50th Anniversary of the first Pitcairn Islands Stamps

50th Anniversary of the First Pitcairn Islands Stamp Issue
            15 October 1990         20c, 80c, 90c, $1.05, $1.30                  Mint and CTO        $4.25
                                                                                                             FDC                       $4.75

Technical Details

        Release Date:                    15 October 1990
        Tablet Values:                   20c, 80c, 90c, $1.05, $1.30
        Artist:                                Derek Miller
        Printer:                              Walsall Security Printers Ltd
        Process:                            Lithography
        Paper:                               CA Watermark
        Stamp Size:                       31.75 x 48.25 mm
        Perforation Gauge:            14.75 per 20 mm
        Pane Format:                    50 (2 x 25)
        Mint and CTO:                 $4.25
        First Day Cover:               $4.75

Without long explanations all that can be said of Pitcairn's postal service during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is that it was irregular and unorganised.  There being no postage stamps, mail from Pitcairn was often handed to the captains of passing ships who paid for the onward postage upon reaching their first port of call.  Frequently such letters carried a hand-stamped cachet "Posted in [or at] Pitcairn Island / No Stamps Available".

Attempts were made by the British early in the twentieth century to organise a postal service through the British Consul in Tahiti but only small quantities of mail appear to have been carried.  Probably the most helpful measure was that introduced on a semi-official basis by Mr Gerald Bliss, postmaster in the Panama Canal Zone, shortly after the canal opened in 1915.  Mr Bliss acted as unofficial agent for the inhabitants of Pitcairn for a number of years and his office became a clearing station for Pitcairn Island mail.

A number of visiting government administrators having pointed out over the years the disadvantages stemming from the lack of a postal service, it was agreed by the British and New Zealand governments in 1921 that both countries would accept and deliver unstamped mail from Pitcairn.  The concession consisted of a waiving of thenormal double surcharge on unstamped letters and reverting to the earlier postal system whereby the receiver paid for the mail.

In time, abuses of the system (passengers in passing ships were reputedly putting mail ashore for onward transmission under the "no stamp" system) led to New Zealand Post Office authorities withdrawing the concession in May 1926.  There followed a period of twelve months when Pitcairn was once again without an authorised postal service.

This unhappy state of affairs came to an end on 7 June 1927, when an agency was established on Pitcairn for the sale of New Zealand stamps.  Thus, until 14 October, mail despatched from Pitcairn bore New Zealand postage stamps covered by cancellations reading "Pitcairn Island/NZ Postal Agency".

Largely as a result of recommendations made by Mr J S Neill, a Colonial Office employee sent out in 1937 to report on and suggest improvements for the form of government on Pitcairn, official notice was given on 30 Aapril 1940 of the the establishment of a Post Office on the island.  In due course this led to the closing of the /NZ Post Office Agency on 14 October 1940 and the opening the folloowing day of the Pitcairn Islands Post Office with the release of the first Pitcairn Islands stamps.  This consisted of the eight designs making up the definitive issue which remained on sale until July 1957.

Designs for this set incorporate stamps on stamps.  One definitive stamp from each decade since 1940 has been selected to represent Settlement, Education, Communication, Royalty and Ships.

20c stamp:  1940 Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers look towards Pitcairn.  (With Bounty Chronometer).

80c stamp:  1957 The Schoolteacher's house; this design first released on 2 July 1957 carried the incorrect inscription "Pitcairn School".  It was re-issued on 11 May 1958 with the correct inscription.  (With Bounty bible).

90c stamp:  1969 Government Radio Station at Taro Ground.  (With Pitcairn Bell).

$1.05 stamp:  1977 HRH Prince Philip with St Paul's Rock and the Royal Yacht Britannia.  Prince Philip visited Pitcairn in February 1971.  (With HMAV Bounty).

$1.30 stamp:  1988 HMS Briton and HMS Tagus.  First British vessels to visit Pitcairn after settlement by the mutineers.  (With illustration of Penny Black - 150th anniversary of issue).