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Glen Stephens
Monthly "Stamp News" Market Tipster Column


      September 2006




   New Zealand withdrawn Maori Kapa Haka stamp set 5 sensation!



Major Maori Stamp Mess

A very controversial saga is unfolding in New Zealand in relation to the "un-issued" Maori design stamps.

These 5 stamps were to be issued June 7,2006.  They were to highlight Maori Performing Arts - or "Kapa Haka". 

There were 5 stamps in the planned set -  45¢, 90¢, $1.35, $1.50 and $2 values.  They were printed in the usual sheet form, and the letter rate 45¢ was also printed in self adhesive format in rolls of 100, and in booklets of 10. 

The 5 normal gum stamps are illustrated nearby.




 The set of 5



New Zealand Post in its pre-release original information on the issue had said about them: "in an increasingly globalised world, nations like New Zealand are learning to treasure the characteristics that make them unique and to invest in preserving and protecting them for future generations.".

I understand New Zealand Post consulted with Te Papa (the National Museum in Wellington) and Te Puni Kokiri representatives during the stamp series development process. 

All is well.  Everyone seemed happy. The stamps are printed, and are ready to be released. The usual pre-release publicity takes place.



"Disgusting Stamps"


Within days of the issue of the brochure depicting the new designs, a well known Rotorua stamp dealer, Donald Ion appears in the media bagging the issue.  His complaints went as high as the NZ Prime Minister, Helen Clarke. 

Ion claimed Maori people were outraged, saying the stamps were ugly and depicted the Maori culture in a bad light.

Mr Ion is on record as saying: “this is a disgusting set of stamps which ridicules every Maori person.  This issue should immediately be destroyed.  The 'cartoon' type characters depicted are culturally insensitive, and there would appear to have been little consultation with members of the Maori or European races on a production of 'jam labels' which will make us the laughing stock of the world.

Ion continued: “the designs are ridiculous attempts at drawing historical Kapa Haka performers, and are childish and cartoonish.  The details are also inaccurate. 'Utu' (or revenge) must be the aim of most New Zealanders unless immediate steps are taken to destroy this issue”.

New Zealand Post eventually acted as these kind of views were aired in the local media.  They announced the issue would be withdrawn prior to the official issue date and not sold. 

They announced this during Friday June 2, only 3 working days before the scheduled 9am Wednesday June 7 issue date.

Chief Executive of NZ Post John Allen stated the issue was being withdrawn because: “(we) have now concluded that the stamps would cause offence to some people and we have therefore decided not to issue them.  Our intention is that our postage stamps carry images that celebrate aspects of New Zealand life and culture, and that can be proudly sent around the world”.



Eight orders sent



New Zealand Post immediately started calling in all supplies of this issue which had been forwarded to Post Shops and distribution centres.  However they could not recall all sets. 

Several customers of New Zealand Post Philatelic Bureau (not standing order clients) had been mailed the issue prior to the recall day. 

Presumably in an effort to get through the extra work, New Zealand Post had mailed these stamps to eight different clients, invoiced them, and charged the applicable total to their credit cards. 

As soon as the issue was withdrawn, New Zealand Post began phoning those eight clients, attempting to recover the stamps, which had been ordered in the usual manner, mailed out, and were fully paid for.

Some of those eight clients have presumably retained the stamps as legally being their own property, and if so, it is also inevitable that some of these stamps will find their way on to the open market

There were then wild rumours among the New Zealand stamp community about HOW many of these "un-issued" stamps had been mailed to customers, or sold via Post Offices.


Forged copies


One well known industry idiot allegedly forged a "stamp" from the colour pre-release brochure by adding fake perforations to it, and mailed it the Editor of the well known "Captain Coqk" society stamp journal.  

My request to them a week back for a good quality scan of this cover has been unanswered, so I sadly cannot share it with you, but it did look rather convincing to me from the faxed copy I was shown.

Then someone offered a copy of the 90¢ stamp on the "Trade Me" auction website - which in New Zealand seems as strong or stronger than eBay is.  I understand dealer complaints that it also looked like a fake had it withdrawn from auction.  Another copy appeared on the on-line action site Zillion.

