Half Anna Specifics - Identification and Plating 

As the lowest lithograph face value, the half anna were printed in huge quantities – it is thought 36.75 million in total, compared to approximately 9.25 million one anna. Consequently, it is not surprising then that the half anna is easily the most obtainable material to study of the three values. Research has found the half anna to be a diverse area of study. The key work despite its age is still, ‘The Half-Anna Lithographed Stamps of India 1854-1855 Smythies E.A., Martin D R: pp115: 1927. Although of pivotal importance to the subject, nevertheless the publication is scarce and difficult to obtain in any format. Unlike certain other lithograph publications on the one and four anna, originally printed between 1930-1948, and then reprinted in India as recently as the mid-1990s, this 1927 key work on the half anna was never reproduced. 

In May 1949 the renowned Desai auction took place - one of the most significant in Indian philatelic history, and mostly dedicated to the lithographic printings. Important half anna material that came up for sale, still relied heavily on the prior 1927 research, as does any material to be plated even today. The work is the single most important monumental research ever published on the early Indian lithograph printings of any value. Smythies and Martin worked out all the dies, and the majority of stones (including rare ones), and our comprehension of their findings has barely moved since. 

Die identification 

The half anna value has three main dies, commonly labelled as such in SG catalogues: [Download 5]

Die I – Printed between 5th May to 29th July 1854 Official issue date 1st October, first used mid-September – about 30 million printed 
Die II – Printed between 1st to 12th August 1854 (in quantity) with some additional printed around 2nd November that same year – about 2 million printed overall
Die III – Printed between 3rd July to 25th August 1855 – about 4.5 million printed 

When identifying half anna stamps, it is most important to establish which of the three main dies an example is, so as not to waist too much initial effort in the later plating process. [Download 6] Based on the streamlined methodology outlined in the introduction section, this is best done by initially focussing upon the ‘primary characteristic indicator’, or rather the most constant single feature of definition, and yet distinct between the three main dies. This initial simplification of factors to distinguish each stamp, will help gain a quicker foothold of recognition that will be effective in almost all instances. 

In the 1920s, a similar narrowed approach of classifying the half anna dies by noting various lines of definition only in the upper chignon and interaction with the head, was adopted by Gibbons. Smythies & Martin (S&M) however, thought it too generalised when studying certain individual instances. This was primarily because of a few overlapping similarities in comparison between the dies. Some Die I examples in a worn state show considerably whiter unshaded chignon definition, while just a tiny amount of Die II printings had touched-up chignons i.e. a few lines of definition added. 

Smythies and Martin (S&M) concisely catalogued the key attributes, or standardised characteristics for each half anna die. They were grouped by design type such as, chignon definition, corner ornaments, band below diadem, crown & jewels, outer frame lines. Gibbons later adopted this multi-indicator approach, perhaps fairly soon after their 1927 publication. This concise format of standardised die characteristics is still used today in the SG Commonwealth catalogue. While this approach is quite useful overall, it can unintentionally complicate any initial die identification, by introducing multifarious factors that are not necessarily as constant as upper left chignon definition characteristics of the half anna. My contention is that the original SG approach prior to 1927 although simplified, had its merits in making it easier to comprehend die type in the vast majority of instances. The reason being it actually focusses on a part of the design that remains the most consistent, and yet distinctive between the three main dies. In my view, this allows the upper left chignon definition and its interaction with the head the primary characteristic indicator on each die. 
Focussed exclusively upon the upper left chignon definition by comparison on each die, what do we find? When you study the standardised Die I in its early state (original design without wear), there is seen a distinct tulip-like motif, with stem below and bud above. [Download 6] Virtually every example of Die I retains this tulip-like definition in full, and even when over-inked or in a worn state, it prevails. As a reliable constant feature, it is fairly certain that if both bud and stem are present then a stamp is die I, even without checking any further for ‘secondary die characteristics’. 

Consideration of the upper ornaments being worn, or any other less consistent characteristic that might cause possible misidentification with Die II, is unnecessary at this point in the identification process. This is because on the half anna Die II, except for a scarce few very early state examples, or rarely touched-up (later added definition) instances recorded on just a few sheet positions, this tulip-like definition with stem in full is barely ever encountered. Remnants of this tulip bud are found on Die II, but the stalk below is rarely present at all, and even when very occasionally visible it is partial, unless a rare touch-up. These perhaps more difficult to discern touched-up tulip instances, uncharacteristic to Die II, will also have in combination a strong line of colour separation between chignon and head – the next most constant primary die characteristic. 

