How Much Are New Zealand Health Stamps Worth?

New Zealand health stamps are “charity stamps” issued by the country of New Zealand from 1929 through 2016 for the funding of children’s health camps. A portion of the proceeds from each stamp sold went to the camps. Many people wonder whether New Zealand health stamps are worth any money today.

New Zealand health stamps are worth anywhere from pennies to thousands of dollars. The standard combination of stamp valuation criteria (condition, age, face value, rarity, etc.) play a role in these stamps’ values, along with which specific New Zealand health stamp you possess.

Some New Zealand health stamps are worth more than others, and a few are worth quite a lot. Factoring into the worth of any stamp is the basic criteria that sets stamp value. Read on to learn history of these stamps, why each iteration mattered, and their value today on the collectible market.

The History And Relevance Of New Zealand Health Stamps

In the late 1920s, a Mr. E. Nielsen of Norsewood, NZ, wrote a letter on behalf of his mother appealing for the use of special stamps to help fund deserving health projects. The idea picked up momentum and was supported in various newspaper articles as a great way for the public to support charity and for the Post Office to help.

Eventually, Secretary of the Post Office Department, George McNamara fronted the idea of commemorative, non-definitive stamps be issued of which a portion of the stamp’s purchase fee would go to a selected charity.

These new stamps were modeled after Christmas Seals (labels that could be put on envelopes or packages in addition to a postage stamp) that were first issued in Denmark. The decision to print the stamps was left to the discretion of the Postmaster General.

The First Health Stamps

The first New Zealand Christmas Seal stamp was sanctioned in October of 1929. It was issued on December 11. On the day it was launched, it was stated that the stamps would help fund a campaign to stamp out tuberculosis.

The children’s health camp movement were first to claim against the funds from the stamp. This would evolve to become the foremost charity sponsored by the sale of the health stamps. In fact, it would be the only charity associated with the health stamps through the end of their run in 2016.

Children’s Health Camps

New Zealand started running health camps for children in 1919. The first one was run by Dr. Elizabeth Gunn. The camp, and later several camps across New Zealand, had the following operational and systemic goals:

Each health camp lasted about three weeks. The New Zealand health stamps aided in their funding through 2018. The New Zealand Foundation for Child and Family Health and Development now manages the seven children’s health camps operating today.

New Zealand Health Stamp Characteristics

Each New Zealand health stamp has certain characteristics that make it stick out against other postage stamps.

Country Designation

Every health stamp has “New Zealand” printed on its face. It was always printed in a horizontal manner, although on a few stamps it was in a banner form.


Every health stamp also has the word “Health” printed on its face. This could be printed vertically, horizontally, or as part of the stamp image.

Fee Designation

Every health stamp has the postage amount and the amount of the total cost that was allocated to charity. For example, the first health stamp had a “Postage: 1D” designation on the left side of the stamp and a “Charity: 1D” on the right, with d being short for denarius, Latin for coin, and in this case meaning 1 penny. Every New Zealand health stamp indicates the breakdown in some manner.

Annual Image

Every health stamp has an authorized, annual image for any specific year or stamp run. This image was submitted by an official artist and approved by postal and government officials. Often, when the artwork was approved, an announcement was made about the artwork, designer and the annual stamp run.

When announcing the first health stamp, for example, even though the funds went to children’s health camps, a postal official announced that part of the postal proceeds of the stamps would be spent on stamping out tuberculosis. While that certainly was probably an indirect result of the health camps, it was in no manner the obvious purpose of the stamps.

The images varied in popularity, which, while rarely affecting purchases, did affect the value the public placed on the stamps. A stamp with an image that was liked by the public was more likely to be collected, while an unpopular stamp might not sell as readily, but that affected how many were in circulation, which affects the value of the stamp.

Why This Matters

More than most stamps, the New Zealand health stamp value is tied to whatever run a particular stamp was part of. For example, the 1931 “Smiling Boy” stamps are worth more than most New Zealand health stamps because they are exceptionally rare.

Excepting the condition of the stamp (which in some cases only matters a little), New Zealand health stamp values are driven by what year they were printed in and how many were printed. This is different in that other factors like gum, cover, etc. are not as important as they might be with other types of stamps.

These do, however, factor into the overall value when comparing different health stamps from the same year. A Smiling Boy stamp that looks its age will be worth less than one that is in fairly good condition. Likewise, if the gum on the former stamp is in great condition but almost missing completely from the latter, the former will hold more value in that assessment category.

How Much Are New Zealand Health Stamps Worth?

There are multiple layers and processes that help determine the value of your New Zealand health stamp. Each component helps establish the baseline value of a stamp. After that, intangible factors like price paid and desirability factor in.

General Stamp Valuation Criteria

As with any stamp, several factors go into determining the collectability and value of a given New Zealand health stamp.


This pertains to how many stamps were:

The first two criteria are self-explanatory. If only a few stamps were printed, their prevalence on the stamp market will be limited, which could increase the value. Likewise, how many of the stamps were sold can also drive price.

For example, the 1931 “Smiling Boy” stamp had a normal print run, but was unpopular for a couple of reasons. That limited how many stamps were purchased.

