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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Phila-Trivia: When Travesty Turns to Treasure

In 2006, New Zealand attempted to celebrate Maori culture with a set of stamps featuring Maori dancers and honoring the "Kapa haka" ritual performance, which combines choral singing, dancing, and martial arts.

Ironically, the proposed stamp designs met with intense opposition from prominent members of the Maori community, which viewed them as being in bad taste, and said that the cartoon-type characters were culturally insensitive and ridiculed Maori. The designs were called "cheap, ugly, stupid comic strips" which would make the Maori People the "laughing stock of the world."

New Zealand Post initially defended the cartoon designs, arguing that they were "fresh and contemporary", but it relented in the face of mounting opposition, and destroyed approximately a million of the stamps. It also promised that it would create an issue that would honor Kapa haka at some point in the future, and that the Maori community would be widely consulted regarding any future stamps depicting them.

However, not all of the offending stamps were destroyed, as New Zealand Post's philatelic branch errantly mailed several hundred of them to stamp collectors who had ordered them in advance. A few first day covers were produced and sold, and a few were used as postage, so it is possible that some might one day be found in packets or dealers' penny boxes.

The five stamps are noted but not priced in Scott, and currently sell for between $10,000 and $15,000 per set. Once hated, they are now prized.

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