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Pre-independence PNG stamps are still a delight


First election 1964I AM SURE THERE ARE far more experienced people around than me when it comes to Papua New Guinean pre-independence stamps.

I used to collect stamps when I was a kid and recently re-discovered my old album at my old Dad's house.

I found to my delight that I had a few Papua and New Guinea stamps dating from the 1960's.

I am a PNGnThere was one celebrating the first House of Assembly election in 1964, another marking the fifth South Pacific Conference in 1962, and others celebrating industry, wildlife, plus a beautiful one of a smiling Melanesian woman.

I know there were some lovely series produced in the 1960s including birds of paradise, tropical fish, and local carvings. These stamps were highly valued by collectors worldwide.

Tapping rubberHas anyone else got some interesting old stamps from pre-independence PNG?

Stamp my footnote: Rather insultingly, the old Royal Mail stamp album categorises Papua and New Guinea under "New Zealand dependencies and British Islands in the Pacific Ocean".

The shame!


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Catherine yung

I have a used 5d first common roll election PNG stamp, is it worth anything?

Peter Lamb

I have small case full of 1960s PNG stamps. No idea what they're worth but there are hundreds if not thousands of them. Can someone help me please.

Peter Kranz

Harry - I had completely forgotten that you wrote a brilliant overview of PNG stamps in December last year. Please accept my apologies.

By the way, I have also found a green stamp of a tree kangaroo overprinted with 5d (probably 1950's vintage).

Why did they overprint stamps like this? Was it just to save money when postage prices increased?

Peter Kranz

Re Japanese overprints, WW2 stamps. There are some forgeries around from post WW2. If you find an original, you have won the lottery.

More details here -

There is also a Papuan Philatelic Society -

Be careful.

John Rayward

Some time ago, Harry Topham wrote ' Hidden Treasures : early PNG postage stamps'.

In it he made mention of Japanese overprints (anchor etc) on NG BOP stamps during WWII .

I have a set but Stanley Gibbons advised me recently that there are no genuine examples of these stamps.

Does anyone have a comment, please.

Peter Kranz

Forgive my ignorance, but what were the South Pacific Conferences? Some sort of pre-APEC colonial gathering?

We have the stamps.

Before the Pacific Forum there was the South Pacific Commission (colonial times). It had conferences - KJ

Harry Topham

Peter - A good start to stamp matters PNG is “Franklins Guide to the stamps of PNG”, published in 1970.

As well as giving a good overview surrounding matters philately it also has good background information as to historical events in PNG.

Interesting in that many of these matters contained in this book are not normally be included in standard history books about PNG.

Peter Kranz

More on the influence of that 5d stamp.

It was produced at a time when Australian indigenous peoples did not necessarily have the right to vote (although they did in some states).

So maybe colonial PNG pioneered the rights of indigenous peoples to be accepted as citizens and have the right to vote.


The Menzies Liberal and Country Party government gave the Commonwealth vote to all Aborigines in 1962. Western Australia gave them State votes in the same year. Queensland followed in 1965.

With that, all Aborigines had full and equal rights. In 1971 the Liberal Party nominated Neville Bonner to fill a vacant seat in the Senate. He was the first Aborigine to sit in any Australian Parliament.

Peter Kranz

I think a social study of the history and development of PNG stamp designs over the years would be fascinating, as it would throw some light on colonial, political and cultural change.

The other area that's worth exploring is the history of map making. I assume the first maps of PNG were coastal charts created by navigators, but with the threat of WW1 looming, I'm sure the Army were heavily involved in developing the first ordnance survey maps.

Anyone know more about the history of cartography in PNG? This maybe be a useful area of research for students.

The Dept of Lands and Planning has an active and talented mapping bureau.

Harry Topham

Peter wrote, “there is a lot of info around about stamps from PNG and, as Harry mentions, some are rare and valuable, especially stamps from the old German New Guinea.”

Certainly right there but an understatement perhaps.

The forthcoming stamp auction mentioned has the following listings.