When S&M created the Die II C stone plating table [see later download], they made two separate columns, labelled ‘Marks on Chignon’ and then ‘Flaws: Frame line or arches – Other characteristics’. This specific versus generalised heading itself, indicates the primary importance chignon definition was given in respect of Die II identification. A Die II chignon is virtually always found with just an ill-defined tulip bud without stem, or completely blank without tulip entirely, making any confusion of die highly unlikely. Even though this tulip-like element was starting to wear on later Die I printings, for some reason it was not re-engraved, and therefore deepened in the preparation of Die II. As this chignon motif was now more weakly engraved, especially the tulip stem, it wore away rapidly from the earliest state examples onwards. 

Only very occasionally are highly uncharacteristic examples of Die I or Die II encountered, which perhaps require a supplementary consideration of secondary die characteristics to aid identification. However even then, in the case of ambiguous Die I stamps, utilising the important Intermediate Stone group flaws reference is the key means of further identification. [Download 7] These fundamental 24 group flaws specific to Die I only, replicated four times on a complete sheet of 96, will later be discussed in detail. However, discovery of any of these 24 group flaws instantly confirms Die I, and if absent therefore confirms Die II, or even Die III. From a practical viewpoint, when dealing with probable Die I stamps, checking for intermediate flaws is anyway predominantly the next step in the plating process.

To discern a Die III stamp using the proposed simplified methodology is an easier task, because it has a completely distinct upper chignon definition compared to the slightly overlapping similarities found between Die I and Die II. When the now long-standing copper engraving was yet again entirely recut to create the Die III, including an entire newly-resized upper head outline, the upper left chignon definition was notably changed with newly emboldened definition. Put simply, this die is easier to identify, as there is absolutely no sign of any tulip-like motif anymore, neither bud or stem. Instead there is found a fairly irregular non-standardised definition, wider-shaped in the lower part mostly convex or a curved shape on left edge. 

In general stamps of Die III were retouched more often, especially the chignon, and yet these never look anything like the tulip-like design, or remnants encountered on prior dies. Once this contrasting difference in upper left chignon definition is realised by ‘pattern recognition’, in most instances there is barely any need to take note of the other die characteristics, like weak or sparse hatching to diadem band, or smaller hollow star with shorter points in upper corner ornaments. 

Die Shades 

As mentioned in the introduction, shade recognition can sometimes give a good initial visual indicator of die type. If familiar with the typical or non-typical shade range encountered on a given die, it brings another facet of identification. Such a shade recognition ability can be gradually developed by looking at and comparing an increasing number of half anna stamps. For instance, Die II has a far narrower shade profile when compared to Die I. On Die II the single C stone was mostly printed for a very short period of twelve days in early August 1854, which no doubt contributes to its narrower shade spectrum. The indigo shade (SG7), is scarcer than the listed blue (SG6), especially as all other non-indigo Die II shade variations fall into this latter remaining generically labelled listing. Most blue Die II instances tend to be distinctly deeper or darker rather than a mid-range blue, and rarely if ever pale or bright. Perhaps a typical SG6 blue is closer the SG4 Deep blue shade of Die I. 

Whereas the half anna Die I shade spectrum encountered has a far broader range by comparison to Die II, despite half of the four shade listings having the same description. Die I material can range from very pale blue to intense Indigo, as approximately listed. Other shade groups however are regularly encountered, such as dull blues pale to deep, brighter blues pale to deep, and even a few uncharacteristic scarce shades besides. Such a diversity of shade is not surprising considering the huge quantity of 30 million printed over an extended period from 5th May to 29th July, on various parent stones, and sub-stones. 

