New Britain

(This article is about the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea. For other uses of the name, see New Britain (disambiguation).)


New Britain is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea. Its principal city is Rabaul.

It was discovered on February 27, 1700. It was named Neu-Pommern ("New Pomerania") when ruled by Germany.

Postage stamps

When German New Guinea was occupied by Australian troops in 1914, there was soon a need for postage stamps. This was met by overprinting existing stocks of the (unwatermarked) German New Guinea and Marshall Islands stamps with "G.R.I" (short for Georgius Rex Imperator, George V being king at the time), along with values ranging from one pence to five shillings. The values roughly corresponded with the values of the original stamps; 1p on 3pf and 5pf stamps, 2p on 10pf and 20pf, and so forth.

A first setting of the overprint was issued on 17 October 1914, followed by a second setting (with slightly different spacing) issued on 16 December. In all, some 50 distinct stamps were produced.

In addition, registration labels were pressed into service as 3p stamps, overprinted in the same way as the others. Labels of the Friedrich Wilhelmshaven, Herbertshohe, Kawieng, Kieta, Manus, and Rabaul post offices are known to have been overprinted.

In 1915, these improvised stamps of New Britain were superseded by stamps of the "North West Pacific Islands".

Because of the short period of use of the New Britain issues, they are rather uncommon, and expensive to collect; the most common denominations are at least $15 US apiece, and the five shilling overprints fetch prices of over $10,000 on the rare occasions when they come up for sale. In addition, a number of errors were produced in the overprinting process, and these also command high prices.


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