Christmas Stamps - Part One

Continue on to Christmas Stamps - Page Two. 

The Early Years:-  1960 - 1979.
 In 1960, New Zealand began issuing Christmas Stamps each year, stamps with a Christmas theme to celebrate this important season. These stamps were often used on mail being sent to other parts of the world so NZ post usually issues them a few months before Christmas to give time for parcels and postage to reach their destination by Christmas Day.
In 1959, the Festivals Committee of the National Council of Churches in New Zealand and the Rt. Rev. A K Warren, Bishop of Christchurch requested the Post Office produce a Christmas stamp. There was some concern expressed at the time that as the stamps would be postmarked as they passed through the postal system, some people might object to the 'defacement' of stamps that carried a picture with a spiritual significance. Finally, late in 1959, approval was given to produce Christmas Stamps with the first one being issued in 1960.

The Evolving Series.
Throughout this collection, you will find notes under the heading above. The purpose of these is to show you how this series evolved and changed in an organised manner as the years went by.
In the early years, the Christmas Issue consisted of one value depicting a famous painting with a Christmas theme. The purpose of these early issues was to provide a special stamp for Christmas Cards and other Christmas mail. This single value per issue will continue until 1970 when we see the first of the three value sets.

1960 Christmas Issue.

1960 - 2d - Rembrandt. 

                                        Date of Issue - 1 November 1960.
                                        Designer - G Bull, Wellington and G R Smith.
                                        Printer - Harrison and Sons, England.
                                        Process - Photogravure.
                                        Quantity - 20m.

1960 - The first Christmas painting was the Nativity scene 'The Adoration of the Shepherds' by Rembrandt. I know this is known as a masterpiece but to me, this stamp has always appeared very brown and dark compared to the Christmas issues that followed.     
Some had questioned the wisdom of producing this stamp but the issue proved to be a popular one and no fewer than 20,000,000 copies of the stamp were issued. This led to the decision of issuing another stamp for 1961 and the Christmas Stamp series was underway.

Missing Red.
This is a plate block of the 1960 2d Christmas showing six stamps with the red colour missing from the first two columns. I know this is rather hard to see until you study the stamps in the third column. This would have been caused by not enough ink being applied down one edge of the sheet. To the left can be seen a certificate stating this block is believed to be genuine.

Left-hand stamp - A side-way red shift, best seen in the words "New Zealand" or the strip of red down the left-hand side.
A right-hand block of four - Two perforation errors. These, found on the top pair are double perforations and a blank perforation where the pin didn't penetrate the paper. The vertical line through the left-hand stamps is not a flaw but the edge of plastic holding the stamps in position when they were photographed.

1961  Christmas Issue.
      1961 - 2½d - Albecht Durer.

                                        Date of Issue - 16 October 1961.
                                        Designer - New Zealand Post Office, Wellington.
                                        Printer - Harrison and Sons, England.
                                        Process - Photogravure.
                                        Quantities - 20.85m

1961 - The following year the painting chosen, was the 'The Adoration of the Magi' by Albrecht Dürer. This was also a nativity scene, the original of which is found in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. A brighter and colourful scene, making a much more attractive stamp.
Some of the public had complained that the 1960 stamp was issued too late to meet deadlines for overseas mail so the 1961 stamp was issued two weeks earlier.

Colour shifts.
This stamp is known for its many examples of colour shifts of which I have shown five of them here. What is surprising is how large many of these shifts are and that they are often found in a used condition as well.
Top Left:- A major blue colour shift of 3mm both to left & upwards where the blue can be seen printed behind the name 'New Zealand.'
Top Middle:- A used copy with a black shift to lower left.
Top Right:- A Selvedge Block of 4 with a large black shift in the opposite direction, upwards to the right, taking the design almost to the edge of the stamp.

Above:- A red colour shift to the right leaves the centre of the picture blurred and distorted. It is best seen with the red on the right-side and yellow band down the left-side.

Below:- 1961 Christmas plate 1A block of 6 stamps huge yellow colour shift upwards. You can see how much higher the yellow plate number 'A1' is compared to the others. See how much difference the yellow makes on the lower edge of the picture.

