. Well I count myself as such a lover, so how can I resist Queen Victoria and the chance to debate the merits of the British Raj.

Post script. I reached out to Mr. Sandeep Jaiswal from stampsinc.com to see if he had any idea what I was looking at. He proved his expertise by quickly identifying the stamp as a telegraph stamp Stanley Gibbons Type T19 or T25 depending on watermark. The straight cut line at the bottom is because the stamp is placed on the telegram so the top half stays with the sender and the bottom half goes to the receiver. The high cost of sending a telegram is reflected in the denomination which in this issue could go as high as 50 rupees. The issue dated from 1868-1882 and as such is the oldest stamp I have covered to date. Alas it is not uncommon, people hold on to telegrams. The Stanley Gibbons catalog puts the value between 1.75 and 2.00 pounds depending on the watermark. Thanks again Sandeep!

Well my drink is empty and so it is time to open up the discussion in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.