The Hawaiian 'Missionaries' stamps

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The famous Hawaiian 'Missionaries' got their name because they were used by American missionaries writing home from the islands. The rare stamps command huge prices at auction and are one of the treasures of world philately.

The story of the 2 cent Missionary, 1851, blue

Hawaiian born Henry Whitney was only 26 when in 1850 he was appointed Postmaster and he quickly introduced rather primitive stamps. On October 1, 1851 he issued a 2 cent, 5 cent, and 13 cent stamp.

The issues were hand set, resulting in a number of variations. They were also printed on flimsy thin paper, which made them very delicate and any existing copies, off paper, were inevitably damaged. Those found on cover fair better.

The stamps became much sought after by famous collectors. On one occasion, the story goes, the desire for ownership proved fatal.

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One Hector Giroux tried to buy an unused 2 cent blue from a wealthy colleague Gaston Leroux, but his refusal to sell the stamp prompted the obsessed and seemingly psychotic Giroux to murder him and take the rare stamp. Such collecting techniques are not recommended.

Later a canny French detective investigating the theft of the stamp checked the collections of known philatelists and Giroux’s crime was uncovered. Thankfully, you will not have to commit murder to see an example of this rarity, of which only fifteen copies are known to exist. It is on display at the British Library!


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