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Pitcairn Philately

[Pitcairn Postal Service]

Through the years since the first definitive issue of Pitcairn stamps was released in 1940, the philately of Pitcairn Island has enjoyed a much-sought-after status among stamp collectors throughout the world.

Pitcairn Island First Postage Stamps

75th Anniversary 1940 - 2015

October 15, 2015 is exactly 75 years since the Pitcairn Islands released its first issue of postage stamps. The journey to get to this stage was long and slop and began in 1887 when Pitcairn was formally incorporated into the Empire under the British Settlement Acts. Officialdom refused to consider issuing stamps, even after a formal proposal from a Mr. Petch in 1905 when his design was presented to the Colonial Office. Pitcairn mail did leave the island, however, with the first known example being recorded in 1882 bearing a US stamp.

Pitcairn was "recognized" in 1921 when covers being sent were impressed with a rubber handstamp inscribed: POSTED AT PITCAIRN ISLAND - NO STAMPS AVAILABLE. In 1927 a postal agency was established on Pitcairn by New Zealand authorities, after which New Zealand postage franked most of the mail that left the island.

The recognition of who was responsible for the first stamps (eight definitive) is unknown. H.E. Maude, then Crown Commissioner for Pitcairn, spent time on Pitcairn in 1940 and took a keen interest in the situation and eventually set up the first Post Office. E.A. Fuller of the General Post Office in Fiji, where Pitcairn postal affairs were to be administered, was also involved. He, in fact, accompanied the first shipment of stamps to Pitcairn in September 1940.

Dr. Arthur Delaney, from his article "Pitcairn's First Issue" (SPA Journal, Vol. 33, Nov. 1970), from whom most of the background is taken and gratefully acknowledged, writes that the inspiration for the first issuance of stamps must go to Karl Baarslag who visited Pitcairn in 1935 as a radio officer on the yacht Vagabondia. He discussed with Andrew Young (Pitcairn's unofficial postmaster at the time) about Pitcairn possibly having its own stamps. The Commissioner had turned down several petitions from the Island, but Baarslag gave details of a similar example for the island of Barbuda in the West Indies. Young and the Chief Magistrate, Parkin Christian, then planned their strategy and Pitcairn had its own stamps several years later.

The designs for the first issue also had a difficult journey. A number of essays were submitted to the King for approval, but several were sent back for revision or rejected outright, including an image of Fletcher Christian superimposed on a view of Bounty Bay. (Christian did make it, however, on the 1d, 1/- and 2/6 stamps). These original designs are now housed in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace.

The intent of the originators of Pitcairn's first stamps was to show the Bounty saga, although the link of the oranges shown in the 12 stamp is somewhat dubious. All stamps incorporated the Bertram Park portrait of King George VI as an inset. Other design points to note are the inclusion of Christian and five mutineers (1d and 2/6 stamps) from the print "The Mutiny on the Bounty" by Robert Dodd (1790), now in the collection of William Dixon, NSW, Australia; the portrait of Fletcher Christian (1/- stamp) (artist unknown) also in the Dixon Collection; Bounty Bay (2/6) taken from the book "Pitcairn: The Island, the People and the Pastor" by the Rev. Thomas Murray (1855) ; John Adams (112d stamp) from the drawing by Capt. R. Beechey (1825). The engraving was by H. Adlard who also engraved the image of John Adams' house shown in the 112d stamp. Bligh's image in the 2d stamp is from a sketch by J. Russell and engraved by Adlard, and the Bounty was adapted from a still from the first motion picture in 1935.

The printing of the first definitive is also interesting. The 1d, 3d and 2/6 stamps were printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson and Co. Ltd. Of London, and were slightly smaller than the remaining values which were printed by Waterlow and Sons Ltd. of New Malden. The entire series was recess engraved and printed on paper watermarked with the multiple crown and script "C. A." of Crown Agents.

