The Revenue Stamps of India

3/05/2012     India

In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, British India was divided between areas directly ruled by the British, and areas that were controlled by a native ruler, when the British allowed. Philatelists, who use the Stanley Gibbons catalogues, will recognise them as the Convention and the Feudatory States.

Revenue stamps for the British (Convention) areas have proved a popular collecting subject. The standardised designs, often similar (but pleasingly larger) to postage stamps of the same period, not only make for attractive issues in themselves, but also open the world of Colonial administration in all its glorious complexity!

For example, court fees were at first intended to be paid using so-called 'stamped paper'. The printing machinery however, could not keep up with demand, and it was decided to create special 'Court Fees' stamps instead. 'Petition' stamps were for fees levied on a wide range of non-judicial applications, such as income tax, hereditary offices and a wide array of licences. Postal Note stamps were applied to a form of money transfer, similar to a British postal order…and so on; thus creating a wonderful blend of colonial administration and local application.

The stamps are a mixture of beautifully engraved works produced by De La Rue and other important security printers. There is also a host of provisional issues (often produced as legislation, requiring the use of special stamps to make official payments, ran ahead of the printers' ability to deliver those same stamps!) often created by overprinting Indian postage stamps or British revenue issues.

The vast territory of India has given us perhaps the largest range of revenue stamps. For the British issues, we recommend the outstanding British Commonwealth Revenues catalogue by J. Barefoot. In this publication, the Indian issues form the largest (and most interesting) section; for the Feudatory issues we recommend The Indian States Court Fee and Revenue Stamps by A.Koeppel & E.Manners.

Stamp Talk!

Get our stamp articles and auction news direct to your inbox!