1962 Christmas Issue.
1962 - 2½d - Sassoferrato.

                                   Date of Issue:- 15 October 1962.
                                   Designer:- New Zealand Post Office, Wellington.
                                   Printer:- Harrison and Sons, England. 
                                   Process:- Photogravure.
                                   Quantity:- 19.98m.
 The 1962 Christmas issue depicted the painting 'Madonna in Prayer' by Sassoferrato, which now hangs in the National Gallery, London.
Now, this is a nice stamp. The woman 'Mary' takes up the whole centre and all the details are in the band at the bottom. Maybe they tried to add too much here as the painter and name of the painting are smaller and harder to read on a tiny postage stamp.

First Day Covers.
We couldn't find any misprinted stamps so have decided to include these two printed First Day Covers. The top one, sent from Tauranga to Whakatane, both in the Bay of Plenty, shows a very similar view as the one on the stamp while the cover below shows a more stylised view of the same painting. I particularly like the one below for its nice sharp postmark.

1963  Christmas Issue.
 1963 - 2½d - Titian.

                                    Date of Issue:- 14 October 1963.
                                    Designer:- New Zealand Post Office, Wellington.
                                    Printer:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                    Process:- Photogravure.
                                    Quantities:- 21.6m.
 The 1963 Christmas stamp depicted the painting 'The Holy Family' by Titian which now hangs in the National Gallery, London. A much larger format was used to show more detail of this famous painting. This issue was another Christmas Stamp well known for it many printing errors.

Colours Partly Omitted,
There is a vertical strip of the red colour omitted from the two left-hand stamps.
This can best be seen in Mary's red clothing.  

There is a similar problem shown here where the blue has been omitted on the
right hand of this pair in a strip against the selvedge. It is best seen in the sky near to the green trees.

Two Yellow Colour Shifts.
In the left-hand example, the yellow has shifted down. It can best be seen in the larger '2' where
 the background white has been printed yellow.
In the right-hand stamp, the yellow has shifted upwards leaving a grey strip across the bottom edge of the painting just above the writing. 

Donkey Nosebag Flaw.
The Nosebag Flaw  Plate 1 Row 3/8.
There is a light patch just beside the donkey's nose. This flaw is much harder to see, even when the stamp has been enlarged like this example has.

1964 Christmas Issue.

1964 - 2½d - L C Mitchell.
                                      Date of Issue:- 12 October 1964.   
                                      Designers:- LC Mitchell, Wellington.
                                      Printer:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                      Process:- Photogravure.
                                      Quantities:- 21m
The 1964 issue shows the Reverend Samuel Marsden taking the first religious service in New Zealand at Rangihoua Bay, Bay of Islands on Christmas Day in 1814.
It was intended that the 1964 Christmas stamp issue was to continue the theme of nativity paintings. However, as the sesquicentenary (150 years anniversary) of the first Christmas service held in New Zealand fell in 1964 it was decided that the stamp design should be an artist's impression of the actual service. The problem was that none could be found so in the end, stamp designer, L C Mitchell used accounts of the event to create a painting for the stamp.

This stamp has a particular interest to me since my ancestors were among those present at this service, having travelled with Samuel Marsden to help establish the first mission station in New Zealand. This theme will be featured again in the 1997 Christmas Issue.

For an index to all our posts concerning New Zealand Maori.

Perforation & Colour Shifts.
In the block of four above the upper perforation of the top two stamps has been set so low that it is cutting in the design of the stamps. This is not a shift in the paper because the other two horizontal perforations shown on this block appear to be in their correct positions.
On the single stamp to the right, there has been a downward shift of the red colour. This can best be seen in the large writing at the bottom of the stamp or where the red extends slightly beyond the bottom edge of the design.

A 1964 Christmas First Day Cover with a yellow shift on the stamp.

1965  Christmas Issues.

1965 - 3d - Murillo.
                                      Date of Issue:- 11 October 1965.
                                      Designers:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                      Printers:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                      Process:- Photogravure.
                                      Quantities:- 24.8m.