A new Post Office was constructed and the first definitive went on sale on October 15, 1940, and were withdrawn on July 1, 1957. Eight reprintings were made during this time. Sales were staggering - Maude and his wife stamped covers for 16 days although the date stamp remained firmly on 15 Oct. 1940! After this is was destroyed to stop entrepreneurial Islanders from profiting into the future.

In 1951, the original eight definitive stamps were joined by two additional stamps featuring the original Bounty Bible (4d stamp) and the Schoolhouse, as seen in 1949 on the 8d stamp. Both stamps were designed to fit into the definitive family look with the King's head inset as for the original designs. The Pitcairn Islands Philatelic Bureau has added the two 1951 stamps to this issue giving the 2015 definitives a total of ten stamps. This is to insure most make up rates are covered (the 2007 definitives featured 12 stamps) and to treat the 2015 release as a commemoration of the "early" definitives in addition to the "first" definitive.

The First Day Covers show ealy photographs of the Post Office and staff, including Roy Clark. What is also interesting on these covers are the two cachets shown. While the first likely cachet was of the schooner Yankee, skippered by Captain Irving Johnson and used by the Islanders who produced "home-made" covers featuring the new definitive, the first cachets specifically prepared are known in philately as Types 12 and 13. The designer of Type 12 is unknown and all the text is with the type in blue. Type 13 is thought to have been designed by R. H. Mower of San Francisco, California. His cachet refers to Pitcairn as the Gem of the South Pacific Ocean.

2015 Definitive Collectors Notes:

Designer: Denise Durkin, Wellington, New Zealand. Printer: Southern Color Print, Dunedin, New Zealand. Process: Offset Litho. Stamp Size: 40.0 mm x 28.0mm. Format: Two panes of 20 horizontal stamps each, with central tab. Perforation Gauge: 14.00 x 14.285. Denominations: 10c, 40c, 60c, 80c, $1.00, $2.00, $4.00, $5.00, $$6.00, and $10.00. Paper: 103gsm Tullis Russell Yellow/Green phosphor stamp paper. Period of Sale: 15 October 2015 for a period of approximately 7 years. Acknowledgments: The Philatelic Bureau appreciates the assistance of Herbert Ford, Everett Parker, Vernon Kisling, Dr. Arthur Delaney, and the use of images for the FDC's from the collection of Tony Probst.

Pitcairn Stamp Issues

(Click small stamp images to see larger views.)

Below is a listing of all Pitcairn stamps issued since 1940 when Pitcairn Island began issuing its own stamps

