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The Stamps and Postal History of Poonch Paperback – March 21, 2013
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About the Author
George Harell is a retired Radiologist who taught at Stanford University (Life Tenure) and in private practice. The bold colors, aesthetic designs and exotic locale attracted him to the stamps of Poonch.
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The Indian Princely (Feudatory) State of Poonch is small, about 2% of the size of Jammu and Kashmir and lies on the western side of Kashmir. Poonch was ruled by a junior branch of the Jammu and Kashmir princely family and by treaty, was subject to the advice and consent of the Jammu Maharaja. The first postage stamp of Poonch has an 1876 date on it but the earliest recorded use is 20 July 1878 (reviewer’s collection ex Frits Staal). All Poonch stamps were printed with a single die handstamp either of green-colored stone or brass. The first stamp was a 6 pies (the equivalent of ½ anna) stamp and its use ended by 1884. By 1883 four new dies had been created (inscribed '1880') . The four values were the:½ anna (but a different die than the first issues), 1 anna, 2 annas and 4 annas. We do know that the 1 anna was in use by 1883. In 1887 a 1 pice (equal to ¼ anna), stamp was issued. These five values were the only values issued by Poonch other than the first 6 pies stamp. The stamps of Poonch became obsolete for postal purposes on 1 January 1895.
The book discusses in detail the first three listed stamps, SG 1 (6 pies the equivalent of ½ anna), 1a (½ anna) and 2 (another ½ anna). Then there is also a detailed discussion of SG 3-6, stamps printed on yellowish white wove paper, SG 7-10 stamps printed on toned wove batonne paper, SG 12 to 15 stamps printed on white laid batonne or ribbed batonne paper, four unlisted stamps on thick azure paper, SG 22-26 stamps issued on white laid paper (Gibbons lists the stamps on thick white laid paper) and SG 11 the 1 pice (equivalent to 3 pies or a ¼ anna) on white laid batonne paper. Harell is meticulous in providing the best information possible, with documentation, on the date of use of these early stamps.
Then Harell takes each of the five values, the 1 pice, ½ anna, 1 anna, 2 annas and 4 annas and discusses their known periods of use on the different colored papers and aniline ink printings. Since it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify the type paper (wove, batonne, laid, ribbed, etc.) for stamps on cover, the analysis sticks to the color of the paper with yellow and buff discussed together. The author points out that the date of use of the various stamps on different colored paper and with aniline ink is far less certain after 1887 than prior to that date. Nonetheless this information is a major contribution to the study of Pooch postage stamps and information not available in one place except in the Harell book and his website.
Following the discussion of the postage stamps is a brief discussion of the official stamps printed on toned wove and white laid batonne papers. Harell points out that official stamps on the two types of paper were most likely used indiscriminately and that the official stamps are sometimes found with gum. Like Harell did with the postage stamps, he provides data concerning the type of paper used at various times.
Next is a discussion of uncataloged stamps. Most specialists collectors have accumulated a number of Poonch stamps that do not fit the Gibbons catalog description of color or paper type. Harell cautions that some of these stamps may have been printed after Poonch state postage stamps were no longer valid for postage. There was a period of 2 to 4 years after the end of 1894 when the actual dies used to print the stamps were available for printing stamps and this could be the source of many of the uncataloged stamps.
Harell than discusses stamp production with a number of very interesting and helpful insights into Poonch stamps. As part of this section Harell discusses tête-bêche and semi-tête-bêche multiples, gum, the number of stamps on a sheet, paper size and number of impressions, inks and water solubility and the aniline rose stamps of Poonch. The conclusion from the tests that Harell performed on red Poonch stamps concerning inks and water solubility found that most stamps where the design was not visible from the back were not water color inks. Nonetheless, Harell recommends that Poonch stamps not be placed in water except when actually experimenting. The tests that Harell ran on how to distinguish if a stamp is printed in aniline ink is that the collector is probably safest in assuming a Poonch stamp is printed with aniline rose dyes if the color is rose, the design is visible on the reverse and it fluoresces an orange hue under ultraviolet light.
The next major section of the book covers postal marking. The first group of postal markings is the British India postal markings used at Kahuta; the British India post office located in British India a little southwest of Poonch. Kahuta was the British India post office for Poonch; virtually all mail from Pooch to India and it is likely (very little mail from India to Poonch is known) mail from India to Pooch was processed at Kahuta. The various Kahuta postmarks used on Poonch mail is described in detail and illustrated with high quality colored illustrations of Kahuta postmarks. Included with the Kahuta postmarks are registration marks, postage due marks and a too late mark. Next Harell lists the Poonch state postal marks, again with high quality color illustrations. Included in this discussion are the details of the First and Second Poonch seals, the common four line First Poonch seal and the rare Second Poonch Seal with three lines.
The next to last major section is the postal history of Poonch. Virtually all mail with Poonch stamps traveled outside the state: to British India, foreign destinations and Jammu and Kashmir. Harell states that evidence overwhelmingly shows that the Poonch State Post maintained an extraterritorial office in Kahuta, British India. There was no British India post offices in Poonch until after the close of the State Post Office. This section also discusses postal rates, the use of British India postal stationery (Poonch did not issue Poonch postal stationery) and Value Payable.
The final major section of the book is forged Poonch stamps. In the reviewer’s mind this is one of the best sections of the book as 48 enlarged size color illustrations provide great details on how to identify the forged stamps of Poonch, and there are many including some excellent forgeries. Often Harell picks out one key feature that attracted his initial attention to the forgery and points this out with a discreet arrow and detailed written description. The $21.18 Amazon price of the book is worth it for just this section.
The book ends with some short and useful sections. One section describes the defacement of the five single stamp dies and the three box square obliterator in July 1899. These six items are now housed with the Royal Philatelic Society, London. Next is a two page reference list of the 50 references quoted in the book. I am happy to say each reference is short and to the point and in large text so it is easy to read. There are two appendices; the first is a page of notes by Douie, a avid Poonch collector who did a great deal of research on Poonch stamps in the early 1930’s. The second appendix is Harell’s opinion on which unclassified Poonch stamps to give catalog listings to.
W. Danforth Walker
Poonch is a complex area to collect. The new collector will find the book a most helpful guide through the various papers. The more experienced collector will still gain a great deal from the book, particularly in relation to the forgeries. The illustrations of rarities of Poonch philately, which most of us will never see otherwise, are particularly welcome.
I can't recommend The Stamps and Postal History of Poonch highly enough.