Richard Maclean, spokesman for NZ Post, said the stamps on Trade Me and Zillion were not genuine. "Basically they are fakes. We don't have them in front of us, but looking at the images on the website, they don't appear to be real" he said.

The New Zealand Stamp Dealers' Association made a number of urgent representations to New Zealand Post at the highest level, in order to ascertain what the true story was about the release of the stamps, and exactly how many stamps were in circulation. 

I spoke at length today with the NZSDA President John Mowbray on this matter, and he confirmed that the Association had spent a great deal of time working with the NZ Post Office to clarify the issue.

John Mowbray told me that they suggested New Zealand post clarify the numbers mailed out on their website, which they have done - to their great credit.

Other New Zealand dealers I spoke to like Don White, manager of Dunedin Stamp Centre - also on the NZSDA Committee, said that New Zealand Post were to be congratulated for being so pro-active and so fast to have "fessed-up" on their website as to the exact 'numbers mailed' situation.

I simply cannot imagine the Bureaus of Australia, GB or the USA  would be so open to admit simple human error, and act so quickly.  It has kept the stamp market well very informed, and they are to be congratulated for their stance. 

I just hope they will now UPDATE us with how many were returned to them!  Unless they do the situation remains very murky.

NZ Post have listed on their website exactly the number of stamps they were aware they had mailed out and they had charged customers for.  

Some of their terminology was vague and unclear, and I have expanded on it here to give all readers a clear picture.  They did not mention how many stamps were in each plate block, or in the roll of self adhesives, PO packs, or in the booklets etc.  

I believe this following table is an accurate checklist;



Gummed Stamps

4 x $2 single stamps -  Mint
9 x First Day Covers bearing sets 5
6 x Sets Mint plate/imprint blocks 6
3 x complete single set 5 Mint
1 x complete single set 5 Used

3 x PO Packs - Mint (Set 5 + P+S)


48 x unfranked FDC envelopes

Self Adhesive Stamps

1 x 45¢ dispenser box of 100 Mint
2 x 45¢ single stamps -  Mint
1 x 45¢ single stamp -  Used
11 x stamp booklets of 10 x 45¢



I make this to be 480 stamps in total -  with most of them being in mint sets of 5. 

As you can see there are only 39 possible Mint sets of 4 - and 36 sets of these are in corner plate blocks and will most probably stay that way.  Only 10 used sets are known, and 9 of those are on FDC, so only one used set with gum should exist.

Clearly the used set of 5 with gum - seemingly being unique, will command a small fortune whenever it comes onto the market.  And so it should.

The buyer of the roll of 100 self adhesive stamps arguably got the best deal as I imagine that roll would be worth around $NZ100,000 retail if it was not returned.  

New Zealand Post said of the recall on their website:  "we have contacted everyone who received these items, although we have not heard back from everyone.  Some people indicated that they would return the stamps, however to date none have been returned. If they are returned to us they will be destroyed".

However the website info appear to have been typed in June, and has not been updated, so how many (if any) were subsequently returned is still unknown.

Ivor Masters, NZ Post Stamps and Collectibles general manager, confirmed that eight customers had received the stamps before the issue date.

He urged those who ordered the stamps and got them through "human error" to return them to NZ Post.

"We have withdrawn the whole issue, an error occurred.  We want all the product to be destroyed"  Masters said. 



How many returned? 



NZ Post has not indicated how many of those ordering the stamps returned them, based on their clearly strident 'official' requests to do so.  The NZSDA could not assist me in that regard. 