The 1965 Christmas stamp issue depicted the Old Master painting - "The Two Trinities" by Murillo. This is a return to the classic painting theme that started the Christmas Stamp Series. The painting shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus on Earth, with God, Christ and The Holy Spirit in heaven, hence the title "The Two Trinities." I can't help thinking that Jesus, as depicted here, looks a bit old for a nativity scene but the general idea of showing two trinities is a good one.   

Double Perforation.
In the block of four above, there are at least three perforation problems. The centre vertical perforation is off centre and the right-hand vertical perforation has been doubled. There is another double perforation under the right-hand stamps as well. This makes me suspect that we might be looking at printer's waste during set-up rather than a genuine flaw.
Note that this is also a Value Block as the total sheet value of 15 shillings is give in the top left corner.

1966 Christmas Issue.

1966 - 3d - Carlo Maratta.

                                      Date of Issue:- 3 October 1966.
                                      Designers:- New Zealand Post Office, Wellington.
                                      Printers:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                      Process:- Photogravure.
                                      Quantities:- 27m.

Another classic painting followed for the Christmas Issue of 1966.
In 1966 there was a work by the Italian painter Carlo Maratta was featured in a painting he named "The Virgin and Child." To me, this was another good Christmas stamp with a large clear picture and the details neatly placed in the lower portion. 

Large yellow ink flaw. 

The Evolving Series.
The first change of this series is not actually a series design change as it affected every New Zealand stamp issued after July 1967. Notice the values on these two stamps above and below. The 1967 Christmas Stamp below has a value of cents while the older 1966 issue above still uses the old currency of pence. Both values are about the same except New Zealand changed to decimal currency on 10th July 1967. 

1967  Christmas Issue.

1967 - 2½c - Nicolas Poussin.
                                     Date of Issue:- 3 October 1967.
                                     Designers:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                     Printers:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                     Process:- Photogravure.
                                     Quantities:- 24.5m.

In 1967 the stamp design consisted of a detail from the painting 'The Adoration of the Shepherds' by Nicolas Poussin. This is a pleasant stamp to look at but in my opinion not as good the 1966 issue.

There is a perforation the begins at the bottom and continues up part way through this stamp.
 It can best be seen as the perforation line passes through the 'C' of the word 'Christmas' and finishes with three pin punches into the painting.

 1967 Christmas block showing plate numbers 1A and printers colour tabs on the right-hand side. There is a distortion to the design caused by a colour shift of the yellow.

1968 Christmas Issue.

1968 - 2½c - Honthorst. 

                                   Date of Issue:- 1 October 1968.  
                                   Designers:- New Zealand Post Office, Wellington.
                                   Printers:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                   Process:- Photogravure.
                                   Quantities:- 26.8m.                     
The 1968 Christmas Issue featured a painting 'The Adoration' by the Dutch artist Gherardo van Honthorst. He is known for paintings with a night setting, which explains the darkness of this picture. The stamp bears the full title "The Adoration of the Shepherds" in error.

1969  Christmas Issue.
1969 - 2½c - Federico Fiori.

                                   Date of Issue:- 1 October 1969.
                                   Designers:- New Zealand Post Office, Wellington.
                                   Printers:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                   Process:- Photogravure.
                                   Quantities:- 29m.

The 1969 Christmas Stamp depicts the old master painting: "The Nativity" by Federico Fiori, who was also known as Detto Il Barocci. After the more beautiful stamps of previous issues, I think this stamp doesn't quite make it for me. It appears to be rather dull, maybe because the subjects are more distant.

Two corners of the same sheet showing a black doctor blade flaw down the right-hand side.

The Evolving Series.
 In 1970 we see the first major change in the Christmas Stamp series when a shift was made from single stamps each year to sets of three values. This will continue until 1988 when we will see the first set of four values. The idea of multi-value issues was to reach other Christmas mail other than just Christmas cards. Some mail took the form of parcels while other mail was sent overseas. The values chosen would best meet the postage requirements of special Christmas mail.
Each year these three designs will consist of the usual classic painting of a Christmas theme, a stained-glass window, and a symbolic Christmas design.

