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Garrick Tremain, Jim Hubbard, Eric Heath and Burton Silver, four of this country’s best-known cartoonists, were asked for their interpretation of the theme 'Kiwis taking on the world'. 

Issue information

Their work is seen, read and enjoyed by thousands of New Zealanders daily, witty, topical, an inspired mix of words and pictures that captures a moment, reflects a feeling, poses a question. Cartoonists are an intrinsic part of the New Zealand popular culture. Their's is an art form founded in the belief that 'less is more', an art form that says all it has to in the moment it is read, yet at its best holds something back for those who care to linger.

New Zealand Post commissioned some of this country's best known cartoonists to each a design  a stamp based round the theme of 'Kiwis taking on the world". The theme was deliberately broad, designed to give each cartoonist maximum reign. It could be a tribute to the Kiwi psyche, Kiwiana, the pastimes New Zealanders enjoy, the famous Kiwi ingenuity or simply a celebration of ways in which New Zealanders have made their mark on the world, how each cartoonist interpreted the statement was up to them.

The works that followed were predictably unpredictable, as individual and diverse in their interpretation of the theme as the people themselves. After much deliberation, four cartoons were finally chosen for the set of stamps. The result was a stamp issue in which every person in New Zealand can see a little of themselves and their fellow Kiwis.

Product Listing for Cartoonists

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Garrick Tremain' gummed stamp.

Garrick Tremain's focus is the great Kiwi traveller and that veritable New Zealand institution, the great Overseas Experience. It is an experience, he said, that is etched into our culture. Most of us have travelled, many of us when we were young. It might be for weeks, it could be for years. There are even those who never return. As a people, Kiwis seem to have a real need to get out and see for themseves how the rest of the world lives. It is an accepted ritual.

To capture the spirit of a nation of great, perhaps even adamant, travellers, Garrick looked to that other great Kiwi icon, the buzzy bee. As the flightless Kiwi, bags packed, zooms forward ready to take on the world, other more cautious birds look on in startled bewilderment. The mood is fun and light-hearted, but a reflection nevertheless of the determination of New Zealanders to fly up from down under.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'Jim Hubbard' gummed stamp.

For cartoonist Jim Hubbard, the world is an egg. It is something that Kiwis can easily crack, and why shouldn't it be that way, he asked. There's a strong 'down under' feel to Jim's view of New Zealand. Nothing too serious or too deep, just a belief that the world is there for the taking and that there is no reason on earth why it shouldn't be Kiwis who have the rest of the planet for breakfast.

To a certain extent, he concedes, there's more than a hint of a wink and a nod in this approach. The cartoon reflects a certain Kiwis bravado that says, 'what the heck, let's stop thinking about it and just get on with it'. "However, any other meaning the reader cares to take in terms of the use of dairy products, the choice of utensils or the parts of the world that can be seem are their decisions, not mine," he warns. "Interpretation is by its very definition a subjective thing. Make this cartoon what you will. Please."

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'Eric Heath' gummed stamp.

Sport has always been an arena that Kiwis are proud to excel in. Eric Heath says he has sought to sum up in one sporting event a spirit of competitiveness which he regards as very much a New Zealand trait. The reference is obvious, Team New Zealand up against the giant resources of the American yachting syndicates. It was a challenge which Eric believes fired the imagination of Kiwis because it epitomised the way our sportspeople go after their 'opposition' undaunted by size, strength or reputation.

In the foreground, a rugged and determined Kiwi yachtie skips past the rapidly foundering boat of his competitor. Note the face of the opponent, land masses spread in panic, this is the distressed look of a world not just facing defeat but on the slide as well. Here, Kiwis have indeed taken on the world, just as they have done in sporting events the world over. The result may not always be so favourable, but the spirit of determination must surely be seen as common to all.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Burton Silver' gummed stamp.

The great Kiwi gesture is the subject of Burton Silver's gentle prod at his compatriots. The need for such a display sprung, in Burton's view, from a deep sense of insignificance, an almost desperate need New Zealanders have to justify their own role in the world.

The stamp picks up on New Zealand's clean, green image and our strong anti-nuclear stance, but expresses a conundrum - Bogor has clear felled a forest (albeit pine) in order to make an anti-nuclear environmental statement. That he is prepared to do this is interesting, that he is prepared to do it in order to send a message to the world, which the world won't see, borders on ethical dilemma.

That aside, Burton says that he was very happy to be involved in preparing a cartoon for use on a stamp. "It's an exciting prospect for a cartoonist that thousands of people will lick the back of what it, to me, a piece of every day artwork," he observed dryly.

First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day ofy issue. $5.20

Technical information

Date of issue: 12 November 1997
Number of stamps: Four
Denominations: 40c, $1.00, $1.50, $1.80
Stamps designed by: 40c - Garrick Tremain, Queenstown; $1.00 - Jim Hubbard, Napier; $1.50 - Eric Heath, Waikanae; $1.80 - Burton Silver, Wellington
First day cover designed by: Alan Brown, Wellington, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, New Zealand by lithography
Number of colours: Four
Stamp size and format: 40mm x 30mm (horizontal)
Paper type: 103gsm red phosphor coated stamp paper
Number of stamps per sheet: 100 
Perforation gauge: 14
Cost of unadressed first day cover: $5.20
Special blocks: Plate/imprint, positional or value blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps.
Colour blocks: Also known as 'traffic lights', these blocks were included in plate blocks.
Barcode blocks: barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 12 November 1998.