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What is in a Name !

By: Ashok Kumar Bayanwala, Ahmedabad

Ashok Kumar BayanwalaA lot of confusion has been created in the definition of Miniature Sheet, Sheetlet and Souvenir Sheet.

India Post in its “Hand book of Philately” explains that Miniature Sheet or Souvenir Sheet is a Sheetlet, consisting some different norms. If definition is clear then where is the confusion? Actual confusion borns when rule maker breaks the rule.

While going through the brochure of postage stamps on Wild Flowers of India (Issued on 03.09.2012), I was astonished to find that the sheet consisting of 12 different postage stamps is termed as ‘Sheetlet’ and not a Miniature Sheet. If we look back, we will find another sheet consisting of 11 postage stamps of Geet Govind (Issued on 27.07.2009) or twelve different stamps of Astrological Signs (Issued on 10.12.2009) are termed as Miniature Sheets and not a Sheetlet. The brochure of Philately Day issued on 12th October 2012 shows that the sheet issued on that day is a Souvenir Sheet and not a Miniature Sheet.

These whimsical classification / decision from India Post have compelled me to dig more and/or fresh information on Miniature Sheet, Sheetlet and Souvenir Sheet.

Miniature Sheet:

India Post defines Miniature Sheet as “A Miniature Sheet is a sheetlet comprising of one or more postally valid stamps with which the issue concerns. Its size normally varies from 75 sq. cms. to 250 sq. cms. depending upon the subject illustration, size of the stamp and number of stamps. The outer area of the miniature sheet beyond perforations of the stamp depicts an extension of the theme of the stamp or an elaboration of the same and is of complementary nature. The price of the Miniature Sheet may be equal to the face value of the stamp (s) it comprises of or more, as decided by the department considering merit of every case and in that case, the denomination is reflected in the Miniature Sheet. A special feature of a miniature sheet is the zigzag perforation where the sheet is comprised of two or more stamps. However this feature may not be available in every case. The date of release may be the same as that of the stamp (s) or a specially appointed one.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines “Miniature” as represented on small scale. “Philatelic Terms illustrated” by Stanley Gibbons defines a Miniature Sheet as “A small sheet containing a single stamp, pair, block or set of stamps, with wide inscribed and/or decorative margins, issued as a commemorative souvenir for collectors”.

Net surfing shows different definitions. Actually it depends on the country where the term is used. One definition shows a Miniature Sheet is a sheet of stamps, smaller than normal and often containing only one stamp or specimen of each denomination in a series, within a decorative border. In India, most of the collectors use the term Miniature Sheet including India Post, for a small sheet of stamp, which may include one or more stamp, usually different stamps. The stamp may be a part of the picture depicted in the sheet or a separate one, and the paper margin surrounding the stamps may be plain design. Here the stamp has perforation and can be separated from the Miniature Sheet and when it is separated, it usually looks same as the stamp issued in sheet form.

Examples of Miniature Sheets:

Indipex 73 Miniature Sheet

200th Cricket Test Match of Sachin Tendulkar

Sheetlet:

India Post defines Sheetlet as “A Sheetlet of stamps is a smaller version of a full issue sheet of stamps. It generally contains 16 to 20 stamps. It also has, like the Miniature Sheet, complementary illustrations/elaborations and inscriptions. The primary aim of producing a sheetlet is to meet the demand of the philatelists/collectors for a sheet of stamps of manageable size. However, it is not necessary to bring our sheetlets on every occasion of issues. The price of a sheetlet is invariably the sum of the face value of the stamps it is comprised of.

“Philatelic Terms Illustrated” by Stanley Gibbons describes a Sheetlet as “A Sheet of stamps containing a much smaller number than the normal sheet format. It is issued in small sheets for convenience of customers, as well as in sheets for post office counter use. Net surfing shows that a Sheetlet contains may be 10 or 20 stamps, always including more than one copy of each stamp design.

The conclusion is that a Sheetlet may contain different stamps but more than one stamp of each different design.

Examples of Sheetlets:

Medicinal Plants Sheetlet

Swami Vivekananda Sheetlet

Souvenir Sheet:

India Post defines a Souvenir Sheet as “It is also a sheetlet like the miniature sheet, with the exception that is the Issue itself, i.e. while a miniature sheet is issued on stamps separately produced & sold, the Souvenir Sheet is the only product and no separate stamp is sold; therefore, the number of stamps equals the print quantity of the Souvenir Sheet. e.g. Mother Teresa.

Oxford dictionary defines Souvenir as “Thing given or kept to recall the past”, Memento of occasion or place.”

Stanley Gibbons describes a Souvenir Sheet as “Term which is sometimes used loosely as a synonym for a Miniature Sheet but which ought more properly be confined to (a) small sheet which have postal validity but do not incorporate a stamp or stamps of conventional form and (b) small sheet of philatelic interest but no postal validity.”

Net surfing reveals that a Souvenir Sheet is a small sheet of stamps including one value or a set of stamps. It has philatelic interest without postal validity.

Thus we see that there is lot of different opinions about what constitute a Miniature Sheet, Sheetlet or a Souvenir Sheet?

We in India always followed Stanley Gibbons Catalogue and its findings. If we put findings of India Post and Stanley Gibbons together, the definitions of Miniature Sheet, Sheetlet and Souvenir sheets becomes very clear. In a nutshell the definitions should be as follows:

Miniature Sheet is a Small Sheet containing a single stamp or a set of different stamps with decorative margin.

Sheetlet is a small sheet of stamps, less than normal format of a sheet. It must contain more than one copy of each different stamp.

Souvenir Sheet is a sheet containing replicas of stamps without postal validity.

India Post has issued Souvenir Sheet thrice which I feel everyone has forgotten. The issued Souvenir Sheets are as follows:

  • It was issued to commemorate Indian Telegraph Centenary on 1st November 1953, featuring Telegraph Stamps (Period from 1860 to 1913) in original colours. The word “SOUVENIR SHEET” appears on the sheet.

Indian Telegraph Centenary Souvenir Sheet

  • It was issued to commemorate the first Asian International Stamp Exhibition “ASIANA-77”, on 19th October 1977, featuring two stamps of Asiana-77 in single colour.

Asiana 77 Souvenir Sheet

  • It was issued to commemorate India-89, the World Philatelic Exhibition, held at New Delhi, on 20th January 1989, featuring two stamps of India-89 in original issued colours.

India 89 Souvenir Sheet

In view of above findings, India Post must admit that the sheet containing 12 different stamps, issued on Wild Flowers of India, is a Miniature Sheet and not a Sheetlet.

Sheets issued to commemorate Indepex-97 showing Mother Teresa on 15th December 1997, and sheet issued on Philately Day on 12th October 2012 and 12th October 2013 are Miniature Sheets and not Souvenir Sheets as claimed by India Post.

- JAI PHILATELY

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