1970  Christmas Issue.

        2½c - Classic Painting.                                                  3c - Stained Glass Window.

On the 2½c value, the 1970 Classic Painting is "Adoration of the Child" by Correggio. 
The original painting is in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
The 3c value shows a stained glass window comes from the First Presbyterian Church, Invercargill. It must be admitted that the stained glass windows found in some church building are amazing works of art regardless of your views on their religious meanings. I am pleased to see them reflected on Christmas stamps.

10c - Christmas Theme.

The 10c value shows the tower of the Roman Catholic Church, Sockburn, Christchurch. The higher value would feature a New Zealand Christmas theme from a country that celebrates in the middle of summer rather than the mid-winter celebrations of the Northern Hemisphere. 

                                       Date of Issue:- 1 October 1970.
                                       Designers:- M Cleverley, Auckland and D Hatcher,  Auckland.
                                       Printers:- Thomas De La Rue, England.
                                       Process:- Delacryl.
                                       Quantities:- 2½c 25m;  3c 15m;  10c 2.5m.

Flaws & Errors in the 2½c value.

On the block of 4 to the left, the horizontal perforation has shifted upwards until it actually cuts into the lower edge of the stamps.
On the right-hand stamp, black offset on the reverse is showing part of the design. 


On both these stamps, the green colour has shifted down, best seen in the writing at the top.

1971  Christmas Issue.

3c - Classic Painting.

 The 1971 Christmas Stamp Issue included three values with a classic painting, a stained glass window; and a symbolic design. 
The 3c stamp shows the painting, "The Holy Night" by Maratta. The original painting hangs in the Dresden Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister.
The 4c stained glass window can be found in the St Luke's Anglican Church, Havelock North.
The 10c value is a symbolic design of the Three Kings or three wise men.

4c - Stained Glass Window.                                                  10c - Christmas Theme.   

                                  Date of Issue:- 6 October 1971.
                                  Designers:- E Hunter, Wellington and D A Hatcher, Auckland.
                                  Printers:- D A Hatcher, Auckland.
                                  Process:- Photogravure. 
                                  Quantities:- 3c 26m;  4c 15m;  10c 2.5m.

1972  Christmas Issue.

3c  - Classic Painting.                              5c - Stained Glass Window.                           10c Christmas theme.

 The three value issue continued for the Christmas stamps of 1972 although all three stamps had the same vertical format where an attempt was made to make them appear as a set.
The 3c value shows the painting, "Virgin and Child" by Murillo which hangs in the Pitti Gallery, Florence.
On the 5c value, this year's window comes from the From St John's Methodist Church, Levin.
 The higher 10c value features a very simple design of the flower of the Pohutukawa tree, widely known as New Zealand's Christmas tree because of its crown of bright red flowers at Christmas time.

                                  Date of Issue:- 4 October 1972.
                                  Designers:- D A Hatcher, Auckland.
                                  Printers:- Courvoisier, Switzerland.
                                  Process:- Lithography. 
                                  Quantities:- 3c 26m;  5c 15m;  10c 2.5m.

1973  Christmas Issue.

3c  - Classic Painting.                                  5c - Stained Glass Window.                               10c Christmas theme.

Again the three value vertical format was used for the 1973 Christmas Issue.
The 3c value shows "Tempi Madonna" by Raphael. Raphael was born on 6 April 1483 and was famed initially for his portraits. It was not until the 19th century that his Madonnas became equally famous  This work belonged to the Tempi family from whom it was acquired in 1821 by King Ludwig I of Bavaria for 16,000 scudi.  Today it hangs in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
The 5c value shows the stained glass window depicting the "Three Kings" from St Theresa's Roman Catholic Church, Mt Roskill, Auckland.
The 10c value shows a symbolic view of Christmas in New Zealand - a summer scene with a family about to enter a church building.

                                   Date of Issue:- 3 October 1973.
                                   Designer:- A G Mitchell, Wellington.
                                   Printers:- Joh Enschedé, Netherlands.
                                   Process:- Photogravure.
                                   Quantities:- 3c 26m; 5c 10m; 10c 2.5m.