GRI 3/- overprint on old German Colony Marshall Islands stamp at suggested starting bid of, wait for it $35,000 or if too dear then a set of 5 GRI 3d overprints on old German registration labels for a paltry $1,500.

Even the sub market segment of old German taim bipo picture postcard collections hold high values with starting bids at $100.00 for relative common samples.

Be interesting to see what they finally realise as this market segment is a good litmus test of how strong monetary values really are.

Harry Topham

Peter - Yes you are right, even in philately the cold hand of politics plays its hand.

The design of the 5d mentioned was adopted from a suggestion from a Mr Levy-Courvosier.

The design of the second 2/3d issue was to be taken from a photograph of the interior of the House of Assembly but because the election date was brought forward from the original date which did not allow enough time for the selection of the second design it was decided to accept the 2/3d value in the same design as the 5d but in different colours.

PNG is probably more fortunate than other “South Pacific” territories” at that time in that greater foresight and eclectic thoughts prevailed.

If one looks at the British issues in their colonies at that time it can bee seen that there was very little imagination shown, as most of the British colonial stamp issues are all of the same design with royal heads predominating.

Disregarding my favourite sets of pre WW2 Lakatoi issues for Papua, I think that the best designed and printed stamps of contemporary PNG were the definitive pre-decimal series first issued in 1952 as their print quality is of the highest quality and the themes chosen truly reflected the real PNG society.

Peter Kranz

That 5d stamp from 1964 celebrating the first common roll election is a masterpiece.

Stamps can be subversive.

Consider the time and place. This is a black hand, casting a vote anonymously into the ballot box.

This is back at a time when Australia still had a 'white Australia' policy and there were 'white only' bars, hotels, beaches and restaurants in Mosbi. Hell, even whole suburbs.

There is no text on the stamp, other than the Art Noveau typeface saying PAPUA & NEW GUINEA.

An affirmation; a black hand casting a vote; the hand and the ballot paper are the focus of attention.

This is agitprop art of the highest order.

One reason I love stamps.

Peter Kranz

There is a lot of info around about stamps from PNG and, as Harry mentions, some are rare and valuable, especially stamps from the old German New Guinea.

A useful intro can be found in Wikipedia -

Of particular interest is the appearance of Steve Dagora (born 1919) on a postage stamp of Papua in 1932, when he was 13 years old. He is called the "son of Oala", a reference to his father, Chief Oala of Hanuabada.

One fascinating thing about stamps is they are little snapshots of time and place - like mini time capsules - and usually the graphic art involved is of a very high standard.

Bob Cleland

My late father was a keen and informed philatelist when a young man. A profession, a war and a PNG job left no time to continue.

Imagine his delight when he found one of his jobs as Administrator was to give final approval on all stamp issues.

He knocked a few back over the years but mostly their concept and artistic merit was of such a high standard, that he approved them forthwith (a favourite word of his).

Bob's father was Sir Donald Cleland, a much respected and long-serving Administrator of PNG, 1953-67 - KJ

Harry Topham

As another old stamp tragic I could not resist replying.

Stamps, although being only small slips of paper recording the social, political and geographical history of the country portrayed but when looked at closely reveals to many to that they are also miniature works of art.

The first Papuan Lakatoi series stamp circa 1901 was also a reproduction of an original photograph of Port Moresby taken by Captain Barton off the coastline of Hanuabada.

Many people would also not be aware that the first PNG artist to have his art works officially recorded for posterity was the Tolai artist Samuel Cham whose painting of the Rabaul Harbour scene was reproduced in the 1963 10/- PNG issue.

Whilst to many their interest may lie in the stamps themselves to some true purists of that odd hobby of philately, the real gems lie in collecting those rare samples of earlier postal history whereby the stamps are still adhered to their original envelopes.

Alas such dedication requires a deep commitments and a long pocket.

A very extensive collection of earlier examples of PNG stamps is due to be auctioned in October this year by “Prestige Philately”

One can only drool at the tid bits on offer, as the reserve prices set would only attract the most serious investor market segment.

But then again there is that most forlorn hope that a win on Gold Lotto is still on the cards.

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