Most expensive Indian stamps

that may still be on one of your family letters

Stamp collecting has been a longstanding favorite hobby for casual collectors and rich folk alike. Many countries have a rich history of producing fascinating stamps, and India is certainly amongst those one whose stamps are the most eye-catching. Indian history of stamps is particularly important to the world and many of Indian philatelic items have fascinating stories to tell. These little bits of paper can bring you a real fortune. As with any other collector’s item, the rarer items are even greater and more expensive. India has a complicated philatelic history with a diversity of issues that are worth collectors` attention. Moreover, Indian stamps have benefited from being part of the British Commonwealth that is why they are extremely popular among a large community of collectors that aren`t native to India. So, here is the list of ten rarest Indian philatelic items that are worth a real fortune!

MOST VALUABLE INDIAN STAMPS

  • The 10 Rupees Gandhi Stamp

    The 10 Rupees Gandhi Stamp, 1948

    $205,000

    Stamps often signal a big moment in history. In August 1948, India celebrated the first anniversary of its independence. To commemorate it, they launched a special 10 rupees stamp depicting Mahatma Gandhi. Only 200 Mahatma Gandhi 10 Rs. stamps were overprinted with "Service" and issued for the use of Governor General of India, making it the world's least printed stamp. Nearly 70 years later, the 10 rupees edition of the 1948 Gandhi stamp is quite a rarity. But they can still be found. The lot was sold for $205,000 by David Feldman on May 19, 2011. This stamp is thought to be the finest remaining example out of only 18 known in existence today.

  • Inverted Head 4 Annas, 1854 stamp

    Inverted Head 4 Annas, 1854

    $170,500

    Inverted Head 4 Annas is considered to be the rarest and one of the most valuable Indian stamps. The highly sought after stamp was one of the first multicoloured varieties in the world that was issued in India in 1854. The error consists in the following: the head of Queen Victoria was printed upside down on exactly 206,040 stamps. The error was discovered in 1890 and only 28 examples are now known to exist today. Not surprisingly, these have an almost legendary status today, and are regarded as the greatest of Indian classic rarities. A seldom seen Inverted Head 4 Annas was sold at Spink in October 2010 for $170,500 - at that time a world record for an Indian stamp. Like many rare stamps, the Inverted Head Hour Annas has been the subject of many forgeries over the years, but this one auctioned in Britain is a real philatelic treasure.

  • Four Annas – Second Printing, 1854 stamp

    Four Annas – Second Printing, 1854

    $51,200

    1854 Four Annas  (Second Printing) is one of the country’s first issue, in 1854, consisted of simple designs showing a profile bust of Queen Victoria, the country name “India” and the denomination in words “four annas.” The stamps were printed locally and issued imperforate. While the basic stamps are not rare, there may be some specifications such as different dies and printing methods that make some varieties really rare and valuable. The bicolor octagonal 4a stamp, for example, is very large example showing blue dividing lines with a part of the bottom-margin imprint of the office in Calcutta (modern Kolkata) that did the printing. Minute details identify the head, which is dark blue, as coming from the second of three dies used, and the frame, in red, as coming from the first.  This particular rare example that once was a part of a famous collection of Maurice Burrus, was sold for triple its presale estimate, or the equivalent of $51,200 by Spink`s sale in Singapore that took place in September, 2016.

  • 2a Violet Official Provisional, 1866 stamp

    2a Violet Official Provisional, 1866

    $37,966

    The 1866 Provisional was introduced due to the Post Office Act XIV on May 1, 1866. This was done as an attempt to curb abuse of Government Officials in using stamps for personal use and lead to proper accounting of mail sent through Official channels. These improvised stamps were done by taking "Foreign Bill" revenues, cutting off to the top and bottom inscriptions and overprinting the stamp "Service Postage". The design consisted of the usual Victoria profile. Today, the sole example of the 2a with inscriptions intact, as well as with complete “Foreigh Bill” inscription was offered by Siegel with the starting price of $37,966 in November, 2016. 1866 2a Violet Official Provisional is one of the most important Indian stamps in existence and a key item for the serious India or British Commonwealth collector. 