On the final Die III printings of July and August 1855, run some 8 months after the Die II, the shade spectrum found is entirely different again. Almost all half anna of die have a varying degree of greenish influence to them. This greenish component is not so intrinsic that it is obvious in isolation, but nearly always evident when directly compared to any Die I and Die II stamp. A scarce greenish influenced blue shade is very occasionally seen on Die I, but it is distinct, and not easily mistaken for any Die III shade. This introduction of a greenish blue shade (SG9) listed by Gibbons for the first time on the half anna value, is telling in respect to the general shade characteristics encountered on most Die III examples. The actual listed ‘Greenish Blue’ shade certified by expertisation committee, is a notably deeper variation than a typical moderate blue shade (SG8a), and perhaps with a little more greenish influence than typical to Die III. Whereas, the listed deep blue (SG10) is often very deep or even intense, and often with a detectable greenish influence common to the die. Perhaps only about 10% of Die III half anna instances have no detectable level of greenish influence, when compared with other dies. 

Stone Identification 

Smythies & Martin in the ground breaking 1927 monumental work established various different printing stones from the already established three dies of the half anna.

(a) Single common setting and at least four rare settings in May – Die I stone A
(b) Single common setting and at least two rare settings in June-July – Die I stone B 
(c) Single common setting in August to November 1854 – Die II stone C
(d) Single common setting in July-August 1855 printings – Die III stone D 

The term ‘setting’ is synonymous with Parent stone i.e. made directly from the same die taken from the copper engraving, or rather from a smaller intermediate stone of 24 impressions (3x8), in the case of Die I Stones A & B [See Download 1 - for replicated placement of sheet writing in pencil on each position). A number of sub-stones were made from these parent stones, notably from the common settings of May, July, and then August 1854, and later 1855, but are not well understood. A sub-stone differs in that it is made with all 96 impressions in a single transfer from a parent stone. Between the two common parent stones (the first and last) of Die I, are at least six other rare parent stones -  four of May type called A1, A2, A3, A4, and two of July type called B1 and B2. M&S note, ‘it is possible even probable that there were one or two other rare stones not yet located. The chronological progressive order of these parent stones is as noted: A, A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2, B.

As Die II Stone C and Die III Stone D only have one Parent stone each, and were transferred entire onto sheets without any Intermediate Stone, recognition of their Die (as previously discussed), has a greater bearing on the overall identification of those individual Parent Stones, as well as the actual stone plating flaws. The sub-stones of the C and D stones are still not well understood. Obviously the parent stones of Die I are overall more diverse and complex. 

Intermediate Stone 

To reiterate, it is important to recognise that all Die I stamps printed during May, June, July 1854, from every stone were made from an intermediate stone of 24, as mentioned above. An engraved copper die was used to lay down these 24 impressions on transfer paper in three rows of eight (3x8), and these were then transferred to a small stone. Duplicated four times on the stone a sheet of 96 (12x8) was obtained. This small intermediate stone of 24 called ‘Group Flaws’ in pictorial diagram form  [Download 7], allows an early stage study of plating flaws prior to the first stone A that appear on every subsequent parent stone of Die I, with some degree of wear. Each time this Intermediate Stone was brought into use, a new parent stone was formed, and every time a transfer of a complete parent stone (of 96 impressions) was made, a sub-stone was formed, although these were never plated at this sub-level. 

The consequent twenty-four group flaws not only potentially allow quick confirmation of Die I, irrespective of printing stone, but also indicate in most cases what Parent Stone a single stamp probably came from, depending on the its state of progressive wear, or touched-up state. The order of in which the parent stones were made is unravelled by the intermediate stone, and the consequent classification is based entirely on the progression of lithographic flaws. Certain definite and characteristic flaws occur on each, making the progressive wear of the intermediate stone an invaluable means to determine the stone order. Of the eight parent stones identified by S&M, the first and last main A and B stones were easily the commonest, and at least 90% of all Die I stamps were printed on them, while all others in between came from very short-lived rare stones. Only 6 of the 8 known parent stones feature, with only two rare stones A4 and B1 not included due to lack of recordable material available 

The remarkable table of Group Flaws constructed by S&M [Download 8], as said, gives the progressive order in which the parent stones were made. In using an intermediate stone to build up the various parent stones, sometimes flaws which were there originally tended to disappear, and sometimes new flaws occurred. The small stone was rather poorly preserved between parent stone use, so that the group flaws show progressive wear between the first (A stone) and last (B stone). The order of the six known rare parent stones is therefore fixed by the amount of deterioration or variation shown in the state of the group flaws. This intermediate stone in its original state is therefore preliminary to the A stone. The table only lists important but selective principle flaws, when used to determine the order of parent stone creation. Various characteristic flaws were omitted to avoid overcrowding of the Intermediate pictorial diagram. Record of these Intermediate plating flaws make plating the Die I uniquely beneficial in early Indian lithography on all values, in that individual parent stone sheet flaws mostly become a secondary verification in the plating possess, rather than the primary as in other cases.

