Sent With Aloha: Rare Hawaii Postage Stamps

Everyone’s a collector of some sorts, whether we realize it or not. Pokemon cards, recipes or bottle caps get stashed away somewhere in a box or get put on display in all their prized-possession glory. And for the subtle collectors, it’s those music downloads or bookmarked websites saved on their computers that can easily be overlooked as a probable pastime.There’s a lot of stamps in this Hawaii lot. Each worth much more than what they were originally sold for.

And believe it or not, postage stamps continue to top the lists of most popular collectibles. Even if you’re not a philatelist – a cool word referring to a stamp collector – you might want to consider picking up a few on your next visit to Hawaii. They could be worth something one day. Millions, even. Hawaiian stamps and covers (envelopes) get auctioned off all the time. In 1995, a 143-year-old letter cover sold for $1.9 million, a U.S. record at the time. And a decade later, experts claimed a group of Hawaii missionary stamps to be worth as much as $10 million.

I came across an interesting newspaper article while doing some background research for this blog post. The headline read: “2-cent Hawaiian stamp was once murder motive.” Turns out, a Paris collector was found dead in his apartment way back in the 1800s. Detectives searched the apartment and found nothing but a 2-cent missionary stamp had been missing. This clue helped them track down the murderer. The murderer confessed to killing the Paris man because he wouldn’t sell the stamp needed to complete his collection.

First postage stamp of Hawaiian Kingdom and the one that caused the murder of a collector.

That’s some pretty heavy stuff. And over a stamp? It’s amazing how a craze can become just that – crazy! But perhaps the fuel to this fire could be just how much history lies in the square inch postal sticky, especially in Hawaii. WIth the transition from a Hawaiian monarchy to the 50th U.S. state, there’s a lot that can be said in a tiny illustration. The first set of stamps called “The Missionaries” came out in the 1850s and today belong to only a few lucky collectors. These were the parent lot to the stamp previously mentioned as a murder motive. Around the same time, people started putting little images of Hawaiian monarchs on their outgoing letters. The latest of the stamp printouts featured monarchs such as, King Kamehameha I, King Kamehameha III and King David Kalakaua.

While stamp collecting isn’t as big as it used to be, there are still heaps of philatelists as of late. The Hawaiian Philatelic Society meets monthly to talk stamps and bid on them. Nearly half of the members live in Hawaii while the others come from all over the world. They’re so into it that they even issue a quarterly journal called Pookela O Hawaii.

Check out some collectible stamps or get ones you already have appraised. An annual Hawaii All-Collectors Show happens again later this year at the Neal Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.

Photo Credit: Greg Chang, Hawaii Philatelic Society

Sources: Cahill, Emmett. Illustrated History: Hawaiian Stamps. Volcano: Orchid Isle Publishers, 1987 (Photo Credit); “2-cent Hawaiian stamp was once murder motive.” Star-Bulletin & Advertiser [Honolulu] 23 Feb. 1975: A-11; Ohira, Rod. “Isle letter cover delivers $1.9 million.” Star-Bulletin [Honolulu] 8 Nov. 1995: A-3; “If genuine, Hawaii stamps could get $10M.” Star-Bulletin [Honolulu] 19 Aug. 2006: A-6.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Holy Moly…committing a murder over a stamp..I had no idea that stamp collecting was so deep. But some of these oldies but goodies are quite cool looking. May have to check out the stamp collectors show at Blaisdell. Mahalo!

  2. My Aunt collected the Hawaii stamps. Not sure who or even if anyone has them after she passed away. Her boys maybe did not realize there worth and throw them away.

  3. Bruce, I have all the Hawaian stamps you have on your web page, plus several Hawaian stamps from 1864 to 1899. In 1893 there was a provisional gov’t and I have 4 of those. How can I find out their value, and where do I go to sell them? I live in Mt. Hood Oregon, but we come over every so often! Thanks, Bob Barbre

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