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Stamps of the Cook Islands

I fell in love with stamps of the Cook Islands when I was a subscriber to Herrick Stamp Company American Bicentennial Collection in 1976. Herrick sent out monthly topical shipments and provided me with a topical Album that I still have and cherish.


When the Cook Islands issue Scott #445-46 and the souvenier Sheet #447 arrived I was fascinated by the actual connection between Captain Cook and Benjamin Franklin. The artwork of the Cook stamps was magnificent and I started to see what older issues I could add to my collection.


The first set that caught my eye was Cook Islands Flower issue of 1967-69. There were not that many really good topical issues in 1976 and this set (Scott # 199-220) was an outstanding design from Cook Islands and with 23 stamps and it would fit onto an entire album page by itself.


Next up were the 1968 Captain Cook Painting stamps #233-236,C12-15. Herrick priced them at only $1.25 at the time and they looked like the artist was the same one who did the American Bicentennial Issue. Golf stamps are always of interest and Cook Islands had one of the earliest golf stamps in the set #254-58. Herrick had it priced for under 50 cents at the time so I bought a few. Retail now is about $8.00 and golf stamps are very popular with golfers and philatelists.


Cook Islands is far away from Asia and America and they really do use high value stamps so in 1974 Cook issued stamps to honor the 2nd voyage of Captain Cook and issued coins at the same time. These high denomination stamps #406-07 and the souvenier sheet #407A were never cheap. In fact I think they have remained at close to their new issue price for over 30 years. Perhaps there is not much demand for high value Cook stamps unless there is more topical appeal. Still, I liked them in 1976 and still do today.


The 1975 Cooks stamp set for explorers of the Pacific featuring original art showing Magellan and other 16th century explorers and their routes on the stamp designs remains one of my favorites.


My interest in Cook Island stamps waned for a while but in 1980 a giant set of over eighty different Coral topical stamps from the Cook Islands area renewed my interest that continues to this day. That set #564-586 was issued in parts, had high values and was very popular from the day it was issued. Still today you can see parts of the set offered at stamp shows, but not that many complete sets are in dealer hands. This big Cook Islands Coral set retails for about $100 today. If you can find it.


Stamps of most British Commonwealth countries from the year 1985 to date seem to be in short supply. Herrick remained as a new issue stamp dealer and maintained a stock of British Commonwealth stamps, but many new issue dealers such as Warner, Gerson,Minkus ,Stolow and other gradually sold or closed their doors. They all had stocked new issues and now only two or three dealers could afford to put away new issue stamps for future generations.


Thus nice topical sets like the Rubens painting set #866-869 and #870 which had a low face value of under $3.00 now retail for almost $30.00. They really are had to find.


In 1987 a horrible typhoon hit the Cook Islands and the Post Office became flooded as did most government buildings and there was chaos. As recovery began there were no stamps available for postage and the Main Post Office had been under water for days and there were few stamps in the smaller outlets. Fortunately there had been a small stock of stamps put aside for what the Cook Post Office called “presentation purposes”. I do not know the definition of this term, but it did mean that there were some older stamps available for use. However they were not of the right denominations for the current postal rates so they were all overprinted in early 1987.


These stamps were in very short supply then and remain so today, yet prices have not risen that dramatically because they were issued for postal purposes and had no topical designs to speak of. These stamps are Cook Island Scott #948-82 a 35 stamp provisional overprint set and #984-89.


From 1988 until today there has been a conservative stamp issuing policy that when combined with attractive designs have made Cook Islands stamps more popular than ever. Some of the recent Cook Island Stamp designs are really outstanding.


My favorites are the Columbus stamp and souvenier sheet of 1992 Scott #1107 and . I recall going to Ameripex International Stamp Show in Chicago and saw those stamps on the Inaugural edition of Global Stamp News. The cover was in color and I wanted those stamps! I got them and still have them.


The 1994 Robert Louis Stevenson stamps are in a block of four different designs and listed by Scott as #1194. They show his most famous works, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Dr. Jekyell and Mr. Hyde and also David Balfour. A great stamps set.


The end of World War II anniversary in 1995 was the cause for a very well designed Cook Island WWII commemorative that is in short supply today. This pair (Scott #1198) shows the German World War II surrender at Rheims setenant with a stamp featuring the Japanese WWII surrender on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.


Some of my other favorite stamps from the Cooks Islands are;

#1215-1226h a set of twenty Butterfly stamps still reasonably priced..


#1095-1106 and #1119-24 and #1134-38 make up a 23-value animal set that Scott still lists in parts. These are wonderful postage stamp designs showing elephants Grizzly Bear, rhinoceros, dolphins, hummingbirds, penguins, a lion, and falcon. Gorilla and lots of other animals and birds. Really nice.


As I write in August 2008, Olympic games are on television and in the press. Cook Islands sends its athletes to the Olympics under the New Zealand flag. There are some wonderful Cook Island Olympic stamps in the modern era. Take a look for




#998, #999,



#1238 and

#1203-08. These are the more modern Olympic stamps.


Cook issued earlier issues but I like the more modern designs better. My collection is pretty complete and lacks only a few Cook early issues and the rare # 192-94. I used to see this set at auction from time to time, but have not really seen it offered in a few years.


There is a wonderful book about Captain Cook by J.C. Beaglehole. It can take a while to read, but there is a lot of meat in this book and no true enthusiast of Cook Island stamps should pass it by. The title is The Life of Captain James Cook and in it is a description of his exploration of Hawaii and his death there. A painting is illustrated showing Captain Cook in uniform holding a golf club. It is entitled  “On the Sands of Sandwich”. That is the only reference anywhere  to Captain Cook and Golf  This painting has not appeared on any Cook Island stamps. Yet.

Contact's: William Arthur