Specimen overprint on India’s first commemorative set brings $21K at auction

Realizations include buyer’s premium.

A set of four “Specimen” overprints produced in August 1948 to mark the first anniversary of India’s independence was among the top-selling lots of Spink’s recent Philatelic Collectors’ Series Sale.

Affixed to gold foil pages in a green presentation folder, the specimen set was produced in small numbers – up to 200 – and is described by auctioneers as “attractive and extremely rare.” Its high-value 10-rupee stamp is affixed to the first page, which is entitled “INDIAN POSTS AND TELEGRAPHS DEPARTMENT / MAHATMA GANDHI MEMORIAL STAMPS / 15TH AUGUST 1948” in red. The second page features the 1.5-, 3.5- and 12-anna values.

All four stamps are framed in a red border and feature a “Specimen” overprint to the bottom left of a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, who fought for Indian independence through much of the early 20th century.

After the 1947 “Partition of India,” which divided British India into two independent dominions – India and Pakistan – Gandhi became the first Indian to be commemorated on the stamps of India. The four-stamp set was released on Aug. 15, 1948, and was the first commemorative issue from the newly independent nation. It was also the only set of Indian stamps printed outside of India – at the Swiss-based Courvoisier – following independence.

The first correspondence related to the issue’s specimen printings was on July 13, 1948, according to Pradip Jain’s two-part story in Gibbon’s Stamp Monthly in November and December 2014. In that correspondence, Courvoisier suggested the word “Specimen” be overprinted on the stamps and special booklets be prepared to bear the “INDIAN POSTS AND TELEGRAPHS DEPARTMENT” inscription.

It’s believed only about 200 sets were produced (with two different styles of outer booklets, including a black version, known to exist).

“At the request of the Indian Legation,” Courvoisier was asked to prepare specimen stamps for this commemorative issue, according to auctioneers. “These were to be presented to dignitaries and high officials of various countries.”

The set offered as Lot 1241 of Spink’s April 14-15 sale – complete with “Specimen” overprints on each stamp – crossed the block for £12,000 (about $21,000 Cdn.).

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