AHMEDABAD: Imagine Gujarat’s stamp on John Lennon’s possessions, wonder if you can.
With The Beatles, Lennon held sway over the world. But as an adolescent philatelist, India’s princely states — including Gujarat — held him in thrall. In fact, he was introduced to Gujarat’s princely states even before he and Paul McCartney collaborated on their first song, “Hello Little Girl”, in 1957.
Back in the early 1950s, Lennon was desperately searching for postal stamps of the former royal provinces of India. His search covered Gujarat’s Morbi, Zalawad, Wadhwan, Jamnagar, Sorath and Rajpipla. Indeed, his stamp book has a page dedicated to Gujarat’s princely states and carried a reference image of a stamp in black and white on the top left corner. The image was of a 1931 stamp of the Morvi (Morbi) state issued during the reign of Thakur Sahib Maharaja Lakhdirji Waghji, who ruled from 1922 to 1947.
The stamp book of Lennon — whose 79th birth anniversary is on Wednesday — has been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in the US since 2005. The four pages dedicated to India and its princely states — pages 23 to 26 — in Lennon’s 145-page olive green ‘Mercury Stamp Album’ will intrigue you. In these pages, there are rows of empty panes where Lennon hoped to include stamps of former British colonial states.
Royal philately: Several King George stamps in collection
John Lennon’s wish list featured stamps from Jind, Nabha, and Patiala (Punjab); Sirmoor (Himachal Pradesh); Kishangarah (Rajasthan); and Orchha (Bundelkhand). He also sought out stamps from Jaipur, Alwar, and Bundi (Rajasthan); Bamra (Odisha); Barwani, Bhopal, Dhar, Indore, Gwalior, and Bijawar (Madhya Pradesh); and Cochin (Kerala). He got hold of one revenue stamp from the state of Travancore valued at ‘One Chuckram.’ On the page marked ‘India’, he had managed to collect the ‘King George’ stamp heads issued across a few years.
When Lennon was living at his Aunt Mimi’s house in Liverpool in England, he was gifted the hardbound stamp album by his elder cousin, Stanley Parker. Announcing the acquisition of Lennon’s stamp album, Wilson Hulme — the curator of philately at the Smithsonian Museum — was quoted in a press release in 2005: “We’re tremendously excited at the prospect of exhibiting John Lennon’s boyhood stamp album. I hope it will inspire new collectors.” Hulme had gone on to say: “There are people who think stamp collecting isn’t cool and maybe this will cause them to think differently about that. It just doesn’t get cooler than John Lennon .”