I really do feel some of those ordering them would have complied as it sounds to me like the "requests" were pretty insistent, and from a VERY high level it seems.  Those receiving the stamps simply might not have realised the value of them had they retained them.
Australia Post for instance has a Security and Investigation team assisted by the Federal Police.  If NZ Post has similar staffers, I can imagine them calling on the public in person would get a high compliance rate when "requesting" any stamp returns.  
So until advised otherwise, I am assuming the list above is probably far MORE than the stamps existing in the marketplace.  Of course it may even be true that NO stamps of this issue exist in the stamp market.
The fact is that at date of writing this - mid August not a single stamp of any denomination has been seen or offered to the stamp trade anywhere to my knowledge.  As it is now 10 weeks since the stamps were asked to be returned, this points to not many being out there. 
It may well be that all stamps outlined in the list above were returned - it is just too early to tell.
Remember the orders shipped were to CASUAL order customers.  Persons who might have simply seen them offered on the PO website or in an ad etc. 
They may not have been regular stamp collectors, and may have dutifully complied when asked to hand them back, thinking they may be forced to legally if they did not comply.
The Post Office on their website indicates that some of the 8 purchasers indicated they were indeed returning the stamps:  
"We have contacted everyone who received these items, although we have not heard back from everyone.  Some people indicated that they would return the stamps, however to date none have been returned.  If they are returned to us they will be destroyed."
Please contact me immediately if you know or hear or see any examples of these stamps being offered for sale, and I'll update the story in a future column.  


Are they legal to own?


Warwick Paterson, owner of Campbell Paterson Ltd, leading dealer and NZ catalogue publisher (whose help is appreciated in researching this article) said: "clearly any stamps, legitimately in possession of a collector or private individual, may be traded freely on the market." 
Another well known Christchurch dealer was even more forthright.  Stephen McLachlan told the "New Zealand Herald" on July 20 : "Anybody would be a fool to send them back.  There is no way I would advise anyone to send them back".
Remember however, this article was published 7 weeks after the Post Office would have requested the stamps be returned to them.
John Mowbray also told me no one who received them from the PO need fear any problems. The ownership was not in dispute, as they had been ordered and paid for in good faith.

Indeed on the PO website they say about this issue -  "New Zealand Post sells its stamps only at face value (the value that is
displayed on the stamp).  Any stamps that are brought and sold on the secondary market (ie not sold by New Zealand Post or one of their resellers) can be sold at whatever the buyer and sell agree too."

Both Masters and Maclean from NZ Post have both said it was unlikely any official action would be taken to try to force the return of the stamps by those who they were mailed to.



What are they worth?
Well, how long is a piece of string/!
Donald Ion appears to have been making mischief when he was quoted in the NZ "The Daily Post" on July 20 as saying the 480 un-issued stamps in totality were worth $NZ50,000 - or about $NZ100 each retail.  I'll gladly PAY him about 10 times that for any he cares to supply me.  


 Do ANY exist?

More realistic and thoughtful valuations have been supplied by three other well known dealers.  I contacted Don White, John Mowbray and Warwick Paterson - all very well known and experienced large dealers spread across both islands. 
All three agreed that a ball park figure of $NZ5,000 a set of 5 mint was a likely retail should one come onto the market.
John Mowbray did tell me: "it may of course be even higher than $5,000 a set, most especially for the first few sets to be sold."




Official Status?


These stamps have a curious status.  They were printed by the PO, sold by the PO, charged to the customers, mailed out by the PO and yet will not be technically regarded as "issued" stamps.   Unless of course some are discovered to have been sold via post offices and/or used on mail.  Remember these were already in many Post Offices when the recall commenced.
Interestingly, as I type this mid August the NZ Post website says the following about other copies of this set being discovered, underneath their tabulation list printed elsewhere in this column:
Can you guarantee that only those stamps you have indicated are in circulation?  "There are no guarantees - there is always a possibility that products may turn up in the future." 
As the website claims all recalled stamp copies would be destroyed end of July it is a most fascinating comment to still be in print mid-August. 
To me at least this conveys a strong message the PO are not certain all copies WERE fully accounted for other than those outlined in the list above.  John Mowbray, President of the NZSDA was not aware of this disclaimer being on the official website, and as I typed this was investigating if any more detail was known than the Association had been advised of.
All buyers of the product from the Bureau were CASUAL orderers. i.e. persons not on a regular standing. order.  Standing order customers received none, nor did any NZSDA dealers.
One dealer told me in his view these had been mailed out to any "casual" client who had ordered the "Washington 2006" issue as well as the Maori issue.  As the Washington release date was May 27, it seems in early June a staffer may have decided to save time and mail both issues together to 8 customers.
NZ Post only decided to cancel the issue during Friday June 2, so this hypothesis makes some sense, as issue date was set for June 7.
What of the Maori artist Abel Vaireka who designed these stamps?  He is not happy at all.
Vaireka said:  "the illustrations were developed to represent kapa haka in a more contemporary style.  For me, my passion for kapa haka began at an early age and the intention was to capture this spirit in a design.  Working on a stamp issue provides an exciting opportunity from a design perspective and so I am very disappointed that the issue won't go ahead, and that some people think the designs are controversial."

