Sunday, April 10, 2022

A Most Rare Postal Card From Bhutan: Land Of The Thunder Dragon

It has been reported that during late 2019, a unique and rare Postal Card was auctioned off among the worldwide philatelists – fetching several hundred dollars as bid price. This Postal Card originated in Bhutan – The Land Of The Thunder Dragon. The Card was rare in every sense of the word - because it had elements of uniqueness about it that few can fathom.

~  The Postal Card was Bhutan's – but it was mailed from another country – from the Kingdom of Sikkim;

~  Curiously, the Postal Card was affixed with stamps of two independent nations – Bhutan and India;

~  While the Postal Card was mailed from Sikkim, Indian postage stamp was used - presumably because
     Sikkim never issued its own postage stamps;

~  During the time when the Postal Card was written out sometime most likely between 1957 - 1962,
     Bhutan did not have a postal service – Bhutan’s postal service was established only in October of 1962;

~  The Postal Card ought to have the distinction of being among the rarest case where a fiscal stamp was used,
     and accepted, on an international mail cover;

~  The Postal Card also must be the only Postal Card on which a stamp was affixed – although the mail
     would have been delivered on foot by a postal runner over the Nathu-La Pass in Sikkim;

~  Best of all, the Postal Card was mailed by a reigning Queen of an independent Monarchy
     – the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Back of the Postal Card: Depicting Dechencholing Palace, Thimphu as seen during mid 1950s

The front of the rare Postal Card - dated 18th June, affixed with stamps of two different countries - carrying cancellation mark of Gangtok Post Office and most likely that of the personal seal of Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan

Other perplexities are the following:

The Postal Card has a date – but no year.

Her Majesty the Queen writes, “This is our new house in Thimphu” – indicating that the photo on the back of the Postal Card was that of Dechencholing Palace.

The construction of Dechencholing Palace was completed in 1953. This means that the Postal Card would have to have been posted after 1953/1954. This would be correct since the IVth King of Bhutan His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck was born in Dechencholing Palace on November 11, 1955 – proving that the Royal Couple was resident in Dechencholing Palace in 1955.

However, the fiscal that was affixed on the Postal Card was issued only in 1954 – thus the Postal Card would have to have been mailed after 1954. But that is unlikely since the use of the fiscal as postage - for internal mail - was authorized by the Third King only as of September 17, 1955.

Thus, the Postal Card would have to have been mailed sometime between September 17, 1955 and October 10, 1962. After October 1962, Her Majesty would have used regular postage stamps.

What is even more mysterious is that the Postal Card is quiet apparently a machine printed Card – the pre-printed dotted lines and the bold line at the bottom of the right face of the Card is proof of it. Normally a country’s postal authority issues Postal Cards – but our modern postal service was established only in October 10, 1962. Thus, the existence of a printed Postal Card reinforces the fact that there did exist a form of organized mail service within the country – even before the advent of modern postal service.

A machine printed Postal Card in use - validating the fact that a form of mail service existed in the country even before the arrival of modern postal service

The Postal Card is addressed to the wife of George Sherriff, the Scottish explorer and plant collector who made a number of trips to Bhutan accompanied by the English naturalist Frank Ludlow - their last trip being in 1949. Our National Butterfly - Ludlow’s Bhutan Swallowtail (Bhutanitis ludlowi) was discovered during their trip in 1933-1934.

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating piece of postal card history.

    I'm more drawn towards the joy of simple things that's in the content of the card; H.M. caught some trouts and he was thrilled. How simple was life back then, no?