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New Zealand "Teddy Bear" Errors Fetch Record Prices

By Glen Stephens - From "Linn's" March 1998.




  A Linn's reader paid a world record price on February 25th in Australia for one of the sought after 1996 New Zealand 'Teddy Bear' error stamps.

The full story detailing the background to this issue was in my article February 9th.

These "Health" semi-postal stamps were not widely issued showing the teddy bear in the design, due to a curious last moment decision that the design would contravene New Zealand child safety rules.

The regular issued stamps without teddy bears in design carry the Scott numbers #B151 and #B152, denoting the normal gummed and self adhesive versions. Scott lists the "Teddy Bear" errors as #B154 and #B155, but they are both unpriced.

Only a few hundred copies of the incorrect deign were sold over two post office counters in error, and a few commercial covers one canceled on first day issue are known to have survived.

Stanley Gibbons auctions in Australia offered three lots of these stamps in their Sydney auction on February 25th. These lots were a corner block of 6, and two single stamps. All were never hinged regular gum issue.

The block of 6 sold to a telephone bidder in Japan for $A10,450 ($US7,100). The two single stamps sold for $A2,640 ($US1,800) and $A2,210. The $US1,800 price for a single stamp is a new record price anywhere in the world for this catchily named error. The self adhesive is known to be many times scarcer than the regular gum version. Only 12 months ago, this stamp was selling for around one quarter these levels.

These high prices for stamps with a face value of only a few cents has resulted in much mainstream media comment in Australia and New Zealand. The mass circulation national business daily "The Australian Financial Review" is the aussie equivalent to The Wall Street Journal.

The March 2nd edition states in an article about the record auction prices that "the stamp went to an American collector who had read about the item in Linn's Stamp Weekly, a detailed philatelic blatt". I understand the buyer lives in Woodland Hills, California, and had no knowledge of this error until reading the article in Feb 9th Linn's.

Stanley Gibbons London will auction a right hand margin block of 6 on March 26th, with an estimate of £2,500-2,750 and it will be interesting to compare the price realised to that achieved in Sydney. Stanley Gibbons catalogue number of the "teddy bear" error stamp is SG #2000a.

Mr. Duncan Manins is Managing Director of Stanley Gibbons Australia. Manins told me today: "bidding for these 'Teddy Bear' stamps was way beyond our expectations, and we now have two very happy vendors. This sale realised $374,000 and was our eleventh straight to realise these sort of figures - each one is bigger than the last" he said.

Manins continued: "the market for stamps of all kinds in Australia is improving strongly, and we are getting prices here higher than in the US for many items, as witnessed by our strong results for post-war China material. A 1968 Directives Of Chairman Mao strip of 5 sold for around $US2,250 (Scott #996a) despite being folded thru the perforations. This is a nice multiple of the current Scott value, and I doubt any auction in the USA would bring anything like that figure at present" he said.

"Our next sale in May should create a single stamp price record for Stanley Gibbons Australia. We offer the Morrison Hill "China" collection. 12 volumes untouched since 1958 including the 1956 Gate Of Heavenly Peace "Rays" error, (Scott #292 variety) which is catalogued in Yang at $US50,000. We also have First Day of errors and normal issues for the 1940's that may well be unique. Sale catalogs are free of charge to Linn's readers" Manins concluded.

Major New Zealand Error To Be Sold


                                                                      Glen Stephens - "Linn's" front cover story, February 9, 1998.


The most spectacular post war design error from the British Commonwealth must surely belong to New Zealand.  Outside of Australasia, remarkably little has been written on this striking modern issue.


In mid 1996 the annual "Health" issue was printed and about to be issued by New Zealand Post.  That  issue consisted of the usual two stamps and a miniature sheet, all items with a charity surcharge. 


The domestic letter rate 40¢ (+5¢)  value was at the very last minute discovered to have a major design fault. The stamp showed a baby child in a child restraint, alongside a Teddy Bear, who was wearing the car seat belt.


