Notes from the Past

New Zealand's First Stamps

Like most of the rest of the world, mail in New Zealand did not require prepayment until the mid 19th century.  The New Zealand Gazette gave notice in a proclamation published on January 8, 1851, that on April 1, 1851, prepayment of postage would become mandatory.  The same notice mentioned that postage stamps could be used for such prepayment.  It was not until 1855 that stamps became available.

An order for stamps was placed with Perkins, Bacon, & Co. in London on March 3, 1854.  After some trial designs, William Humphrys completed satisfactory engraved dies for 1d., 2d., and 1s. values on June 2, 1854.  The design featured the head of Queen Victoria taken from the the portrait by Alfred Edward Chalon and a background of engine-turned patterns.  Proofs do exist.

Plates of 240 impressions were made and the stamps were printed following the Perkins, Bacon processes.  The colors chosen were dull carmine for the 1d., dull blue for the 2d., and yellow green for the 1s.  The stamps were printed on white wove paper watermarked with a one large six-pointed star on each stamp.  The 2d. and 1s are usually found with blued paper which resulted from precipitation of prussiate of potash after the paper was moistened before printing.

On September 22, 1854,  Perkins, Bacon, & Co. sent a supply of the stamps, along with the plates, a press, and various other articles necessary to the production of stamps to New Zealand.  12,000 1d. stamps, 20,000 of the 2d., and 8,000 of the 1s. were included. (As Richard Frajola has pointed out, the numbers of the 2d. and 1s. are probably not exact since the quantities are not divisible by 240 and it is unlikely that part sheets were sent.  On the other hand the quantities may be correct since the order made before the plate layout was finalized may have stated how many stamps were to be supplied and Perkins, Bacon were used to accommodating the accounting needs of security printing.)  This first shipment also included 50 pounds of the dull carmine ink, 250 pounds of the blue ink, and 40 pounds of the yellow green ink.  The shipment included postmarking handstamps and ink, some gum, oil, whiting, and other items.

The Gazette announced that the stamps were issued on July 18, 1854.  The rest is more history!

Posted July 19, 2000

Editor's Note:  I have willingly excerpted (almost plagiarized) this from Stamps Day By Day, L. N. and M Williams. Blandford Press Ltd, 1950.

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