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The dubious charms of the Uglies - Dhar

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 15:59
by tonymacg
The British Indian Post Office was taking a rather dim view of the States Post Offices around the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Many State Post Offices were closed down around this time, including that of Dhar. This was a pity, because in its four years of life, 1897 to 1901, Dhar gave promise of great things.

Dhar was a medium-sized State in Central India, bordering the large and important State of Indore in the East, and, yes, Barwani, in the South. It had a population of around 170,000 and covered an area of about 1800 square miles. (This, remember, was the only place its stamps were valid. Mail going beyond the borders of Dhar had to have British Indian stamps.)

Dhar issued two sets of stamps in its short life. The two sets are quite different from each other, and in Gibbons, they appear to be neatly separate and self-contained. In fact, some values of the first set appeared after the second set, but for neatness, I will follow Gibbons.

The first set, of 1897, consisted of five values printed type-set, and handstamped with a monogram inscribed in Urdu, to legitimise them. (This was also done by the States of Bussahir and Duttia.)

Here is a sheet of the Half Pice stamp:

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SG 1

Now look a little more closely at the individual stamps - specifically, the little spade-shaped ornaments at the four corners of each stamp. These started out in their 'correct' positions, but as the printing plate was taken apart to print new values, and bits fell off, the 'spades' were reinserted in different positions.

This allows specialists to plate these issues: there were seven settings of the plate, with perhaps two sub-settings of fourth setting, although mercifully, not all values appeared in all settings. I won't attempt to list the variations here; the business of tracking the positions of each of the forty spades in the sheet across the Settings has been known to cause women to faint and strong men to weep. However, it can be done. Contact me if you feel up to it :D

Gibbons lists a second version of this stamp. Here is a sheet of SG 2:

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SG 2

This was actually simply a later setting of the Half Pice value. It is distinguished by the vertical bar after the first Hindi letter ('A') which converts it from a short to a long vowel. Here is a detail of the value:

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These stamps are still quite moderately priced, and sheets are common. No wonder: a sheet of 10 had a face value of 15 Pies, or around 1 Penny Sterling at the time.

Being type-set, these stamps did suffer the occasional little accident. The letters of the second word of the value, at the bottom of the stamp, became scrambled on two occasions. Here is one of them:

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SG 1d

You can also find many examples showing missing frame lines and full stops. My 1941 Gibbons Part 1 lists many of these. Sad to say, at some point, some kill-joy decided they were simply due to under-inking or poor impressions, and dropped them from the catalogue.

One frame line problem was a little more constant however, and has stayed in the catalogue. In one position on the plate, the top frame line was displaced to below the word ('Sarkar' - Government) at the top:

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SG 1b

This was picked up and corrected in the next setting of the plate.

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 16:09
by tonymacg
The next two values of the first set were less exciting. Here is a sheet of the Quarter Anna:

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SG 3

The only variety of SG 3 to escape the great cull was the stamp minus the legitimising handstamp:

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As SG 3a

(I have serious reservations about this stamp. I don't like the faded patch in the upper centre, the postmark is uncharacteristically blurred, and finally, while an unused copy of these stamps might have sneaked through without the handstamp, I don't believe a Post Office clerk would have cancelled a stamp which didn't have it.)

The Half Anna value is almost as unadventurous.

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SG 4

It also occurs without the handstamp, and with the line under the top inscription:

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SG 4b

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 16:33
by tonymacg
Things look up a bit with the two high values (which combined would have set you back about 4d Sterling at the time).

I can't show a full sheet of the 1 Anna, but here is a single:

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SG 5

It also occurs with the handstamp omitted and the line under the top word, and also printed both sides - the great rarity of Dhar. I can't show any of these, but I can show a cover:

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Quite, quite philatelic, I'm afraid, but what would you? The Dhar Post Office only operated for 4 years, perhaps 20,000 of the population could read and write, and how many would have wanted to send local letters anyway?

And finally, the Two Annas. There was only one setting of this value; here is a sheet:

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SG 6

There was only one significant error on this value. Look at the last stamp on the bottom row: the little spade in the northeast corner has been displaced by the ornament.

And finally, my Dhar party piece: a genuine, commercial cover, used from the village of Dharampuri in the south of Dhar to Dhar town in 1899:

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SG 7 with a strip of SG 1 (from Setting IVa, if you want to know :wink: )

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 16:40
by tonymacg
The other set of Dhar is very poor stuff by comparison. It was plate-printed in large sheets at Bombay. Gibbons lists two colours of the One Anna, but I suspect they're really just extreme shades:

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SG 7, 7b, 8, 9 and 10

If this was the state of the State elephants at Dhar, what was the RSPCA doing? Poor things: I don't remember ever seeing such emaciated looking elephants before.

Dhar also issued postcards and stamped envelopes, but they can wait until another time.

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 17:48
by OttawaMike
You continue to impress, Tony - Thanks!

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 20:11
by maalgard
Great material Tony.
I especially like the cover with SG 5, thanks to share it with us

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 20:23
by tonymacg
I do hope I haven't scared either of you away from Dhar :wink:

You can spend many happy hours poring over lists of the directions of the little spade ornaments in the four corners of the stamps, trying to work out whether you're looking at a Setting IVa or IVb :!:

But at least they're reasonably cheap ...

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 21:55
by maalgard
I've just found this stamp in a lot the nice looking postgirl bring me today :

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Now I have a stamp from Barwani :D

Posted: 06 Aug 2008 00:34
by tonymacg
Now that is quite extraordinary! I've never seen such a high value used from Barwani, or such a nice strike of the Barwani CDS either. You're a lucky man!

Tony

Posted: 06 Aug 2008 00:39
by maalgard
I had no time this afternoon for a better look at this lot, but I saw many cancels I hadn't in my collection (maybe others from Barwani and its surroundings cities).

I'll keep you informed.

Posted: 06 Aug 2008 00:58
by tonymacg
Please do: I'll be most interested!

Posted: 11 Aug 2008 22:59
by tonymacg
Just a little tailpiece to the Dhar and Barwani story. Here is a 1 Anna British Indian postal stationery cover, franked with an additional India SG 200, used from Barwani, in the days when it was issuing its own stamps, to Dhar, long after its State Post Office had been closed down.

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For some curious reason, the receipt CDS is the Dhar Telegraph cancel. Had the postal CDS gone missing, or was someone simply too lazy to find it?