Tahiti Collectors' Stamps
The largest and most famous island in French Polynesia, for many, Tahiti is almost synonymous with the idea of a tropical paradise. It's no surprise, then, that the island's stamps have long been a collector's favorite. As a French colony, postal service came to the island early, and there are many instances in which rare Tahiti collectors' stamps have fetched high sums at auction. Keep reading to learn more!
History of Tahiti
Tahiti has been occupied since 200 BC, when the first inhabitants arrived by boat, likely from Indonesia or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. By the time Europeans arrived in 1767, a complex society had formed, with as many as 200,000 people living on the surrounding islands. At various times, Britain, Portugal and the Netherlands all had a presence in the region, though it was eventually France that annexed the territory, establishing it as a colony in 1880.
The presence of Europeans in Tahiti undoubtedly had a transformative effect, bringing with it disease that decimated the indigenous population and missionaries that sought to convert those that remained to Christianity. Ironically, back at home, the island came to be thought of as an unspoiled paradise, celebrated in the paintings of Gauguin and Matisse, and in the idea of the "noble savage" espoused by Enlightenment philosophers.
Rare Stamps of Tahiti
Tahiti was the first island in French Polynesia to use stamps. In 1862, France's general colonial issues were used and, in 1882, the island got its own unique overprint. Ten years later, special stamps specifically for use in French Oceania (as the colony was called at the time) were issued. Overprints used during this period include a slanted "TAHITI," a horizontal "TAHITI / 1893" and "TAHITI / 10 CENTIMES."
Stamp collecting gives us a way of looking at the contradictions of colonialism through a very specific lens. Perhaps the most notable thing about French Polynesian philately is the extremely high price of some rare Tahiti stamps — book values for certain genuine overprints are well into the tens of thousands of dollars. Given how the island has been fetishized in the past by culture at large, this is in many ways a predictable development.
Collecting Tahiti Stamps
Despite the high price of some rare items, there are still many accessible ways to begin a collection of Tahitian stamps. Apfelbaum, Inc. regularly hosts buy-it-now sales featuring Tahitian collectors’ stamps for sale. You can also check out our online store, or contact our office directly for assistance locating a hard-to-find item.
In addition to sales, we also offer appraisals and other services. Since 1910, we have been buying and selling rare stamps from around the world — trust us for expert advice when it comes to your collection.