The Country With 1 ATM and 900 Different Stamps

Collectors with a fondness for the French Colonies enjoy the stamps of Wallis and Futuna, a small group of volcanic islands in the South Pacific between Samoa and Fiji.

The territory’s first stamps were released in 1920 and were on sale for eight years.  They were overprints of the long running New Caledonia stamps of 1905-28.

In 1944, the first Wallis and Futuna stamps were released.  The set of 14 depicted Ivi Poo, local bone carving in a tiki design.

In keeping with 20th century French colonial stamps, imperfs and trial color proofs began to appear in 1957.  For the past fifty years the islands’ attractive stamps have focused on flowers, natives, bone carvings, tapa cloth, shells, fish, and boats.

In 2008, Wallis and Futuna released a stamp to honor its dead king, a former pig famer with a stubborn streak.

Two years before he died, Tomasi Kulimoetoke II set off minor riots, forcing the French to send in police from New Caledonia to help restore calm.

The trouble broke out when the King refused to turn over his grandson to the police.  Tomasi Tuugahala had been found guilty of manslaughter after driving drunk and killing a pedestrian.  The king eventually released his grandson, who was kept under wraps in the royal palace for four months before being hauled off to jail in New Caledonia.

In 2002, the king shut down the Wallis and Futuna newspaper after it published critical coverage of his support for a convicted embezzler.  The king’s rule that people had to get off their bicycles when they passed his palace did not endear him to the public.

Today, the less controversial King of Wallis and Futuna is Kalae Kivalu, a retired civil servant.

Since 2003 Wallis and Futuna has been a French overseas collectivity (Collectivité d’Outre-Mer, or COM).  The islands cover less than 60 square miles.  People make a living by growing coconuts, raising pigs, fishing, and collecting subsidies from the French government.

Tourism is virtually non-existent.  There is 1 bank and 1 ATM.

Less than 1,200 people live in the islands’ largest city, Mata-Utu, where there are no street names.  To find the post office, head for the wharf.

To find Wallis and Futuna stamps, you can visit my online stamp store.


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