Stamps and Postal History of the German Marshall Islands
by Dirk H.R. Spennemann

This page provides an overview to an in-depth treatment of the postal history and the stamps used in the Marshall Islands. All links on this page will take the reader the relevant chapter of the book.

In various German colonies in the Pacific postal services had existed prior to German annexation, which had also issued stamps. Examples are Samoa, where stamps were produced by local entrepeneurs in 1877–1882 (Samoa Express stamps) and also in 1887–1900 (Palm issues). In German New Guinea the first services were those by the German Reichspost. In Micronesia, the Spanish operated a mail service out of Manila, touching on Guam as well as the Spanish garrisons on Yap and Pohnpei (Ponape).

Samoa Express stamp (1877) Samoa Davis Post Office (1885) Spanish Marianas Stamp (1899)

Prior to the Spanish-American War of 1898 the Spanish administration in Micronesia used domestic stamps from the Spanish Philippines without overprinting (right), while the official Spanish correspondence went on Naval vessels without postage stamps. After the loss of the Philippines as a consequence of the Spanish-American War of 1898 Spain sold her Micronesian colonies to Germany. For the short period between February and November 1899 stamps were in use in the Spanish Marianas, which had been produced by overprinting Philippine stamp stock which had become obsolete.

The lack of standardised and reliable shipping services to the 'outside' world implied that it was of little use to create stamps for the German Marshall Islands. Most of the pre-German and early German was delivered by captians of vesels to Honolulu or Sydney and posted from there.

A post office opened on Jaluit in March 1889. The first stamps used were standard German Reich stamps of the Eagle issue of 1880, postmarked Jaluit. An example is example shown at left. In 1899 these "Vorläufer" issues were replaced by formal issues, which consisted of standard German stamp stock overprinted with "Marschall Inseln." In this the stamps were identical to issues produced by the German Post Service for the other German colonies in the Pacific and in Africa. These issues had been produced given the demand for 'colonial' stamps created by stamp collectors. Issued were the values of 3, 5, 10, 20, 25, and 50 Pfenning. Soon after a variant issue, using the correct spelling "Marshall Inseln" was also issued.

In 1901 the German government produced a uniform colonial issue featuring the Imperial Yacht Hohenzollern. Two designs were produced, a smaller one for the 3, 5, 10, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50 and 80 Pfennig values and an oblong one for the 1, 2, 3, and 5 Mark values. During the period post office was opened on Nauru. Just before the outbreak of Wolrd War I the German post moved to produce these stamps on watermarked paper. Some of the values and postal stationery were produced for the Marshall Islands even though the colony had been lost early in the war.

Following the capture of the Marshall Islands by Japan and of Nauru by Australia in the early days of World War I, the German postal service ceased to function. The German stamp stock on Jaluit was officially destroyed. Yet a number of stamps are known that are overprinted with the personal seals (chops) of Japanese Officers. These are philatelic oddities but were never used for mail.

On Nauru Australian troops captured German stamp stock, which was taken to occupied New Guinea and overprinted "G.R.I." (George Rex Imperator). These G.R.I. isues are rare and have been extensively forged, usually using fraudulent overprints on genuine stamp stock. In 1916 the British government issues standard British stamp stock overprinted 'Nauru' for use on the island.


Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2002). Stamps and Postal History of the German Marshall Islands. Overview
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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