The fading or removal of flaws by wear often creates difficulty when plating stamps, as does their potential disappearance by retouching. Similarities of a flaw resembling a characteristic flaw of another group, can also cause difficulties. Due to such potential uncertainties, plating a stamp can never be categorical from a single flaw. Therefore, plating verification must include other confirming group or singular sheet flaws, necessary for proper methodological approach. Although the eventually constructed Intermediate diagram and table did not include all flaws found on Die I stamps, some fairly constant, it instead rather included selective ones solely for the purpose of plating. To better establish the progression of flaws, and determine the identifiable parent stones, S&M focussed on certain intermediate groups better suited to study in detail when observing progressive variation. Groups 6 and 9 [see Download 7] proved to bear the most corroborative information, in regard to their characteristic, almost iconic chignon definition on 6, and touched-up triangular eye on 9. More is written in detail on these few highlighted intermediate positions.

From a practical perspective, if you suspect the half anna example before you to be Die I, then simply by studying a single pictorial diagram of just 24 Group Flaws (split into four diagrams with positions 1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24), you can usually confirm the Die, and often the probable stone. Some group flaws are less easy recognise than others, partly dependent upon how many individual flaws are recorded in that group, and partly depending upon which are present, perhaps weakened or obscured, on that particular example. Even though some groups can be a little more difficult to identify, which parent stone a stamp happens to be, determined by progressive state of wear in a given position, is usually the most determinant factor of difficulty. 

After much practice at identifying these group flaws, then sometimes at a glance an instantly recognisable flaw can provide a quick identification of which group a stamp belongs. This ability of group flaw recognition can evolve quite quickly, due to the relatively small number of groups. Group 6 or 9 highlighted above are easy to recognise, but then careful study of the table is required to see which flaws are present, missing, weak etc., to determine which parent stone, usually A or B. Once practiced, then easier groups especially can often instantly provide multiple flaws, before any reference to the pictorial diagram. This initial visual recognition often leads to spotting others flaws that make up that group. A check for watermark element can then often be a mere corroborative formality, as to which of the four possible sheet positions of that group a stamp falls.

If group identification is more troublesome, then a watermark or even no visible watermark can help in combination more ambiguous group flaws. Groups 12 and 24 have less flaws recorded on those groups or are less eye-catching for instance. If the stamp is a B stone group 24, only a few flaw indicators are detectable. Whereas group 17 become quite easy to determine, due to the three distinctive blue flaw in the upper right inner white line, but which parent stone is less easy to differentiate in that particular group. In more difficult instances the combinational approach becomes more imperative, to make that initial recognition of a single group flaw that corroborates with other factors. If absolutely no group flaw is determined, then it is worth considering whether a given stamp is not a Die II. 

Therefore, on Die I, using the Group Flaws table is always the first step to try and determine parent stone. In practice, when using this table, the degree of verification one gain can vary greatly, not just depending upon which group, but also which parent stone it might be, especially if a rare parent stone. It is better to presume a stamp either Stone A or B, unless specific indicators alert otherwise, as the rare stones by their nature are far less likely. If evidence for any particular stone seems lacking, then checking the individual sheet plating can instantly verify whether it is A or B stone to complete the plating process, and confirm the previously ambiguous group identification.
If a Die I stamp is quite clearly from a particular Intermediary group, and perhaps has an easily discernible watermark element, but has no obvious A or B stone flaws for a given sheet position (1 of 4 possible), then this can be an indicator of some Rare or unknown stone. However, to reiterate a lack of specific plating flaws recorded for a rare stone of a particular group, would by necessity default the stamp as probable A or B stone, depending on its general characteristics. 

Rare stones 

According to Smythies and Martin, the production of A and rare A1 stones were almost simultaneous, then sometime after this first pair came the rare stones A2 and A3 both within a short time, afterwards three more rare parent stones A4, B1, B2, before lastly the B stone. They also felt certain there were at least a few other rare parent stones not yet located. It was felt that all rare parent stones combined did not make up more than 10-15% of total Die I stamps printed (an average 2% per rare stone). My feeling based on frequency of rare stone instances encountered, and perhaps reflecting what are still in existence, is less than 5% of Die I half anna are rare or unknown stone. 

