Centenary of Pigeon-gram

Great Barrier Island holds the distinction of being the first place in New Zealand to have a regular airmail service - the carrier was a pigeon. This stamp issue celebrated the centenary of the first pigeon-gram.

Issue information

Great Barrier Island holds the distinction of being the first place in New Zealand to have a regular airmail service - 22 years before the first aeroplane service took to the skies. In May 1897, well before aeroplanes were invented, a postal message winged its way from Great Barrier Island to Auckland. The carrier was a pigeon.

Before long there were two pigeon mail companies at work. Great Barrier's unique pigeon mail services lasted for several colourful years. However, the laying of an underwater telegraphic cable in 1908 ushered in their demise.

To celebrate the centenary of the first pigeon-gram, New Zealand Post issued two stamps featuring the original triangular design of stamps produced in 1899 by The Great Barrier Pigeongram Agency. This unofficial service (not run by The New Zealand Post and Telegraph Department) produced the country's first 'airmail' stamps.

The original design was by Māori war veteran H.C. Wrigg, holder of the coveted New Zealand Cross, and the stamp was printed by The Auckland Star. The original colours of carmine (1 shilling) and dull blue (6 pence) were used in the new issue.

Product Listing for Centenary of Pigeon-gram

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Pigeon-gram (red)' gummed stamp.

The stamp is based on the original triangular stamp designs produced in 1899 by The Great Barrier Pigeongram Agency.

$0.40
Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Pigeon-gram (blue)' gummed stamp.

The stamp is based on the original triangular stamp designs produced in 1899 by The Great Barrier Pigeongram Agency.

$0.80
First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $1.70

Technical information

Date of issue:  7 May 1997
Stamp and first day cover designed by: Stephen Fuller, Wellington, New Zealand
Number of stamps: Two
Denominations and designs: 40c Pigeon-gram (red), 80c Pigeon-gram (blue)
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin, New Zealand by lithography
Number of colours: One special colour
Stamp size and format: 41mm base x 36mm high (equilateral triangle), 41mm each side
Number of stamps per sheet: 50
Perforation gauge: Base of stamp: 13.75; Sides of stamp: 14
Paper type: 103gsm gummed stamp paper
Cost of unaddressed first day cover: $1.70
Special blocks: Plate/imprint, positional or value blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps.
Colour blocks: Also known as 'traffic lights', these blocks were not available for this issue.
Barcode blocks: Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 7 May 1998.