Wednesday, 15 June 2016

776. Goodbye Norfolk Island Post.

  It's always sad when an excellent stamp-issuing entity stops issuing its own stamps and is taken over by a greedy, exploitative philatelic agency. Several such cases come to mind from recent years and now it's happening again. Due to political changes affecting the island, Norfolk Island Post will cease providing a postal service to the islanders from 1 July 2016 and therefore end it's production and sale of postage stamps.
  In Its place, Australia Post will begin to release stamps inscribed Norfolk Island Australia and who knows what expensive, little philatelic pleasures will be produced in the name of the island's postal service in the future as a result of this development. 
  Chris de Haer, reporting these unfolding events on Stampboards, reveals that Norfolk Island Post's last stamp issue was released on 7 June 2016 and commemorated the 160th anniversary of the landing of the Pitcairners on Norfolk Island which actually occurred on 8 June 1856. The stamp depicts  a ledger book found in a storeroom on Norfolk Island by John Buffett on the day the Pitcairners landed there and subsequently used by him as a diary. Rating:- ***** (if only because of the limited period of sale for this particular miniature sheet).
  Australia Post states that its first issue for Norfolk Island will feature "2 iconic birds" of the island - the Red-tailed tropicbird and the Masked booby; the subject was suggested by an organisation called Parks Australia. Why, I wonder, are the Norfolk Islanders themselves not allowed to choose the subjects for the stamps on which the name of their home is printed? This seems a good example of the typical arrogance of a large organisation given the responsibility to provide "a service" to small local communities.
  Nor, at this stage, does it seem that the first stamps will be issued on 1 July 2016 even though Norfolk Island Post stamps will no longer be valid. What postage stamps will be used on the island in the interval - ordinary Australian stamps? This will be an interesting period for collectors to keep an eye open for what mail turns up from the island and it sounds as though there will be some postal history in the making for a short time.
  The eternal inventiveness, no matter how bizarre, of those charged by postal administrations with the job of extracting money from stamp collectors and the non-philatelic public continues to amaze me. The latest jaw-dropping wonder dreamed up to impoverish collectors by the Isle Of Man postal administration is astounding to me. I mentioned the new "Parish walk" set of 17 stamps (cost £7.65) in Blog 764 but this has been expanded by the Manx Philatelic Bureau into 2 "Collectable sheets", each made up of 108 stamps arranged differently in the 2 sheets - the first with a pale blue edge is the "Philatelic sheet" whilst the second, the "Postal sheet" has dark blue edging. The price of the first is £45.90 while the second costs £48.60 - total £94.50p (!) I am not sure why one is more expensive than the other but I see no reason why anyone would want to spend such an amount of money on either of these items so the question of the differing prices is merely academic. Rating:- 0.

  I thought I had mentioned all the items released to commemorate the New York 2016 Stamp Exhibition but I think that I have overlooked one further issue from "The World's Most Respected Philatelic Agency", the US-based IGPC. The item is a sheetlet of 3 different stamps inscribed with the name of Tuvalu on the subject of "New York's Iconic Sights and Scenes" with a stated date of issue of 29 April 2016. Rating:- 0.


  1. Regarding Norfolk Island, the first stamps to be inscribed 'Norfolk Island, Australia' will be released in September 2016 (no set date at the moment), but a set of six postage paid postcards will be on sale from early July featuring scenes from Norfolk Island.

    I can only suggest the reason for the delay is the need to wind up Norfolk Island Post, and for Australia Post to establish itself and to take over. Norfolk Island Post is/was run by the Norfolk Island Government, which had an agreement with Australia Post for the transfer of mail to and from the island, and then for sending it on to its destination. Norfolk Island Post is planning to send refunds to standing order account holders by September, and will still be selling stamps until the end of the year. A similar situation occurred with Cocos (Keeling) Islands, when Australia Post took over on 1 January 1994, but didn't release stamps until end of February 1994. Christmas Island's transfer was apparently much more orderly, with Australia Post taking over on 2 March 1993, and the first stamps being released on 4 March 1993. I has always had excellent dealings with the post office staff on Christmas Island, and this probably contributed to the smooth transition.

    I will add that both Christmas and Cocos had far less autonomy than Norfolk Island (Norfolk Island is allowed to set its own taxes for example), and up until the mid 1990s Australia Post also acted as an agent for Christmas and Cocos, selling their stamps through mail order and philatelic desks (although they were not valid for postage). No doubt this made the transfer easier.

    The most interesting thing is that from 1 July 2016, Norfolk Island stamps will no longer be valid for postage. This is a different situation to what happened with Christmas and Cocos, where their stamps continued to be valid for postage after the transfer (but only from the individual islands). Two possible reasons are:
    * Norfolk Island had greater autonomy, its own tax regime, and hence greater independence. Australia Post is essentially taking over another government's post office, and so probably doesn't want to take on the responsibility of handling their stamps as well.

    * Also, the total value in unused stamps sold by Norfolk Island is a liability, as past stamps could be used at any time for postage. In 1993, Christmas Island had only been issuing stamps for 25 years, and in 1994, Cocos only had been issuing its own stamps for 15 years (stamps issued from 1966 to 1978 were produced by Australia Post), but Norfolk has been issuing stamps for 50 years - that's a lot more potential postage out there!

    1. Dear Chris, thank you so very much for taking the time to write such an interesting and helpful comment. There does seem to be quite a number of people who read this blog so I'm sure your comment which help a lot of people and reach an audience who may not all read Stamp Boards for instance. These are interesting times for those who collect modern Australian stamps and those of their territories, are they not?

  2. I don't think Australia Post will issue many stamps inscribed Norfolk Island, seeing they issue only 2 or 3 sets a year inscribed AAT, Christmas and Cocos.
    And, correct me if I am wrong, I never seen expensive $5 stamps like Norfolk's last issue from the other territories.

    1. 2 or 3 sets a year for each territory I mean.

    2. Hello stewie1911 - I agree that Australia Post has been more restrained with its "territories" issues than the rest of its general programme but there's no denying that in recent years the annual issue for Christmas Island to commemorate Lunar new year has been excessive what with "prestige booklets" and multiple sheetlets and miniature sheets and gummed and self-adhesive versions of the same stamps as well its Christmas issue with the so-called "embellished" stamps and so on. It seems unlikely that Australia Post will not take advantage of another income-generating opportunity with a whole new "territory" in its grasp.
      Best wishes.

    3. It will be interesting to see how Australia Post handles Norfolk Island. We used to have just a single AAT issue, now we have often have two a year. Cocos is still restraint, but there's only 500 odd people. Christmas Island's Lunar New Year issue is growing larger no doubt due to popularity of this series, and no doubt it is one way Australia Post can contribute to Philatelic making a profit.

    4. I'd actually like to see a regular (maybe annually, or biennial) joint issue between Australia and its four territories. The last one consisted of a four stamps (one each for Australia, Christmas Island, Cocos and AAT) for WWF, and then a miniature sheet for each territory. There are hundreds of topics to chose from - birds, plants, marine life, military heritage, postal history, etc.

  3. I believe that Norfolk Island Post has been losing money on philatelic sales for a number of years. Numbers issued have been very small, and at times the release of issues has been rather chaotic (stamps have been printed but lost in transit, planned issues were designed, publicised but never eventuated, issue dates moved around etc.)

    Despite this, it is still impressive that a territory with just under 2000 people still managed to design, organise the printing, and distribution of their own stamps 'in house' and not go to an agency, though I believe those in the philatelic bureau were under a lot of strain, due to staff leaving and not being replaced etc.