  • 2015
    • 75th Anniversary DeFinitives 1940-2015
    • The Breadfruit Saga
    • Prominent Pitcairners - 4 Ben Christian
    • Pitcairn on Canvas
    • Red Lion Fish
  • 2014
    • Byrd Expedition Visit -75th Anniversary
    • Nelson Mandela
    • 250th Anniversary of Birth of Fletcher Christian
    • Centenary of World War I
    • Botanic
    • 225th Anniversary of the Mutiny of the Bounty
    • Albatross – Giants in the Sky
    • Mutiny Anniversary
    • Albatross
  • 2013
    • Ship Landing Point
    • John F. Kennedy
    • Prominent Pitcairners - 3
    • Royal Baby
    • QE II Coronation Anni.
    • Lobsters
    • Cruise Ships 2013
    • Nordhoff and Hall
  • 2012
    • Charles Dickens
    • WWF Clam Shells
    • Prominent Pitcairners - Roy Clark
    • Romantic Bounty
    • Botanical
    • Queen's Diamond Jubilee
    • Dolphins
    • The art of Pitcairn Part 4 - Tapa
  • 2011
    • Christmas
    • Parkin Christian
    • Pitcairn Supply Ships
    • Birds of Henderson
    • Royal Wedding
    • Peony Flower
    • Paper Wasp
    • Fautu Flower
  • 2010
    • Endemic Snails
    • Hotspots
    • WWF Tropical
    • Reef Fish
    • London 2010
    • ANZAC
    • Children’s Art
  • 2009
    • Royal Navy Visitors
    • Aircraft over Pitcairn
    • Wandering Gilder
    • Drangonfly
    • Charles Darwin
    • Panda
    • Return to Pitcairn
    • Coconut Cra
  • 2008
    • Green Turtles of Henderson Island
    • Discovery of a Community
    • Sunsets
    • Flowers and Bees
    • Pitcairn Longboats History
    • Pitcairn From Space
  • 2007
    • Pitciarn Ocean Fish
    • 10th Definitive, Bounty Detail
    • Salt and Pepper Moths
    • Rock Carvers
    • Raising the Bounty Anchor
    • Terns and Noddies of the Pitcairn Islands
  • 2006
    • Majestic Whales
    • Early Civilizations, Part 1
    • Cave Dwellers of Henderson
    • Journey to Norfolk - 150th Anniversary
    • The Queen's 80th birthday
    • Old Glory - 175th Anniversary
    • Stunning Scenery of Henderson Island
    • 80th Birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II
    • Old Glory 175th Anniversary
  • 2005
    • Christmas 2005
    • Cristle-thighed Curlew
    • Bounty II
    • Royal Wedding
    • Blue Moon Butterfly
    • Oeno Eclipse
    • Scenic Views – Oeno & Ducie
  • 2004
    • Scenery of Pitcairn
    • Murphy’s Petrel
    • Bounty
    • HMS Pitcairn
    • Scenery of Pitcairn
    • Shells Part III Terebra
  • 2003
    • Blue Star Line Ships
    • Shells Part II - Conus
    • Golden Jubilee of The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
    • The Art of Pitcairn Part II - Weaving
    • The Art of Pitcairn Part III - Painted Leaves
    • Squirrel Fish
    • Christmas 2003.
  • 2002
    • Notable Figures of Pitcairn
    • Golden Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II
    • Feline Friends - Pitcairn Cats
    • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
    • Trees of Pitcairn Part III.
  • 2001 – Cruise Ships
    • Pitcairn Internet Domain Names
    • Tropical Fruit
    • The Art of Pitcairn Part I
    • Woodcarving
    • Cowrie Shells
    • Butterflies of the Reef.
  • 2000 – Botanical Definitive: London
    • Mr. Turpen
    • Millennium Part III
    • Exhibition Sheetlet
    • Anaheim Exhibition Sheetlet: Space
    • Christmas 2000
    • Queen Mother’s 100th Birthday.
  • 1999 – School Days
    • Bounty Relics
    • Millennium Part II - towards 2000
    • The Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Edward to Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones
    • Pitcairn Island Honey Bees.
  • 1998 – Christian’s Cave
    • Millennium Part I - towards 2000
    • Diana, Princess of Wales
    • Botanical
    • Year of the Ocean.
  • 1997 – Hong Kong ‘97
    • South Pacific Commission
    • Island Health Care
    • Royal Golden Wedding Anniversary.
  • 1996 – Supply Ship Day
    • 70th Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen
    • China ‘96
    • Amateur Radio
    • World Wide Fund for Nature.
  • 1995 – Birds Definitive
    • Oeno Holiday
    • Queen Mother’s 95th Birthday
    • Marconi - 100th Anniversary of First Radio Wave Transmission
