1830 postmark earns gold

A letter postmarked 1830 and written by the captain of a whaling ship in Otago Harbour is one of many postal artefacts in a Dunedin collector's exhibit which recently won a gold medal at the 2013 Braziliana World Stamp Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro.

And Greg Francis said the best part was, he did not even have to leave his armchair at home to do it.

The 73-year-old Dunedin man said his collection was made up of envelopes and letters which were sent long before the postage stamp was introduced.

It was a hobby he started as an 8-year-old and he now has a rare collection which is recognised around the world.

Mr Francis said the whaling ship letter was one of his earliest examples of postage in Otago.

It was from the captain of the United States whaling ship Columbus which had just harpooned a southern right whale near the entrance to Otago Harbour, and praised the ship's new harpoon technology.

The letter was addressed to the vessel's owners, and was passed from the Columbus to another whaling ship which was headed back to the United States, he said.

Mr Francis also has an envelope with a postmark September 16, 1848; Otakou, New Zealand.

He said the letter was sent on the third immigrant ship Blundell from the United Kingdom and was bound for a Nelson address, but had to pass through Otago because it was the ship's first port of call from the northern hemisphere.

The letter is one of the earliest known examples of letters sent through the region before it was renamed Otago.

He also has what is believed to be the only known envelope addressed to Gabrielle's Gully.

The letters and envelopes were among many rare postmarked articles in his 120-page exhibit, which he had couriered to the exhibition in Rio de Janeiro last month.

He said he had been to many exhibitions, including those in Finland, Istanbul and Seoul, but did not attend this year's.

He was one of only four collectors from New Zealand, and one of about 1000 collectors from around the world, who were selected to show his work at the World Stamp Exhibition this year.

There was great delight when he learned his exhibit had earned him a gold medal.

It was one of five gold medals he had won at world exhibitions over the years, he said.

''It's taken me a lifetime to win these. It's not easy.

''Quite a lot of effort goes into it. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to buy artefacts for exhibits.''

Sadly, Mr Francis said it was probably the last time he would submit his collection in a world exhibition.

The reason? He has done his job too well.

''There's very little left to collect that I need for the collection.

''It would be very difficult to improve it.''

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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