[ First Day Covers ]
The three lower value stamps in this set were used extensively for popular postage rates. There were two common cachets that were used for first day covers- one from the Post & Telegraph Department and another private issue. The most common prevailing rate for covers at that time was 1.5 annas, for domestic regular mail. Combinations of the 1.5 and 3.5 anna stamps were used for domestic airmail.
The first day use covers shown in this collection are either with a special commemorative cancel (a "spindle") or a regular cancel. Ordinary first day cancellations on the 1.5 anna stamp used in domestic mail to New Delhi are shown here: from Ludhiana, Ajmer, Ghoom, Samastipur and Sehore. Delivery markings in the the back of these covers (one example shown) indicate that the mail was delivered in New Delhi the next day, reflecting on the efficiency of the Indian postal system back in 1948.
Examples of commemorative first day cancellation on the 1.5 anna stamp include domestic mail to New Delhi from Madras and Poona and an unaddressed first day cover from Pondicherry. Note the simple P&T Department cachets in these covers.
A common use of the 3.5 anna stamp was for overseas SEAMAIL, shown on this cover with a commemorative first day cancellation from the BOMBAY GPO to Middlesex, ENGLAND.
Combinations of the 1.5 and 3.5 anna stamps were used for domestic airmail, as shown in this first day cover (with the other four-color cachet) from Ghatkopar, BOMBAY to NEW DELHI. Delivery markings on the obverse indicate that this mail reached New Delhi the next day! All three lower values (1.5, 3.5 and 12 annas) were used in combination for registered and insured domestic airmail, as shown in this example from Bombay to New Delhi. The registration label and delivery markings on this cover are on the obverse- note that the registered airmail took a day longer than the regular airmail.
Rarer use of these stamps was Overseas Airmail to the African colony of Kenya from Pondicherry (which had the status of a Fre nch territory- part of French India- between 1947 and 1954). This cover has the 1.5 anna and 12.5 anna values, tied to a pair of the last issue of British India. Note that the Gandhi stamps were subject to the commemorative cancellation, while the two definitives had the regular Pondicherry cancellation.
Rarest of the first day covers of this Gandhi set, however, are the ones that had all four stamps, clearly not a legitimate postal rate. An example of such first day philatelic mail, carried domestically from Bombay to Delhi, is shown here. The registration label and delivery markings are on the obverse, indicating delivery on the 18th of August (more the stamps, the longer it took to get to Delhi from Bombay!). Even more valuable is a similar example of first day philatelic mail, this one mailed overseas to New York from Bombay. Registration and delivery markings on the back of this fascinating black "mourning cover" indicate that it reached New York in 5 days.
Perhaps my most exciting find in this Gandhi collection was a domestic first day mourning cover, addressed to the same individual who was the sender of the cover to New York! It appears that this collector might have mailed this cover to herself. The conspicuously missing 10 Rs. value makes a good conversation piece (reflecting on the exhorbitant price to Indian collectors). Even more remarkable is the fact that I found this cover with a dealer in India several years before I found the cover to New York (with a dealer in Florida)!