 This is a selvedge error where the magenta plate number hasn't been printed correctly. Compare the line of 1s on the left side of each of these blocks. The magenta one has printed as a dot on the right-hand block. 

 This block is from a sheet that had its corner folded over. The result is this interesting corner selvedge.

Our last 1973 Christmas error is in the 10c value showing a  block of 4 unhinged mint stamps red & black shifts which appear as doubled shadows of People & Windows.

1974  Christmas Issue.

3c  - Classic Painting.                      5c - Stained Glass Window.                   10c Christmas theme.

1974 saw a new format of the three values. Where previous Christmas stamps have had an oblong format, this year the three stamps were almost square but once again they kept a similar appearance.
The 3c value shows "Adoration des Mages" a painting by Conrad Witz, a painter, born at Rottweil in Wurttemberg, probably between 1400 and 1410. The painting depicts Mary, Joseph and child with the three kings.
The 5c value shows a stained glass window from Old St Paul's Church, Wellington. I am rather impressed by the unusual shape of this window. St Paul's Church was consecrated by Bishop Abraham on 6 June 1866. The church building closed in 1964 and two years later it was offered to the Government. It was restored by the Ministry of Works under the guidance of Peter Sheppard and is now managed by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. While no longer a parish church, it remains consecrated and is a popular venue for weddings, funerals and other services.
The 10c stamp depicts a Christmas Lily (Lilium candidum).

                                   Date of Issue:- 2 October 1974.
                                   Designer:- E Mayo, Dunedin.
                                   Printers:- Courvoisier, Switzerland.
                                   Process:- Photogravure.
                                   Quantities:- 3c 26m; 5c 10m; 10c 3m.

1975  Christmas Issue.
The 1975 Christmas Issue returns to the oblong format with 3c being a vertical portrait design and the two high values being a horizontal landscape design.

3c - Classic Painting.
This value shows the painting "The Virgin and Child" by the 15th Century painter Zanobi Machiavelli (1418-1479). This painting, said to be one of his best, was donated to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

5c - Stained Glass Window.                                                             10c - Christmas Theme.

The 5c value shows a stained glass window of much more modern design from the combined Methodist/Presbyterian Church, Greendale. This window reflects New  Zealand with the sheep grazing and hay-making scenes.
The 10c value is a symbolic design is based on the carol "I Saw Three Ships Go Sailing By" and the doves depicted symbolise the Christ Child's message of peace.

                                      Date of Issue:- 1 October 1975.
                                      Designer:- E Hunter, Takaka.
                                      Printers:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                      Process:- Photogravure.
                                      Quantities:- 3c 26m; 5c 8m, 10c 3m.

 In this example of the 5c value the
brown value has been omitted.


On the left is a block of six 3c stamps showing quadruple perfs in the first row.
On the right is a plate block of eight 3c stamps with large orange shift upwards, best seen in the writing at the top of each stamp.

Blue printing error, doctor blade mark, across the bottom of this block.

This block of six 10c Ships shows major red colour shift downwards. Notice this shift can be seen in the two printers marks on the bottom right.

The Evolving Series.
In 1976 another change was made to the lower value of the Christmas Stamp series when a move was made away from featuring just classic paintings to include other forms of art depicting Christmas themes.

1976  Christmas Issue.

7c - Classic Artwork.

11c - Stained Glass Window.                                                      18c - Christmas Theme.

The 1976 Christmas Issue followed the same format as had been used in 1975 with the portrait design of the lower value and two landscape designs of the upper values.
On the 7c value, the artwork was entitled "Nativity," a late 16th Century Gothic Ivory work by an unknown Spanish artist.
On the 11c value, the stained glass window depicting Christ is in St Joseph's Catholic Church, Grey Lynn, Auckland.
On the 18c value, the symbolic design is based on the carol "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".

                                  Date of Issue:- 6 October 1976.
                                  Designers:- D A Hatcher, Auckland and M Chapman, Christchurch.
                                  Printers:- Harrison and Sons, England.
                                  Process:- Photogravure.
                                  Quantities:- 7c 25m; 11c 11m; 18c 3m.

