Monday, March 31, 2008

Stamp Issuers - Aitutaki

Aitutaki, 1903 (Scott #2)
Overprinted New Zealand Stamp
Aitutaki is a small chain of islands, approximately 7 sq. miles (18.3 sq. km), situated in the Cook Islands, in the Southern Pacific Ocean. The islands form a triangular shape and are surrounded by beautiful trees, sandy beaches, and other tropical features.

Aitutaki was settled by Polynesians most likely around 800 AD. The Polynesian peoples established homes upon the islands and were generally isolated from most of the world.

Captain James Cook spotted several of the islands, which were later named in his honor, in the 1770s. The first European visitor to Aitutaki was Captain William Bligh, of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, who in April 1789 set foot upon the island. Shortly after his visit, his ship, HMS Bounty, was party to the infamous mutiny.

Aitutaki, 1920 (Scott #29)
First Series with "Aitutaki"
Printed on Stamp
In the 1820s, missionaries worked in Aitutaki to bring Christianity to the native peoples, who readily accepted it. The stamps of Aitutaki, especially those of Easter and Christmas, reveal the wide acceptance of Christianity that is still prevalent today.

Cook Islands stamps were the original source of postage on Aitutaki from 1892 to 1903. In 1903, New Zealand overprinted its own stamps with "AITUTAKI" and the local denomination and these were used as Aitutaki stamps. Only overprinted New Zealand stamps were issued until 1920.

In 1920, New Zealand issued a set of stamps for all of the island nations in which they were associated. These were the first stamps issued for Aitutaki that were not overprints from New Zealand.

Starting in 1932, Cook Islands stamps were once again used in Aitutaki as postage. This went on until 1972 when Aitutaki established their own postal service. The first stamps during this time were actually overprinted Cook Islands stamps, but in April 1973 Aitutaki commenced issuing their own stamps.

Aitutaki, 1978 (Scott #162)
Cook's Discovery of
Hawaii, Bicentennial
The stamps of Aitutaki are moderately priced. For example, the first 2 stamps, overprinted New Zealand stamps, catalog for about $6 (USD) each, although subsequent stamps in the early issues escalate up in price. The highest stamp price for a mint stamp is around $55. As a general rule, used stamps of the early issues run higher than mint stamps, since the small island population resulted in few opportunities for postally-used stamps to be found.

Approximately 550 regular stamps are cataloged in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue. As far as "back-of-the-book" stamps, around 55 semi-postal stamps, 6 air mail stamps, and 41 official stamps have been cataloged.

Some collectors shun Aitutaki stamps because there is little actual postal use for the stamps. The island has approximately 2000 residents and any number of tourists, but it is apparent that most stamps are sold to tourists and collectors. The post office uses these stamp sales to bring in much-needed revenue for the islands.

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