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Sheep Stamps

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To celebrate World Postage Day, on 9 October, one of our Honorary Curators, Dr Melville Carr, is here to tell us about stamps from Aotearoa featuring sheep.

 

Did you know that Captain James Cook in 1773 brought a ram and ewe ashore in New Zealand and they died from tutu (Coriaria sp.) poisoning? 

 

The first sheep farmer was Samuel Marsden, the missionary, who arrived in the Bay of Islands on 23 December, 1814 with eight merinos from his farm in New South Wales.  The first flock of 100 merinos was brought from Sydney to Mana Island near Wellington by John Bell Wright in 1834, and by 1850 there were 92 000 sheep in Nelson province, 64 000 in Wellington, 35 000 in Otago, and 28 000 in Canterbury. Seven years later, after the 1850s sheep rush, Canterbury was leading the field with 496 000 sheep.

 

It is a little surprising, that New Zealand, the second country in the world to first issue pictorial stamps, and well-known for the importance of its sheep and wool production, should first depict sheep and wool on its postage stamps in 1936; 81 years after its first issue in 1855. Two of the 1936 stamps commemorating the Congress of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire at Wellington, showed a truck transporting bales of wool (halfpenny green), and a flock of Southdown sheep (two-and-a-half-penny blue).

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Image: 1936 halfpenny green showing a truck transporting bales of wool, 1936 two-and-a-half-penny stamp showing a flock of Southdown sheep © Otago Museum.

Some of the provincial centenary issues featured sheep and wool. The 3d Southland stamp of 1956 showed three sheep, and shearing was depicted on the 8d Hawkes Bay of 1958, while the 3d Marlborough 1959 stamp showed bales of wool being moved from a boat to an oxen-drawn cart.

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Image: 1956 threepenny stamp celebrating Southland provincial centenary showing three sheep, 1958 eight penny stamp celebrating Hawkes Bay provincial centenary showing shearing, 1959  threepenny stamp celebrating Marlborough provincial centenary showing transport of wool bales, © Otago Museum.

The trade promotions stamps of 1968, included the 18c Wool Industry denomination showing the worldwide emblem of the International Wool Secretariat (the ’wool mark‘ guaranteeing 100% wool), and some of the nation’s 60 million sheep.  Sheep were not featured in the 1960, 1970, or 1975 pictorial issues, but a wool wagon was shown on the 10c Vintage Farm Transport issue of 1976.

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Image: 1968 18c Wool Industry denomination showing the the wool mark, 1976 Ten cent stamp from the Vintage Farm Transport issue showing a wool wagon. © Otago Museum.

 

The importance of farming in nineteenth century New Zealand led to the first agricultural institution in the Southern Hemisphere, Lincoln College, which opened in 1880. In 1978, six stamps commemorating its centennial were issued, and the 12c denomination showed a stylised pastoral scene with sheep, while the 15c and 16c stamps showed fertiliser spreading and tractor ploughing, both activities an essential part of sheep farming.

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Image: The importance of farming in nineteenth century New Zealand led to the first agricultural institution in the Southern Hemisphere, Lincoln College, which opened in 1880. In 1978, six stamps commemorating its centennial were issued, and the 12c denomination showed a stylised pastoral scene with sheep, while the 15c and 16c stamps showed fertiliser spreading and tractor ploughing, both activities an essential part of sheep farming. © Otago Museum.

 

Sheep featured in the 1995 Farm Animals Booklets on 40c and 45c stamps.

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Image: 1995 New Zealand 45c stamp featured sheep in the Farm Animals Booklets. © Otago Museum.

Several towns around New Zealand contain well-known monuments and a shearer (40c) in Te Kuiti appears on the 1998 issue of Town Icons.

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Image: 1998 40 cent showing a well-known monument of a shearer in Te Kuiti, in the Town Icons issue. © Otago Museum.

A set of five stamps to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Sheep in 2003, illustrate the mechanism of sheep farming including mustering, droving, the sheep dog in the yards, the shearing gang, and a shearer in action.

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Image: 2003 set of five stamps to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Sheep illustrated the mechanisms of sheep farming including mustering, droving, the sheep dog in the yards, the shearing gang, and a shearer in action. Gift of New Zealand Post. © Otago Museum.

The 2015 Year of the Sheep issue contains a paper-cut sheep ($1.40), and sheep in New Zealand ($2.00).

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Image: 2015 $1.40 Year of the Sheep issue shows a paper-cut sheep, and sheep in New Zealand  on the $2.00 stamp. Gift of New Zealand Post. © Otago Museum.