India 1854 Half Anna

From Stamps of the World

The India 1854 Half Anna was printed in Calcutta using the lithography method which relies on the basis that oil and water do not mix. Initially it was requested that stamp be obtained via Great Britain, but this was rejected.
Colonel Forbes, the Superintendent of Calcutta Mints, was ordered to produce stamps worth half anna, on a design based on the 1835 Lion and Palm tree from the gold Mohur of William IV. "Essays" were produced, with a single press, which was sent from England. But a sufficient quantity was not ready to be released to the public. There was also unfavourable response from Col. Forbes and the "Lion and Palm" stamps were not released. The issue was dropped and these remained mere "essays".
The Governor General Dalhousie put pressure on Capt. Thuillier, the Deputy Surveyor General in charge of the lithographic departments of the Surveyor General office in Calcutta. H.M. Smith prepared new designs for the stamps with the head of Queen Victoria in four values i.e., ½ anna, one anna, four annas and eight annas. The eight annas issue was later dropped and a new 2a denomination was introduced. "Essays" were submitted for approval and by April 1854, with Munirooddin as the engraver and lithographic stones were ready. Due to climatic conditions defects developed in the printing stones and a request to supply steel discs from England was also rejected.
The original colour of black being rejected, the available English vermillion-red ink was used to print 300 treble sheets (900 single sheets) of 96 stamps in each sheet. Indian vermillion ink, which was later used, destroyed the stones. The printing was stopped and even the stocks sent to Bombay were not issued. Half anna blue: Steel dyes were engraved as masters and a refined Indigo blue ink was used. This was released on October 1, 1854, and is the first official postage stamp of India. There were three Dies used to produce the stamps. A reprint of the Half Anna in a lighter blue shade was made in 1891.

Detail Die I Die II Die III
Outer Frame lines Tendancy to be weak Outer frame lines are almost always strong in comparison to the other two Dies, but other details may be useful in distinguishing. Very variable in their strength
Corner Ornaments Die one have a solid blue centre to the ornaments with well defined points The right corner star on Die II is more like a flower with white petals and a 'solid' blue centre. Similar to Die two but the central blue has a white centre with small points to it
The Chignon is mostly shaded with large ink portions with little definition Much paler chignon than Die I and there is a coloured banding between the hair and the chignon Very fine lines are seen in the Die III chignon shading. Some poor inking can give a blotchy appearance.
Crown Band Always heavily shaded with mostly well defined shading lines. Always heavily shaded like Die I but sometimes more heavily so, giving a solid appearance in parts Compared to the other two Dies this is the lightest band with very small shading towards the lower side of the band.
Diadem Jewels Centre and right hand jewels have well defined engraving to the central crosses Similar to Die I but fainter and less defined in appearance Heavy shading to the diadem giving an almost square like appearance to the shading
Die I
Die II

Die I[edit]

Printing took place using the 1st Die from May 1854, 30 Million copies were printed. Stamp were pre-released to the public in September 1854. Some are known used prior to the October dates in Burma.


Stone A printing on cover to Umristar

Die II[edit]

Approximately 2 Million stamps were printed using the Die II in August 1854 with a small print run in November.

A copy of Die II with weak frame lines, showing why it is important to check other features like the Chignon.
Bottom sheet block of 16 from Die II showing corner ornaments.

Die III[edit]

Die III was used to print stamps in the period July to August 1854 and a total of approx. 4,700,00 were printed.

1891 Reprint[edit]

Block of 16 of the 1891 reprint


Half Anna Proof in Black with additional proofs of the 2 Annas (essays unadopted design) and 4 Annas.

Proof in Black