India has a rich and colourful cultural heritage and one way to view this history and the country's development is by collecting stamps. As early as the 1300s, India had a loosely connected postal system that moved into the modern era in the 1850s with its first government-released official stamps. When collecting stamps, it is important to understand the postal history, which stamps people consider collectable, and how to judge stamps.
Early Postal History
The Indian postal service existed as early as the 14th century and a system of messenger posts existed throughout the Indian empire. Couriers on foot carried letters and packages from one post to the next until the item reached its destination. Carrying bells to signify the arrival of the carrier allowed the next person to prepare to move the post to the next station as soon as the mail arrived. In the mid-1800s, the country revamped its postal system to be more in line with systems in western countries, especially those in Britain. The government issued pre-paid stamps and the couriers moved to horseback.
The Republic of India Stamps
In 1947, India gained its independence from Great Britain and became part of the Commonwealth. This led to the country issuing the first series of stamps printed with India Postage engravings. The first official Indian stamp had a flag design for international mail. The second stamp had India's national emblem on it for local mail, while the third stamp depicted an airplane for airmail.
Commemorative and Revenue Stamps
Commemorative stamps symbolise events in history, important political changes, or current or historical people. Collectors prize the 75th anniversary of the postal service stamps as well as the 1948 Mahatma Gandhi stamps. Indian revenue stamps feature the country's national emblem. The country used these tax stamps to provide funds for refugees. People typically called these refugee relief stamps and collectors prize them as well.
Modern and Unconventional British Colonial Stamps
Many collectors consider modern Indian stamps to be more interesting to add to collections due to their unconventional designs, bright colours, and unusual markings. More easily attained, the modern stamps make a good place to start for beginning collectors.
Judging the Condition of Stamps
Collectors categorise stamps by their condition. Collectors refer to an unused stamp in excellent condition as a mint condition stamp as it maintains the same crisp, clear markings as when it was issued. A used stamp is one that the postal service cancelled as it moved through the post. Examining a stamp carefully helps the collector decide the condition and market value. Look for cancellation marks, glue usage, wrinkles, dirt, smudges, and anything else that tells you the condition of the stamp.