  • ½a blue Scinde Dawk, 1852 stamp

    ½a blue Scinde Dawk, 1852

    $28,342

    One of the rarest classics of philately, ½ anna Scinde Dawk was issued first, on July 1, 1852. However, the stamps were so fragile that they easily cracked and disintegrated, since they were often used as a seal on a letter, many were destroyed when the letter was opened.  The red stamps were issued first, the blue stamps were released later. These stamps are found in several shades of blue and they were the last version issued shortly before the Scinde Dawks were withdrawn from use. A very rare unused example of Dawk 1/2 anna Blue with excellent embossing and large margins, natural inclusion spot at second N of "ANNA" was sold for $28,342 by David Feldman on May 19, 2011.

  • ½ anna Scarlet Scinde Dawk, 1852 stamp

    ½ anna Scarlet Scinde Dawk, 1852

    $27,000

    The 1/2 Red Scinde Dawk was the first stamp issued in all of Asia. Because it was embossed on wafer, the stamp is very fragile and had a tendency to crack. That is the reason why it was replaced It was with the white and blue stamps embossed on paper. The example offered here, completely intact and essentially sound, is among the very finest of the small number available. Although these stamps were quite common and widely used at that time, less than 100 items are now known to exist, giving 1852 Scinde Dawk stamp the status of being very rare. 1852 ½ anna Scarlet Scinde Dawk, impressed in scarlet wax, was sold by HH Harmer's for US$27,000 June 2016 Rarities Auction, New York.

  • King George V definitive with a watermark, 1929 stamp

    King George V definitive with a watermark, 1929

    $16,750

    1929 King George V definitive with a sideways watermark is a unique variety of India’s definitive stamp. The single used stamp’s genesis is uncertain, though there are a couple of theories that exists today. One of the theories says that the stamp may have been produced when a corner of the sheet was accidentally folded over at exactly a 45-degree angle during printing. The other explains that a hole in the unprinted sheet could have been patched with a slip of stamp paper rotated 90 degrees. The unique lot was auctioned for $16,750 by Christoph Gaertner during its 35th philatelic sale on Oct. 11-15, 2016.

  • India Birds of Prey error stamp, 1992

    India Birds of Prey error stamp, 1992

    $16,172

    India Birds of Prey error is a rare modern Indian error that displays 1r instead of 2r. The mistake was discovered shortly after printing, with most specimens destroyed. It appears that it was intended that the lowest value in the set was to be 1 r., but when the inscription error was discovered after the stamps were printed, it was decided to reprint with a corrected inscription and increased value of 2 r. The issue was released in 1992 and by 1998 three of the errors had been discovered in Year Packs. It is thought that all other 1 r. stamps were destroyed by the Indian Post Office. One of these specimens was sold for $16,172 at Stanley Gibbons' 15 June 2011 sale in London.

  • Duttia ½ anna black on orange paper stamp

    Duttia ½ anna black on orange paper stamp

    $13,800

    Duttia ½ anna black on orange paper is considered to be one of the rarest (and perhaps ugliest) India Feudatory States stamps. Dutia was a small state of 2,130 square miles near Gwalior in central India. Founded in 1626, today it is part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. From 1893 to about 1920, it issued its own stamps. It is thought that only four examples of  ½-anna stamps in black on orange paper exist today. One of the specimens (the finest of four examples) was sold for $13,800 by Cherrystone Cherrystone Auctions in New York July 26-27, 2017, as part of the Beville collection of worldwide stamps. The lot had a blue handstamped control mark and unused gum, as well as the certificate of authenticity from the recognized British expert Peter Holcombe.

  • Triennale Art Exhibition error stamp, 1968

    Triennale Art Exhibition error stamp, 1968

    $10,000

    1968 Triennale Art Exhibition is a special Indian stamp issued on March 31, 1968 to mark the First Triennale – an event of major significance to artists in India and aboard. The first exhibition was inaugurated at New Delphi on the 10th February, 1968. It was on view till the 31st of March, 1968. This exciting event was a real mosaic consisting of many textures, hues and colours representing the universal flavour of beauty. One of the finest examples of the 1968 first Triennal exhibition with orange omitted error was offered for $10,000 by Siegel on 15 November, 2017. This is one of the most desirable modern philatelic errors of India that consists on the absence of orange color on the stamp. There are only 14 examples of this philatelic item exist today.