Aitutaki is an “almost-atoll” in the Cook Islands group, probably first settled around AD 900, with the first known European contact occurring when Captain Bligh and the crew of HMS Bounty arrived on 11 April 1789, just prior to the infamous mutiny. A British Protectorate was declared over the 15 islands of the Cook group on 20 September 1888. On 9 October 1900, Aitutaki became the only one of the Cook Islands to be annexed by Great Britain rather than ceded. All of the islands, including Aitutaki, were transferred by Great Britain to New Zealand control on 11 June 1901.
Cook Islands stamps were used on Aitutaki from 1892 until 1903 when overprinted or surcharged New Zealand stamps were issued with the denominations written in the local dialect. The last of the overprinted stamps appeared in 1920 and were replaced by a six-stamp pictorial set inscribed AITUTAKI and sharing designs with the Cook Islands and Niue issues. Another set of three Aitutaki stamps were released from 1924-1927. Cook Islands stamps superseded those of the island on 15 March 1932 and were used until Aitutaki became a separate postal entity on 1 April 1972 and resumed issuing its own stamps in August of that year. These were overprinted Cook Islands issues; the first new stamps inscribed “Aitutaki” appeared in April 1973.
Scott #33 for Aitutaki was released on 23 August 1920, the high value (1 shilling) in its first pictorial series. Since the designs shared those of the Cook Islands and Niue, the stamp pictures Avarua Harbor on the island of Rarotonga. The claret & black stamp was designed, engraved and recess printed by the firm of Perkins, Bacon & Company on unwatermarked paper perforated with a gauge of 14. Copies are known with inverted centers and double frames, deriving from printer’s waste.