 1976 Christmas 7c - A value block of 8 stamps. The top row has a major colour smudging through design.
1976 Christmas 11c - A strip of 4 stamps with a yellow Dr Blade flaw down the left-hand side of the stamp.

1976 Christmas 18c - A Plate Block with the paper printed at an angle, showing 4 colours down 3 colours up. This would be caused by the sheet making 2 passes through a four colour printing machine.

1977  Christmas Issue.

3c - Classic Art.

16c - Stained Glass Window.                                                       23c - Christmas Theme.

The 3c value shows a drawing 'The Holy Family',  by Antonio Allegri Correggio (1494?-1534) The original of this work hangs in the National Art Gallery, Wellington. The figures on the drawing are Mary, the Christ Child, Joseph and another child who is probably the infant St John.
On the 16c value, the stain glass window is from the St Michael's and All Angels Church, Dunedin.  The window depicts the Madonna and Child with the quotation "And the child grew and became strong filled with wisdom and the favour of God was upon him".  The stained glass window is the west window of the church and was designed by Mrs Beverley Shore Bennett of Wellington and made by Mr Roy Miller of Dunedin.
The 23c stamp shows a design inspired by the song 'Partridge in a Pear Tree' - 23c
This counting song is by an unknown author and set to a traditional melody "Twelve Days of Christmas".

                                    Date of Issue:- 5 October 1977.
                                    Designer:- M Chapman, Christchurch.
                                    Printers:- Courvoisier, Switzerland.
                                    Process:- Lithography.
                                    Quantities:- 3c 25m; 16c 11m; 23c 3m.

1978  Christmas Issue.

7c - Classic Painting.

16c - Historic Church.                                                              23c - Christmas Theme.

On the 7c stamp the old master painting - 'The Holy Family' is by El Greco (1541-1614). The original painting is in the Samuel H Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, United States of America. 
On the 16c stamp the All Saints Church, Howick was one of the first of the Selwyn Churches, this was built for the use of the Fencible settlement at Howick in 1847.  The church was designed by Frederick Thatcher and prefabricated at St John's College, Auckland. 
The 23c stamp shows a typical New Zealand beach scene, at Paihia in the Bay of Islands, which underlines the special character of the Southern Hemisphere Christmas. Notice the flowering Pohutukawa tree in the left foreground.

                                     Date of Issue:- 4 October 1978.
                                     Designer:- R M Conly, Waikanae.
                                     Printer:- Courvoisier, Switzerland.
                                     Process:- Photogravure.
                                     Quantities:- 7c 20m; 16c 3m; 23c 2.5m.

The Evolving Series.
In 1978 this Christmas series of postage stamps the middle value moved from featuring stained-glass windows to showing whole historic church buildings.

1979  Christmas Issue.

        10c - Classic Art.                                        25c - Historic Church.                                     35c - Christmas Theme.

10c - Sculpture - 'Madonna and Child' by Ghiberti (1378-1455).
This is an interesting move away from classic paintings. The 1979 Christmas Issue features an original sculpture that is found in the Samuel H Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

25c - Christ Church, Russell.
 The oldest surviving church building in New Zealand, an Anglican church (Christ Church), built in 1835 when Russell was known as Kororareka.  It survived the sacking of the settlement in 1845 by Hōne Heke but was badly damaged when the British warships in the bay shelled and destroyed most of the town.  The building has been restored by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust an is opened for public viewing.

35c - Christmas Tree - 35c
This stamp depicts a Pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) in bloom along the Thames-Coromandel coast.  Sometimes known as the 'New Zealand Christmas Tree,'  because of its attractive wide-spreading habit and the profusion of scarlet/red flowers it bears about Christmas time. This tree is normally found in coastal locations, hanging off cliffs or along beaches, where many other trees would never survive.  
I have planted some in the paddocks below our house. Now they are well established, they never fail to put on a great show when we invite friends and family over at Christmas time.

                                     Date of Issue:- 3 October 1979.
                                     Designers:- D A Hatcher, Auckland.
                                     Printers:- Courvoisier, Switzerland.
                                     Process:- Lithography.
                                     Quantities:- 10c 20m; 25c 3m; 35c 2.5m.

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