The “Chalon” Classics of New Zealand

16/02/2016     British Commonwealth, New Zealand

The beautiful first stamp design of New Zealand is uniformly referred to as the “Chalon” so-named after Alfred Edward Chalon (15 February 1780 – 3 October 1860) who had painted a well- received likeness of the young Victoria in her State robes going to the House of Lords for her first official act as Queen in 1837.

A bust inspired by this painting is the central feature of these stamps, hence Chalon’s name being inextricably linked with the stamps but it had in fact been in use previously having been utilised on banknotes and on Nova Scotia’s 1853 1d brown.

It is speculated that William Humphrys working in London for Perkins, Bacon & Petch engraved the original die and the first New Zealand stamp utilises not just the portrait but the circular engine- turned background from the first stamps of Chile, Nova Scotia and South Australia, also the radiating spandrels outside of the central vignette are taken from a banknote design and the same Chilean classic.

The shipment of the first stamps arrived in Wellington in February 1855 and was transferred to Auckland in March. The eight containers included 12,000 1d dull carmine stamps, 66,000 of the 2d dull blue and 8,000 of the 1s pale yellow- green stamps, also the 3 different printing plates, unprinted sheets of the ‘star’ watermarked paper, ink, gum, brass cancels & cancellation ink plus a complete printing press!

The listings in your Stanley Gibbons Part One catalogue give no hint as to the trials and tribulations of this sparsely populated colony’s efforts in producing it’s own stamps, in fact the printer tasked with printing the stamps in New Zealand couldn’t use the supplied paper from London and had instead to use blue paper normally utilised for official purposes including the New Zealand Government Gazette. The imperforates with narrow margins are rarely found in very fine condition, and the perforated stamps relying as they did on local provisional separations (with such names as ‘serrated’, ‘oblique’ & ‘square’ roulettes, amongst others) and then a little later on rather primitive perforating technology are also rarely found in very fine condition.

This is a fascinating and rewarding collecting area. Please take a look at our current group of very attractive Chalon classics, and for an excellent and informative read we would recommend Robert P. Odenweller’s “The Postage Stamps of New Zealand 1855 – 1873 / The Chalon Head Issues”

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