    • 50th Anniversary of the United Nations.
  • 1994 – Lizards (overprint)
    • Early Pitcairners
    • Shipwrecks
    • Corals
    • Christmas.
  • 1993 – Royal Navy Vessels
    • 40th Anniversary
    • Her Majesty’s Coronation
    • Scenic Views II
    • Lizards.
  • 1992 – 40th Anniversary - Her Majesty’s Ascension
    • Sharks
    • Sir Peter Scott Commemorative Expedition
    • 175th Anniversary of Bligh’s Death.
  • 1991 – Bicentennial Celebrations
    • Cruise Ships
    • Royal Birthdays
    • Transport
    • Christmas.
  • 1990 – Bicentenary Sheetlet 3: Settlement of Pitcairn Island
    • Links with the UK
    • Stamp Booklet
    • 90th Birthday of HM Queen Mother
    • 50th Anniversary of First Pitcairn stamps
    • Henderson Island Birds.
  • 1989 – Bicentennary Sheetlet 1: Voyage of HMAV Bounty to Tahiti to collect Breadfruit
    • Tripartite Sheet
    • Aircraft
    • Bicentenary Sheetlet 2: The Mutiny on the Bounty.
  • 1988 – 150th Anniversary of the Constitution
    • Australian Bicentenary
    • Seventh Definitive Issue: Ships 6th Definitive Additions.
  • 1987 – Trees of Pitcairn II
    • 19th Century Paintings Part II
    • Ships Serving the Pitcairners.
  • 1986 – The Wedding of HRH Prince Andrew and Miss Sarah Ferguson
    • Turtles
    • The Seventh-day Adventist Church
    • 60th Birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
  • 1985 – The Life and Times of HM Queen Mother
    • 19th Century Paintings Part I
    • Ships Serving the Pitcairners
    • Christmas 1985.
  • 1984 – Sixth Definitive Stamp Issue: Fish
    • Night Sky
    • Ausipex ‘84
    • Pitcairn Island Longboats.
  • 1983– Commonwealth Day
    • 175th Anniversary of Folger’s Discovery of the Settlers
    • Trees of Pitcairn I.
  • 1982 – Fruit of Pitcairn
    • 21st Birthday of HRH The Princess of Wales
    • Christmas 1982.
  • 1981 – Scenic Views I
    • 125th Anniversary of Pitcairn Migration to Norfolk Island
    • The Wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales
    • Fifth Definitive Additions.
  • 1980 – London 1980
    • 80th Birthday of HM Queen Mother
    • Handicrafts.
  • 1979 – 150th Anniversary of the Death of John Adams
    • Engravings
    • Christmas 1979.
  • 1978 – Bounty Day
    • 25th Anniversary of the Coronation of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II
    • Development.
  • 1977 – Royal Silver Jubilee
    • Fifth Definitive.
  • 1976 – U.S. Bicentennial.
  • 1975 – $1 Fourth Definitive Addition
    • Mailboats
    • Insects.
  • 1974 – Shells
    • Centenary of Universal Postal Union
    • Centenary of Birth of Sir Winston Churchill.
  • 1973 – 50c Definitive Addition
    • Flowers
    • Royal Wedding of H.R.H. Princess Anne.
  • 1972 – 25th Anniversary of the South Pacific Commission
    • Royal Silver Wedding.
  • 1971 – Polynesian Pitcairn
    • Royal Visit of H.R.H. Prince Philip (overprint).
  • 1970 – Flowers
    • Fish.
  • 1969 – Fourth Definitive Addition.
  • 1968 – Human Rights Year
    • Handicrafts
    • 20th Anniversary of the World Health Organization.
  • 1967 – Bicentennial of the Discovery of Pitcairn
    • Definitive Decimal Surcharge
    • 150th Anniversary of the Death of Admiral Bligh.
  • 1966 – Sir Winston Churchill
    • World Football Championships
    • W.H.O. Headquarters
    • 20th Anniversary UNESCO.
  • 1965 – Definitive Addition: New Value
    • ITU Centenary
    • International Co-operation Year.
  • 1964 – Third Definitive.
  • 1963 – Freedom from Hunger
    • Red Cross Centenary.
  • 1961 – Centenary of Return from Norfolk Island.
  • 1958 – Definitive Addition.
  • 1957 – Second Definitive Addition
    • The First Queen Elizabeth Pictorials.
  • 1953 – Coronation Issue.
  • 1951 – Definitive Additions.
  • 1949 – Silver Wedding of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
  • 1946 – Victory Issue.
  • 1940 – First Definitive.

[Pitcairn Postal Service]

Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Supply Ships
Christmas FDC
Supply Ships
Royal Wedding
Royal Navy Visitors
Royal Navy Visitors
Aircraft over Pitcairn
Flowers & Bees
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[Pitcairn Postal Service]