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Postage stamps and postal history of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands

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Postage stamps and postal history of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands

A 1911 stamp of the islands.
3-pence value showing an island scene, 1939
A first-day cover franked with all of the four UPU stamps of 1949.

The first mail service to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands was ad hoc, depending on which ships were calling at the various islands. A regular service began in 1911; Edward VII postage stamps of Fiji were overprinted GILBERT & ELLICE / PROTECTORATE and put on sale on 1 January of that year, followed in March by a set of four stamps depicting a Pandanus tree, inscribed GILBERT & ELLICE ISLANDS / PROTECTORATE.

George V

These were followed in 1912 by Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth II

A set of four stamps on 1 May 1960 commemorated the 60th anniversary of the discovery of phosphate at Ocean Island. The definitive series of 1965 depicted daily activities of the natives, but a decimal currency conversion necessitated surcharges in 1966 and a reissue of the stamps in 1968. The colony issued about 10-15 stamps per year thereafter, usually as sets of four, until the end of 1975.

In 1976, the islands became two separate colonies and later independent as Kiribati and Tuvalu.

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