Christmas Island Collectors' Stamps
Ironically located nearly as far away from the North Pole as possible, Christmas Island is an Australian territory with a surprisingly long and interesting postal history. First discovered by Europeans on December 25, 1643, the island was annexed by the UK in 1888. The discovery of phosphate (guano) deposits shortly thereafter increased colonial interest in the territory.
From 1891 onwards, the British Phosphate Company assumed responsibility for much of the island's day-to-day affairs, bringing in hundreds of indentured Malay and Chinese workers to run the mines.
First Usage of Postage Stamps on the Island
The first postage stamps were used on Christmas Island in 1901. As part of Britain's Straights Settlements, it used the same postage as other colonial territories in the region. This continued until 1942, when Japanese forces invaded the island and suspended the postal service. The British retook the territory in 1946 and restored service, this time using overprinted stamps from British Malaya, a nearby territory.
Australian Administration of Christmas Island
Britain ceded formal control of Christmas Island to Australia in 1958, a move precipitated by that country's increasing role in running the British Phosphate Commission. With this, the island gained a measure of postal independence — unique stamps started to be produced for outgoing mail, and a special cancellation was implemented.
The first definitive Christmas Island stamps featured an engraving of Queen Elizabeth II in profile, with "CHRISTMAS ISLAND" written in bold black type and the stamp's denomination listed in Malayan dollars, the currency of the island. Though intended to be temporary, these were in use for five years, at which point they were replaced by a pictorial series highlighting the unique flora and fauna of the island, as well as its history as a mining colony.
Other notable issues from this period included a joint issue with Australia and New Zealand commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, and a 1969 tropical fish series. These and other Christmas Island collectors' stamps are frequently found at auction, and make an excellent point of entry when starting a collection.
Administration of Christmas Island's postal system was transferred to local government in 1969, at which point authorities began pursuing the collectors’ market more aggressively, producing up to four commemorative issues per year. This continued until 1993, when Australia brought the Island's postal system fully under its control. From then on, stamps were issued by Australia Post with the designation "CHRISTMAS ISLAND / AUSTRALIA."
Buying Christmas Island Collectors’ Stamps
For a small region with a population today of just over 2000, there have been many interesting and rare Christmas Island collectors’ stamps produced throughout its history. If you're looking to buy Christmas Island stamps, check out Apfelbaum, Inc. first. We frequently have hard-to-find Christmas Island collectors' stamps for sale in our online store and buy-it-now sales. Looking for something in particular? Get in touch to see if we can help!