New Zealand's first postage stamps go on sale

18 July 1855

‘Full-face Queen’ stamp, 1855 (Te Papa, PH000592)

These adhesive, non-perforated stamps for prepaid postage were the famous ‘Chalon Head’ design, showing Queen Victoria in her coronation robes.

New Zealand issued its first postage stamps 15 years after they had appeared in Britain. The three stamps in the ‘Full-face Queen’ set – one penny (1d), twopence (2d) and one shilling (1s) – were printed in Britain. Other values were added later.

The first stamp designed in New Zealand was a halfpenny (½d) stamp issued on 1 January 1873. This had a side view of Queen Victoria’s head and was known as the ‘Newspaper’ stamp because it was often used as payment for posting a newspaper.

During the 1890s, New Zealand introduced a short-lived stamp with advertising on the back, and became one of the first countries in the world to release stamps with images of the countryside, birds and animals.

New Zealand was also one of the first countries to issue a ‘penny universal’ stamp in 1900. The idea was that all countries would charge a standard amount for postage, making it easier to send letters internationally.