2003 Year of the Sheep

In 2003 the Chinese Lunar Calendar honoured an animal close to the heart of every New Zealander: the sheep. New Zealand Post commemorated the new year - and its connection to one of our national icons - with this 2003 Year of the Sheep stamp issue.

Issue information

As the name suggests, our stamp issue coincided once more with the start of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Always a time for great festivity and celebration, the Chinese New Year is based on a wonderful tradition of its own. Legend tells us that on the turn of the New Year, Buddha called to him the animals of the land. When only 12 appeared, he rewarded them each with a year. This was the seventh consecutive year that New Zealand Post has produced an issue marking the Chinese Lunar Calendar, and what better subject than the humble sheep to celebrate a kiwi icon.

This year we featured five beautifully illustrated scenes, all timeless reminders of typical sheep farming tasks, from mustering the sheep against majestic high country, to the hard grind of shearing back in the shed.

Sheep have been a vital part of New Zealand and its economic livelihood ever since 1773, when Captain Cook first landed two Merinos in the Marlborough Sounds. In 2003, New Zealand's sheep population numbered around 44 million and the nation was the world's second largest wool producer and exporter.

The Merino may have been a pioneer, but as New Zealand's export industry began to develop towards the end of the 19th century other breeds more suited to New Zealand's environment soon became popular. By 1910 the Romney had emerged as the top performer, offering prime lamb production and strong wool suited to making carpets, blankets, heavy clothing and furnishings. It's still the most common breed, with others including Coopworth, Perendale, Corriedale, Merino and Halfbred.

A Personality Fit

The Chinese believe that good fortune smiles on those born in the Year of the Sheep (also referred to as the Year of the Ram or Goat) because of their pure nature and kind heart. 'Sheep people' are said to be charming, elegant and artistic, and to always have the three most important things in life: food, shelter and clothing.

Sheets and Gutter Pairs

These stamps could be purchased in sheets of 50. Horizontal gutter pairs with the striking 2003 Year of the Sheep image were also available.

First Day Cover with Stamps - A Close-up View

The 2003 Year of the Sheep first day cover took us and the stamps into the woolshed, with a glimpse of the work that goes into New Zealand's successful wool industry.

First Day Cover with Miniature Sheet - The Lunar Connection

This was the seventh consecutive year that New Zealand post produced a special miniature sheet to mark the Chinese Lunar Calendar. This sheet was also available in conjuntion with a first day cover.

Product Listing for 2003 Year of the Sheep

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp Single 40c 'Mustering' gummed stamp. $0.40
Single Stamp Single 90c 'In the Yard' gummed stamp. $0.90
Single Stamp Single $1.30 'Sheep Dog' gummed stamp. $1.30
Single Stamp Single $1.50 'The Shearer' gummed stamp. $1.50
Single Stamp Single $2.00 'Shearing Gang' gummed stamp. $2.00
Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled miniature sheet. $3.30
First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $6.60
Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with miniature sheet affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $3.80
Presentation Pack Presentation pack containing a selection of stamp products from the issue and further information on the theme of the stamps. $16.95

Technical information

Date of issue: 5 February 2003
Number of stamps: Five
Denominations and designs: 40c Mustering, 90c In the Yard, $1.30 Sheep Dog, $1.50 The Shearer, $2.00 Shearing gang
Stamps and first day covers designed by: Denise Durkin, Wellington
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, Dunedin by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours, plus overgloss
Stamp size and format: 40mm x 30mm (horizontal)
Paper type: De la Rue 103gsm red phosphor stamp paper
Perforation gauge: 14
Number of stamps per sheet: 50 stamps, plus one strip of 5 gutter images
Special blocks: Plate/imprint blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps from a sheet. Barcode, value blocks and logo blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least two stamps from a sheet. Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats for sheet stamps.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 4 February 2004.