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...

Thursday, June 30, 2016


1887 Scott 2 2p violet "King George I"
Quick History
The Kingdom of Tonga archipelago consists of 169 islands (36 inhabited) in the south Pacific Ocean, which stretches for 500 miles in a N/S line, south of Samoa. Most of the population (70%) reside on Tongatapu.

Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean
Captain James Cook in 1773 named them the "Friendly Islands", because of his warm reception there. (Actually, the Tongan Chiefs wanted to kill him, but disputed the exact mode. ;-)

The Tongans are Polynesian, and the native language of Tonga is related to the similar Polynesian languages found in Niue, Samoa, and Hawaii. Now, the other official language is English.

Tonga became a constitutional monarchy under King George Tupou I (Siaosi), in 1875. The King was aided by a Methodist Wesleyan trained missionary named Shirley Waldemar Baker, who subsequently became the King's prime minister (1881-1890), and founded the independent "Free Church of Tonga".

Stamps were issued with a King George I visage in 1886.

Tonga Archipelago
Tonga became a British Protectorate in 1900 under a Treaty of Friendship. Tonga, however, maintained its sovereignty, and the Tongan monarchy continues to this day (Now Tupou VI). In contrast, Tahiti and Hawaii lost their monarchical rule.

The capital was and is Nuku'alofa, and the population was 20,000 in 1901, and 34,000 in 1939.

Tonga has been famous- and sometimes infamous ;-)  - in the philatelic world for two things. As it is a bit of a sidelight for purposes of this blog post, and they are major subjects by themselves, I will link them here for those that would like to pursue the topics further.

Tonga Tin Can Mail

Tonga Heart Shaped Stamp
In 1963, Tonga began to issue self-adhesive stamps. And not just "usual" designs or shapes, but in circular gilt-foiled paper, and then stamps shaped as hearts, birds, or fruit.

The Treaty of Friendship protectorate status with the United Kingdom ended in 1970. Then Tonga did join the Commonwealth of Nations, but with its own king.

Tonga became a member of the United Nations in 1999. 

Today's population is 103,000.

1934 Scott 39 1/2p green "Coat of Arms"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Tonga 1886-1951, 109 major number descriptions. Of those, 28 are CV <$1-$1+, or 26%. Raising the CV bar to $4+ yields 48, or 44%. As a British protectorate, Tonga stamps can be moderately expensive to expensive for a nicer collection.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 pence = 1 Shilling
20 Shillings = 1 Pound
1887 Scott 1 1p carmine rose "King George I"
The initial five stamp issue for Tonga was released between 1886-92, and can be found with perf 12 X 11 1/2 and also minor number perfs. CV is $2+-$7+ for four stamps.

King George Tupou I
The stamps have the visage of the King George Tupou I. He went by "Siaosi", which is Tongan for "George", named after the British King George III. His reign was between 1845-1893, and his coronation was in 1875. He lived to the ripe old age of 96, after taking a swim. !! This is the beginning of the Tongan dynasty that persists to this day.

Because of his respected power as king, and the 1875 constitution under which he governed, he protected Tonga from foreign colonization.

1894 Scott 22 1/2p on 1sh brown "George I"
Stamps of 1886-92 Surcharged in Blue or Black
In 1891-95, eighteen stamps were surcharged in blue, black, or carmine. Illustrated is a 1892 issue that was surcharged in 1894 during this period. Most of the 1891-95 surcharged stamps are rather expensive (CV $10+- $90), although a few are CV $2+-$8+.

1897 Scott 38 1/2p dark blue "Coat of Arms"
Between 1897-1934, a fifteen stamp engraved pictorial issue was produced on watermarked "Turtles" paper (Wmk 79).

The 1/2p "Coat of Arms" denomination was issued in dark blue in 1897. A 1934 1/2p was released in green - (illustrated at the beginning of the "Into the Deep Blue" section).

1897 Scott 40 1p deep red & black
"Ovava Tree"
The 1p denomination illustrates an "Ovava Tree", a type of tropical "Strangler Fig" tree.

1897 Scott 41 2p bister & sepia 
"George II", Type I
The 2p denomination has a visage of George Tupou II (Siasi Tupou II), who was King from age 18 until his death (1893-1918). He was the great-grandson of George Tupou I.

1897 Scott 41 2p bister & sepia
Type I closeup: Top of sword hilt shows above "2" 
The 2d is found with two types. Type I has the top of the sword hilt showing above the "2". Type II, no sword hilt shows.

Wmk 79 "Turtles"; Wmk 4 "Multiple Crown & Script C A"
In order to differentiate the stamps, one may need to pay attention to the watermarks. Shown on the left is the "Turtles" watermark found for the 1897-1934 pictorial issue. On the right is the Wmk 4 paper used for the 1942 issue "Types of 1897-1920".

1897 Scott 43 3p olive green & black
"Prehistoric Trilithon, Tongatabu"
The 12 ton trilithon is located on the north end of Tongatapu.

Stone Trilithon
The trilithon consists of three limestone slabs, built in the early 13th century. The trilithon was probably a gateway to the royal compound, although specific knowledge about it has been lost to the sands of time.  Popular mythology says it was made by the demigod Maui.

1935 Scott 54 1 1/2p gray black
"Queen Salote"; Wmk 79
Between 1920-35, a nine stamp engraved issue for the Queen, Salote Tupou III, was released. The issue was watermarked "Turtles". CV is <$1-$2+ for six stamps.

