World’s first postage stamp among other items in Damodar’s collection
‘Black Penny’, world’s first postage stamp issued in Britain in 1840, royal documents, letters, firmans proclaimed during Aurangazeb’s time and a record pertaining to what could be one of the earliest MNCs of India — Bank of Bengal — form part of an invaluable collection of historic items belonging to 51-year-old Musham Damodar Rao, a businessman-turned epigraphist.
A visit to a philately exhibition 30 years ago aroused curiosity in Mr. Rao. Driven by the passion, he started collecting stamps, and along with their accumulation, turned his attention to coins, currency notes, documents and postal covers which were censored during World War I before delivering to the addressee. The total number of stamps runs into 50,000 to 60,000, including 3,000 of 100 princely States.
Describing himself as a “historian”, Mr. Rao, who is convenor of Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee’s intellectual’s cell, told The Hindu that he was also a consultant for old documents and scripts.
One of his earliest collections is a 2,500-year-old coin of pre-Satavahana period. The coin made of panchaloha depicts Soma Gopa, a tribal king, who used to worship the naga deity. A copper coin of Biblical times is another prized possession. He has a collection of 303 coins of Satavahana dynasty and a thousand each of various other dynasties, besides those pertaining to the British rule in India. In all, he is in possession of a staggering 30,000 to 40,000 coins.
A small gold coin of Vijayanagara empire, the size of a pen nib, is another rare piece.
Mr. Rao said his collection also includes an information bulletin sent by Sind Sultan (now in Pakistan) authorities to the rulers in Delhi in the 16 century.
One of the interesting records shows an authorisation issued by William Carr in November 1839 declaring that he was authorising and empowering besides himself, William or Dwarakanath Tagore (grandfather of Rabindranath Tagore) or Thomas J Taylor to vote for him in the election of directors to the Bank of Bengal. Another rare collection is the salary receipt of Junagarh King, who used to receive a monthly salary of Rs.30,000 from British Crown.