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Hawaii's first adhesive revenue stamps were issued December 22, 1876, to pay newly enacted taxes on deeds, agreements, bills of lading and various other instruments and contracts. Taxes had been a part of Hawaiian society since long before 1876. Sometime around 1850, someone conceived the idea to apply a seal to any taxable document to show the tax was paid. The Stamp Duty Act of 1876 taxed many more kind of instruments than were taxed previously and also authorized the printing of adhesive stamps to use as evidence of tax payment. During the next twenty-five years, Hawaii's governance transferred from a monarchy to a republic and then to a United States Territory. Revenue stamps were printed by each of these governments.

The Stamp Duties Act of 1876 imposed taxes from $0.25 to $25 on a variety of instruments. Agreements, annuities, partnership articles, adoption articles, property assignments, bills of exchange, bills of lading, bills of sale, bonds, marine charter parties, charters, government commissions, labor contracts, land conveyances and deeds, leases, letters testamentary, mortgages, patents, marine insurance policies, powers of attorney and releases were among the kinds of documents requiring payment of a tax. The smallest tax was for a policy of marine insurance on a voyage to or from California, British Columbia, Oregon and Washington Territories, Polynesia or Micronesia, taxed at $0.25/$1,000 value. The heaviest tax was $25 for a public or private charter, although other instruments could cost more depending upon value. A bill of exchange, for example, was taxed at $0.25 per $500 of value. Most taxes seemed to be set at $1. Every taxed instrument was required to bear a stamp showing payment. The Finance Ministry was authorized to have its own stamps printed and did so, obtaining them from the American Bank Note Company. Registrar J. O. Carter probably was the designer of each of these stamps. All revenue stamps of the monarchy were rouletted rather than perforated.

Placed on sale December 22, 1876:

Scott R1
Scott R2

R1, the value is $0.25

R2, the value is $0.50

About March, 1877

Scott R3

R3, the value is $1.00. This value was in great demand and went through nine printings, creating shade variations ranging between gray and black.

Placed on sale about March, 1879:

Scott R4
Scott R5
Scott R6

R4, the value is $5.00

R5, the value is $10.00

R6, the value is $50.00

Note, the center values are printed in colors different than the rest of the designs. Hawaii had no multi-colored postage stamps.

To Fiscal Cancels on the $1 Postage Stamp

A tax on playing cards was approved by Queen Liliuokalani in 1892 but it was repealed on April 24, 1893 by President Dole. A stamp was planned to carry out the new tax and an essay was prepared and approved but the tax was repealed before the stamp was printed.

Scott Ressay

Playing Card Essay of 1893

Few changes in the stamp tax were made by the Provisional Government or the Republic of Hawaii. Indeed, the only change requiring new stamps during the Provisional Government was made during the monarchy.


At the close of the monarchy, Queen Liliuokalani approved a reduction in the tax on stock certificates from $0.25 per $100 value to $0.20 per $100 value. She approved it on January 11, 1893, just six days before the revolution. The reduction went into effect on April 1, 1893. The Finance Ministry ordered new stamps through Hawaii's Consul General in San Francisco. An example of the $0.25 revenue stamp was sent along as a model but the order failed to state the value of the new stamps was to be $0.20. Stamps of $0.25 were ordered from the H. S. Crocker and Company in San Francisco and when they arrived on March 24, 1893, the error was recognized immediately and a new order for stamps of $0.20 was placed. The correct value was received April 21, 1893. Both values were printed by lithography and delivered in both perforated and unperforated sheets.

Scott R10
Scott R10a-pair

R10, $0.25 error of value, perforated

R10a, $0.25 error of value, unperforated; note there is a slight change of color

Scott R9
Scott R9a

R9, $0.20 value, perforated

R9a, $0.20 value, unperforated pair

Exactly what was done with the 25 stamps is unclear. They are known used so perhaps they were sold for 20.

