Unique error

The rarest and most famous stamp in the pictorial series also came from the second local printing.

An entire sheet of the 4d blue and brown, perf 14, is thought to have been printed with its central vignette inverted in 1903, but only a single example has ever been found, clearly postmarked in Picton.

Above: A marginal block of the four of the 2d purple from the second local printing, showing an example of New Zealand’s very idiosyncratic and scarce ‘mixed perfs’. A machine with perforation gauging 11 was used to correct a misaligned horizontal perforation of 14.

Above: The only known example of mixed perfs on cover, affecting a pair of the ½d green.

Certified by the Royal Philatelic Society London in 1931, after which it was sold at auction for £61 it was bought for approximately £50,00 by the New Zealand Post Office in 1998 and now resides in the National Museum in Wellington.

Mixed-perf rarities

An unusual story concerns the emergence of the so-called ‘mixed perfs’ by early 1907.

Even today these cause considerable-confusion, partly because the term ‘mixed’ is unhelpful: these are not irregular but corrections applied to badly misaligned perfs.

Previously, poorly aligned strikes of the perf-11 machine had been corrected by further strikes of the same machine. These double perfs are regularly found from the first local printing, and less frequently from the second local printing.

But in this case, misaligned strikes of the perf-14 machine were corrected with a realigned strike of the perf-11 equipment. Thus, a single side of the stamp will show perforations of both 14 and 11, approximately parallel to each other.

Mixed-perf stamps (needed as a pair or a bigger block for certain identification) are as scarce as compound perforations in mint condition, and rarer used. Only one example is known on cover.

Why bother correcting a damaged sheet, especially as it often involved gumming selvedge ‘patches’ on the back, over the misaligned perfs, to prevent the stamps separating in the wrong place? A likely explanation is that supplies of correctly watermarked paper were limited, and accounted for sheet-by-sheet.

Third local printing

The fourth and final phase of production of this series started in March 1907, when the government ordered new plates for four values from Perkins Bacon in the UK.

In the case of the ½d this was a simple replacement, for a plate which was showing wear, but in the case of the 3d, 6d and 1s the new plates were a different size. They were now identical in size to the ½d, so that the intended introduction of comb-perforating machines would be suitable for all the most commonly used values, with 240 impressions per sheet.

As it happened, the bi-coloured 4d was suitable for comb-perforating in sheets of 80 without a change to its format, as shown by the printing of February 1908, although this stamp is truly difficult to find.

Of the eight smaller-format stamps in the series, only the 8d remained at its original size throughout its lifespan.


Some stamps in this series were overprinted for use in Pacific Islands that came under New Zealand administration Aitutaki, Niue and Penrhyn from as early as 1901, and briefly Samoa during World War I.

Above: The 3d value overprinted for use on the Pacific island of Aitutaki, also showing double perfs at the foot.

Above: A block of the ½d from the second local printing of 1902-07, overprinted ‘Official’ with two styles of plate number, a hand-scratched ‘2’ and a set of small strikes to the right of it.

Above: Distinct shade differences exist in all the stamps, as in these examples of the 1s. Some have acquired high catalogue values, even though the printers never aimed for great consistency

Examples used on commercial mail are very desirable, as are perforation varieties and manuscript (hand-scratched) plate numbers.

Starting only in 1907, some stamps were also overprinted ‘Official’ for use on government department mail. Values other than the ½d and 2d are rare on official covers, but the stamps themselves are not scarce as they were put on sale from main post offices.

Waterlow’s samples

Even though it quickly lost the contract to print the issue, Waterlow & Sons liked to use the New Zealand pictorial designs for promoting its capabilities.

So-called ‘sample stamps’ were printed for the benefit of potential customers in South America and elsewhere, probably in 1898-99, with the original designs but in colours quite different from the issued stamps.

Above: Waterlow & Sons miniature sheet of the nine ‘sample’ stamps produced in 1910.

Waterlow also displayed miniature sheets of nine, overprinted with the name of the firm and with holes punched through them to prevent fraudulent postal use, at the 1910 Brussels Exhibition.

It is not known whether the New Zealand government approved this promotional use of its stamp designs.

Join the club

The New Zealand Society of Great Britain, which will shortly celebrate its 60th anniversary, has around 300 members.

It holds regular meetings in London, the midlands, the northwest and Scotland, as well as a bi-annual residential weekend.

Other benefits of membership include the society’s bimonthly journal The Kiwi, access to its extensive library, an annual auction and circulating packet.

To find out more, contact the Honorary Secretary. Tel: 020 8657 4566. Or visit www.nzstamps.org.uk/nzsgb

[Published by kind permission of the author, Derek Diamond and Stamp Magazine.]