The first stamps of Afghanistan are known
as the Lion Stamps, after the lion’s head which appears in the centre of the
stamps. The lion itself represents the ruler at that time Sher Ali, which
translates from Dari as “Ali the Lion”. Being a strict Muslim country, an image
of Sher Ali himself could not be allowed on the stamps (a human image did not
appear on an Afghan stamp until 1937).
The Lion Stamps are all dated (using the
Islamic Solar calendar), the first issue being dated 1288 (=1871). The sheets of
stamps were often composite sheets, made up of different values. Each position
was individually engraved and so each position can be plated. New issues
appeared at least annually until 1295, thus we have–
Issue, 3 values (shahi, sanar and abasi), 4 plates, each sheet 15 stamps. Plate
A all shahi types; Plates B, C and D, composite.
values (6 shahi and 1 rupee), one composite sheet of four stamps.
value in sheet of 15 stamps.
value (smaller, no corner ornaments) in sheet of 60 stamps
values (abasi, half rupee, rupee), one composite sheet of 15 stamps.
values (sanar, abasi), one composite sheet of 15 stamps, but printed in two different
colours: black and purple.
issue, 5 values (shahi, sanar, abasi, half rupee, rupee), one composite sheet
of 24 stamps, but printed in two different colours: black and purple
Office” issue, so-called because each post office used stamps of a different
colour. 5 values (shahi, sanar, abasi, half rupee, rupee), two sheets each of
24 stamps, 1 sheet all shahi type, 1 sheet composite of the other values.
Printed in 5 different colours.
post office issue. Same values as 1293, but one composite sheet of 40 stamps.
Printed in 4 different colours.
post office issue. Same values as 1293, two sheets each of 40 stamps, 1 sheet
all shahi type, 1 sheet composite of the other values. Printed in 4 different
issue, so-called because the design is much simplified. Shahi value only, 1
sheet of 40 stamps, 4 different colours.
So, if you want one of each position of
each sheet, in each colour, that’s 1,112 Lion Stamps to hunt down.
The stamps are sometimes wrongly described
as Tiger heads. The mistake was first made by the early collectors, often
ex-pat Britons in India, or on secondment to Afghanistan itself, who
mis-translated “Sher Ali”, using Hindi (as spoken in India) rather than Dari
(as spoken in Afghanistan). In Hindi “sher” means “tiger”; in Dari it means
“lion”. The mistake was soon recognised and corrected, but even today it still
crops up, though less and less frequently.
The links in this Chapter are to pages showing examples of these fascinating issues.
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