Of course, some Rare Stones are also rarer than others, and probably the rarest of all are those few as yet unidentified stones, hence an extreme lack of recorded instances. The A1 stone is the commonest, whereas A4 and certainly the B1 stone, followed by B2 are the rarest of the known stones. Hence why the last of these six rare parent stones to be recognised were A4 and B1, and were not included in the 1927 publication of the Group Flaws table, except as footnotes. Partly because no complete sheets nor reconstructed, were known at that time. Much later, in the Christies Robson Lowe auction of March 1993 titled ‘India – Important Collection of 1854 Issues, a larger multiple of the A4 stone can be seen on colour plate, plus a block of six left sheet marginal (49-50 – 65-66). There is also shown a bottom right sheet block of 28 with margins dated June 1854 of the Rare B2 stone.  

In the important Desai auction of May 1949, an entire section was dedicated to the half anna Die I rare stones. The auction catalogue only did justice to his highly specialised collection, by employing the help of Dawson, Smythies, and Cooper – the most important Indian philatelists of the era. In this invaluable catalogue, the frequency and volume of lots listed on each Rare Stone, reflects their relative rarity by comparison to some degree, as already mentioned above. Quite recently, parts of the Desai rare stone material came to be in my possession. The practical experience gained in plating these very same examples, in conjunction with applying the plating table of Group Flaws, was an invaluable opportunity. Without possession of any larger rare stone multiples to study in detail, plating these difficult to come by singles, allowed a more nuanced understanding of how they were differentiated by a progression of wear, and then verified.  

This Group Flaw intermediary plating table first published 93 years ago, is at present still the only way to identify these rare stones from a single stamp, by comparison with the progressive plating flaws of the common Parent Stones, firstly Stone A and lastly Stone B. A completed plating table or diagram of any rare stone have never been reconstructed nor published to my knowledge. Only certain sheet positions on some group flaw instances are recorded, and therefore properly identifiable on the differing rare printings. Due to the rarity of instances, it is unlikely in the modern era that any of these Parent Stones will ever be fully reconstructed, with completed detailed plating tables. It is doubtful if worn printings exist amongst the rare settings, but difficulty obtaining them makes it impossible to be certain.

On a more practical point, it was noted early on that half anna Die I rare stones quite often were a brighter blue shade. This is a parallel here with the frequently brighter red frame shades recognised on the rarer four anna 3rd printings. These shades are not intrinsically bright, but rather can appear brighter when compared to other Die I examples. To recognise such requires some understanding of the diverse shade spectrum encountered on this die, and a reasonable sample range of other examples on which to compare. Certain paler shade examples that seem brighter, sometimes feel a little easier to recognise as such. Brighter examples are just an initial visual indicator alerting that an example in your hand might possibly be a rare stone. Perhaps an equally small number of brighter shades are found especially on the A stone, and in general a far scarcer shade type on any stone.
Plating Common Parent Stones

It is worth remembering that in spite of these various more difficult to identify rare stones, when plating the readily available half anna Die I material, at least ninety percent of what you will encounter will be either Stone A or B. Therefore, most examples are usually relatively straightforward to plate, firstly by identifying the Die, then checking the intermediate pictorial diagram in conjunction with watermark to determine which group. Next to refer to the intermediary Group Flaws plating table to determine parent stone, including the Rare Stones. If a common A or B stone example, finding individual plating flaws from a particular sheet position then corroborates the common parent stone, and finalises the entire identification and plating process.

Both common Die I Parent Stones A and B have recognisable individual sheet flaws on virtually every stamp of the sheet, unlike group flaws, and when reproduced will not be found on any other parent. Therefore, such individual sheet flaws are a final proof of which stone. Sub-stones are highly impractical to study on any lithograph value, and nothing is yet published, due to the vast material required to do so. 

If a given stamp is assigned to its correct group, by means of characteristic flaws determined from the intermediate 24, then the number of possible sheet positions is reduced to just four. Watermark identification at this stage of the plating process is of great assistance in determining which of those four places it belongs. Even a case of no visible watermark can be helpful – sometimes negating 1 or 2 of 4 possible positions, depending on which group. Final verification by means of individual sheet flaws (A or B Parent Stone) is usually necessary in order to eliminate the rare stones, and to make the methodology of plating absolutely correct. 