It is clear from the design that the child and teddy bear are in the rear seat of the car, and facing toward the front, i.e. the same direction as the driver.  In New Zealand this is not permitted.  It is required that infants in such car seats be facing to the REAR of the vehicle, so as to minimize impact and damage, in the event of an accident.


The design was amended at the last moment, and the original printing supposedly destroyed, the final issued design having no Teddy Bear, and no seat belt, so it was not apparent the child was facing in the "illegal" direction. 


Amended design stamps were issued on June 5th 1996.  It soon became apparent, due to an alert stamp collector, that at least some of the original "Teddy Bear" stamps had not been destroyed.  A commercial cover was sighted, which still exists intact. 


The story develops further .... the error in design exists in both the "peel'n'stick" self adhesive version of the stamps, and the regular gummed sheet stock issue.  Therefore it is possible to obtain this error in two kinds. The self-adhesive error appears to be extremely scarce.


The commercial cover was advertised in the leading "Australasian Stamps" monthly magazine, and the developing story of the "Teddy Bear" errors was updated to readers over a period of several months.  New Zealand retail price for a mint example is presently around $2,0000 apiece.


Investigations showed that a financial institution,  The Auckland Savings Bank had purchased most of the errors and used them on normal business mail.  A part sheet of mint copies was sold and the proceeds donated by the bank to charity.  Error stamps were sold from at least one other Post Office.


A corner block of  6, quite possibly unique, showing the printer imprint and believed to originate from the bank "find" will be auctioned late February, in Sydney Australia. 


This imprint "Teddy Bear" block shows the marginal imprint of  "Enschede Holland" where all the stamps were printed.  Stanley Gibbons Australia will auction the block, which is estimated to reach $A10,000.  (Face value is $NZ 2.70.)   Gibbons will auction at the same time two single Mint copies of this error stamp, estimate $A1,600 each. 


Airmail catalogues for this February 28th sale are available free on request from Stanley Gibbons Australia, 36 Clarence Street Sydney, NSW, 2000 Australia or via fax to (+612) 9290 1999.


There is no question as to the authenticity of this error, and it's existence is noted in major stamp catalogues, and I understand provision for it has been made in some brands of printed albums for New Zealand.  It must rate as one of the most appealing design errors of the QEII reign from Commonwealth countries.


There was a sensation late 1997 when the Miniature Sheet of this issue, which contains two of the 40¢ (+5¢) values was offered for auction in the Netherlands.  Not only one Miniature Sheet, but the same sheet with "Capex 96" overprint .  All four stamps on both sheets were the "Teddy Bear" error.


Knowing the stamps were printed in the Netherlands, and the so far unique Miniature Sheets were offered for sale there first, one must harbour some doubt as to their background and authenticity.  One theory aired in Australia was that the vendor of the sheets was based in New Zealand, so this story has many twists and turns.


Warwick Delamore, N.Z. correspondent for "Australasian Stamps" speculated in the November 1997 magazine that although such a pair of sheets would have a value of around $10,000, the New Zealand Post Office would not be keen to see them purchased or offered by a dealer within New Zealand. 


Whatever the background to the Miniature Sheets, the stamps have an interesting and well documented track record. Best of all they have that very elusive quality that always makes for a popular variety - a catchy name!  The "Teddy Bear" stamps will for some time remain the premiere post war New Zealand issue. 


 (Glen Stephens is a stamp dealer and philatelic journalist based in Sydney Australia. )




The earlier Auction in NZ of the "Teddy Bears".



These articles are all Copyright © 1999 Glen Stephens. They may NOT be reprinted or used without written permission. However, permission will be granted for virtually any reasonable useage purpose, providing full and correct attribution to the writer and magazine is given. Applicable scans from articles in black and white or color can also be arranged to be E-mailed to you.


Above is one of my Market Man "Tipster" columns published in the Australasian STAMPS Magazine.




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