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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stamp Investment Tip: Indian Legion 1R + 2R Azad Hind Issue (Michel # VII)

In 1943, the Germans produced a set of stamps for Subhas Chandra Bose's Azad Hind, or Indian National Army (Michel #I-X). These were intended to serve initially as propaganda labels, later to be used as postage after the "liberation" of India from the British by the I.N.A.. The stamps were never transported to India, and stayed in storage in Germany until the end of the war. All of the Azad Hind stamps except the 1R+2R Indians Bearing Azad Hind Flag (Michel #VII) are common, as 1 million of each of the lower values were printed. Three types of the 1R+2R stamp and four proofs are known:

-1R+2R Black, imperforate (1st Printing; Mi. #VIIa- 4,500 produced; Mi. CV= Euros 600.-)

- 1R+2R Black and Orange, imperforate (2nd Printing; Mi. VIIb- 2,000 produced; Mi. Cv = 250 .- Euros .-); a large number of these exist on ungummed paper (Mi. CV= 35.- Euros)

- 1R+2R Black, Orange, and Green, imperforate (3rd Printing; Mi. VII- 7,000 produced; Mi. CV= Euros 250.-)

Proofs noted in Michel:

- 1R+2R Violet (400 produced; Mi. CV= Euros 500.-)

- 1R+2R Carton paper (100 produced; Mi. CV = Euros 500.-)

- 1R+2R On the back of a piece of carton paper, with ad. printed on the front, imperforate (Unknown quantity; Mi. CV= Euros 600.-)

- 1R+2R Proof of Michel VIIb (Black and Orange) on orange colored paper, imperforate (Unknown quantity; Mi. CV= Euros 2,000.-)

Forgeries exist of this issue, so it should be purchased conditional on obtaining expertization.

At this point, many readers might wonder: Why recommend an unissued stamp, not listed by Scott, which is basically just a cinderella?

I feel that the 1R+2R stamp is exceptional, because of its historical significance, its scarcity, and its compelling potential dual market for collectors of both India and Germany. Bose and the I.N.A. are not well known in the West, but his role in the struggle for independence has been recognized by India, which has issued five postage stamps commemorating him and his army. He was a prominent figure in the independence movement, and was elected president of the Indian National Congress twice, but had to resign from the post following ideological conflicts with Gandhi. He felt that non-violent resistance would prove ineffectual, and he was willing to assist the Axis war effort, but he never liked the Nazis and once commented that we was willing to "shake hands with the Devil to achieve India's independence." Gandhi is honored as the saint and savior of India's independence movement, but it should be noted that when non-violent political movements succeed, they often do so partly because of the fear that the enraged masses will resort to less humane alternatives.

I view this stamp as an interesting and probably low-risk speculation. In the coming years, the "serious" stamp collecting population of Indians will number in the millions, and I expect that enough of these new collectors will want the Azad Hind Flag stamps to push their values dramatically upward.

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