For the most part, the Republic of Hawaii satisfied the need for revenue stamps by placing additional orders of the $1.00 black rouletted stamp of 1877. It did order a new stamp for use by the Custom Service and surcharged old stock of the $0.25 green rouletted stamp of 1876 in order to provide additional $0.20 stamps for stock transfers after the 1893 supply ran out. Authority remained in the Republic of Hawaii even after formal annexation in 1898, pending establishment of a Territorial Government, finally completed in 1900.


Adhesive revenue stamps were used on all customs documents and a $1.00 stamp was ordered engraved from the American Bank Note Company to serve this purpose. The portrait of Kamehameha I done by Choris in 1818 was adapted for this stamp.

Scott Re 11

R11, $1.00 Customs Service stamp


Hawaii's supply of the $0.20 lithographed stamps printed by H. S. Crocker in 1893 ran low in 1898. Rather than order new stamps, a decision was made to surcharge the large stock of the old and useless $0.25 green engraved stamps printed in 1876 by the American Bank Note Company.

Scott R8

R8, overprinted in four printings by the Republic of Hawaii from April 18, 1898 to May 16, 1899; surcharge varieties are known double or inverted.

Establishment of Territorial status in 1900 saw the Hawaiian stamp taxes replaced by those of the United States. The work of the Hawaiian Customs Service was taken over by the United States Department of the Treasury. Hawaiians were introduced to the United States Internal Revenue Service, which at that time was in the business of taxing such things as liquor, tobacco and certain documents on which stamps issued by the Internal Revenue Service were required. However, the Territory of Hawaii retained authority to impose taxes on documents as well, sometimes resulting in double taxation. At any rate, continued need existed for document stamps under the Territory.


More stock certificate stamps were needed in 1900 and a decision was made to surcharge additional stocks of the old $0.25 green stamps. A new style overprint was used:

Scott R7
Scott R7a

R7, surcharged by the Territory of Hawaii

R7a, inverted surcharge


A fresh order of the $50 value was given to the American Bank Note Company in 1900. The inscription was changed from the 1876 design to read "Territory" and "OF HAWAII" instead of "HAWAIIAN" and "ISLANDS."

Scott Re 12

R12, the value is $50.00


Little is known about this stamp. Even the identity of the printer is uncertain. It seems to have been used on tax free property conveyances, possibly those involving the government. It is known on deeds. Scott Catalogue does not list the stamp.

Scott R nondenom

Non-denominated and unlisted by Scott Catalogue, noted used from 1910 to 1917


Supplies of the old rouletted stamps held up until the Territory was several years old. The $10 value was probably exhausted in 1906, the $5.00 value ran out in 1909, the $0.50 value was exhausted in 1911 and fresh orders of the rouletted $1.00 stamp were placed as late as 1910. Starting in 1909, new revenue stamps were ordered from the old 1876-1879 designs. Again the American Bank Note Company was used. The only change was to have the new stamps perforated rather than rouletted.

Scott Re 15
Scott Re 16
Scott Re 13
Scott Re 14

R15, printed in 1909; known with the value inverted

R16, printed in 1909

R13, printed in 1913

R14, printed in 1913

Stamp duties were repealed in 1917, ending further use for Hawaii's revenue stamps. At that time, remainders of the old $0.25 green rouletted stamp, the $1.00 Custom Service stamp and each of the perforated stamps of 1909-1913 were still on hand.


Burt, Randall E., Adhesive Revenue Stamps of Hawaii: Their History and Use, Hawaiian Philatelic Society, Honolulu, 1986. An essential resource for revenue collectors. You need to dig for the key information tucked between anecdotal material. I recommend you start with the chronological listing beginning at page 93, connect those listings to the Scott Catalogue reference numbers (Randy apparently has an aversion to mentioning Scott numbers) and with those pieces of information embedded in your mind, tackle the background information that comprises the bulk of the book. There is also a comprehensive bibliography.

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