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

Underwater World

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These special stamps featured some of the creatures from New Zealand's diverse underwater world.

Issue information

The New Zealand coastline is around 11,000 kilometres in total. It is surrounded by some of the richest and cleanest waters on the planet, and a diverse underwater world that has earned New Zealand an international reputation.

The cornerstone for such a rich sea life is plankton. Our seas teem with these minute plants and animals, so there is plenty of food for the wide range of migratory and local fish that live in the mix of cool and warm currents that reach our shores.

Limited Edition

A miniature sheet was produced for inclusion in the Underwater World limited edition collectors pack. It incorporated a perforated set of stamps. Each miniature sheet was individually numbered from one through to 2,000.

Product Listing for Underwater World

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Image Title Description Price
Se-tenant Set

Mint, used or cancelled se-tenant block of four 40c stamps.

The individual stamps in this set were:

Moonfish (Lampris guttatus).

This unusual-looking, disc-shaped fish grows up to 1.5 metres in diameter. Its crimson fins and large eyes rimmed with gold would lead many to think it was tropical, yet it lives many miles offshore in the surface waters of warm and temperate seas.

Mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus).

This formidable shark is one of the fastest fish in the sea. Although it grows on average to around 2.8 metres and 180 kg for the female, and 1.9 metres and 56 kg for the male, makos have been clocked travelling at up to 56 kph!

Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares).

Yellowfin tuna grow up to 180 kg and can be found in New Zealand waters over the summer. The most famous place to catch yellowfin in New Zealand is 'the tuna capital of New Zealand', Whakatāne, on the North Island's east coast.

Giant squid (Genus architeuthis).

The giant squid is a true creature of legend, with no live specimen ever having been caught. They are said to grow up to 18 metres long, to have a beak powerful enough to cut through steel cable, and to be strong enough to kill a small whale with their eight arms and two tentacles. 

Se-tenant Set

Mint, used or cancelled se-tenant block of four 80c stamps.

The individual stamps in this set were:

Porcupine fish (Allomycterus jaculiferus).

This fish is both prickly and deadly. It is protected on the outside by spines of up to 2 cm which it can cause to protrude by filling itself with water when threatened. The porcupine fish also carries the poison TTX (tetradotoxin) in its systems, which can be deadly to humans.

Striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax).

New Zealand game anglers have sought the striped marlin ever since 1915 when a 105 kg specimen was caught in the Bay of Islands. Their fighting power is legendary. In addition to spectacular leaps, striped marlin also have extraordinary speed being able to travel at up to 80 kph!

Eagle ray (Myliobatis tenuicaudatus).

The eagle ray is one of more than 20 species of ray found in New Zealand. When disturbed, the eagle ray escapes by flapping its pointed wings and 'flying' underwater. It's only defence is a barb at the base of its tail which contains a tissue necrotic toxin.

Sandager's wrasse (Coris sandageri).

Young Sandager's wrasse are small and cream with a striking yellow band down the length of their body. However, they change dramatically as they approach adulthood. Adult females have a creamy body, broad fawn strokes and light splashes of lemon markings. Males become a tapestry of brown, yellow and white strokes across a fawn or mauve body, with purple and turquoise colouring around the head. 

First Day Cover First day cover with eight gummed stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $5.30
Set of Maximum Cards Set of eight pre-paid postcards featuring a stamp on the front and artwork from the stamp issue. $10.60
Limited Edition Limited edition collectable containing exclusive stamp products not available anywhere else. $135.00

Technical information

Date of issue: 7 October 1998
Number of stamps: Eight
Denominations and designs: 40c Moonfish, 40c Mako shark, 40c Yellowfin tuna, 40c Giant squid, 80c Striped marlin, 80c Porcupine fish, 80c Eagle ray, 80c Sandager's wrasse
Stamps and first day cover designed by: Geoffrey Cox, Auckland, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, New Zealand, by lothography
Number of colours: Four process and two special colours
Stamp size and format: 30mm x 40mm (vertical)
Number of stamps per sheet: 100
Perforation gauge: 14
Paper type: 103gsm gummed red phosphor coated stamp paper
Cost of unadressed first day cover: $5.30
Special blocks: Plate/imprint or positional blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least eight sheet stamps. Colour blocks ('traffic lights') were included in plate blocks for sheet stamps. Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats and could be obtained by purchasing at least four sheet stamps.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 7 October 1999.