Official issuer of New Zealand stamps & commemorative coins
Call: 06 262 7262

Christmas 1983

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An Old Master painting, a church and a scene symbolic of Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere featured in the 1983 Christmas Stamp Issue.

Issue information

A detail of the painting "The Holy Family of the Oak Tree' by Raphael, the original work of which is in the Prado Museum, Madrid appeared on the 18c stamp. The Holy Family was pictured with the young St John. Typical of much Renaissance art, the figures are shown against an Italian backdrop of fields and ancient Roman artifacts. Raphael (1483-1520) was born at Urbino, Italy and trained from an early age in the workshops of Timoteo Viti and Perugino, both leading artists of the period. He then embarked on a brilliant career during which other major influences were Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Under the patronage first of the Dukes of Urbino and later Popes Julius II and Leo X, Raphael became famous and rich, painting large-scale frescoes, many of them in the Vatican. Among the most popular of his smaller works were the Madonnas of which the Madonna in the "Oak Tree" painting is a fine example.

St Patrick's Church, Greymouth which featured on the 35 cent stamp, has been said to be one of the finest churches on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. The church was designed by leading architect Mr Frank Petre who was also responsible for the Catholic cathedrals of Christchurch and Dunedin. It was opened in May, 1888. Originally St Patrick's, must have looked much as it did on the stamp, but a church spire, bell tower and entrance porch were added in 1900. A decision to use local timber for the spire may have led to its early deterioration for the spire was demolished in the 1960s and was never replaced. In 1912 the nave of the church was widened and a sanctuary added, while marble furnishings were added at a still later date. The church organ has been claimed by many to be the finest musical insturment in Westland. Another feature of the church is some magnificent stained glass window.

The Southern Cross which featured on the 45 cent stamp, alongside the Star of Bethlehem and poinsettia flowers, is usually represented symbolically by either four of five stars. Within the accepted boundaries of the constellation however, up to 34 stars can be seen with the naked eye and with telescopes the numbers run into the thousands. Visible from all New Zealand latitudes, the Southern Cross makes a complete circuit of the heavens in the course of 24 hours, around a point known as the South Celestial Pole. The poinsettia flower is not a native to New Zealand, but its attractive scarlet bracts can be seen in many gardens over the summer months. The plant is name after an American diplomat, Mr Joel Poinsettia who found it in Mexico in 1828. Poinsettisa are now grown all over the world.

Michael J. Wyatt of Queenstown was responsible for the Church design and graphics for the old master stamp. Maurice Conly of Waikanae designed the symbolic stamp.

Stamp Bulletin

This stamp issue first appeared in New Zealand Post Stamp Bulletin No. 30 in October 1983.

Acknowledgments: Bulletin scanned and provided by John Biddlecombe of the New Zealand Society of Great Britain. Their web site offers further information useful to those interested in the stamps and postal history of New Zealand. Link:

Product Listing for Christmas 1983

Image Title Description Price
  Single Stamp

Single 18c 'The Holy Family of the Oak Tree' gummed stamp.

This Old Master painting by Raphael (1483-1520) hangs in the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.

  Single Stamp

Single 35c 'St Patrick's Church, Greymouth' gummed stamp.

This stamp depicted one of the finest churches on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island.

  Single Stamp

Single 45c 'The Glory of Christmas' gummed stamp.

The Southern Cross, the Star of Bethlehem and Pionsettia flowers were all featured on this stamp

  First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $1.05

Technical information

Date of issue: 5 October 1983
Number of stamps: Three gummed stamps
Denominations: 18c, 35c and 45c
Stamps and first day covers designed by: 35c stamp and first day cover by Michael J. Wyatt, Queenstown, New Zealand; 45c stamp by RM Conly, Waikanae, New Zealand
Printer and process: Courvoisier S.A., Switzerland by photogravure
Stamp size and format: 28.6mm x 39.2mm (vertical)
Paper type: Unwatermarked
Number of stamps per sheet:  100 stamps per sheet
Perforation gauge: Gummed: 11.75
Special blocks: Plate/imprint positional or value blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least 6 stamps of each denomination
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 30 June 1984. First day covers remained on sale until October 14 1983.
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