Warwick Paterson also seemed to concur saying:  "
What ensued can only be described – in my opinion - as the result of a postal administration with laudably progressive ideas in the design and presentation of stamp issues, meeting head-on with the current mood of selective political correctness which seems to have swept through the corridors of officialdom in all of the countries of the 'old Commonwealth' and perhaps to a lesser extent, America."
And I would have to agree 100%. 
My personal guess is that these stamps are worth at least DOUBLE what the three experienced New Zealand dealers above have guessed at.  I would not be at all surprised to see $NZ10,000 a set of 5 obtained if any were offered on the open market.  
Indeed, if you read my Hepburn piece below of a near identical issue getting $A272,000 for one stamp, a figure of $NZ20,000 a set of 5 would not even surprise me one bit.
At this point, my guess is that most if not all were dutifully returned to the Post Office when buyers were requested to do so.  Time will tell!


Teddy Bear


The very obvious comparison to this issue are the New Zealand 40¢ "Teddy Bear" stamps issued by New Zealand in 1996.
I broke this story to the international stamp world via my magazine columns in the USA, England and Australia soon after the issue date. 
These "Health" semi-postal stamps were not widely issued showing the teddy bear in the design, due to a curious last moment PO decision that the design illustrated nearby would contravene New Zealand child safety rules.

Sold for $A2,640



In NZ the law was that the child car seat capsules needed to face backwards - not forwards, for safety.  The un-issued design clearly shows the seat belted Teddy Bear, hence the child capsule was also pointing forward.
The regular issued stamps and mini sheets removed the Teddy Bear entirely from the design.

Only about 1,500 copies of the 'incorrect' design were sold over two post office counters in error - about 400 were self adhesive, and about 1,000 normal gummed.  A few commercial covers are known - and at least one cancelled on first day issue are known to have survived.

Stanley Gibbons Auctions in Australia offered three lots of these stamps in their Sydney sale on February 25th 1998.  These lots were a corner block of 6, and two single stamps.  All were MUH regular gum issue.

The block of 6 sold to a telephone bidder in Japan for $A10,450.  That block is illustrated nearby. 

The two single normal gum stamps sold for $A2,640 and $A2,210.  The $A2,640 price for a single stamp was a record price ever obtained anywhere in the world for this catchily named error in regular gummed format.  (The self adhesive is of course many times scarcer than the regular gum version.)

Only a year or so earlier, either stamp was selling for around one quarter these levels.

These high Auction prices for stamps with a face value of only a few cents resulted in much mainstream media comment in Australia and New Zealand.  The mass circulation national business daily "The Australian Financial Review" even carried the story. 

The March 2nd 1998 AFR edition stated in an article about the record auction price of $A2,640 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 Glen Stephens article in Feb 9th Linn's." 


Strong Retail

Despite the quite large number of "Teddy Bear" stamps sold by the PO, the retail price a decade later has still held up amazingly well.  In fact I am amazed they get the prices they do, knowing the relatively large number that were sold.  
Don White told me today: "we still get $1,000-$1,500 for gummed copies and about $3,000-$4,000 for self adhesives of the Teddy Bears.  However, I do not have either in stock, and this is not a selling ad!"


