Ryukyu Islands Collectors’ Stamps

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Located on the border between the Philippine and East China seas, the Ryukyu Islands are a geographically and culturally distinct region of Japan. Home to the beaches of Okinawa and the Ryukyu people, the islands occupy an important place in 20th century history, in part due to the role they played in the Pacific theater of WWII. As a result of this, the Ryukyu Islands were under American control from 1945 to 1972.

During this time, a number of both definitive and commemorative stamps were issued in the Ryukyu Islands. These issues make a fascinating study for anyone interested in the history of the region or in rare Japanese collectors’ stamps in general.

The Ryukyu Islands in WWII

In order to understand the importance of postage from the Ryukyu Islands, it’s necessary to know a little about the role they played in the Second World War. The Battle of Okinawa, in which U.S. forces invaded the island in an effort to secure a strategic position from which they could attack the Japanese mainland, began on April 1, 1945. Lasting 82 days, it ended up being one of the longest and deadliest of the war. Over 240,000 military and civilian causalities were reported before Allied forces finally emerged victorious.

Postage Stamps of the Ryukyu Islands

During the American occupation of the Ryukyu Islands, postal authorities in the region printed several notable stamps, post cards and other stationary for use both by inhabitants and by military personnel. Between 1945 and 1950, many residents were being housed in internment camps. Special Japanese overprints were produced for communication between the camps. These remain some of the rarest Ryukyu Island stamps and often fetch high prices at auction.

Other notable Ryukyu Islands collectors’ stamps include a 1950 airmail set, which celebrated the ultimate end of the war and featured a dove flying over a map of the islands. Also of some interest are the colorful early stamps of the provisional government, established in 1950. These predominantly feature flora and fauna, as well as other aspects of local culture, and are available in a number of different denominations and variations.

Why Collect Ryukyu Island Stamps?

War has always played a role in shaping the world and, for as long as postage stamps have existed, they have served as an evolving document of occupations, alliances and imperialism. The Battle of Okinawa, one of the darkest moments of the Second World War, has long been an object of intense interest for historians. Collecting rare Japanese stamps from the Ryukyu Island occupation period provides us with a way of understanding events in their historical context and gives us some insight into what life is like for the millions of people around the world still living under occupation today.

Buying Ryukyu Island Stamps

Apfelbaum, Inc. has been buying and selling Japanese collectors’ stamps since 1910. We often have Ryukyu Islands stamps available for sale in our online store and through our Buy-It-Now sales. Let us know if there is something in particular you are looking for, and we will help you find it. Give us a call at 800-523-4648 or contact us online to find out more about what we can do for you.