Have a look at this picture of New Zealand’s rarest stamp – see anything unusual about it?
It’s a bit hard to see because of the post marks but the centre scene is actually upside down. It’s known as the Taupo Invert and it’s the only survivor out of the 80 incorrectly printed stamps.
The stamp was formally presented to Te Papa by New Zealand Post’s Chief Executive, Brian Roche, today. The stamp will be immediately available to researchers, and will feature prominently in a book on the 1898 pictorial issue which is currently being written. It will also take pride of place in future philatelic exhibitions, both at Te Papa and potentially in the wider community.
The image was originally printed in 1898 as part of a 14-stamp pictorial issue showing a variety of New Zealand scenes. In a 1903 re-issue, a single sheet of 80 Lake Taupo stamps was incorrectly printed when the sheet was passed through the printing press for the second stage the wrong way around.
The error was not discovered until 1930 when a farmer in England came across it while searching for stamps in his childhood album to sell for cash during the Great Depression. A year later it fetched £161 at an auction in London – a large sum at the time.
It was then sold to the Marquis De Rosny and did not reappear for sale until 1980 when it was sold to an American buyer by French stamp dealers for 110,500 francs (then about US$18,000). It was subsequently referenced at a number of international shows and in sales lists until finally, in 1998, it was purchased by New Zealand Post for a record $125,000 to coincide with a centenary commemoration reprint of the 1898 pictorial issue.
At Te Papa, the stamp will form part of an existing collection representing the 170 years history of the New Zealand Post Group.