Cook Islands Collectors' Stamps
The Cook Islands is a group of 15 islands in the South Pacific that is freely associated with New Zealand. From 1892 onward, stamps have been used in the region — both New Zealand overprints as well as special issues created for the islands. As well, individual islands Aitutaki and Penrhyn have issued their own stamps at various times. All of this makes collecting Cook Islands stamps highly rewarding. If you're considering starting a collection, read on to learn more!
The Cook Islands’ Postal History
The Cook Islands became a British protectorate in 1888, and a formal postal system was established shortly thereafter. The first definitive issues were printed in 1892. These featured a simple design with only the inscription "POSTAGE / COOK ISLANDS FEDERATION" and the denomination in cents. A year later, a new design was released featuring the portrait of the islands' Queen Makea Takau. These remained in use until 1919, along with an 1895 issue featuring the wrybill, a bird of the region.
Individual Island Stamps
In 1902 and 1903, respectively, individual Cook Islands' Penrhyn and Aitutaki began using New Zealand postage with their own unique overprints, while also using Cook Islands stamps. This persisted until 1932, when the Islands all switched over to the use of New Zealand stamps with a common "COOK ISLAND" overprint.
The Aitutaki and Penrhyn overprints are some of the more interesting collectors' Cook Islands Stamps. Also worth looking into are two pictorial issues, in 1920 and 1927, which were issued concurrently as postage in the Cook Islands, Aitutaki, Penrhyn and Nuie (a neighboring island, now an independent country).
1919 Rarotonga Issues
From 1919 to 1932, Cook Islands stamps were inscribed as Rarotonga, the largest island in the group. Now-rare Cook Islands stamps from this time period include a 1919 set of New Zealand overprints, and a 1920 definitive series. Confusingly, these stamps were valid throughout the territory, though issues from Aitutaki and Penrhyn could only be used on those islands.
The Cook Islands gained additional authority over its postal affairs in 1965 and began to once again issue their own definitives. Aitutaki and Penrhyn followed suit, as did Rarotonga itself in 2011. Many of these, particularly the individual island stamps, are intended specifically for the Cook Islands stamp collectors' market.
Collecting Cook Islands Stamps
As you can see, there's a lot to explore when collecting rare Cook Islands stamps. At Apfelbaum, Inc., we frequently have Cook Islands stamps for sale in our online store and buy-it-now sales. Let us help you start or add to a collection — if you can't find what you're looking for by browsing our website, don't hesitate to give our team a call or send us an email with your inquiry.