New Zealand’s rarest stamp now at Te Papa

Have a look at this picture of New Zealand’s rarest stamp – see anything unusual about it?

Image reproduced courtesy of New Zealand Post Group

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.

Brian Roche, NZ Post's Chief Executive, hands the Taupo Invert stamp to Te Papa's Acting Chief Executive and Kaihautū, Michelle Hippolite. Photo reproduced courtesy of NZ Post Group.

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.

Dr Patrick Brownsey, Te Papa's stamp curator, holding the Taupo Invert. Image reproduced courtesy of NZ Post Group.

 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.

16 Responses

  1. Avery Baker

    Saved as a favorite, cool web page!

  2. Elijah Brooks

    Excellent Piece of writing

  3. Sabrina

    how much do some rare stamps sell for?

  4. fred

    I have the same stamp,only its the right way up.

  5. mark

    there r a lot more stamps in nz than that lol

  6. Pat Brownsey

    The original 1898 pictorial stamps were printed in London, but subsequent issues were printed in New Zealand. A number of changes were made to the original colours of the 1898 pictorial stamps for a variety of different reasons. One of these was that the Universal Postal Union required that all halfpenny, penny and twopenny halfpenny stamps be printed in green, red and blue respectively. When these changes were made in New Zealand, the green sixpenny kiwi stamp could potentially be confused with the new green halfpenny stamp. It was therefore decided to change the six penny stamps from green to pink. So the change was quite deliberate and not due to lack of green ink!!

  7. Andre

    Hi Jane !

    I am a German collector of errors of classical philately and I have a question concerning the local printing of the pictorial series of 1899-1900. Do You know why there was a color change from green to red of the 6d Kiwi value in 1900 ?

    I am writing an article about color-errors and I am potentially interested in the reason. Do the printers ran out of the originally green color ?



  8. jane keig

    It would be a major surprise if another example of the Lake Taupo invert turned up after this length of time, and it would need to be carefully examined to make sure it wasn’t a forgery. If another genuine example were found, it would add an extra dimension to the story and might even enhance the value of both stamps.
    However, the “value” of the stamp at Te Papa is purely historical because it will never be sold on the open market, whereas another one in public ownership would potentially have real monetary value.

  9. Ngaire Madams

    Hi there,

    I have read the article you have above, and am wondering how much of a surprise it would be if there were another Lake Taupo invert stamp in circulation.

    If another stamp has survived will this devalue the one you have on display or will it be more valuable as it is NOT owned by NZ Post?

    I would be very interested in a reply!

  10. jane keig

    Hi Ivy

    You’ll find all the info you need in the blog post above.

    Jane Keig
    Communications Manager

  11. Ivy

    Is this the stamp from 1903 showing Lake Taupo and Mount Ruapehu upside down? Answer fast, please, I have a homework question on the rarest nz stamp.

  12. jane keig

    Well some people are really into stamps…check this out

  13. jan

    yea i agree noone cares about a stamp

  14. david

    why does anyone want to know about a stamp?

  15. jane keig

    Not yet Victoria, but the museum will investigate the possibility with NZ Post

  16. Victoria

    Can the poster size of this stamp be purchased at Te papa?


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