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Early New Zealand stamps were very dull and boring in appearance, until the 1898 Pictorial issue brought elegant & intricate interesting designs before the mail-receiving folk of the planet.

The lead-up to the 1898 Pictorial set is interesting. A certain Charles Lewis was Member of Parliament for Christchurch. He conceived the idea of pictorial stamps, and submitted some original designs in large format to the Post Office in 1892. After considering them, in 1895 the Post Office announced a design competition and invited designs, from which those making the 1898 set were chosen.

The Fivepence value was printed in miniature sheets of ten, & some were recently discovered.

Each stamp shows the Chalon portrait of Queen Victoria (as used on the first NZ stamps of 1855), a sailing ship, & in tiny print, the text "The Lewis Engraving Process".

These stamp essays are mentioned in "The Postage Stamps of NZ" volume one.

Originals of the 1892 printing are now being offered for around $12,000 per sheet at auction.

Please note that these are NOT those original essays, but modern reproductions of them, which have been perforated for collectors.

Note also that these are not NZ postage stamps, but merely replicas of a proposal for some, designed in 1892.


If you are rich & a serious philatelist, you possibly should try to bid for one of those "original" 1892 printings. But if you don't want to spend that sort of cash, you may perhaps be content to have these replica sheets in your collection (or to use on mail.)

Lewis was born in Christchurch in 1857 & attended Christ's College, & Clifton & Malvern Colleges in England. He inherited his father's farm in Halswell.

He entered parliament winning the 1896 by-election in the Christchurch electorate. Lewis represented this electorate until 1901 when he resigned. He then represented Courtenay electorate from 1902 to 1908, when he retired to Waipukurau & committed suicide there in 1927.

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  • Seller location: Auckland City, Auckland, NZ

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