Hawaiian Collectors’ Stamps

Moving from a kingdom to a republic and finally becoming a state in 1959, Hawaii’s history throughout the 19th and 20th centuries is among the most unique in the world. Its stamps have reflected this, providing a living record that has been the object of much study among philatelists. For American collectors, Hawaiian stamps offer a fascinating glimpse at a part of the country that is little understood by mainlanders.

The Missionary Series: Hawaii’s First Stamps

Hawaii’s philatelic history begins on October 1, 1851, with the issuance of the Missionary series, the first stamps used in the Kingdom. The stamps were printed by Henry Martyn Whitney, a newspaper publisher who was named the islands’ first Postmaster General. Reflecting the growing relationship between the two nations, Missionaries were used to send mail between Hawaii and the U.S. Three denominations were printed: a two-cent issue for newspapers, a five-cent issue for mail to the West Coast and a 13-cent issue for the East Coast.

Although Missionaries were in use for nearly five years, few exist today. They are, in fact, one of the rarest and most expensive collectors’ stamps in the world. One cover, containing the only extant example of the two-cent Missionary, went to auction in 2013, where it sold for over $2.24 million. Other purported Missionaries have been the subject of both legal action and intense debate among authentication experts. To date, it is estimated that no more than 15 Missionaries survive, many of which have undergone extensive repair or restoration.

Other Rare Hawaiian Stamps

While the 1851 Missionaries are easily the most famous — and expensive — rare Hawaiian collectors’ stamps, other early issues are worthy of study in their own right. Hawaii became a member of the Universal Postal Union in 1882 and, during that time, it continued to print its own stamps, the majority of which bore the image of one of Kingdom’s royal family.

The Royal Family was overthrown in 1893, and a provisional government formed to manage the transition to a republic and, eventually, to a U.S. territory. During the transitional period, the old Royal Family stamps continued to be used, but were overprinted with the text “Provisional Government 1893.” Hawaii became a republic the following year, marking the occasion by printing a new series of stamps, the Stars and Palms issue. These and other Hawaiian Republic stamps continued in use until 1900, when the island, having been formally annexed, adopted U.S. postage.

Buy Hawaiian Stamps at Apfelbaum, Inc.

Apfelbaum, Inc. has been buying and selling rare Hawaiian stamps since 1910. We are your trusted source for Hawaiian collectors’ stamps and other rarities related to America’s imperialist period. If you’re looking for a special or hard-to-find stamp from the Kingdom of Hawaii or the later republic, we may be able to help. Hawaiian stamps are frequently available for sale in our online Stamp Store and Buy-It-Now sales.

Because of the high value of some of the early and rare Hawaiian collectors’ stamps, forgeries are common. To protect your investment, we offer a number of authentication and appraisal services. Give us a call at 800-523-4648 or contact us online to find out more about what we can do for you.

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