Friday, January 11, 2008

The World's First Stamp?

S.Muthiah from The Hindu newspaper wrote on 7th January 2008 the following:

The Indian National Philatelic Exhibition which concluded yesterday in the city after drawing record crowds from the 2nd, was marked by the release of a set of stamps featuring butterflies on the 2nd and special covers on the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. The cover that specially interested me was the one released on the 5th, a day designated as Heritage Day, which featured what I learnt were called ‘copper tickets’. These “copper tickets” had been brought to the public’s notice even earlier. During the first International Philatelic Exposition to be held in Delhi, a Re.1 stamp featuring two ‘copper tickets’ was released on January 25, 1980 (my picture today).

The ‘copper ticket’ was, however, not a piece of government issue paper; it was a piece of thin metal, a small copper token. Nevertheless, the Indian Postal authorities have long claimed it as the “world’s first postage stamp.” It was first issued in Patna on March 31, 1774 and was valued at 2 annas (12.5 paise). Each token bought when sending a letter made it possible for the letter to travel 100 miles in East India Company territory, carried by dak runners. Thus, being a medium of prepayment for postage, it gained the pioneer status it claims.

It was in 1840 that Rowland Hill invented the first adhesive paper postage stamp in the U.K. Taken up with Hill’s invention, Sir Bartle Frere, then Chief Commissioner of Sind, in 1852 issued what are said to be the first postage stamps in Asia - pieces of paper embossed with a circular design in red, white or blue lacquer and featuring the East India Company’s merchant mark. These stamps were of half anna (3 paise) denomination and could be used for mail being sent within Sind and on the Karachi-Bombay route. The stamps in later years attained fame amongst philatelists under the name `Scinde Dawk’ stamps.

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