Click To Go Back To The Main Stamps Homepage

Welcome! You are visitor to
FastCounter by LinkExchange

Glen Stephens The Biggest Stamp Dealer in the Southern Hemisphere

Tonga New Issues About to Cease?


plane.gif (14932 bytes) globe.gif (88214 bytes)


By Glen Stephens


In a surprise development, the Kingdom Of Tonga has parted company from its long term philatelic advisor who was based in England.

Mr. Alan Benjamin, along with the late Derek Worboys, were appointed philatelic advisors to Tonga back in 1981 and have guided new issue policy ever since.

Tonga has a fascinating philatelic history. Nineteenth century Tonga is a philatelic Nirvana for many keen specialists. The 1896 type-written surcharges are a life's study in themselves. The 1897 7˝d "Inverted Centre" (Scott #47a) is one of the keenest sought rarities from the Pacific whenever one comes up to auction, bringing several thousand dollars each time.

No collector can not have yearned to own one of the garish cachet covered, romantic sounding "Tin Can Mail" covers created by Walt Quensell in the seeming millions during the pre-war era. These striking covers were allegedly swam out to passing ships thru shark infested waters in a watertight kerosene can, attached to the ankle of the swimmer! The covers featured dozens of totally meaningless coloured handstamped slogans, in many languages covering both sides, like "Blikken Bus Post."

Later followed all manner of metallic foil, and "free form" shaped stamps issued over the past 35 years, most of these being in self adhesive format, and often in zany die cut shapes such as bananas, watermelons and coconuts.

In this respect Tonga pioneered the stamp format of choice today by many large western countries, predating wide useage by 30 years. In Australia for instance, use on business mail of self adhesive stamps far exceeds those of conventional "lick and stick" gummed equivalents. Countries such as US and England are quickly catching up.

Few collectors will ever forget the quite massive circular "beer coaster" metal foil issues of 1963 which pioneered this new issuing trend, so revolutionary back 35 years ago. Nearly every new issue had a different shape die cut from self adhesive thick card.

Many Tonga issues during this period have become very valuable and sought after, such as the 1973 Boy Scouts set 13, (Scott #322/6, C130/34, CO69/CO71 ) which catalogues for $US183.45 and routinely sells for a high percentage of that figure, anywhere in the world. Many other sets from the period sell for over $50 a set. The propensity in the 1960s and 1970s for Tonga to issue most sets with regular stamps, plus a few airmails, plus a few officials, plus a few official airmails, has posed a nightmare for dealers, collectors, and catalogue makers for decades.

As a quick glance at any catalogue will confirm, from 1981 Benjamin and Worboys "normalised" stamp issues from Tonga. No more zany shapes, and no more sets in 3 or 4 component parts. Yes the stamps were self adhesive, but the designs, dimensions and issue policies looked much in line with any other rather conservative stamp issuer from the Pacific. It is my belief that all Tonga issues from the mid 1980s onwards are underpriced, as they were sold in quite small numbers, and few dealers anywhere in the world bought extra sets for stock.

The curious feature about the recent announcement is that it appears to be hinting no stamps will be issued from Tonga and satellite islands for some time in 1998. It will be interesting to see if Tonga will be absorbed into one of the larger "agency" groups who specialise in small countries.

The announcement was made in a very quaintly worded manner to the editor of the Tonga And Tin Mail Study Circle, whose journal is titled the "Tin Canner."

I reprint here the wording of the letter sent to the "Tin Canner" editor by Laumakia Tupou, the Deputy Chief Postmaster in Tonga. The wording is exactly as received.

"This is to advise that Hon. Minister of Finance in his capacity as Controller of Tonga Posts has decided to terminate the service of Mr. Alan W. Benjamin as stamps consultant for Tonga and Niuafo'ou and to be effective as from 1 January 1998. In this instance you are asked to consider Mr. Benjamin's consultancy status as no longer appropriate to Tonga/ Niuafo'ou stamps program as from now on.

"Due to overdue outstanding account of the Philatelic Bureau the Postal authority had decided to greatly reduce the number of issues to be printed in 1998 and onwards until such a time when the Bureau would manage to kick on. For further details you may hope you are appropriately advised."

