A group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, south of Samoa. United during the mid-19th century, Tonga came under British protection in 1900. On June 4, 1970, Tonga again became fully independent. Tonga's economy has traditionally depended on copra and bananas. The discovery of offshore oil in the 1970s and government efforts to develop tourism bode well for the country's economic future, although it still continues to rely on foreign aid. Since 1992 efforts have been made to democratize the country, but power remains in the hands of the king and aristocracy. From the late 1960s to the early '80s, Tonga issued a host of unconventional stamps, including garish self-adhesive and foil productions embossed and die-cut into many unusual shapes. Beginning in about 1981, however, Tonga returned to more traditional designs.
A volcanic rim island of six square miles, Niuafo'ou is part of the kingdom of Tonga, located in the southern Pacific Ocean between Fiji and Samoa, 400 miles north of the Tongatupa island group. The island is better known as Tin Can Island, famed for the pickup and delivery of mail in sealed cans by swimmers and canoes to and from ships waiting offshore in the 1930s and '40s. Niuafo'ou began to issue its own stamps in mid-1983.