Ironically, its lack of popularity affects the final part of the rarity equation: How many are in circulation. While the stamp was not terribly popular, that lack of popularity made the stamp a rare find on the open market. Its rareness therefore affected its price far more than (and inversely as a result of) its popularity.


As with every stamp, its condition factors heavily into its price. If it looks like it just came from the Post Office, it will usually command a higher price than a stamp that looks like it has been in circulation for years. Stamps that are torn, wrinkled or otherwise damaged are usually valued at a lower rate.

There are three exceptions to this:

  • : Stamps with postmarks, depending on multiple variables, can fetch higher prices than stamps without them.
  • : Some collectors want their stamps to show wear and tear.
  • : Some stamps are so rare that their condition doesn’t matter.

Another factor in the condition equation is whether it is on an envelope (called a cover). If the cover contains historical information, it can render the condition of the stamp obsolete in the valuation equation. Valuable information can include:


With stamps that have covers and some that do not, the postmark can affect the price. If the postmark ink blocks the stamp’s design or image, it can detract from the value. Unusual cancellations like pre-automation and hand cancellations can increase the value of a stamp.

For example, stamps that have been “socked on the nose” are highly valued. That means the postmark is centered on the stamp, which makes that stamp unique.

Other factors that can impact the assessment of a stamp’s condition include:


The older a stamp, generally, the more value it possesses to a collector. Modern stamps, for instance, are not usually worth much at all. Stamps that predate automation are usually more highly valued.

Face Value

Stamps that cost more will usually have a higher value than stamps that were less expensive to purchase.

Number Of Stamps

If a stamp is part of a block or sheet, it will command more value than a single stamp if all other things are equal. This is why you should never disconnect connected stamps.

Purchase Price And Purchaser

Finally, two factors that will affect the value of a stamp pertain to the purchaser and the stamp’s purchase history. There are various ways to sell and purchase stamps. These include online, in stores, through private transactions, at auctions, etc. The value of stamps in these various scenarios differs from venue to venue.

For example, a professional dealer will try and get a stamp for as little as possible because they want to make a profit reselling it. A collector will determine what they are willing to pay based on how much they want a specific stamp.

Online auctions can mean stamps are undervalued (and thus usually pulled from the auction), or, if the stamp is highly desirable, can sell at a higher price.

These all factor into the original purchase price, which can also drive stamp value. If a collector or dealer paid a lot of money for a stamp, they will place a higher price on selling it. In some cases, this can price a stamp out of the market of buyers.

The Value Of New Zealand Health Stamps

More than most stamps, the image and run date on a health stamp matter in terms of the value collectors and dealers will put on that stamp.

The following are some notable New Zealand health stamps that had unique characteristics that affected their overall perceived value. If your New Zealand health stamp is any of the following, you should have them appraised at an official stamp appraiser and get paperwork to certify its authenticity and value.

The potential value of each of these depends on the significance of the characteristic that makes them unique, or their role in the overall history of the New Zealand health stamp program. Each of these year’s stamps are either rare, unique or flawed.

1931 Red And Blue Boy Health Stamps

These two versions of the health stamps are the most famous. Because of their appeal, they often hold the most value for collectors. The stamps were created out of necessity.

Postage was raised during The Great Depression to two pennies for private mail. This caused the need for a second stamp to meet the cost of postage. The value of the charity stamp was set by the 1929 Finance Act. This meant that, to authorize the printing of a second stamp, an amendment was required. The Postmaster General was authorized to print stamps in “denominations as he thinks fit.”

Today, the red and blue smiling boy stamps are prized and scarce. The reason for the rarity is that they just never caught on with the public, and because of that few were in circulation. In 2014, a set of smiling boy stamps (blue and red stamps) sold for over $400,000. Their value to collectors, however, has made them targets.

The design of the red and blue “smiling boy” stamps was widely derided. In fact, the design was deemed the “world’s worst” stamp by Australian Stamp Monthly. The stamps were unpopular and did not sell well, partly because of economic hardship caused by The Great Depression. This is why they are now so rare.

The smiling boy stamps are some of the most counterfeited stamps in philately. If you have one of these, getting it verified as authentic is a good idea. The counterfeiting is so prominent that many collectors and dealers will insist on seeing authentication paperwork before they will consider making a purchase.

1932 Change In Wording

In 1932, the “charity” inscription on the New Zealand health stamps was dropped. This was because revenue from the stamps’ sales was supporting the health camps exclusively. Since the proceeds were going to one specific cause (the children’s health camps), relabeling the stamps with “Health” seemed appropriate.

This is where the “Health” inscription originated. After 1931, Health appeared in some iteration on the stamp and often where the charity designation of the postal fee was located. Health stamps from that point on had one section that was labeled “Postage” and one that was labeled “Health.”

The wording differed in terms of placement or how it was displayed, but it was always a prominent part of any year’s health stamp. That label stuck with the stamps and was maintained until their last run in 2016.