Queen Salote reigned between 1918-1965. She was the only child and heir of King George Tupou II.

She is remembered fondly in Great Britain especially, as she attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It began to rain, and hoods were placed over the carriages during the procession. But Queen Salote refused the hood, as Tongan custom does not allow one to imitate the actions of the person one is honoring.

1938 Scott 71 2p violet & black,
"Queen Salote, 20th Anniversary"
For the 20th anniversary of her reign, a three stamp engraved bi-color issue was released in 1938. CV is <$1-$3+.

1942 Scott 75 2p dull violet & black
Wmk 4, Type II
The 1942 issue (nine stamps) had types of the 1897 pictorial issue, as well as types from the 1920 "Queen Salote" issue. This issue can be determined by evaluating the watermark, which is Wmk 4.

The 2p comes in three types altogether: Type II (shown here) has the ball of "2" larger, with a small spur on the left of the "U".

1942 Scott 79 1sh red brown & gray black
Wmk 4 "Multiple Crown & Script C A"
The engraved 1942 issue "Types of 1897-1920" has a CV of <$1-$3 for seven stamps.

1942 Scott 78 6p orange red 
"Coral Formations"; Wmk 4
Here illustrated, from the 1942 issue (Wmk 4), is a "Coral Formations" pictorial, which was also issued in 1897 (Wmk 79).

1944 Scott 82 1p rose carmine & black
Type of 1938, Inscribed "1918-1943"
Finally, the 1938 issue was reissued as a type, inscribed "1918-1943", for the 25th anniversary of Queen Salote's reign.

Deep Blue
1938 "Queen Salote, 20th Anniversary" Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 9  pages for the stamps of classical era Tonga. All the major Scott numbers have a space. But the "classical" Steiner pages do not include the Tonga stamp issues of 1950 & 1951, even though they are listed in the Scott 1840-1940 catalogue. One can obtain the pages for the 1950 & 1951 issues from the "regular" WW pages of Steiner.

But the "classic" Steiner does have 4 additional pages covering the 1886-1895 King George I issues (Scott 1-28) with the perforation changes, color shades, and surcharge error Scott minor numbers.

1934 Scott 58 2 1/2p ultramarine
"Queen Salote"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on one page, has 27 spaces for the stamps of 1886-1938 Tonga. Eliminating post 1940 catalogue numbers (27), the coverage is 33%.

The 40s BB editions spaces are arranged differently, and have 30 spaces (One additional blank space for the 1886 issue, another additional blank space for the 1895 issue, and a space for the 1934 1/2p green).

There are five stamp spaces that are "expensive" (CV $10+-$20+) in BB for Tonga. These stamps are listed in the "Comments" section following the checklist.

BB has spaces for the 1897 issue and the 1920 issue that are Wmk 79 "Turtles". In my opinion, the 1942 issue (Wmk 4), that have similar stamps, are not eligible for the spaces in BB.





38 or 39*,41,42,45,

54,55 or 56,57,58,59,60,


A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1892 Scott 10 1p rose ($10+)
1892 Scott 11 2p olive gray ($10+)
1895 Scott 29 1p gray green ($20+)
1897 Scott 45 5p orange & black ($10+)
1897 Scott 47 7 1/2p green & black ($20)
B) *1897 are wmk 47 (Scott 38-47). The 1942 "Types of 1897-1920" (Scott 73-81), which are wmk 4, are not eligible for spaces based on BB date specifications.
C) *38- 39 (Illustrated) - are the 1/2p dark blue (1897) or the 1/2p green (1934), both Wmk 79. Based on BB's date (1897), the 1/2p dark blue should have primacy, but I did include the 1/2p green as a choice. Note the 1942 Scott 73 1/2p green Wmk 4 stamp is not eligible.
D) *1920-38 Wmk 79 issue- Stamps from the 1942 Wmk 4 issue (Scott 76 & 79) are not eligible.
E) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.

1938 Scott 72 2 1/2p ultramarine & black
"Queen Salote, 20th Anniversary"
Out of the Blue
I can even appreciate the 1963 Tongan issues that initiated a radical change in stamp design and shape.

But make no mistake: 1963 marks the year that eventually opened up the floodgates of numerous stamp issues from numerous countries, cynically milking the collector.

For the classical minded WW collector who is looking for some general date past 1940 to stop collecting, 1963 might be a good year. ;-)

Note: Maps, Image pics of Tin Can Mail cover, Heart Shaped stamp, King George I, Stone Trilithon, and Tonga Royal Palace appear to be in the common domain.

Comments Appreciated!

Tonga Royal Palace


  1. Interesting about 1963--it's good to see my choice to collect the world up to 1962 ratified! There really is a big change then, mainly due to decolonization.

    1. James - I agree.

      My secondary collection from 1940 stops @ 1962. ;-)

  2. Good to see your appreciation of these stamps. I have a big Tonga collection and those hearts and flowers are hard to get all of them. In the 7s the average set was 3 designs, 5 stamps for Postage, 5 for Airmail and 3 for Official airmail, your prices are cheap, many of the early stamps are pushing £100 plus now.

    1. No kidding- that much?

      I can see why - a lot of collectors rejected them, but now they are positively philatelic compared to some of the output from other countries today!