GB Overprints Society


The first official postal service in Nauru was set up by the German colonial office in 1908, as part of the Marshall Islands. When this German colony was occupied by Australia in 1914 it was felt that Nauru should have its own issues. At first they used the "N W Pacific Islands" overprints on Australian stamps, but the British stamps overprinted "NAURU" were released as and when those became exhausted. Those postmarked 2 Sept were allegedly all cancelled to order (ie in the typically Australian collectors' packs); the earliest commercial use appearing to be October 1916. It is reported that the decision to make the island a British Mandate area, and to use overprinted British stamps, on the surface rather a strange decision, was made to avoid the political sensitivities which could have arisen if Australian (or other) stamps had been so overprinted whilst the island's future was being decided.

All stamps overprinted "NAURU"

Note: this numbering system was drawn up by the Society for the website, and may not be used without permission.

King George V

Mackennal head, script cypher watermark
Seahorses (De La Rue) (22mm wide, wide top tooth, smaller perf holes, see illustrations below)

2 September 1916 unless otherwise stated


Nauru first set 200Nauru De La Rue 200

1 ½d green 12½ mm overprint

2 1d red 12½ mm overprint

3 1½d 12½mm overprint (December 1923)

Note: this was issued after the 13½mm overprint below

4 2d orange die I, 12½ mm overprint

5 2d die II 12½ mm overprint (late 1923)

Note: this was issued after the 13½mm overprint below

6 2½d blue

7 3d violet

8 4d grey

9 5d brown

10 6d purple, chalky paper

11 9d black

12 1/- brown

13 2/6d brown

14 5/- red

15 10/- blue


2d dies

bech Prot 2d dies 400

2d: on die I the inner frame line is near to the central design, in die II it is in the middle of the white gap.
(this illustration is from Bechuanaland Protectorate)

overprint varieties

(there are many minor varieties with worn and defective font)

1 v1 ½d overprint double, one albino

1 v2 ½d overprint treble, two albino

1 v3 ½d broken "R" makes "NAUP.U"

2 v1 1d overprint double, one albino

2 v2 1d broken "R" makes "NAUP.U"

4 v1 2d die I overprint double, one albino

2 v2 2d broken "R" makes "NAUP.U"

6 v1 2½d overprint double, one albino

6 v2 2½d broken "R" makes "NAUP.U"

7 v1 3d overprint double, one albino

7 v2 3d broken "R" makes "NAUP.U"

8 v1 4d overprint double, one albino

8 v2 4d broken "R" makes "NAUP.U"

9 v1 5d overprint double, one albino

9 v3 5d broken "R" makes "NAUP.U"

10 v1 6d overprint double, one albino

10 v2 6d broken "R" makes "NAUP.U"

11 v1 9d overprint double, one albino

12 v1 1s overprint double, one albino

13 v1 2/6d overprint double, one albino

13 v2 2/6d overprint treble, two albino

14 v1 5s overprint treble, two albino

15 v1 10s overprint double, one albino

15 v2 10s overprint treble, two albino (one with faint black smudge)

Note: the latter is often (rather optimistically) described as "one red, one black, one albino", whereas the black smudge left from a poorly cleaned overprinting plate is scarcely discernible. Some of the other albino overprints are very faint and often almost coincide with the main overprint.

watermark varieties

4 wir 2d die I watermark inverted and reversed


stamp varieties

13 sv1 2/6d re-entries


Seahorses, Waterlow printing (22mm wide, normal top tooth, see illustrations below)

Note: these are extremely scarce, but are commoner with the "Specimen" overprint. It is not quite clear why a very small quantity (120 5/-, 60 10/-) of the Waterlow seahorses were included in the main batch of De La Rue printings.

2 September 1916

Nauru Waterlow 10s 300
(Illustration courtesy of Charles Leski)

16 5/- red

17 10/- blue

overprint varieties

17 v1 10s overprint double, one albino

Seahorses (Bradbury Wilkinson) (22¾-23 mm wide, normal top tooth, see illustrations below)

18 2/6d brown (1919)

overprint varieties

18 v1 2/6d overprint double

18 v2 2/6d overprint double, one albino

stamp varieties

18 sv1 2/6d re-entries

Seahorse types detail 400

5s (top) Waterlow, 2/6d (middle) De La Rue wide tooth, 2/6d (bottom) Bradbury Wilkinson (wider design)

later printing with new format of overprint

13½mm instead of 12½mm, and placed higher up the stamp.


Nauru second set 300

Nauru types 200

first type

second type (to same scale): note distinctively different R

19 ½d green

20 1d red

21 1½d brown

22 2d orange die II

Note: these came from a single printing, and the next printing reverted to the original format of the overprint; the 1½d and 2d die II in the 12½mm overprint came only from the final printings after the 13½mm version had been issued. It has been alleged that one reason for the reversion to the 12½mm version (at the foot of the stamp) was that King George V (a keen stamp collector) objected to the overprint falling on his face.

The overprinted British stamps continued in use until 1924 when it was finally decided that the country should be under an Australian Mandate, and a replacement definitive set was issued.

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page last updated on: 7 August 2006, 6 March 2013 

gbos: GB Overprints Society