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Courtesy of Siegel Auction Galleries, Advertiser lot 9

Hawaii's first stamps are known as the Missionary Issue. Four stamps of three values - 2¢, 5¢ and 13¢ - comprise the issue, all printed locally by letterpress at the Government Printing Office. Missionaries are assigned Hawaii Nos. 1-4 by Scott Catalogue. The first three stamps in the issue were announced for sale on October 1, 1851, at the Honolulu and Lahaina post offices. By early April, 1852, the fourth stamp was printed to correct confusion and state clearly the 13¢ value was to pay both Hawaiian and United States postage through to any East Coast United States destination.

Missionaries were issued and used while stamp collecting was a "school-boy" hobby in England and Europe. Few examples of these stamps were retained. When adult collectors and stamp periodicals began to pay attention, Missionaries were immediately recognized as among the rarest of all postage stamps and high prices reflected the intense interest in them. Forgers quickly made imitations for sale, some marketed as space fillers and some as attempts at fraud. Around 1919, a group of forgeries known as the Grinnell Missionaries came to light. In a celebrated lawsuit in Los Angeles, California, the Grinnells were declared fakes in 1922, but the fight to have them found genuine has been pursued into the 21st Century. Recently, after an intense two year examination using modern high technology the Grinnells once more were found to be fakes by the Expert Committee of the Royal Philatelic Society London.

Interest in Missionaries was stimulated by the November, 1995, auction of the vast Advertiser Collection. Missionaries locked in collections for decades, some for more than one hundred years, came to market and more collectors are now able to count them in their collections. 

 For Forgery Study, click Here

 For Grinnell Study, click Here.






Hawaii Missionary stamps.jpg

Fun Facts:

Rain got you home bound? thinking about a vacation to Hawaii?

Here is some very early Hawaii postal history. I do not have even a damaged early Hawaii missionary stamp in my worldwide used collection, someday perhaps......Hawaii


Printed on a fragile pelure paper .0015" thick, the stamps are easily damaged and most known examples are repaired. The 2¢ stamp pictured above once belonged to Henry Crocker. When he bought it in the 1890's a small piece was missing from the top left corner. Later Crocker bought some scraps of Hawaiian stamps and among them was the missing piece. He had the piece restored to its original place. The 5¢ stamp above is missing the bottom margin and frameline, which has been added and painted in with some additional repair work to the upper margin. This stamp also is re-backed, a preservation step taken with many Missionaries. The bottom left example on this page has a portion of a border line mended by expertly added paper with the missing stamp portion painted in. The bottom right example is intact with a few paper wrinkles but no repairs. For the Missionaries, I define minor damage to include adding a portion of a border line or sealing a tear, thin or small hole and carefully painting in the repair to match the original. Repairs affecting the fancy borders at the center of the stamp or the lettering are more serious than minor, in my estimation, for pricing purposes. I personally disagree with doing repair work of any kind on the Missionaries (other than to prevent further damage, such as sealing a tear) so the foregoing is a description of market acceptance, not of approval.


Henry Whitney, Honolulu's first postmaster directed the design and printing of the Missionaries. Whitney was also employed by the Government Printing Office which published the Polynesian, Hawaii's principal weekly newspaper at the time. Printing of the Missionaries was done at the Government Printing Office possibly on a small press used for printing business cards or cartes de visite. A form of two subjects was made from type available at the Polynesian or at the Mission House where the monthly Friend was published.


The printing form had two clichés side by side and each was different than the other. Type I is the left hand subject and Type II is the right hand subject in the form. Scott Trepel has suggested the order of printing began with the 5¢ value because the small "n" of type II was in the wrong font and was corrected for the 2¢ value. The 13¢ Hawaiian Postage followed and around April, 1852, the 13¢ H. I. & U.S. was issued. In type II of the latter, the period after the "U" is missing. See Volume 1 of Siegel Auction No. 769, the Advertiser Sale, p. xi-xv.




Local and Inter-island mail was carried free of charge until 1859, well after use of the Missionaries was discontinued. Thus the Missionaries were issued to pay the international rates then in effect. Postage rates and mail arrangements of the early 1850's are detailed in the Foreign Mail page. Click here for a list of recorded Missionary covers.

  • The 2¢ stamp also was used to pay the 2¢ ship fee on letters.

  • The 2¢ value was issued to pay the Hawaiian portion of the newspaper rate.

  • Hawaii charged 5¢ postage to carry mail from the Honolulu post office to a ship in the harbor and the 5¢ value was for that rate. If only 5¢ was paid, the letter was sent with United States postage unpaid.

  • Hawaii also charged 5¢ for incoming letters, collected at delivery. Two inward covers, both addressed to Mrs. Pogue at Lahainaluna, are franked with the 5¢ stamp. Mrs. Pogue was Henry Whitney's sister and it is believed Henry Whitney added the stamps at Honolulu to relieve his sister from having to pay postage on delivery.

  • Someone who wanted to fully prepay the Hawaiian and United States combined postage on a single weight letter bound to the Eastern states could do so with the 13¢ stamp. This rate included the 5¢ Hawaiian foreign mail charge plus the 6¢ rate from San Francisco to the East via Panama plus a 2¢ ship fee paid by the San Francisco post office to the captain of a vessel bringing mail. Each additional half ounce cost only 11¢ but no stamp of that value was issued.

  • The first 13¢ stamp confused its purpose by using the words "Hawaiian Postage." It was replaced with another 13¢ stamp with "H.I. & U. S. Postage" in place of "Hawaiian Postage." Most reference sources give November, 1852 as the time when the second 13¢ stamp was issued, but a folded letter with a confirmed date of April, 1852 shows those sources were incorrect.

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