Afghanistan Postal History

by Robert Jack

In March 1869, Sher Ali travelled to Umballa in India to meet the Viceroy, the Earl of Mayo. A hoped for alliance with the British did not materialise, but Sher Ali was recognised as the rightful and de facto Amir of Afghanistan and assured of British friendship and support. He returned to Kabul on the 16th April 1869. One by-product of this brief visit to India was that Sher Ali, impressed by the Indian postal service, decided to introduce a similar service in Afghanistan.

It may seem strange, but it is not known exactly when the postal service began operating. We know the first routes were from Kabul to Tashkurghan and Peshawar, but not the dates that those routes were opened. The earliest reference seems to be a simple two line statement in the Illustrated London News for 7th May 1870 stating that: “The Ameer of Afghanistan has established a postal service between Cabul and Peshawur”, but it seems certain that the first stamps were not issued until rather later: the earliest known use is 25th March 1871. We also know that the Report of the Post Office of India for the Fiscal Year 1870-71 stated that mail for Afghanistan could be carried by the Amir’s post between “Peshawur and Cabul” three times a week. The Indian Postal Guide for May 1871 repeats this, but the exact date of the introduction of either the service or the stamps will probably never be known.


First Stamps

1288. There were three values for this issue: shahi, sanar and abasi, the value being placed above the lion’s head. There were four plates: A, B, C and D, each containing 15 stamps. Each position can be plated.


                            Shahi                                                               Sanar                                                      Abasi

1289. A small plate of four stamps: two 6 shahi and two 1 rupee ( = 12 shahi) , the rupee values at the top. No authenticated complete sheets are known. Many used stamps of this issue have a distinctive obliteration – in every sense of the word – said to consist of a mixture of mud and rifle oil. This designation may be apocryphal but whatever the make-up of the “ink”, the result is usually pretty awful. Unfortunately, it meant that contemporary collectors threw away most used specimens as being unworthy of putting in an album. Consequently used copies are scarcer than unused, but because of their appearance not as valuable. Fortunately, this cancellation is only found on this issue.


                                        Six (6) Shahi                                      One (1) Rupee                                              Typical cancellation

1290. Plate A. Made up of 15 Shahi types. Outer circle with four corner ornaments.

The major error in Afghan philately occurs on this stamp where the top right corner ornament was missed out on position 6 when the plate was engraved. This was quickly noticed and the corner ornament was roughly added in.


1290 Plate B. This was the first simplification of the lion design, with the corner ornaments being removed. The sheet size was increased to 60. It has been reported that over 120 full sheets of this issue were looted from the main post office in Kabul during the Second Afghan War, but it seems that many have been cut up to fit album pages so that complete sheets have become quite scarce.


This stamp also exists in purple, although it is not known genuinely used in this colour and its status is either unissued or a proof. These purple stamps are on thin buff laid paper unlike any other used for the lion stamps.


1291. There are three values in a composite sheet of 15. The first column consists of abasi stamps, the second of half-rupee, and the third of rupee stamps. No complete sheets are known.


Half(1/2) Rupee

One(1) Rupee

1292. There are two values in a composite sheet of 15. The first column is of abasi stamps, the other two columns are sanar values. Many examples from the bottom row of the sheet (pos. 13, 14 and 15) have the lower part of the outer ring missing. The stamps were first issued in black, but then seem to have been superseded by those in purple. It is thought that the purple stamps may have been proofs which were pressed into use following damage to the plate. In any event, purple stamps are commoner than black.



1293. The “Tablet Issue” is so called as the value has been moved from above the lion’s head and placed in a tablet below the head. Like the previous issue it is found both in black and purple, with the purple being more plentiful. There are five values – shahi, abasi, sanar, half rupee and rupee – in a composite sheet of 24. The word shahi is expressed in two different ways, and the abasi and rupee values can be found with or without the word “yak” meaning “one” in front, thus there are eight face-different stamps in the sheet. This issue was in use for only a few months, being superseded in September 1876, and these Tablets are therefore considered to be amongst the scarcest of all Afghan stamps. It can be seen from the sheet arrangement that there was only one example of each of the yak abasi and yak rupee per sheet and no more than six of any type. No complete sheets exist.





Half (1/2) Rupee

One (1) Rupee

1293. The First ‘Post Office’ issue. This issue comprised the usual values – shahi, sanar, abasi, half rupee and rupee. The shahi was printed on its own in a sheet of 24 with two variations in the way the word is written. The other values are in a composite sheet of 24, the first two columns being sanar, the next column abasi, and the final column having three rupee stamps at top and thee half rupee stamps at bottom. Separate colours were used for each of the then existing post offices – hence the designation as the “Post Office” Issue. 


Shai I

Shahi II



Half Rupee

One Rupee

There has been debate, even controversy, over the years as to which colours belong to which post office but today it is generally accepted that the listing below is correct. With this issue the method of cancellation becomes important in identifying some stamps as the shades of some of the colours tend to merge together but the style of cancellation can be definitive in identifying the stamp.        

1294  The Second ‘Post Office’ issue. This was a composite sheet of 40 stamps made up of shahi x 25, sanar x 8, abasi x 3, ½ rupee x 2 and rupee x 2.

4 x shahi, 1 x abasi and the ½ rupee and rupee values have the date set out in full (١٢٩۶), the others have an abbreviated date (٩۶).

The colors assigned were–

Kabul        greenish

Peshawar   slate grey

Tashkurghan   violet, purple

Jalalabad    brownish-black and yellow-brown

Again, the status of stamps in intense black in uncertain but it seems clear that they are not issued stamps 

Afghan Post - Wikipedia

The first postal arrangements in Afghanistan are credited to Sher Ali Khan, who established a postal service in the 1860s as part of a program to modernize the country.

History of Postal services after the Rule of Amir Sher Ali khan

1870: Establishment of Balahisar Post office in Kabul and a post office in the center of each province of the country serving Primary Postal Services Affairs and Postal Stamps.

• 1892: A Post Office near the presidential Compound was established.

• 1908: Postal Network developed more.

• 1918: General Directorship of post and Telegraph & Telephone was included in the Organization of the Interior Ministry.

• 1918: A Post office was established in each of the big cities.

• 1925: International post services between Afghanistan and British India Government of via Torkham Border.

• 1928: General Directorship of Post and Telegraph & Telephone becomes and Independent Administration.

• 1928: Afghanistan became of a member of the World Postal Union.

• 1928: After having joined the world Postal Union and some other individual Company agreement were signed.

• 1929: Post is conveyed towards Torkham and Kandahar by vehicles.

• 1929: Various type of deliveries such as Latter, Postcards, Newspapers, magazine and other printed matters as well as parcels are made inside and outside of the Country.

• 1934: Title of the Post Administration from General Directorship of Telephone and Telegraph was changed into The Department of Telephone, Telegraph and later on it was elevated to the Ministry of Communication.

• 1973: Law of Postal Services was amended.

Appleton with experts of the Royal Philatelic Society of London between 1924 and 125.