Sunday, December 27, 2020

Postage Stamps Without Postal Service

If being locked down were not enough, my life suddenly got complicated by my pursuit of history – this time about the history of our postage stamps. By necessity, the history of coinage was expected to be blurry, hazy and supremely challenging – given that facts and myths need to be gleaned and weighed and analyzed from events and occurrences spanning few centuries of our tumultuous past. But the history of Bhutan’s postal service is less than seven decades old – thus it shouldn’t have to be this complicated. But I find that it is.

A Washington-based reader of my blog who sent me a handful of images of our Gold Coin Stamps from the 1960’s put me on the road to postal history – I had made a mention of him in my last blog. Since then I have done nothing but look at our old postage stamps and re-examine their history. Quite incredibly, I discovered that the history of our postage stamps is even more intriguing and fraught with mysteries and improbabilities that have my tongue hanging out a mile long.

Let us begin at the beginning – 1954 when, for the first time, Bhutan issued stamps. They were a set of four stamps in four different colors. Actually they were not postage stamps – but what we call "Revenue Stamps".

Bhutan's first stamps - Revenue Stamps as they are still called

The confusions with these stamps are primarily three:

1.    The stamps were denominated 1, 2, 4 and 8. It does not say what these numbers are

       – identification marks or face value of the stamps? If they were face values, they do not say
       whether Ngultrums or Chettrums.

2. They were called Revenue Stamps – I do not know why. They should have been called

        Fiscal Stamps – as does the philatelist from the US - since they were intended for use

         in monetary transections.

3. Curiously, in early 1955, these fiscal stamps were assigned to be used as postage stamps,

        under the authority of the IIIrd   King – as conveyed in writing by the Zimpoen, on

         17th September, 1955.What is funny is that there was no postal service then –

        Bhutan’s postal service was established on 10th October, 1962 – in Phuentsholing.

Launch of Bhutan's postal service on 10th October, 1962, in Phuentsholing

Between 1966 - 1996, some more of these fiscal stamps were issued – including a number of, what we chose to call – “Legal Stamps”. But unlike in the past, this time all of them had a face value, and they were designated in Nu./Ch.

Revenue and Legal stamps with face value denominated in Nu./Ch.

Now I find it funny that the stamps were called “Legal Stamps” – we still do. Did we have illegal stamps? A more appropriate nomenclature would have been “Judicial Stamps” - as the Bhutanese call them "Genja Ticket".


  1. The blue rubber stamp on the invitation card is intriguing. In the center is Phuntsholing Bhutan, but on the outer circle, it reads P.O. Dalsingpara, district Jalpaiguri. Is it because there was no post office in Phuntsholing and that the mails came via Dalsingpara PO.

  2. Dear Anon,

    Thanks for the comment. You are right ... my next posts will be on such anomalies. Frankly it is not an anomaly ---- we had no post office so we use to use the closest Indian West Bengal Post Office for delivery of mails to and from Bhutan. Dalsingpara is just a hope and a skip from Phuentsholing.

    The more intriguing is the circular stamp in black. Read carefully and you will notice something that is not quite right :)-

    I will post some more interesting items soon on the history of Bhutan's postage stamps.

  3. ..... Additionally, it is recorded that mails to foreign countries also use to sometimes be sent to Bhutan House in Kalimpong and from there despatched to destinations.

  4. I can't wait to read the next post to find out what's in that 1962 stamp. Whose picture is on the stamp?
    Thank you for working hard to shed light on these subjects.

    1. Hi Passu .... about to post but for now it will be on the Revenue Stamps and mailing route. 1962 stamps and the problems with them will come later.


  5. The black seal is bit hazy. It is probably 'govt. of Bhutan' but based at Rinpung dzong, which is Paro. It implies govt. administration centred in Paro & not Thimphu!!!

    1. Hi Anon,
      Your point comes up in the next post that I am about to upload.


    2. Thank you so much. Like you, the more I look at the invitation card the more I get confused. Perhaps our predecessors overlooked on the date anomaly. RSVP ‘Subdiphu’ must be sub divisional office Phuntsholing. SDO, which today is Dungpa, existed till early 1980s in Bhutan. But I think SDO is still used in India.
      Looking at your latest blog, postal services were running in mid 1950s, well before the opening of post & telegram services in 1962.
      Thank you once again for your well researched blogs on stamps, coins, pala & pila, etc.
      It will be worthwhile if these blogs could be preserved or archived in some form for the benefits of fellow Bhutanese of today & tomorrow.

  6. There was a mailing system prior to 1962.

    The cancellation on the invitation card is just to mark the stamp.

  7. The postal fiscals were well documented and was a part of the dzong dak system of Bhutan prepostal history. There were covers also posted from Bhutan to Bhutan house Kalimpong, using the postal fiscals. So from 1950s till the issuance of the first international postage stamps of Bhutan, the postal fiscals were in use. These are very rare to get now, and i posses some of them. I also specialise in early Bhutan postage stamps and postal history and have published several articles in the study circle related to Bhutan philately. If you have any questions do let me know.