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The World’s First Postage Stamp – Patna Copper Ticket 1774

In January 1774, India’s first Governor General, Warren Hastings, began to make arrangements for the establishment of India’s first Post Office Department. On the 7th of February, Mr. Redfearn was appointed as Post-master General and directed to form the establishment according to the Plan resolved upon and carry it into execution under the immediate inspection of the President.

During the administration of Warren Hastings (1774-1785) in India, the Post Office was placed on a better footing than before, and steps were taken to make the post available to a limited extent for the carriage of private communications also.

A system of carriers connecting the headquarters of the Government with principal towns in various provinces was established. An overland route from Madras to Calcutta with a weekly service was introduced in 1770. On 31st March 1774, a regular system of Post was brought into force. They are of two denominations, namely 1 Anna and 2 Anna dated 1774. These tickets are extremely rare as only four to five pairs are recorded.


“Patna Post One Anna” (Obverse)

In Persian ‘Azimabad Dak, ek ani’ (Reverse)

“Patna Post Two Anna” (Obverse)

In Persian ‘Azimabad Dak, do ani’ (Reverse)

A Post Master General was appointed, and postage was charged for the first time at the rate of 2 Annas (1/8th of a Rupee) for every 100 miles (160 kilometers). Small copper tickets of 2 Annas in value were introduced as a token of prepayment of postage within the realms of the East India Company.

These reforms included the establishment of post offices at different locations in the Bengal provinces such as Patna, Moorshidabad, Ganjam, Dhaka, Dinagepore, Varanasi, and Kolkata.

1776 Rennell – Dury Wall Map of Bihar and Bengal, India.

The BY-LAWS formed on 31st March stated that the facility of paying postage on letters with small copper tickets be immediately struck to be received at the rate of 2 Annas each, but to pass only at the post office. These copper tickets were supposed to be sold in advance to persons desirous of using the postal facilities. It also ensured that the servants of such persons handing in letters for dispatch had the required fees available.

Furthermore, the use of money was avoided. The surviving copper tickets are issued only by the Patna Post Office, bearing the name of Patna as Azimabad.

The extract of the BYE LAWS relevant to the subject matter includes:

  • The postage on inland letters should be paid at the post office at the following rates: Single Letters, for every hundred miles – 2 Annas. Double Letters in Proportion according to their weight.
  • All letters should be stamped with the day of the month on which they are delivered into any chief post office.
  • For the facility of paying postage on letters, small copper tickets should be immediately struck to be received at the rate of 2 Annas each, but to pass only at the post office.

During India-80, the first International Philatelic Exhibition held in Asia under the Patronage of FIP, a set of 4 commemorative postage stamps was issued. One of these stamps featured a Copper Ticket, with the image depicting the obverse and reverse of a One Anna Copper Ticket from 1774.

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250 Years of Patna Copper Ticket

On 31st March 2024, the Patna Copper Ticket, which marked the beginning of a new era in Postal Services, completed its 250 years. To commemorate the occasion, a special cover was issued by the Bihar Postal Circle, Department of Posts. The cover depicts the image of the Two Anna Copper Ticket along with the image of the stamp issued in 1980. 

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