The New Zealand Post Collection is the archive of New Zealand Post and its predecessor, the New Zealand Post Office. It was gifted to Te Papa in 1992. In addition to issued stamps, the archive contains original artwork, proofs, dies, and printing plates relating to issues from 1855 to the present day.
Other specialised philatelic collections at Te Papa include the Great Barrier Island Pigeon Post stamps of 1898-1908 and an extensive collection of postal history material from the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s.
New Zealand’s first postage stamps were issued in July 1855, the design adapted from a painting of the young Queen Victoria by the artist A E Chalon. The stamps became known to philatelists as either ‘Chalon Heads’ or ‘Full Face Queens’ (to distinguish them from a later issue with the Queen’s head in profile).
Several denominations, from one penny to one shilling, were issued. As time went on, these were printed in a range of colours and on a variety of papers. However, the basic design remained unchanged for eighteen years, until a new halfpenny stamp was introduced in 1873.
Many stamps from the first issue are now extremely rare. The only complete sheets are held in the New Zealand Post Collection.