When you meet those most difficult of half anna examples that will not offer any easy way to begin the plating process, what is the best way to proceed? Perhaps the postmark is heavy, obscuring certain intermediate flaws on a more difficult group, making initial identification by that means virtually impossible. Even the die type may not be categorical for some reason, despite having a good visual recognition of them, and the watermark does not clarify anything. What then can be done? You might attempt of a kind of inverse plating process, to hopefully find another initial entry point indicator of identification. Perhaps simply revert to studying a stamp for the most obvious visible blue or white flaws that catch your attention. Stubbornly check on the A and B stone pictorial plating diagrams for at first a single possible match. [Download 9] (Diagram stones A, B, C, D) If you find a plausible candidate flaw from either stone, then doggedly look for any secondary verification. Hopefully, another individual flaw from the same stone diagram will be found, which will confirm whether A or B stone. If so it will settle what intermediary group the stamp is from, in that given sheet position. Suddenly you might see a previously unnoticed tiny blue speck of ink – a listed flaw for that group! If really fortunate, then a previously ambiguous watermark component might now appear more apparent. If no second individual flaw is verified, then choose another initial flaw you have noticed on the stamp, and start the process again.

The first use of the small intermediate stone in April 1854 was a proof sheet printed off in black ink, it was initially recommended this colour be used on the issued half anna value. However, at that time (28th April), printings tried in blue from refined indigo pigmentation also showed suitability. The first issued common parent stone from the 5th May 1854, taken from the intermediate stone was the Die I Stone A. Naturally at first, these were in the earliest state with clear printings and with virtually no wear. Such stamps early in the run of thirty million are quite evident, so distinct and fine compared to later A Stone examples printed at the end of July 1854. 

A table of individual flaws for each of the 96 stamps of the A stone is given, although not considered quite as reliable as the table of group flaws, simply because the given number of stamps involved is four times greater. Additionally, individual flaws of the parent stone may not have always registered on all sub-stones, and occasionally some flaws described may not be characteristic of the parent stone, but rather one of the sub-stones. However, as a table of individual flaws will only be required to fix each stamp to parent stone, in which group flaws can mainly assist, it will then satisfactorily pinpoint to one or two possible positions on the parent stone. Importantly, this plating table also helps to verify whether a stamp is most likely an early common A stone or otherwise possibly a Rare A or B stone, or a common B stone. 

To use both the A stone pictorial diagram in conjunction with the descriptive table of individual flaws is best, as they do not entirely marry with each other. When looking for A stone individual sheet flaws, sometimes comparing the stamp with descriptive plating is more helpful, especially when something seen is not recorded on the pictorial diagram. Mostly though comparing a possible A Stone flaw with the pictorial is the best initial means at recognition. Determination of the exactness in similarity with what you observe on the stamp in hand, using either means, improves over time when dealing with more ambiguous comparisons. This aspect is especially useful, so as to be able to differentiate between common stone flaws and added touch-ups to the Parent Stone, and retouches to a sub-stone, possibly confusing the issue. 

B Stone [Download 11] 

The last parent stone made from the intermediate stone of 24, the B Stone is by far second commonest of Die I. There are reckoned to be at least four sub-stones, but these are impractical to research., although based on sheet margins date to June and July 1854. When a B stone sheet is compared with an A stone, its inferiority in refinement is obvious. Undoubtedly this is due to the intermediate stone deteriorating through repeated use, and perhaps other factors that transferred to the final B Stone. The touch-ups on the B stone are quite prolific, probably due to its later consecutive usage, after being built up from a by now poorly preserved intermediate stone. 

Smythies & Martin distinguish the B stone from earlier A stones by often found characteristic stronger kiss curls, and more pronounced definition lines (especially upper) defining the diadem band on the neck. Kiss curls are barely found on the A stone, and seldom found on rare stones. These B stone characteristics are thought to be useful for about 80-90% of examples. In the case of the upper line of the band mentioned above for instance, the touch-up is of a more pronounced character and the line is produced with marked bends or curves right into the chignon. These should be differentiated if possible from the original state of the parent stone, when plating, according to S&M.

