The first stamps of New Zealand were issued on 20 July 1855. They are known as the “Chalons” after the Alfred Chalon painting of the young Queen which inspired the stamps central design. This wonderful series continued with many changes to perforations, paper, watermarks and inks until 1873. It was a triumph of the engravers art and printers cunning utilising as it did not just the portrait but also 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 which were taken from a banknote design and the same Chilean stamp.
The later Victorian portrait stamps are often referred to as the ‘Sideface’ issues and are enjoyed by stamp collectors seeking to find examples of the many different perforation combinations available, also in 1893 commercial adverts were printed on the reverse of stamps and these are highly collectible. In 1898 an innovative set of pictorial designs were issued showing New Zealand’s spectacular landscapes and this set the scene for a generation of high quality engraved designs which were New Zealand’s own and not shared elsewhere.
The ‘Health’ charity fund stamps were a unique innovation which began in the 1920s and continues today, the most famous being the 1931 “Smiling Boy” set. The Postal Fiscals also set New Zealand apart with fiscal stamps being authorised for use as postage from 1882 to recent times, these often appear very different to ‘regular’ postage stamps and care must be taken by collectors of used stamps to obtain examples with postal cancellations.