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

Emerging Years - 1930's

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In stark contrast to the previous carefree decade, the 1930s brought hardship and strife to most New Zealanders. By the end of 1931 the country was firmly in the grip of a worldwide economic depression. It was not until Labour's landslide election victory in 1935 that the tide turned. Little did New Zealanders know that their bright new vision of the future would last just four years before they were plunged into the bloodiest World War in history.

Issue information



Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 45c 'Buttons and Bows' gummed stamp.

The boyish figure popularised by the 20s flapper vanished completely in the 1930s to be replaced by a far more feminine style of dress. Those who could afford the fashions of the era dressed in frills, flounces, florals and wide brimmed hats. Labour was plentiful and cheap so manufacturers added detailed handwork to garments and accessories. Long and elaborately curled hairstyles were once again the fashionable look.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'The Great Depression' gummed stamp.

The Great Depression hit those who were already poor the hardest. Many of the unemployed men were sent to government relief camps miles from their families. There they lived in appalling conditions carrying out hard manual labour for a pitiful few shillings a week. Relief stations in the cities doled out meagre food parcels to those who could prove they were on the brink of starvation. Hunger turned to rage and in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin unemployed workers rioted in rebellion against the wretched times and the government.

Single Stamp

Single 90c 'Phar Lap' gummed stamp.

Phar Lap, nick-named 'Big Red', was arguably the greatest horse this country has ever produced. At a massive 17.1 hands, he was also one of the largest thoroughbreds on record. He began his legendary career in the early 30s. As a four year old he won the Melbourne Cup and went on to accumulate a tremendous 70,121 Pounds Sterling in race earnings. Carrying 39 pounds more than the lowest weighted horse he streaked to victory in the rich Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico. Less than three weeks later he died suddenly and tragically of an unknown illness.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'State Housing' gummed stamp.

It was not until the Labour Government swept to power in 1935 that the chronic state of the country's housing problems became apparent. The government immediately set out to overcome the shortage, putting the fiery John A Lee in charge of implementing its ambitious policy. The first state house was occupied in 1937 by the McGregor family of Miramar, Wellington. By the end of 1939 the government was providing 5,000 new state houses a year.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'Free Milk for Schools' gummed stamp.

Free milk for school children was first suggested during the Depression when thousands of New Zealand children lived on the borderline of malnutrition and dairy farmers had a huge milk surplus. But it was not until 1935 when Labour swept to power that the milk scheme was introduced and children received a free half pint bottle at each morning break.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'The Talkies' gummed stamp.

The golden age of cinema began in New Zealand on 18 April 1929 when the first part-talking feature played to packed audiences at both the Regent and Strand theatres in Auckland. Throughout the 30s the 'talkies' increased in popularity. Many of the country's picture theatres, built during the vaudeville era, were modernised in the art deco style. Their empty orchestra pits were covered over or filled with greenery.

First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $6.70

Technical information

Date of issue: 17 February 1993
Designer: Ross Jones, Wellington, NZ
Printer: Leigh-Mardon, Australia
Stamp size: 28mm x 40mm
Sheet size: 100 stamps per sheet
Process: Lithography
Perforation gauge: 14.25 x 14
Paper type: Peterborough Paper Convertors, red phosphor coated, unwatermarked
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 17 February 1993.