Postage Stamps used in the German Marshall Islands
5 – Early Issues (Vorläufer)
by Dirk H.R. Spennemann


The first stamps to set up the post office were despatched to Jaluit on 30 April 1888 but did not reach the atoll until 16 March 1889, almost an entire year later.[1] In total, the initial establishment of the Jaluit Post Office comprised of 13,000 stamps of various denominations and 600 post cards (see here for details). The term 'Vorläufer' describes all those stamps which were issued, or used, in Jaluit, but which are not specifically created for use in the Marshall Islands. From 1889 until the issue of the first overprinted Eagle series stamps in 1897, the following German Stamps were issued: The German stamps issued to Jaluit were the 2 Mark stamp of the 1875/80 issue, the 5, 10, 20 and 50Pfg values of the 1880 issue, and the 5, 10, 20 and 50Pfg values of the 1889 issue.[2] Details on the appearance of the individual stmaps can be found in the catalogue of the Vorläufer.
The quantities of stamps issued in Jaluit have been reconstructed as follows:
Quantities of stamps of the 1880 emission issued at Jaluit [3]
 ValueQuantity issuedQuantity returned
 3 Pfg0exist, brought in individually
 5 Pfg1,100900
 10 Pfg1,900100
 20 Pfg4,000nil
 25 Pfg0 may exist, brought in individually
 50 Pfg700?
 2 Mark300?

These series stamps became officially invalid on 31 January 1891, but the German South Seas Post offices had been permitted to use up their stamps stock until the end of that year. [4] All old stamps stock remaining was sent back to Berlin on 17 January 1892 after the new Eagle series stamps had been issued. The 2 Marks stamp, however, remained issued until 30 September 1901 when it lost its validity. [6] The 2 Mark stamp was not issued at the post office counter as there was no perceived need for this and was solely used in internal mail services.[7]

Examples of Vorläufer Issues. Left: Standard Reichs-Issue (Type 1880)—Right: Standard Reichs-Issue ('Eagle Issue' 1889)

The Postal Administration in Hamburg, responsible for the Marshall Islands, despatched the Eagle series stamps on 26 January 1891 to Jaluit, where they were used from November 1891. The stamps were sent to Jaluit in small batches between 1891 and July 1897. The 5 Pfennig stamps were in very low demand. Until end 1896 only 100 had been sold. As late as June 1896 1,000 (of the total of 1,100) 5 Pfg stamps were despatched.[8]

The Eagle series stamps were issued at Jaluit from November 1891 until mid 1891, whenn they were replaced by the overprinted Eagle series stamps. But even after these had been issued, the Vorläufer retained their validity and could be used until 30 September 1901 when all Eagle series stamps lost their validity and were replaced by the Yacht series.[9]


Quantities of stamps of the 1891 emission issued at Jaluit [11]
 ValueQuantity issuedComments
 3 Pfennig0may exist, brought in individually
 5 Pfennig1,100 
 10 Pfennig1,500 
 20 Pfennig14,000 
 25 Pfennig0may exist, brought in individually
 50 Pfennig1,200 
 2 Mark (1875)500 

A census of the post office stock shows the low useage of the 5 Pf and 50 Pf stamps:


Useage of 1891 stamps in Jaluit [12]
  Quantity heldAverage
 Value31 December
31 December
Usage / year
 3 Pfennigstamp not issued in Jaluit
 5 Pfennig1012743134.5
 10 Pfennign/an/an/a
 20 Pfennigstamp not issued in Jaluit
 25 Pfennign/an/an/a
 50 Pfennig985439219.5

All legitimate Vorläufer, ie those issued before the sale of the overprinted Eagle series stamps must be cancelled with the Type I cancel. non-overrinted Eagle series stamps cancelled with a Type II cancel have to be regarded as Mitläufer. Forged Type I cancels exist for the Vorläufer. They have been found both on the 1880 and on the 1889 Eagle issue. The cancel date is 6.9.89.[13]


Examples of Cancelled Items
Separate pages provide examples of cancelled items and examples of covers

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Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2002). Postage Stamps used in the German Marshall Islands. Early Issues (Vorläufer)
URL: http:/

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

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