Half a cen­tury on from first Christ­mas stamp

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By CHRISTO­PHER MOOR

New Zealand’s first Christ­mas stamp was is­sued 50 years ago.

The de­sign of that 1960 stamp is re­pro­duced on this year’s 60 cent gummed and self-ad­he­sive Christ­mas va­ri­eties, now on sale at post shops.

The orig­i­nal stamp was the coun­try’s postal mile­stone in a year when the first tele­vi­sion pro­grammes were trans­mit­ted, and the sec­ond Labour Govern­ment was de­feated at the polls.

Welling­to­ni­ans may re­mem­ber 1960 bet­ter for run­ners Peter Snell and Mur­ray Hal­berg win­ning gold medals at the Rome Olympics.

Be­cause New Zealan­ders wished to put the new fes­tive stamps on Christ­mas mail they posted over­seas, the is­sue date was moved for­ward a month to Novem­ber 1, 1960.

The stamp de­picted the paint­ing The Ado­ra­tion of the Shep­herds, a na­tiv­ity scene by Rem­brandt.

This pre­dom­i­nantly brown im­age with touches of red in the cen­tral group of fig­ures was used cour­tesy of the Na­tional Gallery, London, where the orig­i­nal work hung.

The post­mas­ter-gen­eral, Michael Moohan, said ev­ery ef­fort was made to re­pro­duce the ton­ings and mood of the orig­i­nal paint­ing.

At the time of is­sue, the 30 mil­lime­tre by 40mm stamp was New Zealand’s largest in cir­cu­la­tion.

Not ev­ery­one liked it.

‘‘A phi­lat­e­list’’ wrote to The Evening Post, com­plain­ing about the large size, and the ap­pear­ance be­ing dis­mal and mor­bid in­stead of bright and cheer­ful.

‘‘ By the time it is heav­ily date stamped, there will be noth­ing left of the cen­tre of the stamp, only a dark blurred mass of fig­ures – a very poor pro­duc­tion for a Christ­mas stamp.’’

An­other cor­re­spon­dent, ‘‘ Stuck’’, be­lieved the pic­ture was not suit­able for a stamp be­cause the size did not do the im­age jus­tice. But ‘‘Stuck’’ agreed with the Post Of­fice spokesman who claimed peo­ple crit­i­cis­ing the stamp were crit­i­cis­ing Rem­brandt.

The Catholic Youth Move­ment said it deeply ap­pre­ci­ated the stamp bring- ing the true mean­ing of Christ­mas to New Zealan­ders.

H F G Har­ri­son, whose com­pany Har­ri­son & Sons printed the stamp in Eng­land, vis­ited Welling­ton dur­ing the pe­riod of sale.

He said one could not lighten an old mas­ter, say­ing ex­pert opin­ion agreed the stamp was a credit to New Zealand af­ter com­par­i­son with the orig­i­nal paint­ing.

Known colour vari­a­tions in the stamp’s print­ing are pale brown and red, black­ish brown and red, and dark brown and red. The dark brown and red is the most com­mon.

Reproduction: The 1960 stamp makes a reap­pear­ance.

Orig­i­nal: New Zealand’s first Christ­mas stamp.

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