Originally published in Stamp News Australasia, December 2007. Republished by kind permission of the author.

Each year since 1957 Australia has issued Christmas stamps to facilitate the mailing of greeting cards to inland addresses, sometimes at a reduced postage rate. In later years there have been higher values in the series to cover postage rates to other destinations.

The first Christmas stamps were of two values, 3½d and 4d, and illustrated a child at prayer, with a star from a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds. A similar theme was adopted in 1958 with a nativity scene, followed by a single stamp in 1959 with a silhouetted scene of the Magi travelling toward Bethlehem. All further issues including the first decimal Christmas stamp of 1966 were to be single stamp issues.

1960 gave us an open bible, and a similar theme was adopted for 1961, with a prayer book and text. 1962 brought us the Spanish Madonna, from a 16th Century limestone carving. In 1963 a simple design of the Christmas Star was used.

In 1964 the first multicoloured Christmas stamp was issued, depicting a child looking down on a nativity scene. The missing red of this issue is extremely scarce, and the error has been forged many times, due to the ease with which the red pigment can he removed.

1965 gave us the first gold coloured stamp issue for Australia, with the Holy Family being the theme. In 1966 we were given a hi-colour stamp which depicted a woodcarving showing the adoration of the Shepherds.

1967 was the first year that an airmail rate was used on a Christmas issue, with the 25c denomination receiving scant use. Single usages of this stamp on commercial cover are valued in the ACSC at $25. A similar utterance in 1967 was followed by a single 5c stamp in 1968.

In 1969 it was back to the two stamp issue, and in 1970 a single 6c stamp. Then it starts to get interesting.

The 1971 issue consisted of seven 7c stamps of identical design, the only differences being in the colours. Within the quarter sheet of 25 the configuration of the seven stamps converged to form a cross each stamp being repeated either three or four times within the pane, with the exception of stamp seven which only occurred twice. Thus each pane of 25 yields only two of the uneven blocks of seven stamps. The issue was printed on both cream and white papers, the latter being slightly more scarce. This issue along with the ensuing 1972 pair were heavily speculated in during the boom period of the early 1980s but have now thankfully come down to a far more affordable level.

From 1972 to 1977 it was back to the usual pairs of stamps, bearing designs with a Christmas flavour, Santa Claus making it onto an Australian stamp for the first time in the last of those years, inevitably riding a surfboard!

In 1978 a trio of giant size stamps depicted religious paintings in the National Gallery of Victoria. The denominations of 15c. 25c and 55c were for reduced rate greeting cards, the first weight step for non-standard internal mail and Zone 5 (Europe/North America) airmail rate respectively.

The set of 3, albeit in normal size stamus continued until 1984, when a set of 5 appeared displaying stained glass windows from Australian churches. The rates were as follows: 24c, reduced greeting card rate, 30c standard letter rate, 40c surface mail to NZ/Asia, 50c served a quintuple purpose, the airmail rate for non-standard domestic mail, the concessional greeting card rate to the UK, the second step for surface mail letters to NZ/Asia, the surface mail rate for non-standard articles to the same region and the Zone 1 airmail rate for non standard articles. 85c served both the Zone 5 airmail rate and the domestic certified mail fee.

1985 had a similar scheme, and in 1986 it was back to the three values, but this time with a miniature sheet being employed for the first time on a Christmas issue. 1987 was very similar looking but with a strip of 5 of the base denomination replacing the miniature sheet.

The three value set served us well until 1993, with the first Christmas booklet appearing in 1989, and annually thereafter.

In 1994 a giant size high value of $1.80 was introduced which was the seamail rate for larger letters up to 250g for Zones 1,2 & 3.

From 1995 to 1998 it was hack to the three values, and only two in 1999, the standard letter rate of 45c being abandoned.

With the advent (no pun intended) of International mail and the introduction of GST an International Christmas Stamp was produced in 2000, the first not to bear a religions theme, and simply bearing the message “Season’s Greetings” and with a beach scene of Byron Bay.

For 2001 there were two stamps billed “Season’s Greetings”, 40c local and 80c International, issued in September but another first, this time with tabs these stamps were also available as Personalised Stamps. Following this a pair of domestic stamps with a religions theme were issued in November.

Amazingly in 2002 a set of three “International Greetings” stamps appeared in AUGUST, followed by a pair of concessional 40c and domestic 45c in November.

In 2003 the concessional rate was abandoned for the “Peace and Goodwill” issue of AUGUST 5 !! and only a 50c domestic and 90c International appeared, with extremely similar designs to the “Season’s Greetings” stamps of 2001. On October 31 the usual trio of Christmas stamps were also produced.

2004 reverted to just a set of three and 2005 brought a pair of domestic 45c & 50c stamps on Sept. 6 billed as “Marking the Occasion” (How can a stamp with a Christmas tree on it not be called a Christmas Stamp!?) followed 4 weeks later with the inevitable pair, a 45c concessional and $1 international.

2006 was back to the basic trio of 45c, 50c and $1.05 International.

Now to this year, 2007 the 50th Anniversary of Australian Christmas Stamps.

A set of 5 stamps, each depicting a previous year’s issue as follows:

1) 3 x 45c (2 are se-tenant) 1 x 50c, 1 x $1.10 International

2) A sheetlet of 10 x 45c Surfing Santa

3) A peel & stick miniature sheet of all 5 values

4) A $10.95 prestige booklet

5) A Peel & Stick sheetlet of 5 x 50c

6) Ditto of 5 x $1.10 International

Plus booklets, maxicards and airletter if you want them!

May Santa bring you heaps of goodies and maybe a little cash to spend on some of the above. May you all have a peaceful, joyous and above all safe Festive Season. Happy Christmas and Happy Stamping!