St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society

SHATPS - the little society with the big name

First steps to collecting philatelic aspects of our islands / literature

Each collector of philatelic or postal history aspects of one or more of our islands of St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha was once a beginner. We also have some beginners in our Society.

It may be that you have some personal connection to an island or other interest which motivated or continues to motivate you in pursuing an historical aspect of an island. Alternatively it may be your intent is connected with a wish to obtain some stamps or other philatelic material from the island. When reaching that point you probably will encounter your first challenge:

What topic do you want to collect? This is a question each collector has had at some time. In my case, I began by collecting stamps of Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. I then went on to pursue the postal history of the Falklands and soon read somewhere about Tristan da Cunha and St. Helena. Not long after that my fascination with those places grew and I established some valuable contacts with a few SHATPS members and today the postal history of our 3 islands is my main area of interest.

So, first, the topic you choose will necessarily depend on the content of your purse (and the goodwill of your spouse or partner!) and then on your own personal interests.

And I'm sure you don't want to spend money for a fake cover or stamp. Often I'm quite surprised to see collectors buying fake covers for good money from auction houses, where such items are praised as rarities.
You see, first you need information before you decide to collect a special topic and to spend your money. But where are you to find the type of publications which can guide you?

First you will be well-advised to become a member of a society, such as ours: SHATPS. We were founded in 1976 and we offer a quarterly-appearing journal as well as irregularly-published materials which have been issued throughout our 40 years of existence.  This can provide you with your best start.  All our past publications, including back-issues of the South Atlantic Chronicle and other Society publications are now available on 2 DVDs.

But perhaps you're looking for more? Many collectors have written books, and often these are self-published, covering some special topic.
Most of the following publications are sold out, but some are offered from time to time on eBay or from book sellers who deal with philatelic literature (e.g., the Miles Apart business belonging to Society member, Ian Mathieson). Or, if you know a well-supplied philatelic library, go there and have a look for the following publications:

St. Helena

  • The Postal History and stamps of St. Helena / 200 p. / Edward Hibbert 1979, perhaps the most basic book of that topic
  • St. Helena Postal Markings 1815 - 2000 / 180 p. / Bernard Mabbett / West Africa Study Circle 2002, with postal, instructional and censor markings
  • St. Helena, The Philately of the camps for Boer Prisoners of war April 1900 to August 1902 / 64 p. / Bernard Mabbett / Anglo-Boer War Philatelic Society


  • The postage stamps of Ascension Island / 44 p. / John Leonard
  • The History and postage stamps of Ascencion Island / 72 p. / Reprinted 2nd edition 1971 / Eric H. Ford
  • Ascension - The Stamps and Postal History / 71 p. / J.H. Attwood 1981

Tristan da Cunha

  • THE HISTORY AND POSTAL HISTORY of Tristan da Cunha / 342 p., spiral bound /George Crabb, 1980, offers in part I, HISTORY and in part II, POSTAL HISTORY, in one book, essential for every Tristan postal history collector. It includes shipping lists, cancellations, time tables, fake cancellations ...
  • Penguins, Potatoes and Postage Stamps - A Tristan da Cunha Chronicle, / 166 p. / Allan B. Crawford 1999 - a very interesting book about a part of the life of Allan B. Crawford, a long-term friend of Tristan da Cunha, chronicling the times he spent on the island; his South Atlantic adventures are explained  with the help of stamps
  • Tristan da Cunha and the Roaring Forties / Allan B. Crawford 1982 / Life of ABC in the South Atlantic
  • 20 Monographs of Tristan da Cunha, published between 2000 and 2007 by Robin Taylor, a SHATPS member, the best background knowledge I've ever found - available also on DVD and is absolutely recommended

And for all 3 islands

  • The postal history of Ascension, St. Helena & Tristan da Cunha / 248 p. / Edward B. Proud, 2005, with cancellations and the history of the 3 islands, also featuring valuations of postal history cancellationsIf you decide to collect WW1 and/or WW2 censored covers, you'll need:
  • West African Censorship World War I and II / 184 p. / J. Martin and F. Walton and Ray Harris 2014/ West Africa Study Circle, with all types of censor markings with valuations (West Africa and St. Helena and Ascension),

And if you are interested in stamps, you'll need the special catalogue:

  • Stanley Gibbons, St. Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha, 6th edition 2018
  • Further sources for information are the internet, the Society home page, and the Webmaster's home page. Perhaps you find on his Sales & Wants page some of the mentioned literature.

Another basic question you may well ask, "where can you get stamps, e.g. the new issues, of our 3 islands"?

New issues can be purchased from a stamp dealer or directly from the Crown Agents (St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha), or if you prefer to get your new stamps and/or FDCs from one of our islands - you can write to the Ascension Post Office, where all new issues of Ascension, St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha are available. Because of Wideawake Airfield being present on Ascension, a fast link to the island is guaranteed.

Both Philatelic Bureaus are connected to the internet where internet forms help in ordering stamps, FDCs etc.

St. Helena closed its Philatelic Bureau in 2011.

It's really exciting to get a letter or packet from one of these islands, franked with wonderful stamps of your island. Even if the postal routing from Tristan da Cunha is very long and depends on the scheduled shipping links to and from the island, it's worth it to be patient. But you can calculate this time required for your order to be filled using this ground-based postal mail strategy, if you look up the scheduled shipping links connecting Tristan da Cunha using this site:

I'm sure a lot of covers from the Philatelic Bureaus will find their way to your album.
If you are still not sure what you want to collect, please have look at our SIG Questionnaire where a lot of topics are mentioned, become inspired by the literature and I'm quite sure you will find a topic you would like to collect.
And if you need help - ask a Society officer (at least s/he will know someone able to help) or place a cost-free advertisement in our South Atlantic Chronicle.
The best way to get information from other South Atlantic collectors is to join our Special Interest Groups/SIGS.

I can assure you that collecting stamps or the postal history of our 3 islands is worthwhile due to several reasons:
You are collecting philatelic items of very small communities, so you will dip into the social history of the islands, you support these communities if you buy their stamps - some of the most collected stamps within the British Commonwealth.

And now - enjoy the search for literature and for philatelic "treasures".