History of Philately in India

The Indian Philatelic history began with the introduction of paper postage in India in 1852. Before that copper tokens were introduced for payment of postage in 1774. Their use was, however, not found to be very convenient and need was felt for some other token of pre-payment. With the success of Penny Postage in England, Sir Bartel Frere, the Commissioner of Sind introduced paper stamps for his province in 1852. These stamps, known as Scinde Dawk, were round in shape and were issued in three variations – embossed on white paper without colour, on white paper in blue and on vermilion wafers. They were withdrawn in October, 1854 on the introduction of the regular India Postage Stamps though their use continued for quite some time. In 1854, it was decided to issue stamps for the British India and in the interest of the economy; to have them printed them in India. The first design for the India Postage stamps was attempted by Col. Forbes of Calcutta Mint showing the 'Lion and the Palm tree'. It was a bold and imaginative design but somehow it could never be used. The next stamps to be designed and printed in 1854, by the Surveyor General's Office were blue lithographed half anna stamps showing a youthful profile of Queen Victoria. While the first India Postage Stamps issued in 1854 bore the inscription 'India Postage', the inscription was changed in the same year to 'East India Postage'. This was changed from 1882 to 'India Postage' and continued till 1962. From November, 1962, a new caption 'भारत' 'INDIA' was introduced replacing the 'India Postage', though three stamps issued in December, 1962/January 1963 carried the earlier inscription. From the beginning of British Imperialist Rule, when the Queen Victoria stamps were issued in 1854, a portrait of British Monarch had figured in Indian Stamp Designs. This came to an end with India gaining independence on 15th August, 1947. The first independence stamps, issued in 1947, were three in number. They depicted the Ashoka Pillar, (National Emblem of India) the Indian National Flag and an Aircraft. Since then India has issued more than 3000 Stamps.

Growth of Philately

Postage stamp, which begun as a piece of paper in token of receipt of postage, has assumed additional functions. It is a mode of commemorating, celebrating and promoting national heritage and events. It plays a great role as an ambassador, a brand image of postal administration and a statement of sovereignty of a nation. After independence, the medium of postage stamps was initially used to highlight the country's achievements in science and technology as well as its socio-economic Development by depicting themes like the Five Year Plans, Steel Plants, Dams etc. Subsequently, the country's rich cultural and natural heritage came to be showcased and many beautiful stamps were issued in thematic sets on art, architecture, crafts maritime heritage, science, technology, defence and cinematic. Great leaders of national and international standing have also been honoured with commemorative stamps, the most prominent being Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation has been honoured with commemorative and definitive stamps. Personalities, who have made immense contributions in areas like painting, literature, science, music, social upliftment etc., have also been honoured. In keeping with their dual character as a "Token of Postage" and as "Cultural Ambassador", there are two categories of stamps. The first is meant for day-to-day use as a token of payment of postage on mail articles. These incorporate less complicated design inputs, entailing minimum expenditure in their manufacture, and are printed in large quantities over longer periods. The second, on the other hand, are designed and printed with greater aesthetic inputs. They are manufactured in limited quantities and generate great interest among philatelists and collectors.

Philatelic Services:

You’d expect the Post Office to sell stamps, but you might still be surprised by the range of Philatelic products that you can find at most India Post Branches. In fact, we can supply everything from stamps, first day covers and presentation packs to albums and tweeters. Philately or Stamp Collecting is a universal hobby, People collect stamps not only for what they are worth in themselves but also for their designs, the stories they tell, the events they commemorate, and the sidelights they throw on the production of stamps. In fact, postage stamps are “the windows of a nation through which people overseas may behold its heritage and nature”. They reflect every aspect of a nation’s life including its trade, history, art, crafts and natural history.

Philatelic Products

1.   First Day Covers :   With every issue of commemorative stamps, a first day cover is also issued.

2.   Brochure:  With every issue of a new commemorative stamp, a brochure showing the brief, technical details of the stamp is also released

3.   Maxim Card :  It is a post card with a picture that duplicates the stamp design. The stamp is affixed on the picture side and cancelled. The cancellation will also be related to stamp design.

4.   Miniature Sheet :  A small souvenir sheet showing up to a dozen stamps often of different kinds, printed together with a margin around.

5.   Souvenir Sheet:  These are printed in specially prepared sheets. These sheets generally consist of one stamp, usually a replica of a stamp already issued as a regular one on a sheet with wide decorative margins all around.

6.   Meghdoot Cards:  A new improved postcard which offers communication to corporate or just anyone who would like to send their messages through it. The left hand section next to the address block can be used as space for advertisement in four colours.

7.   Special Covers:  A special cover is released by the Department of Posts to commemorate an event that is not important enough to be commemorated through a stamp issue.

What makes Philately a special hobby?

Philately is a delightful hobby that sharpens and satisfies one’s aesthetic tastes. While expanding knowledge of and interaction with the world one gets to know interesting details of politics, history, prominent personalities, national and international events, geography, flora and fauna, agriculture, science, monuments, soldiers, warriors, scientists, arms and ammunition, modes of transport etc. This process of learning becomes more delightful through visuals and brief write-ups. In addition, philately cultivates a meticulous and focused attention to detail. It also helps in making friends across boundaries and age-barriers.

What can be collected?

