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

1998 Year of the Tiger - Favourite Felines

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Of all the companion animals with which we are privileged to share our lives there is none as captivating as the cat with all its mysterious aloofness and cautious but everlasting love.

Issue information

In 1998 one or more cats lived in 63 per cent of New Zealand homes, a statistic that placed our nation ahead of others in the ratio of cats to people. We adored them for their strength of personality, their independence, their enviable elegance, their sensuous charm and their therapeutic powers. This wild spirit of the cat has been captured and is to be treasured.

The domestication of the cat can be traced back some 9,000 years. Cat fanciers have placed the origin of domestic felines to the cats of Egypt 3,600 years ago where paintings, effigies, gods and mummified cats are recorded. In reality, civilisations 3,000 years before Christ, painted, buried and worshipped cats with a reverence the like of which no other animal enjoyed.

Cat burials often surpassed human burials in both grandeur and cost. To keep cats happy in the after-life they were buried with mummified mice and saucers of milk. A recent discovery unearthed a cat cemetary containing 300,000 perfectly preserved feline mummies. There is little doubt that the vast range of cat breeds with which we are now familiar were genetically developed from these ancient cats.

Inevitably, their popularity was challenged, and perhaps it was the advent of Christianity that was the most responsible. In the Middle Ages black cats were formally linked to the devil and sorcery, and along with witches were tortured and drowned. This persecution almost led to their extermination resulting in the bubonic plague epidemic, which was carried by rats. Perhaps it is their mixed history that led to their mysterious aloofness and caution that captivates us today, for within that sleek frame and those penetrating eyes are millenia of lifetimes that are to be both envied and pitied.

The first cats in New Zealand would have inevitably arrived on the ships carrying settlers and all their supplies. It was quite the norm to have cats on board to keep the stores of grain free of vermin. These pioneer 'working cats' quickly adapted to their new surroundings and as each new settlement was established the care of the domestic moggy was accepted as a part of normal life. The arrival of pedigree cats in the country occurred somewhat later when their aristocratic owners, the only ones who could afford to ship them out, set up their households.

The New Zealand Governing Council of Cat Fanciers was established in 1930 to regulate breeds, register the pedigrees and encourage standards required of breeders. During the depression and war years it went into recess. Starting up again in 1949 it grew in strength with member clubs springing up all over the country. The Auckland Cat Club, set up in the 1930's is the oldest recorded all-breeds cat club whilst the official Siamese Club was the first specialist breed club to be endorsed by the Governing Council.

In 1950, 256 pedigree kittens were registered and in 1951 there were 488. The 1960s and 1970s, with the advent in air travel, were boom years with an ever increasing number of kittens bred and new breeds being registered. In 1972 affiliated member clubs reformed as the New Zealand Cat Fancy which celebrated its 25th jubilee in 1997. The 1997 NZCF Yearbook listed registered breeders for a total of 26 different breeds.

The many breeds, both pedigree and domestic, that have been seen on the show benches throughout New Zealand were governed and judged by the standards established and enforced by the New Zealand Car Fancy. The Year of the Tiger - Favourite Felines stamp issue paid tribute to the cat in all its forms, from the domestic moggy to the British Blue. Six breeds of cat commonly found in New Zealand homes were honoured.

The release of the Favourite Felines issue was timed to coincide with the Year of the Tiger. This issue was the second in New Zealand Post’s lunar calendar series, which commenced with the Year of the Ox in 1997. Each sheet of stamps featured a lunar calendar tiger figure in a central gutter strip. A special miniature sheet and souvenir envelope featuring the tiger were also available with this issue, as well as a set of six stunning maximum cards.

Product Listing for 1998 Year of the Tiger - Favourite Felines

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Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Domestic Moggy' gummed stamp.

The tabby is the original Egyptian cat from which all other breeds have evolved through selective breeding. The ancient mark the scarab 'M' on the forehead is imprinted on every pedigree cat as a reminder of its origin.

The domestic moggy is the natural work of nature, its unique and often perfect creations being the very essence of the pure cat in all its splendour. The moggy far outnumbers the pedigree breeds, each capturing the hearts of all with whom they share their homes. They are the very essence of the pure cat.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Burmese' gummed stamp.

The Burmese are often affectionately referred to as the 'clowns of the cat world' for their extrovert and charming character. Few breeds are as well documented as to their origin, being descended form one small brown queen named Wong Mau exported in 1930 to the United States from Yangon (Rangoon, Burma). Mated with a Siamese tom, some dark brown kittens resulted, then a male progeny was bred back to Wong Mau. The even coloured brown or seal, Burmese resulted.

Burmese flourished in England form 1947 where the seal was used in the development of other colours now prevalent throughout the breed. In addition to their appealing charm and muscular body, a feature of the Burmese is to found in their golden eyes.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'Birman' gummed stamp.

