World Stamps

New Zealand overprints for Pacific Islands began in early 20th century

May 3, 2021, 5 PM

By Janet Klug

Overprinted stamps of New Zealand were used by Pacific islands beginning in the early years of the 20th century. At that time, several of the British protectorate islands were annexed to New Zealand.

In 1900, Niue was annexed to New Zealand as a part of the Cook Islands, but was granted a separate administration as a New Zealand associated state in 1904.

In 1901, the Cook Islands were annexed to New Zealand, receiving government support and financial assistance. Part of the government support related to postal arrangements.

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New Zealand provided Niue’s first stamps in January 1902. That first stamp was a New Zealand 1-penny Universal Penny Postage stamp. It bore the allegorical image of Zealandia, the personification of the country, and was issued for New Zealand in 1901 (New Zealand Scott 100). The stamps sent to Niue were overprinted “NIUE,” in capital letters and ending with a period (Niue 1).

Other denominations were needed and three additional stamps were issued for Niue in April 1902.

New Zealand stamps were again overprinted with the name Niue and surcharged with stamp denominations written in the local Polynesian language.

The second illustration shows the New Zealand Universal Postage stamp again, but this time the overprint reads “NIUE./TAHA PENI” (Niue one penny).

Overprinted New Zealand stamps were in place in Niue until 1920, when beautiful scenic stamps (Scott 35-40) were issued for Niue. The New Zealand overprints returned in 1937 with “NIUE” overprinted on the set of three King George VI coronation stamps.

In 1946, the New Zealand Peace issue of four stamps was overprinted for Niue (Scott 90-93), and in 1967, four New Zealand postal-fiscal stamps were overprinted for use as regular postage in Niue. An interesting aspect of these overprinted postal-fiscals is that there are two different gauges of perforations: perf 14 and perf 11.

As explained in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, “The perf. 11 stamps were produced when a normal perforating machine broke down and 2,500 of each denomination were perforated on a treadle machine first used by the N.Z. Post Office in 1899.”  The stamps that gauge perf 11 have more value than the perf 14 stamps.

The Cook Islands’ first stamps were issued in 1892 when the islands were a British protectorate. When the Cook Islands were transferred to New Zealand in 1901, the islands continued to use the Queen Makea and wrybill (a native bird) stamps that had been in use since 1893.

In 1919, New Zealand overprinted its King George V stamps with the islands’ Polynesian name, “RAROTONGA,” and denominations were written in the Polynesian language.

As happened with Niue’s 1920 scenic designs, Cook Islands issued some gorgeous Rarotonga stamps that year, in between bouts of overprinted New Zealand stamps.

In the following year, some New Zealand postal-fiscal stamps were overprinted for postal use in Rarotonga.

In 1926, New Zealand’s George V Admiral design stamps were overprinted for use in Rarotonga.

More New Zealand postal-fiscal stamps were overprinted “RAROTONGA” in 1931 and 1943. The New Zealand 1937 Coronation set of three and the 1946 Peace stamps were overprinted “Cook IS’DS” and “COOK ISLANDS,” respectively.

The last New Zealand stamp issue overprinted for use in Cook Islands was a 1966 New Zealand £1 postal-fiscal converted into a Cook Islands airmail stamp (Scott C9) with a three-line overprint showing an airplane, “COOK ISLANDS.” and “Airmail.” (This stamp also exists with the plane missing [C9a]).

Individual islands within the Cook chain also had overprinted New Zealand stamps. Aitutaki overprints began in 1903 using many of the same New Zealand stamps overprinted for Rarotonga. New Zealand overprinted stamps for Penrhyn Island began in 1902.

Tokelau Islands sovereignty was transferred to New Zealand in 1948, and Tokelau’s first stamps were issued that year, but the only New Zealand overprinted stamps used in Tokelau were postal-fiscal stamps issued in 1966 and 1967.

Samoa, formerly a German colony, was occupied by New Zealand in 1914, and during the occupation New Zealand stamps overprinted “SAMOA” were used. The League of Nations granted a mandate over the territory in 1920 to New Zealand.

From 1921-35, Samoa stamps were issued either with the name Samoa or Western Samoa. In 1935, “WESTERN SAMOA.” was overprinted on six different denominations of New Zealand postal-fiscal stamps (Samoa Scott 175-180), and four more New Zealand postal fiscals were overprinted for Western Samoa (216-219) in 1955.

New Zealand stamps that were overprinted for use in New Zealand’s associated states make up a challenging category of philately from Down Under.

Many varieties are in the catalogs; some of the stamps are easy to find and budget-friendly, while others are very difficult and/or expensive to acquire.

As always, it will be great fun to see how many spaces you can fill in your stamp album for this specialty area.