As with the A stone, using the B Stone pictorial plating diagram in conjunction with the descriptive table of individual flaws is the best way to conclude the plating process. Discernment of B stone characteristics is only a secondary indicator compared to the above plating information. Hopefully, at an earlier stage which common stone would already be apparent after consulting the Group Flaws table, so that the individual B stone pictorial diagram and descriptive table will merely be final confirmation in the plating process. As already mentioned in some more difficult to identify examples, sometime firstly looking at more obvious individual sheet flaws, perhaps the B stone, due to secondary characteristic indicators, might lead to a reverse process identification where die and watermark a better recognised later on. Even shade can be of help as a general stone indicator. The shade spectrum on the B stone tends to be more often duller blues, or if not deeper like shades, and barely ever bight. See the Die Shades section for a more detailed discussion on this subject.

By the end of July 1854, the impressions from the lithographic Die I stones had become very worn and unsatisfactory, and so a new Die was deemed required get better clearer impressions. It was decided at this stage to do without an intermediate stone altogether, transferring the 96 sheet stamps direct from the copper plate. By this time the original Die I engraving was evidently worse for wear. Details of the shading in the chignon, and crown jewels. and the colour star in the top right-hand corner ornament, had become very faint. These offer the principle attributes whereby stamps of this setting can be distinguished from earlier settings, as previously discussed in Die II identification. 

Only the very earliest of the new Die II printings might have shown part of the Die I primary indicator, the tulip bud and at best remnants of a stalk. Smythies and Martin however felt that such earlier prints together with touched up chignons, created a rather unsatisfactory singular basis of identification (See earliest State Die II diagram Download 6). In their eyes, due to the wide variability in the shading of the chignon, they thought it too difficult to decide which stamps were instead touched up. As previously discussed in the Die II identification section, in my view this caused confusion in very few instances. Rarely does the chignon definition tulip bud and stalk appear, whether touched up or not. Therefore, scarcely are secondary characteristics needed to help clarify if a C Stone, especially when solid shading separates chignon and hair, or no discernible Die I group flaws are present. 

Unlike the earlier Die I, it is certain that Die II only had a single parent stone, and by virtue of this short-lived C stone, plating is more directly intertwined with its Die identification. As few as three sub-stones were thought to be used, which helps reduce potential plating confusion of the C Stone. The absence of retouches prior to touch up, and of notable wear on the printing stone, due to the comparatively few sheets printed, enable a more beneficial use of variation from the standardised characteristics. One fascinating observation made by Smythies and Martin is that on this C stone, the paper is usually whiter than in other printings! When fresh I presume, as I had not noticed? 

A concise summary of how Smythies & Martin themselves thought it best to plate this Die II C Stone is as follows. Firstly, check for any watermark element, and if visible then an approximate sheet position identified. Use this information in conjunction with early state diagram of head to determine Die II (See Download 6). Once the approximate position is known, then refer to the C Stone plating table [Download 12), to determine if the recorded chignon markings and other plating flaws fit. The authors thought in 95% of cases for single stamps, these three factors enabled plating. In my view, uncharacteristic examples of Die II can be helped in identification by a lack of any Die I group flaws. 

The authors summary is insightful, saying, ‘The skill in plating consists chiefly in learning to recognise the permanent flaws or variations of the parent stone, and ignoring accidental, or non-permanent lithographic flaws of sub-stones’. In the case of the C stone, these difficulties are largely eliminated by comparing an existent complete sheet of the one sub-stone, with large blocks of other sub-stones. Such a complete deep blue sheet appeared in the Desai Auction 1949 lot 216, and recently a different full sheet described also as deep in shade, appeared with a reasonable colour image, in the Spink Auction ‘Fine Classic India’ September 2016 lot 27.

Only blue and indigo are listed by SG, which scarcely does justice to the range of shades that are met with on the C Stone Die II, according to S&M. In my view, the characteristic feature of shades on this stone is the almost complete absence of anything bright, such as may be found on other stones. The principle shades met with are: Deeper or darker blues, like a steel blue, or Indigo, which can vary from duller to very deep. See the Die Shades section above for a more detailed discussion on this subject in context.

