A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gilbert & Ellice Islands

1911 Scott 11 2 1/2p ultramarine "Pandanus"
Quick History
The Micronesian Gilbert Islands and the Polynesian Ellice Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia, began as a protectorate in 1892, and then a British colony from 1916 until 1976. Thereafter the Gilbert Islands became the majority of the island nation of Kiribati (pronounced "Kirr-i-bas") in 1979, while the Ellice Islands were renamed Tuvalu in 1978. Both are currently members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Gilbert & Ellice Islands
Copyright: brcstamps.com
The Gilbert group has Butariti, Tarawa, and Tamana as the more important islands. Besides the Ellice Islands, the Phoenix Islands, the Line Islands (Fanning, Washington, and Christmas (aka Kiritimati, not the Indian Ocean Christmas Island that puts out stamps)), and Ocean Island are part of the colony. By the way, notice the U.S. Howland Island? That is the last place Amelia Earhart's radio transmission was heard*.

The Capital was Tarawa, and the population was 30,000 in 1940.

Present day Kiribati & Tuvalu
Presently, the Micronesian Kiribati has 100,000 residents.  Polynesian Tuvalu has 10,000 population, the third least populous sovereign state in the world, and the fourth smallest in land area (10 sq mi).

1911 Scott 1 1/2p green "Gilbert & Ellice Protectorate"
Overprinted stamps of Fiji 
Note "General Post Office Ellice" postmark
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has 65 major descriptions between 1911-1940 for Regular, Postage Due and War Tax categories. Of those, 33 are <$4 CV. "Affordability" index is 51%.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
20 Shillings = 1 Pound
The "Funafuti Provisionals" of 1916 caused quite an uproar in the philatelic press at the time. These values, surcharged by the Post Office in Funafuti because of a shortage of stamps, have never been listed in Scott.  SG withdrew their listing in 1923. For a fascinating read about this episode, click on:

1911 Scott 3 2p gray "Gilbert & Ellice Protectorate"
Stamps of Fiji overprinted
A regular ship service for picking up mail began January 1, 1911, and hence seven Fiji "King Edward VII" stamps were overprinted as illustrated for the first stamp issue. The least expensive are two mint stamps for $7+, with the rest $15-$45 CV. Perhaps the reason the used CV is high for these stamps ($10+-$90), is because they were only out a couple of months before the next  issue was produced.

1911 Scott 9 10 carmine "Pandanus"
In March, 1911, four stamps were issued depicting the Pandanus Tree. This lovely set is fairly inexpensive (CV $1+-$5).

1912-24 Scott 23 2sh violet & ultramarine/blue "George V"
Wmk 3, Die I
In 1912, the familiar "George V" designs were produced with twelve denominations, all watermarked  "Multiple Crown and C A"-wmk 3, and Die I. Eight stamps range in CV from <$1-$2+.

1918 Scott MR1 1p scarlet
The War Tax overprint of 1918 was also a wmk 3, Die I design. For a refresher on the Die I/Die II differences, see the Fiji blog.


I will also revisit the Die I/Die II variations with the "Gold Coast" blog; next to be published.

1924 Scott 29 1 1/2p scarlet
Wmk 4, Die II
A five stamp "George V" issue was produced between 1921-27 that had the watermark ""Multiple Crown & Script C A" -wmk 4, and Die II. Three stamps have CV between $2-$5.

Note the crown is not dropped down as far into the solid color vignette area as in Die I. For watermarking illustrations, see the prior Gibraltar blog .

1939 Scott 40 1/2p dark green & slate blue "Great Frigate Bird"
In 1939, a nice pictorial set of twelve stamps was issued. Nine stamps are CV <$1-$2+. Seven stamps (illustrated above) are of the larger design.

1939 Scott 41 1p dark violet & bright blue green "Pandanus"
This King George VI set also has a smaller design as one will note above. Other scenes depict "Coconut trees", "Phosphate loading jetty", and "Ocean Island".

1940 Postage Due Scott J1 1p emerald
Note the printing error in "Ellice"?
In 1940, a eight stamp Postage Due set was issued with various colors for different denominations. The CV is rather high; $5-$30+.

Of interest, this particular 1p emerald does not show the full "E" in "Ellice". Stanley Gibbons makes no mention of a consistent error, so this must be an idiosyncratic plate printing flaw?

Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has five pages for the Gilbert & Ellice Islands, and I have stamps on four pages. The layout follows Scott.  But, of interest, Steiner includes two additional spaces for perforation varieties (minor numbers) for the 1939 issue George VI pictorials.

1939 Scott 46 5p dark brown & deep ultramarine 
"Ellice Islands Canoe"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on one page, has 28 spaces beginning with the 1911 "Pandanus" issue. Coverage is 43%.

There are no stamps included with CV over $10. 

The George V stamp spaces, per usual, combines the wmk3/wmk4 and Die I/Die II varieties; although in this case there is not a lot of overlap, except for the 2p gray. The 1p "scarlet" George V listed by BB, is now a minor number (15a). The major number, Scott 15, is "carmine". I include both as choices as a nod to pragmatism.

The Silver Jubilee issue (CV $1+-$5) is not included in BB's space choice.

Simple Checklist


14,15a or 15, 28,29,16 or 30, 17,18,19,


1938 (actually 1939)

A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): none
B) ( ) around a number indicates a blank space choice
C) Additional comments above in blog

1939 Scott 42 1 1/2p carmine & black 
"Canoe crossing reef"
Out of the Blue
An interesting grouping of stamps for an interesting grouping of islands. ;-)

Note: The Gilbert & Ellice Islands Map is copyright, but is used with the kind permission of Brian of brcstamps.com.  The Kiribati Map appears to be in the public domain.

*Amelia Earhart search scheduled for this summer (2012) is focusing on Kiribati's Phoenix Island chain and Gardner Island (Now called Nikumaroro), where the landing gear of her plane on a reef may have been spotted from an old 1937 photograph.

Gilbert & Ellice Islands - Bud's Big Blue

Comments? Would like to hear from you!


  1. Thanks for great information! Got back into collecting after may years and started looking for Big Blue info and found your gem of a blog.

    I also was lucky enough to win an auction on eBay last month. Here's the auction title and link:

    WW, CHINA, BRITISH COLONIES, 13000+ Stamps in 2 vol Scott International Pt 1


    Any opinions? Twenty cents per stamp a decent premium for 13000 in 2 albums?

    Anyway, this blog will help in getting these Big Blues filled.

    Thanks again.


  2. Great lot Mike! You definitely have some stamps I don't have. :-)

    A very good way, in my opinion, to jump start a Big Blue collection.

    Enjoy, and feel free to contribute to the blog discussion. :-)

  3. Nice write-up Jim, and you made my map look good :)

    I did post a note on the PISC website about the "C" for "E" postage due, but so far no replies.


  4. Thanks Brian

    It's a very nice map. :-)

    And thanks for posting the question on the Pacific islands Study Group.

  5. Just discovered your blog, while I was searching for Info about Germany in the Marshall Islands and loved it!
    All this information about old time post stamps is awesome!

    Congrats and hope you'll continue this great work.

    1. Alejandro- thanks for the kudos- I always enjoy a compliment or two. ;-)