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Inverted Head 4 Annas

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Title: Inverted Head 4 Annas  
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Subject: 1854 in India, Tapling Collection, 1854 works, C. D. Desai, Invert error
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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 28[1]
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.[2] 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 1
  • Inverted head four annas 2
  • Discovery of the error 3
  • Collections 4
  • Forgeries 5
  • See also 6
  • References and sources 7

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, then the sheets were laid out to dry overnight. The next day, the blue heads were added within the frames. The First Printing, using Head Die I and Frame Die I, both as shown here, began on October 13, 1854. 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 six 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. Based on six of these stamps from Position 4, which showed different lithographic stones were used for the head and frame dies, D.N. Jatia found that at least six sheets must have been fed into the press upside-down.[3]

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."[4][5] All of these are postally used. Only two (or three) are known cut square; another 25 are cut to shape (that is, in an octagonal shape).[6] One from the collection of the Earl of Crawford was exhibited in the World Philatelic Exhibition in Washington in 2006.[7]

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.[8] 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.


The two cut-to-shape Inverted Head 4 Annas, on cover.

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.[9] 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.


A forgery of the Inverted Head (left), next to an ordinary stamp (right). The head and frame of the inverted stamp are not from the First Printing, so this cannot be a genuine inverted head stamp.

Forgeries have been made by chemically erasing the upright head or the frame and then printing over it. These can be detected using "

  • 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.
  1. ^ D.N. Jatia, India's Bi-coloured Four-Annas 1854, Calcutta, Philatelic Congress of India [2000], pp. 62-63.]
  2. ^ First Issues Collectors Club (Retrieved 25 September 2006)
  3. ^ D.N. Jatia, India's Bi-coloured Four-Annas 1854, Calcutta, Philatelic Congress of India [2000], pp. 62-63.]
  4. ^ Smythies, E. A. (1950), "A Classic Stamp Error",  
  5. ^ L. N. Williams, Encyclopedia of Rare and Famous Stamps, Volume 2. Geneva, David Feldman, ©1993-
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ India's 1854 Blue and Pale Red Inverted Head
  8. ^ E. A. Smythies, "A Classic Stamp Error," American Philatelist, pp. 59, 60 [1980?].
  9. ^ Thomas Tapling purchased the item for £32 in 1890 from the Italian stamp dealer Dr Emilio Diena. The Tapling Collection. British Library.
  10. ^ Robson Lowe, Encyclopedia of British Empire Postage Stamps, v. III: London, Robson Lowe, Ltd. (1951), p. 171.

References and sources

See also

Before purchasing one of the Inverted Head 4 Annas stamps, it is advisable to first obtain an expert's opinion that it is genuine. [10]

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