This long-haired cat is enjoying increasing popularity and a well deserved place in society. There is a gentle and dignified calmness about the Birman, and the penetrating gaze of those deep blue eyes epitomises a cat whose finest virtue is its faithful devotion.

A great legend surrounds the origin of the Birman, where in a temple dedicated to Tsun-Kyan-Kse (a golden goddess with sapphire eyes) 100 white cats were housed. When Mun-Ha, a respected white-haired priest, was attacked by bandits, Sinh, one of the handsome white cats, leapt onto his dying masters head. From the radiant light of the goddess the once white cat's legs, face and tail turned to an earthy brown colour with only the feet, still touching the dead priest's snowy head, remaining white. Legend has it that in the morning all the other white cats had undergone the same transformation.

Single Stamp

Single $1.20 'British Blue' gummed stamp.

Considered by many to be the ultimate cat, the British Blue is the epitome of the strong and gentle giant. Stocky of build and patient by nature, these cats have the ability to charm the hearts of all with whom they make contact.

The ancestors of the British Blue were brought to Northern Europe, and later to Britain, by Roman soldiers 2,000 years ago. For a while they lived wild until Harrison Weir, appreciating the sturdiness and intelligence of these 'street cats' established a controlled breeding programme that resulted in a spectacular cat. 

The Blue is the recognised standard, however, other colours of equal spectacle now abound. Apart from the solid body features, the crisp dense coat and the spectacular round golden eyes of the British Blue do indeed make this a very special breed of cat.

Stocky, strong, gentle and patient, British Blues charm all who come into contact with them. Other features making British Blues very special are their crisp, dense coat and spectacular round, golden eyes.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'Persian' gummed stamp.

In the early 1600s Italian traveller and writer, Pietro della Valle, returned home with a species of cat never before seen in Europe. They had long, grey-silver hair and came form the Chorazen Province of Persia (now Iran).

Longhair Persians are now the most prized of pedigree cats and represent, through numerous ambitious breeding regimes, the breed of car most affected by the dictates of fashion. They retain their aristocratic connections and are generally associated with luxury, usually draped over silken cushions and doted upon by besotted owners.

Nothing upsets the Persian and its good and easy going nature prevails over all possible distractions. They are doted on by their owners, which may explain why they are totally incapable of looking after themselves!. 

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Siamese' gummed stamp.

Probably the most recognisable of the pedigree cats, the Siamese with its sleek body, steely blue gaze and unique and penetrating vocal sounds, represents the real aristocat of the cat world.

According to Thai tradition, only royalty was permitted to own Siamese cats, a tradition started by an early Thai monarch who was so entranced by the breed the he threatened to execute anyone who attempted to steal one. In dutiful reverence sucessive monarchs perpetuated the habit.

The first genuine 'Royal Cats of Siam' appeared in a cat show in London in 1885 in the form of two sealpoints (the standard Siamese colour) named Pho and Mia. The royal nature of the Siamese has manifest itself in future generations, as owners will attest - you do not own them, they own you. They control the household, and stare with a gaze that has the ability to freeze one to the spot. They are staunchly loyal and adore children - regal indeed.

Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled special lunar miniature sheet featuring the Year of the Tiger and the 40c, $1.00 and $1.80 favourite feline stamps. $3.20
First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $7.20
Souvenir Cover Souvenir cover with lunar miniature sheet affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $3.70
Set of Maximum Cards Set of six pre-paid postcards featuring a stamp on the front and artwork from the stamp issue. $7.95

Technical information

Date of issue: 11 February 1998
Number of stamps: Six
Denominations and designs: Sheet stamps: 40c Domestic Moggy, 80c Burmese, $1.00 Birman, $1.20 British Blue, $1.50 Persian, $1.80 Siamese; Miniature sheet: 40c Domestic Moggy, $1.00 Birman, $1.80 Siamese
Stamps, first day cover and souvenir cover designed by: Julie Greig, Wellington, New Zealand
Miniature sheet and lunar calendar figure designed by: Lindy Fisher, Auckland, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, New Zealand by lithography
Number of colours: Stamps: four process colours and one special colour; Miniature sheet: four process colours and two special colours
Stamp size and format: 30mm x 40mm (vertical)
Miniature sheet size: 100 x 135mm
Paper type: 104gsm red phosphor coated Litho paper stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 100 stamps per sheet - with vertical gutter strip of 10 tiger figures through the middle of each sheet; Miniature sheet: three stamps
Perforation gauge: 13.6
Cost of unadressed first day cover with stamps: $7.20
Cost of unadressed souvenir cover with miniature sheet: $3.70
Special blocks: Plate/imprint, positional or value blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamp sheets. Colour blocks ('traffic lights') were included in plate blocks. Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats.
Gutter pairs: Could be obtained by purchasing at least two stamps of any denomination, with a gutter panel between them.
Period of issue: These stamps remained on sale until 11 February 1999.