Inverted Head 4 Annas
|Inverted Head Four Annas|
|Country of production||India|
|Location of production||Survey Office, Calcutta|
|Date of production||1854|
|Nature of rarity||Invert error|
|Number in existence||27|
|Face value||Four Annas|
The Inverted Head Four Annas of India is a postage stamp prized by collectors. The 1854 first issues of India included a Four Annas value in red and blue. However, an invert error occurred during production, showing the head "upside down." It was one of the world's first multicolored stamps; the Basel Dove preceded it by nine years.
Four annas stamps
The Four Annas stamps were lithographed by the Survey Office in Calcutta. Two colors were used, red for the frame and blue for the head. During production, the paper was first imprinted with the red frames and later the blue heads were added within the frames. The First Printing began on October 13, 1854, using Head Die I and Frame Die I, both as shown here. There were 12 widely spaced stamps in each sheet. Exactly 206,040 stamps were printed from this Head Die I issue.
Inverted head four annas
Among these First Printing stamps, at least three sheets with the red frames had been inadvertently placed in the press backwards. So, although the heads appear to be upside down, it was the red frames that were inverted.
The surviving examples of this error are low in number. E. A. Smythies states, "Details and illustrations of all the known copies are given in that interesting publication, Stamps of Fame, by L. N. and M. Williams." All of these are postally used. Only two (or three) are known cut square; another 27 are cut to shape (that is, in an octagonal shape). One from the collection of the Earl of Crawford was exhibited in the World Philatelic Exhibition in Washington in 2006.
Discovery of the error
This error appears not to have been discovered until many years after the stamps were issued. None of the 1870s publications mentions the Inverted Head Four Annas. The 1891 reprints provide the first conclusive evidence that the error was known, but E. A. Smythies said the error was first noticed during a meeting of the Philatelic Society of London in 1874. In 1907 L.L.R. Hausburg mentioned the Inverted Head Four Annas, but incorrectly, as he was not sure whether it came from the First or Second Printings. Mr. Séfi described this error in the West End Philatelist, January, 1912.
Three cut to shape examples of the Inverted Head Four Annas repose in the Tapling Collection at the British Library, London, including two (positions 3 and 4 on the printed sheet) on cover, indicating that the error was created by an incorrect sheet placement rather than by a careless die transfer. One example carefully cut to shape is found in the Royal Collection, position 5 on the sheet. The Government of India Collection, in Delhi, has a cut to shape example on piece, position 2 on the sheet. Two examples cut square, one of them on cover, were in the collection of Desai. Desai "raised" his stamp from its cover for study. The provenance of several other examples is described in Martin and Smythies, as cited below.
Forgeries have been made by chemically erasing the upright head or the frame and then printing over it. These can be detected using "black light" (long wave (UV-A) ultraviolet light) and other techniques. One of these fakes appeared in the Masson sale, and one or two in the Ferrary auctions. Some clever forgeries purport to show an inverted head with incorrect head dies, which are obvious. Crude forgeries are plentiful. Before purchasing one of the Inverted Head 4 Annas stamps, it is advisable to first obtain an expert's opinion that it is genuine.
References and sources
- Stanley Gibbons, Commonwealth Stamp Catalog: India 4th ed. (2013)
- First Issues Collectors Club (Retrieved 25 September 2006)
- Smythies, E. A. (1950), A Classic Stamp Error, American Philatelist: 59, 60, archived from the original on 2002-12-12
- The Robert H. Cunliffe Collection of Spectacular Inverted Stamps of the United States and the World - June 18–19, 2009, Spink Shreves Sale No. 114. Lot No. 1181.
- India's 1854 Blue and Pale Red Inverted Head
- http://web.archive.org/web/20091028105908/http://geocities.com/mjshah.geo/articles/classic_error.html E. A. Smythies, "A Classic Stamp Error," American Philatelist, pp. 59, 60 [1980?].
- Robson Lowe, Encyclopedia of British Empire Postage Stamps, v. III: London, Robson Lowe, Ltd. (1951), p. 171.
- D. R. Martin and E. A. Smythies, The Four Annas Lithographed Stamps of India, 1854-55 London, Philatelic Society of India and Stanley Gibbons Ltd. (1930), pages 36–8.
- Robson Lowe, Encyclopedia of British Empire Postage Stamps, vol. III, p. 171.
- E. D. Bacon, The Essays, Proofs and Reprints of the first issued Postage Stamps of British India of 1854-55. Third edition, 1927 (with supplement in P.J.I, 1933), page 19.
- Leslie L. R. Hausburg, The Postage and Telegraph Stamps of British India ... Part I. Postage Stamps. London: Stanley Gibbons, 1907.
- The Monthly Journal, v. X, p. 167.
- Bertram W. H. Poole, West End Philatelist, June, 1910, page 10.
- Alexander J. Séfi, West End Philatelist, January, 1912.