Distinguished Philatelist

Sir David Parkes Masson

The Greatest Indian Philatelist



Sir David Parkes Masson was a Fellow of The Royal Philatelic Society from 1899 and one of the founder members of the Philatelic Society of India which, mostly on his initiation, was founded on 6 March 1897.

He contributed many important papers to the Philatelic Journal of India, mostly on the stamps of Kashmir, Afghanistan, India and the Indian Convention States. The articles were notable for their erudition in philatelic subjects.

The following are some of his better known monographs:

· The Stamps of Jammu and Kashmir, 17 plates, published in Calcutta and Lahore, 1900-01.

· The Stamps of Sirmoor, 1906.

· The postage stamps of Afghanistan, 24 plates in conjunction with B. Gordon Jones, Madras, 1908. 

Sir David was born in 1847 and lived in India for the greater part of his life. He began collecting stamps as a youth and gave it up after some time, only to pick up where he had left off years later. Apparently his second wind was inspired by his taking an interest in his daughter's collection.

For many years he was Managing Director of the Punjab Banking Co. of Lahore, Karachi and Kashmir. He served as ADC to the Commander-in-Chief and Viceroy of India for fifteen years. He was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 1st Punjab Volunteer Rifles, Deputy Grand Master of Masonry in the Punjab, a Member of the Council of the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab and a Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire. He filled many positions in the government and influential organizations in Western India for a period which extended for over thirty years.

In his earlier days as a philatelist he was more or less a general collector but gradually began to specialize and formed fair collections of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Portuguese India, British India and the Convention States. With regard to Afghanistan and Kashmir his collections were probably the best in the world.

Sir David spent practically every summer in the lovely "Vale of Kashmir" and, naturally, became especially interested in the stamps of that district. Later on this led to the publication of his book on Kashmir stamps. This book threw out of the catalog a whole lot of circular, large type of Kashmir stamps, which had been accepted and highly valued for many years. He proved that these were bogus varieties.

Sir David's collection of Kashmir stamps was beyond doubt the finest in the world. The next challenge he tackled was Afghanistan. He wrote many articles about Afghan stamps in the Philatelic Journal of India. He plated all issues and had a large number of uncut sheets and panes.

He also specialized in Sirmoor and Poonch stamps and wrote some good articles about them. His modesty, unfailing kindness, and charm of manner endeared him to all who had the privilege of meeting him.

Whilst in India, he visited London on several occasions. Then after he had settled in England, he began a nostalgic journey to the east. In 1915 he revisited India, Ceylon and Kashmir and in the autumn went to inspect his extensive estates in Penang, in what is now Malaysia. While there, he contracted a serious illness. This is made it necessary for him to return to England immediately. He never recovered from the illness. His passing on 31 December 1915, in London, was a great loss to philately. 

Upon his death his executors placed his collections in the hands of W. T. Wilson of Birmingham. Wilson sold the Afghan collection to Abraham Odfjell of Minde, in Norway. Some years later, Mr. Odfjell decided to dispose of many of his collections and placed the resale of them back with Mr. Wilson. The whole of the collection has since been disposed of, chiefly to the late W. Dorning Beckton and to some specialists in Germany.