Sunday, January 15, 2012

Burma Gandhi Postmark / Cancellation

Hello Gandhi Philatelists,

Let me take this opportunity to wish all of you a very happy new year 2012! May your collection grow manifold and you derive a greater sense of satisfaction from it!

Got some good news right at the beginning of the year, and that's what this post is about.

As you are aware, Burma (Myanmar) issued a special postmark on 2nd October 1969 to commemorate the Gandhi centenary. I have never come across a postally used (sent through mail) cover with the postmark, and have always seen on unused covers, either with the Mahatma's image as artwork or just blank covers.

The postmark I had in my collection all this while is shown below:

I have been harbouring suspicions about the authenticity of this postmark for quite some time now. The fact that this commonly available variety comes on so crisp a cover and that identically clean postmarks (on identical clean covers) are available in the Indian market fueled my curiosity. But with no counter-reference, I could not substantiate it.

Recently, I was able to procure another type of the Burma postmark from abroad, as shown below:

As you can see, comparing the 2 postmarks, there are some subtle differences:

1) Cover 1 - The stars on either side of "Rangoon" appear with centre portion enlarged and pointed ends blunt
Cover 2 - Stars well pointed

2) Cover 1 - The extremes of the 5 Horizontal lines are well-aligned.
Cover 2 - The extremes of the 5 Horizontal lines have an uneven and tapered feel, the shape similar to the brackets "(" and ")"

3) The fonts used in Covers 1 and 2 are also distinct.

I reached out to noted Burma philatelist Mr.Richard Warren, who has also authored a book on Burma Philately, requesting his help in identifying the genuine type. He was kind enough to reply immediately, and incidentally, he has recently written an article in the Journal of Burma Philately about the Gandhi Burma postmark.

From his notes, I could infer the following points:

1) The Burma postmark seen commonly is from "Rangoon". What we did not know is that it was also used from "Mandalay". I have never seen an example of the Mandalay postmark, and it would be great if readers can share it from their collections.

2) The postmark which I bought recently (2nd cover shown above, with pointed stars and tapered lines) is the genuine type of postmark. The one that I had in my collection earlier (1st cover with Gandhi image) is the most commonly available forged variety.

3) Apart from this common forgery, another postmark with distinct spacing between the stars and "Rangoon" is known to be a fake variety.

Now all the 3 types (known till date) are summarized below:

I'm glad that after all these years I could finally solve the Burma puzzle and get my hands on a genuine postmark!

Thanks, and looking forward to your comments,

Nikhil Mundra

14th January 2012