Caroline Islands

Caroline Islands - German colony

Caroline Islands





Quick reference

General issues: German colony 1899-1919

Country name on general issues: Karolinen

Currency: 1 Mark = 100 Pfennig 1899-1919

Population: 37 200 in 1900

Political history Caroline Islands

Postal history Caroline Islands

Please click on the image to enlarge

The Caroline Islands are located in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous population is predominantly Micronesian.  The first Europeans to explore the islands were the Portuguese and the Spanish in the 16th century. Spain claimed, but did not settle, the islands. When Germany developed an interest in the islands in the late 19th century, the conflict that ensued between Spain and Germany was mediated by the Pope. The Pope, in 1885, awarded the Caroline Islands to Spain with Germany being entitled to develop trade  posts on the islands. The Spanish presence on the islands, that was subsequently established, was short lived. After the 1898 Spanish-American War, Spain had to cede its main possession in the Pacific, the Philippines. Subsequently, Spain decided to withdraw from the Pacific and sold the Caroline Islands to Germany in 1899.

The caption reads 'Imperial District Commissioner Senfft (Yap)' Arono Senfft was the first district commissioner to be appointed for the Western Caroline Islands in 1899, seated in Yap.

The caption reads ‘Imperial District Commissioner Senfft (Yap)’. Arno Senfft, seated in Yap, was the first district commissioner to be appointed for the Western Caroline Islands in 1899.

The Germans divided the Caroline Islands into two districts – the Eastern and Western Caroline Islands – both administered from the German colony of New Guinea. German rule was also short lived. At the outbreak of WWI, Japan occupied the islands in 1914. Germany formally ceded the islands, in 1919, by way of the treaty of Versailles.

In 1920, the Caroline Islands were made part of the League of Nations South Pacific Mandate – administered by Japan. When Japan left the League of Nations in 1936, the islands were annexed as an integral part of the Japanese empire. During WWII, the United States occupied the islands in 1944-1945. Subsequently, the islands were made part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the United States. The Caroline Islands emerged from the trust territory as the independent republics of Micronesia and Palau in 1986 and 1994 respectively.

Economically, the indigenous population traditionally depended on subsistence agriculture and fishing. Resources used do not suggest that Spain and Germany, as the colonial powers, made any significant investments in the economy of the islands. The population is largely indigenous and is divided into subgroups centered on the main island groups. Of these the population of the Truk Islands – now Chuuk Islands – is the largest group.



Postal history Caroline Islands

Postal history Caroline Islands

1901 – Hohenzollern design.

The Germans opened the first post office in the Caroline islands in 1899. The first stamps used were provisionals – general issues of the German Empire overprinted ‘Karolinen’. The first definitives of the ‘Hohenzollern’ design – common to the German colonies – appeared in 1901. Stamps were issued until 1919 – well after the Caroline islands were occupied by Japan. From 1914, the issues were available only at the philatelic desk in Berlin.

A field for specialists are provisionals issued locally in 1905 and 1910 due to shortages of the current 5 pfennig denomination. Genuine items have catalog values ranking in the high to very high ranges.

From 1914, Japanese stamps were used and, from 1945, stamps of the United States were used. Micronesia and Palau have issued stamps since 1984 and 1983 respectively.

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