I've seen some pretty hard to translate "governmentspeak" announcements in my time, but this one from Mr. Tupou beats all. Readers would be wise to follow the suggestion given in the 'Tin Canner' journal: "members who have standing order accounts with Tonga would be well advised to check directly with them". Knowing of Tonga's legendary reputation for speedy, efficient handling of mail enquiries, I wish you well!

Tonga had hoped to focus much international philatelic interest upon iteslf by claiming to be the first country to witness sunrise on January 1, 2000...the supposed "Dawn Of The New Millenium." This claim has come under spirited debate from astronomers and experts all over the world. Even the Royal Observatory in London has become involved.

The tiny mid Pacific island group, and stamp issuing country of Kiribati apparently were even seriously lobbying to have the International Date Line altered slightly, which they adjoin, so their country would be the first and LAST to witness the new century! The last I heard the remote Chatham Islands to the south east of New Zealand were deemed to be the lucky location by the experts.

Tourist earnings to whichever country is proven correct will be enormous. Many very expensive charter flights, tours, and cruise boats will descend upon whatever inhabited point on earth first witnesses sunlight on the next century, and by definition, last hosts New Year's Eve 1999. Upmarket tour company Abercrombie & Kent have a colour brochure listing specific exotic places and tours able to be booked to spend "New Years Eve 1999." My favourite is Antarctica, at only $A11,900 per person.

Tonga is one of the last true Kingdoms on earth. King Taufa'ahau IV has ruled for 31 years and is now 80 years old. The King is an absolute monarch in every sense. The Tongans are very large solid people, the King is certainly no exception. In Tonga size and girth are regarded as attractive and desireable.

These articles are all Copyright © 1999 Glen Stephens. They may NOT be reprinted or used without written permission. However, permission will be granted for virtually any reasonable useage purpose, providing full and correct attribution to the writer and magazine is given. Applicable scans from articles in black and white or color can also be arranged to be E-mailed to you.

Above is one of my Market Man "Tipster" columns published in the Australasian STAMPS Magazine.


To order, click here. To read ordering instructions, click here.

Instant Currency Conversion
Universal Currency Converter
FREE! Just click here...

Order from Stevo on-line NOW!!   Click HERE




Life Member: ASDA, PTS, APS, ANDA. ALL Postage + Insurance is extra. Visa/BankCard/MasterCard/Diners/Amex all OK, even for "Lay-Bys"! All lots offered are subject to my usual Conditions of Sale, copy upon request or they are outlined in full on this Web site. Usually allow at least 14 days for order dispatch. If you want same day shipping please go elsewhere! I am Sydney's BIGGEST STAMP BUYER: Post me ANYTHING via Registered Mail for my same-day cheque. Avoid  NASTY auction "commissions" of GENERALLY 35% (12˝ + 15% + GST, etc.) AND their five-month delays! Read this for details. I stock Australia & Pacifics nearly 100% complete 1913-1980. Ask for my LOW quote!

"Lothlórien," No. 4 The Tor Walk, CASTLECRAG (Sydney), N.S.W. 2068
Phone: (02) 9958-1333 Fax: (02) 9958-1444 (Both 25 Hours, 7 Days!)
Web Sites:,, or

Back to Lists of Stamp Lots for Sale


Time and Temp in Sunny Sydney!


Sign up AUTOMATICALLY to my world renowned bi-weekly stamp gossip mailing list!

Click here for full library of my unusual world travels!

E-mail Me - Click HERE Right Now For Regular Specials, News, 
Updates, etc and Other Great  Stuff!

Click here to get back to many lists of lists of stamps for sale at low $A Nett prices!

Click here to find out all you need to know about SELLING your stamps for SPOT CASH

Click here for the current Monthly "Internet Only" special offers - CHEAP!

Click HERE to read my recent International stamp magazine articles.

Click to go back to the main Stamps Homepage

Stampboards where Philatelists Meet..

Instant Currency Conversion
Universal Currency Converter
FREE! Just click here...

E-mail me at -

Every credit card shown is accepted WITHOUT fee.
Earn Frequent Flier points while buying at bargain prices!
ALL prices are in weak Ozzie Dollars. I charge NO nasty, nasty
"Buyer's Commission" on stamps like nearly every "Auction" does.