1939 – Two Stamps Were Issued

Another notable year for the health stamps was 1939, when, due to postage rate changes, two stamps were issued. This led to an overprint, where additional verbiage and a higher total cost was added to the official health stamp. An overprint is the stamping of additional imagery or information on top of the official stamp design.

In addition, 1939 marked the first year that two planned denominations of postage were printed. Prior to this, the only time two stamps were printed was the 1931 smiling boy stamps. After that, two values were printed with the exception of 1955, 1956, 1969 and 1971, when three values were printed. In 1940 and 1941, different color values were printed, much like what happened in 1939.

Miniature Sheets

Miniature sheets were printed from 1957 onward. These are sheets of multiple stamps that were adjacent to each other on a larger sheet of stamps. The 1957 version had two different sheets. Each of these sheets had six stamps, all of which had the same value. The miniature sheet contained the full set of stamps, including different values, from the 1970s onward.

Since 1996, the lowest value self-adhesive sheets have been issued, often with a different design than the circulation version.

1959 Theme Change

From 1931 through 1958, the theme for the health stamps had always been children and health-related topics. There had been exceptions, like the 1957 version of the stamp that features more grown-up themes, but for the most part, children had always been included on the face of the stamp.

The thought process for the change was that a shift in theme would make the stamps more marketable to a wider audience. That was important because, while many people bought the stamps just to help the children’s health camps, the appeal of the stamps varied and the type of purchaser was fairly static – parent-aged and older, and predominately middle class.

Shifting to a more flashy or interesting type image marked a shift in the marketing of the stamps, with a focus on all ages and types of people.

1967 Pence To Cents Change

This was the year that the health stamp migrated from a pence denomination to cents. It was also the point that the theme was altered from birds to sports. The bird theme had been used since 1959.

1996 Child Restraint Flaw

The 1996 artwork was changed after a print run when it was noticed that the child in the vehicle wasn’t properly restrained. A new version with a properly restrained child was issued. Some of the incorrect restraint version, though, made it into circulation.

These stamps are known as the “Teddy Bear” stamps because of a teddy bear prominently displayed in the artwork. The incorrect version of the stamp is incredibly rare and valuable. Most collectors consider that version to be the rarest New Zealand stamp in existence.

Other Noteworthy New Zealand Health Stamps

The following are stamps that have noteworthy or unique characteristics that are not as monumental as the examples above. The impact of the characteristics, it must be noted, however, does not affect the overall value of the stamps.

1949 “d” Value

In this year, the two-penny version of the health stamp had two different “d” value designs. Some do not have a dot below the “d.” This flaw is not rare though, so its value is held in check.

1957 Watermark

A watermark, sideways or upright, was part of the 1957 set of health stamps. The stamp design was of beach sports, including swimming, canoeing and surf life-saving. The busyness of the design can make the watermark difficult to spot.

1960 Perforation Differences

The health stamp from 1960 is marked by the two perforation types used. One of the gauges was used on the miniature sheet. The horizontal gauges are smaller than the vertical gauges.

1963 Prince Andrew Health Stamp

Prince Andrew was featured on the 1963 health stamp. His recent notoriety will undoubtedly factor into the long-term value of his stamp. The stamp was issued during a visit by the Queen to New Zealand. There were two different versions of the stamp, both with Andrew sitting, and one features him reading a book.

Finding The Value Of Your New Zealand Health Stamps

The various changes, flaws, themes and interesting stamp characteristics in the New Zealand health stamps make them some of the most interesting stamps to collect. Few stamps have such a long themed existence. With that said, your stamp’s value depends on the factors for determining general value and then any specific characteristics that set it apart.

Here is a random set of stamps and their value per the StampsNZ catalog, to illustrate how much the value of New Zealand health stamps can vary:

Each of these values are based on stamps that are in mint condition. Additional characteristics can add to the value or detract from it. As you can see, the value of New Zealand health stamps varies from stamp to stamp.

Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be any reason behind why one stamp is valuable and another is not, except for those of exceptional rarity or special commemorations.

With that said, by researching the value of your stamps via online catalogs, you can get a sense of what to expect if your stamp is in mint condition. After that, you can make an educated guess about how different influences like gum, condition, postmarks, etc. will affect the value a dealer or collector will offer you or how much you can expect to pay.

There are a few other factors that may influence your decision to buy or sell New Zealand health stamps, and the first is timing.

Patience And Timing

Like any market, when dealing with stamps, you want to buy low and sell high. Timing that depends on many variables. Research prices over the last five years and get a sense of where the market is. It may be right to act now, or it may be right to wait until the outcome improves.

We don’t offer financial advice, so it’s best to speak with a professional when you’re putting large sums of money on the line to buy or sell stamps.

Storage Conditions

If you are selling and decide to wait, make sure you store your stamps in the most ideal environment you can. If you don’t, you can be assured the value of your stamp or stamps will decline.


Your research will indicate that sets of health stamps are usually worth a little more than solitary stamps. Look to round out a set or purchase miniature sets to maximize your stamps’ value.

Final Thoughts

New Zealand health stamp values fluctuate from year to year and are influenced by flaws, changes in theme, and other physical characteristics. Another important influencing factor on the value of New Zealand health stamps is the year in which it was printed.

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