The error is easy enough to spot, and it certainly grates on Herbert Kawainui Kane, who designed the stamp. The picture of a canoe and a surfer hurtling over sapphire blue water is fine, as are the date and price marked. Unfortunately the word 'Hawaii' has been written wrongly.

If you're not a Hawaiian speaker, it just looks slightly strange: the mark between the two 'i's comes down from left to right and, more importantly, is weighted at the top like a nine rather than a six. The difference doesn't show up at all in some fonts. But to the natives it is spelt incorrectly.

Hawaiian Stamp

The mark as it is, is an apostrophe, used to indicate missing letters. The 'okina', or separator, which should be in place works as a specific consonant - or really just as a stop. An apostrophe doesn't indicate much about the pronunciation in itself: the 'n't' of 'can't' or any other word needn't sound different from 'nt' in 'cant'.

Kane has contacted various native Hawaiians to distance himself from the mistake. Meanwhile an investigation is underway in the US Postal Service as to how the error occurred.

So is the 'Hawaiian Apostrophe' likely to sell for five or six figure sums in the decades to come, like the Inverted Jenny or many other stamps rendered notable by errors? Unlikely, because the whole run has been printed like that.

Mis-datings, misspellings, inversions and the like only become valuable because they are noticed quickly and changed. Inverted Jennies, for example number fewer than 100 in the world which is why a perfect example (with original gum etc) might sell for one million dollars at auction.

A collector specialising in errors might like to gain a good example of the stamp, but the seller won't be able to drive a hard bargain.

This is one of many reasons you should only invest money in stamps if you have good advice available, which of course we can provide here at Paul Fraser Collectibles. 

Interested in building a valuable stamp collection?

Contact Adrian Roose for more details @


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