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Snakes slither their way onto our stamps

Snakes slither their way onto our stamps

The stars of New Zealand’s newest postage stamps would send Indiana Jones running for cover... but will have Slytherin fans rejoicing!

The Chinese New Year on February 10 marks the start of the Year of the Snake – and New Zealand Post is marking the occasion with the release of four stamps which combine aspects of Chinese culture with Kiwi themes and images of snakes. The stamps celebrate the New Year, and also the growing Chinese community in New Zealand.

The 70c stamp eschews snake images in favour of the Chinese calligraphic character for the word “snake” – making it safe even for the most olidiophobic among us. The calligraphic character used dates back more than 700 years.

Those with a phobia of snakes won’t be so lucky with the $1.40 stamp – which features a snake made by the traditional Chinese art form of paper cutting. People needn’t fear though, as this snake is a friendly one – a greetings snake – incorporating designs based on the pomegranate (Chinese symbol of luck, fertility, wealth and long life) and the traditional Kiwi silver fern.

The $1.90 stamp also links symbolism from New Zealand and China, showing a traditional Chinese lantern with the image of a snake on it furled into the shape of a koru. The unfurling fern represents new life, growth and strength, while the rounded lantern symbolises wholeness and harmony. The snake is decorated with the peony, which is widely regarded as China’s national flower.

Last, but by no means least, the $2.40 stamp takes the koru-snake lantern design to new heights – attaching them to Queenstown’s Skyline Gondolas. The Queenstown area is home to the Winter Festival, which in 2012 included a lantern parade with an array of colourful lanterns and a Chinese dragon lighting up the streets.

The four 2013 Year of the Snake stamps are also incorporated into a colourful miniature sheet featuring the Chinese characters for each of the 12 animals in the Chinese lunar calendar. The stamps and miniature sheet are also incorporated in two collectable first day covers. The stamp sheets in this issue are unique, with each one containing five gutter pairs.

Those wishing to find out more about the Chinese New Year and the characteristics associated with people born in the Year of the Snake can purchase a presentation pack, which includes the four gummed stamps, the miniature sheet and the first day cover. An intricate Chinese paper-cut snake is included in the pack.

But the ultimate collector’s item will be two unique gold-foiled miniature sheets, made from 24-carat, 99.9-gold foil. These gold-foiled miniature sheets are replicas of the miniature sheet in the stamp issue. The large miniature sheet is beautifully presented within an individually numbered frame, and are strictly limited in availability, with only 128 being produced worldwide. A second, smaller miniature sheet is mounted in a perspex display stand.

The ‘2013 Year of the Snake’ stamps will be on sale from 9 January 2013, and are available through all PostShops, REAL Aotearoa, online at or 0800 782 677.


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