All lithographic stones had been cleaned off in November 1854, with the original copper engraving stored away. At some later point it was realised further half anna stock would be required, and so in June 1855 a further print-off was decided upon. The extent of the re-engraving consisted of a significant redrawing of the head to compensate for prior wear, as discussed in Die identification. Other key alterations made to the D stone were to the chignon definition, crown and jewels, diadem band, etc. all notably distinctive to all previous parent stones. (See Download 6) As with Die II, the Die III D stone only had a single parent stone, and so again plating more directly intertwined with Die type identification. Hence, the previous Die identification section covers various aspects of the Die III Parent Stone D. Even though only 4.5 million were printed on relatively few sheets, the D stone still ran over a prolonged period of 4 months. Although not conclusive, it is believed that there was only one parent stone, or otherwise used for the bulk of these printings, from which various sub-stones were made. There is a slight possibility of a mysterious distinct rare late parent stone, from which a scarce few stamps were printed. Evidence of so many different co-existent retouch varieties of each stamp position, S&M felt it categorical a minimum of at least seven sub-stones existed.

Only one complete sheet is known to exist of the D stone, that being a distinctly worn printing. Even blocks and strips are rare, thus making the study of this die and Parent Stone more difficult, from a methodological viewpoint in respect to plating construction. Even the watermark placement on the D Stone is encountered more irregular, often found shifted either vertically or horizontally, or in combination. Diverse retouching makes the recognition and plating of single stamps even more difficult. Combined with a scarcity of larger pieces, as well as a frequent absence of sufficiently obvious permanent plating flaws, made the creation by S&M of a plating table particularly difficult. (See pictorial plating diagram Download 9)

One of the principle plating difficulties of the D Stone is that a number of sheet positions do not have obvious flaws. Another sheet characteristic is that many small blue outer frame flaws exist, but they are mostly not reliable for plating unless more significant to the eye. Specific retouches illustrate that the prolific sheet retouching was carried out early on, since some of the instances are decidedly less worn. They could not have been made altogether on the same lithographic impression, as there would have been a gradation of wear that is not evident. The fact that all these variations show on position 24, all with the constant touch up of eye and blue flaw below AL, proves that only the single parent stone was used. 

Conversely the various retouching found on this 1855 setting that far outweigh the original touches-up, clearly show differences both in scope and range of variations, which adds complexity when studying this D Stone. Despite potential difficulties plating this particular stone, nevertheless Smythies & Martin still managed by 1927 to prepare a plating table in their appendix (See Download 13). The authors stipulate it as less reliable than tables of prior settings. They suggest a combination of watermark detection, access to a complete sheet, plus their table, would suffice to plate about 75% of the stamps from this setting. Personally, I have found it possible to plate a higher percentage of singles, without reference to any complete sheet. So it was felt by S&M that the plating problems encountered on the D Stone were surmountable, despite evidence of seven plus sub-stones, because only one parent stone was used accounting for the bulk of the 1855 Die III printings

Due to the distinct unmistakable Die III upper left chignon definition, as our primary indicator as discussed in detail earlier, mostly the die identification is already quite certain before plating. Coupled with a distinct greenish influenced shade most often found on this die when compared to others, as discussed in Die Shades, then a Die III stamp becomes even more certain. Next when checking for watermark, even if it is more likely to be shifted in an unknown direction, then at least to can deduce the example likely to be from a smaller number of sheet position candidates to check upon. In the final phase of the process, when consulting the pictorial plating diagram (see Download 9), and the descriptive plating table (see Download 13), you will often already have a good inkling what few positions to check, and what possible plating flaws to look out for, to categorically confirm the sheet position 


The early Indian half anna lithographs are a complex multifarious area of study, even within the Indian lithograph printings as a whole. It is our great fortune today that a monumental attempt at researching the half anna was made, with all its diverse difficulties to construct a viable plating process, to a point where we can use their findings to enjoy plating this lithograph value. Nevertheless, this crucial early 1927 work is for some reason one of the least available publications, and has never been reprinted. The authors Smythies & Martin said, ‘The continual and recurring attempts to conceal blemishes in their manufacture by touching up and retouching, add a wonderful charm to the interest of the study. We venture to think that we have worked out a reliable and scientific basis for the classification and study of these extremely interesting stamps’. They hoped the publication would assist and stimulate other philatelists to discover more, and clearly recognised that there was still much more to be done. They believed the last word had not been written about them. In my view, during the following 93 years since publication, not many words have been written since.

Introduction :: Half Anna :: One Anna :: Four Anna :: Biblio/Other

The Benns Collection
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