The story behind the overprints: 1961 Tristan Relief Fund

13th December 2019

Lot 348 in our upcoming January 8th auction features the rare 1961 Tristan Relief Fund set, a very interesting set in its own right. We decided to explore why the set came to exist and exactly why it is so rare:


The worlds remotest inhabited island – Tristan da Cunha – which sits 2,400 kilometres from its nearest continental land mass was subject to nature at its most dangerous in October 1961. The volcanic eruption of Queen Mary’s peak (the summit of Tristan) forced the evacuation of Tristan da Cunha’s entire population of 264, displacing the residents to nearby Nightingale Island where they were then collected and ferried to England via Cape Town. Once on English shores the islanders found themselves housed at an old Royal Air Force camp near Calshot, Hampshire and most families were returned safely in 1963.

However, from potential disaster sprung some very rare philatelic material. A set of four values  were surcharged in St Helena (1,400 miles to the north-east) with “ST.HELENA Tristan Relief” and were sold as part of a fundraiser toward aiding the Tristan refugees. The ‘Tristan relief’ sets have come to serve as an example of some of the rarest modern stamps in existence, with only 434 sold in total. The values were only available for a very short period, between the 12th and 19th October and raised £108 for the evacuees. Interestingly, at the time of the overprint Tristan had adopted the South African Rand as its currency, yet the surcharge was in Sterling (St Helena’s currency).


If you would like to add the 1961 scarce Tristan Relief fund set to your collection it is being offered as Lot 348 in our upcoming 8th January auction. 


Our full January 8th catalogue can be found on our website alongside instructions on how you can place bids. For further updates on our latest auction news check our Twitter and Facebook pages.


Patrick Collyer

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