New Zealand Post - official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins

150 Years of New Zealand Stamps 1855 - 1905

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150 years ago, New Zealanders began using one of the most useful and enduring of payment methods - the stamp.

Issue information

150 years ago, New Zealanders began using one of the most useful and enduring of payment methods - the stamp. This important method of development meant that, for the first time ever, the residents of this young nation could pay for postage in advance and send letters and parcels throughout New Zealand and around the world.

In 2005, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of those first stamps with a superb 'collector's collection': 15 stamps that together represented some of the country's landmark issues as judged by nominees from the New Zealand Philatelic Federation. The stamps were released in three instalments: March, April and June 2005. The first issue covered the years 1855 - 1905.

An Exclusive Collector's Offer

We celebrated the occasion by offering collectors the opportunity to obtain the set of three presentation packs and a free slipcase to store the set. The free slipcase could be obtained by paying for all three presentation packs in March 2005 (the first presentation pack and free slip case was sent in March).

Included in the presentation pack were the five stamps, the miniature sheet and two first day covers.

Miniature Sheet

For a glimpse of New Zealand's postal history you could not go past the miniature sheet. Each of the five stamps were included, along with a time line that showed important postal events of the day. The three stamp issues incorporated a miniature sheet, and all fitted together to provide a glimpse into 150 years of New Zealand stamps.

First Day Covers

Two first day covers, one with gummed stamps and one with the miniature sheet, showed all five stamps from this era at their best. A superb record of the changing times and lifestyles of New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Product Listing for 150 Years of New Zealand Stamps 1855-1905

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 45c '1855 Full Face Queen' gummed stamp.

A consignment of New Zealand's first-ever stamps, the 'London Prints' of the 'Full Face Queens', was sent to New Zealand from England and entered circulation on 20 July 1855. In keeping with British tradition, they featured a portrait of a youthful Queen Victoria.

Single Stamp

Single 90c '1873 Newspaper' gummed stamp.

By 1873, the Government had begun printing the country's stamps through the 'Stamp Printing Branch', part of the Government Printing Office. The halfpenny 'Newspaper' stamp of that year was the first featuring the Queen's portrait side-on, produced specifically to cover the fee for newspaper deliveries.

Single Stamp

Single $1.35 '1891 Government Life' gummed stamp.

In 1891, a difference of opinion over franking charges between the Government Life Insurance Department and the Post Office led to New Zealand's longest-lasting 'unofficial' stamps, and one of the first examples of postal advertising. The Government Life stamps - distinctive for their lighthouse image - were valid only for that Department's postal transactions.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 '1898 Pictorial - Mount Cook' gummed stamp.

A notice in the New Zealand Gazette on 20 March 1895, announcing a competition for a new stamp design, attracted entries from some 2,400 designers. The winning collection - New Zealand's first pictorial stamp issue, included a number of our scenic landmarks as well as a Māori war canoe, a kea and a kaka.

Single Stamp

Single $2.00 '1901 Universal Postage' gummed stamp.

The arrival in 1901 of 'universal penny postage' (for domestic and international mail) heralded a new age of letter writing. Halving the previous two-penny postal rate galvanised New Zealanders to write letters, and they rapidly became the preferred method of communication.

Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled miniature sheet. $6.20
First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $6.70
Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with miniature sheet affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $6.70
Presentation Pack Presentation pack containing a selection of stamp products from the issue and further information on the theme of the stamps. $29.95

Technical information

Date of issue: 2 March 2005
Number of stamps: Five
Denominations and designs: 45c 1855 Full Face Queen - London Print, 90c 1873 Newspaper, $1.35 1891 Government Life, $1.50 1898 Pictorial - Mount Cook, $2.00 1901 Universal Postage
Stamps and first day cover designed by: Totem Design, Wellington
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, New Zealand by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 40mm x 30mm (vertical)
Paper type: Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 25
Perforation gauge: 14 x 14
Special blocks: Plate/imprint blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps from a sheet. Barcode, value blocks and logo blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least two stamps from a sheet. Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 1 March 2006.