Realised $A10,450





In my opinion these retail figures are most useful to bear in mind when attempting to set a retail price for the un-issued Maori set, which clearly is around in FAR smaller numbers.  Even if NONE of the copies were returned!
Most of the 40¢ "Teddy Bear" stamps were sold at the Royal Oak Post Office in Auckland and seem to have been purchased by the Auckland Savings Bank.
When television coverage alerted the bank to the situation it had 88 stamps remaining.  Of those 87 were put to auction in 1996 with the entire nett proceeds going to the Starship Children's Hospital and the Children's Health Camp Board.
These Health stamps were printed in the Netherlands by Joh Enschedé in regular gummed sheets,  self adhesives, and in Miniature Sheets.  Adding further to the drama were the Miniature Sheets of this error design, both normal and overprinted "Capex 96" that later emerged on the market.  Gibbons mentions these in a footnote.
I was offered several sets of these and sold them to clients and NZ dealers for about $A5,000 a pair.  NZ Post went ballistic over this leakage, as none had ever been sold from Post Offices.  
It turned out Enschedé printers were in the habit of giving current stamp issues to staff and visitors, and this was the source of my copies.
I recall Enschedé lost their contract with New Zealand Post over this irregular arrangement, as NZPO were furious to discover this giveaway policy was in place totally unbeknown to them.


Check Kiloware!



The Maori stamps issue is an interesting saga.  Some may have been sold via post Offices or used on mail by those who bought them - it is far too early to know.  All readers should be very alert when checking recent kiloware from New Zealand as the following paragraphs will confirm!

Auctioned for $A272,000



Regular readers will recall my column in December 2005 about a VERY similar "un-issued" stamp issue from Germany. 
A "Movie Stars" set with one stamp depicting Audrey Hepburn was printed by German Post  (Deutsche Post) and was planned to be issued in 2001. 
Her relatives objected to the image used of her smoking a cigarette, (she died of lung cancer in 1993) and the Post Office withdrew the stamp at the last moment and substituted another Movie Star.
The German Post Office ordered that all the Audrey Hepburn stamps be destroyed.  Like the New Zealand issue, at least 30 copies were not destroyed and some of these were used on commercial mail. 
Several examples have so far turned up with sharp eyed collectors finding them in cheap kiloware office mixture snippings. 
With commissions and taxes, the buyer of the sheet corner example illustrated nearby last year paid a total of 169,000 Euro (=$A272,000). 
This realisation easily breaks the price record for a post-war German stamp.  Indeed I imagine it is easily a price record for ANY single stamp or even stamp multiple issued anywhere in the world post-war.

This stamp, the third example known in collector hands, was the star lot in Ulrich Felzmann’s 111th auction held October 5-8, 2005 in Dusseldorf, Germany. 
Food for thought indeed for those valuing the New Zealand set.   The circumstances surrounding both are VERY similar.  As I have speculated, $NZ20,000 a set of 5 would not surprise me at all.  





STOP PRESS - I believe I am the first stamp dealer in the world, outside of New Zealand to offer this item.
The un-issued 45¢ "Poi" Maori dancer self-adhesive booklet stamp.  I have ten (10) copies of this stamp - and that is it.  This is around 10% of the copies that exist worldwide.  FAST ordering is recommended as when they are gone, they can't be replaced.
Price is $A2,275  a single self-adhesive neatly cut from the block, or $A4,475  a horizontal pair, which as you can see looks superb, or $A8,750 a block of 4 - if a block is still intact of course when you order!  (A block of 4 is a booklet pane - each booklet has 2 panes of 4, and a pair.)  Or the complete booklet of 10 for $A22,500.   
These figures are in line with (or lower than) NZ retail which is getting higher each month as supply rapidly shrinks, and news of their existence slowly spreads overseas.  And the NZ dollar has strengthened a lot against $A in recent months.
(I also have several full sets of 5 for sale MUH at $A13,500 a set.)    
If you buy them off me as an Australian resident,  you avoid a certain 10% GST impost upon arrival as a highly insured item, and the nasty new 3-4% "currency surcharge" + bad exchange rate your credit card bank will certainly levy.  
Far more details here:









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