Government Life Insurance

An important precedent was established by New Zealand in 1891, when a set of stamps was issued advertising a State trading department. The New Zealand Government Life Insurance Department was established in 1869, and in common with other Government services, enjoyed franking privileges, paying an annual amount to the Post and Telegraph Department to cover the cost of postage on its correspondence. The decision to issue the stamps was the result of a dispute between the two Departments regarding the calculation of postage costs. The matter was referred to an arbitrator but the Insurance Department insisted on paying future postage costs by the purchase of postage stamps.

Issue information

The stamps were initially restricted to mail posted by the insurance office for delivery in New Zealand; however in 1969 this condition was relaxed to allow such mail to be posted to overseas addresses. Government Life stamps were withdrawn from use in 1989.

The 1891 issue of six stamps depicted a lighthouse (as did all future Government Life stamp issues).  On the rays of light from the lantern the words 'State Security' were reproduced, the letters "V R" was incorporated into the background design of each stamp.

The stamps were designed by W B Hudson (Life Insurance Department) and J F Rogers (Government Printing Office) and engraved by A E Cousins.

Purple: Lighthouse - 1/2d

Blue: Lighthouse - 1d

Chestnut: Lighthouse - 2d

Brown: Lighthouse - 3d

Green: Lighthouse - 6d

Rose: Lighthouse - 1s

Technical information

Date of Issue: 2 January 1891
Designers: W B Hudson and J F Rogers
Printers: Government Printing Office, Wellington
Stamp Size: 22mm x 20mm
Sheet Size:  240 stamps per sheet (4 panes of 60)
Process: Surface printed - Typography
Perforation Gauge: Various
Paper Type: De La Rue, NZ and star watermark; Cowan, NZ and star watermark