Strategically positioned between India and Central Asia, Jammu and Kashmir was the Crown Jewel of the Indian Princely States. The Maharaja ruled over its mountainous territories in the stated interest of the Imperial Government "for ever, in independent possession." J&K issued stamps in 1866 (the second state to do so after Junagadh or Soruth) and these stand out because of their bold designs and brilliant colors: especially the J&K Circulars (SG 1-49;Sc1-5,24-50) and "Old Rectangulars" (SG 52-101;Sc6-23,62-73). This state has the reputation of being difficult to collect because of numerous forgeries and reprints. Actually, neither are too difficult: almost any circular stamp on thin, flimsy wove paper is a forgery; and all reprints are in oil color, printed more clearly than genuine oil colors and often on thinner and more shiny papers.
To determine the status of a doubtful item we need information on three topics:
A. PAPER. The local or native paper of the early issues is usually sturdy, brownish and has apparently laid lines which are however irregular and neither straight nor equidistant from each other as in the European laid varieties.
B. COLOR. The earliest issues are printed in water colors which are usually brilliant and shiny and stand out in lumps on the surface of the papers. Oil color sinks into the paper leaving a dullish flat surface; and is visible on the back of the stamp. Oils are smudgy and clearly printed copies are almost always reprints. The experiments with oils of 1877-78 are of great philatelic interest because they produced some of the rarest stamps in existence.
C. DESIGN. Each of the three circular types differs in one distinctive feature from the classical "Missing Dies" that make up the majority of forgeries: see the three illustrations below:
Though the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir was a Hindu, he is never portrayed on any of the stamps which use calligraphy in Dogri (the classical language of Jammu) and Persian in deference to the Muslim majority of the population. In fact, Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1829-1885) introduced the postal service because merchants had asked for it. The first great collector of the J&K stamps was Sir David Masson, a prominent banker from Lahore who wrote a handbook in 1900 as did Sefi and Mortimer in 1937 and Staal in 1983.
References: Masson, D.P. (1900-01), The Stamps of Jammu and Kashmir, I. Calcutta: New School Book Press. II. Lahore: Civil and Military Gazette Press, Sefi, A.J. and Mortimer, C.H. (1937), The Stamps of Jammu and Kashmir, London: Sefi, Pemberton & Co