Cook Islands - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Cook Islands, a set of fifteen islands in the South Pacific Ocean spread over 690,000 square miles of ocean has a total land area of just 92.7 square miles and a population of around 20,000. The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand. It consists of the Northern and the Southern groups of islands. Almost 90% of the population is contained in the Southern Group. The people are friendly and only happy to let the visitor experience their culture firsthand. The major industry of the country is tourism, and following in a distance are offshore banking, pearls, marine and fruit exports.

Travel Resources:

September and October are by far the best time to explore the sights and do outdoor activities. The major outdoor activities are snorkeling, fishing, hiking, kayaking, catamarans and kite or wind-surfing, scuba diving, climbing palm trees, 4WD tours, and shopping. The traditional dance shows and the cultural center help understand the culture better. Fish and vegetables are the staple of Cook Islands cuisine.  Coconut cream is used in almost all dishes. In the southern region pork and chicken are also extensively used.


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Papa Mike’s Cook Islands Handbook978-0980087963$14Good coverage of all thirteen occupied islands. Over 60 maps and pictures. Evaluation of lodgings.
Lonely Planet South Pacific978-1741047868$19Forty pages of Cook Islands coverage and a directory section.
Cook Islands Travel Map978-1553411765$12Scale varies from 1:25,000 to 1:100,000. Includes brief history and an inset of Avarua Town. Legend includes tracks, accommodation, airstrips, beaches, caves, diving sites, and other points of interest.


Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of Cook Islands were a crude Federation issue in toned paper with no watermark and a simple  design issued in 1892. The set (Scott #1 to #4) catalogs for around $300 MNH and a little less for used. A version of the same set was also released on White Paper (Scott #5 to #8) and that set also sports the same catalog value. Next year, Cook Islands released another set of six stamps. This set (Scott #9 to #14) is also expensive at around $220 MNH and $160 for used. The designs show Queen Makea Takau and wrybill. Cook Islands became a protectorate of Great Britain in 1888 following a special request by Queen Makea Takau as a means to avert French threat. Wrybill a bird species endemic to the area is unique in that it is the only bird in the world with a beak bent sideways!

Cook Islands released a set of stamps in 1920 primarily showing local scenes. The set (Scott #61 to #66) catalogs for around $30 MNH and $90 used. The designs show landing of Captain Cook, Avarua Waterfront, portrait of Captain James Cook, palm, houses at Arorangi, and Avarua Harbor. The stamps are inscribed “Rarotonga” instead of “Cook Islands” but were used throughout the Cook Islands. Rarotonga has historically been the main government and administrative center of the Islands – the islands were known as the Kingdom of Rarotonga at the time.

Other issues of Cook Islands enjoying good collector’s interest include:
  1. A set of three stamps released on May 2, 1938 showing local scenes. The set (Scott #112 to #114) catalogs for around $70 MNH and $60 used. The designs show King George VI, village and palms, and coastal scene with canoe. There is a reissue of the same set during the period from 1944 to 1946 as part of another set (Scott #116 to #124). Those stamps are not that valuable although higher denominations in the set are valued well. The earlier set has a watermark while the latter one is engraved.
  2. A set of four stamps released on September 16, 1965 to mark the establishment of internal self government. The set (Scott #160 to #163) is remarkably inexpensive and catalogs for around a dollar for MNH or used. The designs show flag of New Zealand and map of Cook Islands, London Missionary Society Church and graveyard, Reading of Proclamation of Cession, and Nikao School and flag of New Zealand. Cook Islands were transferred to New Zealand in 1901 and remained a New Zealand protectorate until 1965 when the self government was established with free association to New Zealand. Cook Islands citizens are automatic citizens of New Zealand although the reverse is not true.
  3. A set of stamps released on September 17, 1973 showing historic south pacific sailing vessels. The set (Scott #357 to #363) catalogs for around $5 MNH or used. The designs show Tipairua, Wa’a Kaulua, Tainui, War Canoe, Pahi, Amatasi, and Vaka.
  4. A large set of stamps released between 1980 and 1982 in the Corals theme. Part of the set (Scott #564 to #581) were strips of 4 while the higher denominations (Scott #582 to #586) were their own stamps. The set is very expensive and fetch around $100 MNH or used. A sister set soon followed in 1984 (Scott #787 to #815) and those are also fairly desirable fetch a catalog value of $70 MNH or used. The Northern group of islands is coral atolls. Rarotonga is surrounded by coral reefs.
  5. A set of four stamps along with a set of souvenir sheets (Scott #1016 to #1023) released on October 4, 1989 in the Endangered Bird Species theme. The set catalogs for around $25 MNH or used. The stamps have the WWF emblem while the souvenir sheets do not. The Cook Islands have an infestation of ship rats and polynesian rats resulting in the almost complete destruction of the bird population on the islands. Very recently, efforts are being made to reintroduce some of the native birds such as Kuhl’s lorikeet.
Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Cook Islands were Bronze coins issued from 1972 onwards denominated in Cents. The first issues are all inexpensive. Cook Islands have issued a number of Gold and Silver Proofs over the years for the numismatic market. They are very attractive and collectible.

Numismatic items of Cook Islands include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Coins$2 and upCommon UNCs start around $2. Commemoratives start around $10 and go into the $50 range for low mintage silver varieties. Mint Proofs from the 70s start around $5 and go into the $75 range for sets. Gold proofs start around $100 and go well into the 100s and 1000s.
Paper Money$5 and upUNCs from the 1990s starts around $5. Recent Specimen UNCs starts around $20. Specimen UNC sets and other rare numbers and dates go into the 100s.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Handmade artifacts, t-shirts, pareus, ukeleles, island music CD’s, tivaivai (local quilts), produce, and carvings are sought after.


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Antiques$20 and up18th century map prints start around $20. Originals go into the 100s.
Art$5 and upOld posters start around $5, photo prints a little more, original art and maritime documents can fetch into the 100s.
Curios$50 and upGold and Silver pendants and Trinkets start around $50.



Last Updated: 12/2015.

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