Norway's first stamp, the 4sk blue issued on the 1st January 1855, depicts the National Coat of Arms – a Lion with the axe. The stamp was imperforate, printed in typography on handmade paper, and also features a lion wielding an axe as its watermark. Unusually this watermark appears dull white on the back of the stamp, as the watermark is actually thicker than the surrounding paper. A total of 2,018,200 stamps were issued.
Long appreciated as a classic stamp design, it has been closely studied. Its low printing figures (contrast this to Britain's Penny Black with over 60,000,000 sold) and range of plate flaws, have made it a world wide collecting favourite. It was not well received however, by the Norwegian public. In the leading newspaper, Aftenbladet, of 19th January, 1855, the stamp was described as ugly, plain and improper. In 1856 a new series was issued portraying King Oscar.
The printing plate containing 200 cliches was divided into 4 panes - each of 50 cliches. Because of fairly distinctive irregularities and flaws, it is possible to identify all 200 positions.
The most popular plate flaw is the so-called "Double Foot" variety, from position 40 of the bottom right pane. On this position, the lions left foot is misshapen and forms a triple lump – the double foot. It is the most famous variety on Norway's most famous stamp.