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2023 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 20th Anniversary Set of Mint Stamps

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Mint set of six gummed stamps.

Individual stamps in this issue are:

$2.00 Arwen

Tying her fate to the mortal Aragorn, the elf princess Arwen helps inspire his journey towards his destiny as King. This scene can seem mysterious to people who are new to Tolkien. Online experts the Council of Elrond explain that here Arwen reads about the Paths of the Dead, which Aragorn travels on later. Sets for the elf stronghold of Rivendell included Kaitoke Regional Park near Upper Hutt, but, as Ian Brodie notes in his location guide, animators added digital enhancements later.

$2.00 The Lair of Shelob

A stunning achievement of set construction, Shelob’s Lair is also a place of treachery. Promising to lead Frodo safely to Mount Doom, Gollum tricks him towards the monstrous spider. At first Frodo escapes using a light Galadriel gave him, but Shelob stings him eventually. Filmed in the Wellington studios, this scene features, according to the documentary ‘Designing Middle Earth’, artificial rocks inspired by seaside rocks at Seatoun, boiled bones from a local butcher, and synthetic cobwebs cooked in a deep fryer.

$3.30 The Army of the Dead

With the forces of Gondor outnumbered, Aragorn takes to the Paths of the Dead, calling on dead warriors to recover the honour they’ve lost. The Army of the Dead prove a decisive factor, overrunning Sauron’s terrified orcs and other creatures, with Legolas and Gimli competing for success at their side. The film’s ‘behind the scenes’ documentary shows the crew scouting locations for the Paths of the Dead, settling on the distinctive Putangirua Pinnacles in the Wairarārapa.

$3.30 The Shieldmaiden of Rohan

Brave in battle and loyal to her family, Eowyn, the Shieldmaiden of Rohan, is a widely loved female Tolkien character. Denied the chance to fight for her people, Eowyn rides in secret to the Battle of Pelennor Fields. When the Witchking boasts that no man can kill him, Eowyn utters her famous line ‘I am no man’ and slays him (with the hobbit Merry’s help). Parts of the battle were filmed on a field near Twizel, using New Zealand extras on horseback – many of whom were women in disguise.

$4.00 Gandalf and the Moth

The desperate Battle at the Black Gate turns in the West’s favour with the flight of the Moth, which announces the arrival of the Eagles of the North. Filming for scenes at the Black Gate took place on Rangipō land in the Waiōuru Army Training Area. As the crew explain on the documentary, defence personnel swept the ground first for explosives left from previous military exercises, and some stood among the scene’s 350 extras in full-plate armour.

$4.60 The Ring is Mine

With his quest nearly over, Frodo struggles against the Ring’s seductive allure. Unable to release it into the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo cries ‘the Ring is mine’, prompting a fight to the death with Gollum. Mount Ngauruhoe, in the Tongariro district, provided a perfect double for Mount Doom, but the documentary shows a special table that Wētā Workshop built for the shots where lava flows down the side of the erupting volcano.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 20th Anniversary celebrates the talent of Kiwi filmmakers and the films’ legacy in Aotearoa New Zealand. Click here for more information about the stamp issue.

Check out the full range of stamp sets here.

Date of issue: 1 November 2023
Number of stamps: Six gummed stamps
Denominations: $2.00 x 2, $3.30 x 2, $4.00 & $4.60
Stamp designs: $2.00 Arwen, $2.00 The Lair of Shelob, $3.30 The Army of the Dead, $3.30 The Shieldmaiden of Rohan, $4.00 Gandalf and the Moth, $4.60 The Ring is Mine
Stamps and first day covers designed by: Sacha Lees, Wellington, New Zealand
Printer and process: Brebner Print, Napier, New Zealand by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Stamp size and format: 50mm x 35.71mm (horizontal)
Miniature sheet size and format: 112mm x 66mm (horizontal)
Paper type: Tullis Russell red phosphor gummed stamp paper 106gsm
Number of stamps per sheet: 20
Perforation gauge: 14.40 x 14.00
Special blocks: Plate/imprint blocks may be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps from a sheet. Barcode blocks are available in A and B formats.
Period of sale: Unless stocks are exhausted earlier, these stamps will remain on sale until 31 October 2024. First day covers will remain on sale until 27 December 2023. Miniature sheet first day covers will remain on sale indefinitely.
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