‘What to collect’ and ‘How to collect’ are problems which face all beginners. A hundred years ago, it was easy for a collector to have a complete collection but with the growing popularity, countries found a good medium for publicising their culture, industries, landscape, geography and achievements in various other fields. There is hardly any subject or theme which has not been depicted on stamps. Some of the popular themes are Airmails, Arts, Birds, Butteflies, Communications, Fishes, Famous Men and Women, Flowers, Medicine, Paintings, Postal History, Railways, Religious, Scouts, Space, Sports, Ships. Both mint - stamps (unused stamps) and used stamps can be collected. These can be collected year-wise, nation-wise or theme-wise. To make this easier and more attractive to beginners, philatelists generally advise collecting stamps according to a selection of choice called a Thematic Collection. Themes may be flowers, birds, animals, architecture, railways, monuments, Red Cross etc. Definitive stamps and stationery can also be collected as a theme. The bottom line is that the collection unfolds various aspects of a theme like a story.

Types of Stamps

There are commemorative and definitive stamps. Commemorative stamps are issued, as the name suggests, commemorating important events, prominent personalities in various fields, aspects of nature, beautiful or rare flora and fauna, environmental issues, agricultural activities, national/international issues, games etc. These stamps are only available at Philatelic Bureaux and counters or under the Philatelic Deposit Account Scheme. They are printed in limited quantities. Definitive stamps on the other hand, are used for day - to - day postal mailing purposes and are available in various ascending denominations from 25 paisa onwards at all postal counters.

How to collect used stamps?

Used stamps can be collected from the postal envelopes one receives. These can be detached delicately from the postal articles. Rinse in a shallow dish of water, using a soft brush. Carefully dry them in a dark place as the ultra violet rays of sunlight can damage the colours. It is also valuable to retain stamps along with the envelopes on which they are pasted as this authenticates their use.

From where to get stamps?

Mint stamps are available at Philatelic Bureaux and Counters in the designated post offices, details of which are available at nearest Head Post Office. Besides this local philatelists and pen-friends across the country and abroad may be of great help.

How to get and use albums

Albums are available at leading Book and Stationery stores and with philatelists. Pasting stamps ruins them. Use paper hinges or "havids" to place them in an album. Plastic strip albums are now available and are ideal to use for beginners. Handle stamps with pincers to avoid smudging or damaging them.

What is the Philatelic material available at Philatelic Bureaux

Philatelic material includes -

• Mint stamps (unused stamps)
• Commemorative Stamps
• First Day Covers (FDCs, which are issued with every commemorative stamp )
• Brochure (Information sheet accompanying each commemorative stamp )
• Collectors' Packs (Year-wise)
• Miniature/Souvenir sheets which are sometimes issued

What are Philatelic Bureau, Philatelic Counter and Authorized Office

Philatelic Bureaux function in 68 Head Post Offices at Circle Head Offices or in major district towns of India. There are 68 Philatelic Bureaux and 1111 Philatelic Counters, which includes all the Head Post Offices or Mukhya Dak Ghars of the country. Philately is gaining ground as a hobby among all age groups. -They carry out sale of philatelic items to individuals, dependent counters and authorized Post offices. -Philatelic Deposit Accounts can be opened at these Bureaus. Philatelic counters supply all philatelic items but are not authorized to issue the Special Cancellation that accompanies each commemorative stamp. -They provide a standard "First Day of Issue" cancellation on first day cover. Authorized offices sell only the Commemorative / Special Stamps, Blank First Day Covers and Brochures.

Contacting Philatelists

Many queries are received from beginners particularly, seeking guidance for starting a collection of postage stamps. You may wish to obtain information or consult the Philatelic Congress of India at sahadevas@yahoo.com. The Department of Posts is not, however, responsible for the information etc. supplied by the Philatelic Congress of India as the Department does not handle the secondary market in Philately.


From time to time, publications of interest to Philatelists are brought out and made available for sale through the Philatelic Bureaux.

Conditions for Reproduction of Stamp Images

Reproduction of stamp images is allowed for illustration purposes in Philatelic Publication or in an article relating wholly on postage stamps which may appear in any magazine, newspaper or publication of a general character. Such reproduction should however, be only in black. If stamps are to be produced in colour for publicity purposes, prior permission of the Director General of Posts must be obtained. To avoid similarity with the postage, such reproduction must be distinctively in smaller or larger sizes than the actual stamp and must be without perforation on the edges. Further, across bar will also be placed on one- corner of the stamp, obliterating the denomination. It must be noted that reproduction of the stamp in colour of the actual size of the stamp with perforation of the edges may be deemed to be taken as production of the actual stamp. Detailed guidelines are available on Guidelines for Use of Images of Postage Stamps

The philatelic activities of the Department of Posts include:

1.    Maintenance of the National Philatelic Museum :   The National Philatelic Museum is being maintained on ground floor of the Dak Bhawan. Besides commemorative postage stamps issued since 1947, thematic stamps and other philatelic products are on display. The museum is equipped with audio-visual facility and a small amphitheatre to interact with visitors’ groups such as school children. There is also a souvenir shop inside the museum. The museum is operational during Monday to Friday from 10:00 am till 5:00 pm.

2.     Designing, printing and distribution of special / commemorative / definitive postage stamps :   - Designing, printing and distribution of commemorative / definitive postage stamps and items of postal stationery like Envelop, Inland Letter Card, Postcard, Aerogram, Registered cover etc. - Promotion of Philately and conduct of Philatelic Exhibition as well as monitoring of Exhibitions at State/ Regional and District levels.

Philately Deposit Account

The Department of Posts introduced a scheme called “Philately Deposit Account Scheme” on 01.08.1965 to help customers to get Indian Commemorative Stamps and other postal stationary as soon as they are released. Collectors within India can open this account at any Philatelic Bureaux, Head Post Office by paying just Rs.200/-. The account holders can get commemorative stamps, first day covers, brochures and other postal stationary release every month by Registered Post. No service charge or registration fee will be collected. When the amount deposited depletes, it has to be replenished with an equal amount to keep the account live.

Download Philatelic Deposit Account Requisition Form

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