Cowry Shells

       06 December 2001              20c, 80c, $1.00, $3.00                                     Mint and CTO        $5.00
                                                                                                                                          FDC        $6.00

 Technical Details

Release Date :         6 December 2001
Denominations :       20c, 80c, $1.00 and $3.00
Stamp Design :        Sue Williams, Wellington, NZ
Printer :                   Cartor Security Printers, La Loupe, France
Process :                 Offset Lithography with 4 colours + metallic ink & gloss varnish
Paper :                    110 gsm, PVA gum stamp paper
Stamp Size :            45mm x 24.99mm horizontal
Perforation Gauge : 13 per 2cms
Sheet:                     Panes of  2 x 25 stamps
First Day Covers:    $6.00

This issue is the third designed for us by Sue Williams, wife of the Governor of Pitcairn.
Unfortunately, by the time this stamp is released, Mr and Mrs Williams will have retired to the UK.
For the first time, we have experimented with a gloss varnish on these designs to give the shells the shiny appearance, which characterises cowry shells.

Cowry shells continue to be popular among collectors because of their colours and glossy surface.  At least 25 different species of cowry have been found in the waters of the four Pitcairn Islands, most commonly at Henderson Island but less frequently around Ducie and Oeno.  They are herbivorous, feeding on algae.  They grow spirally like other gastropods until they reach adulthood when the outer lip turns in.  Active at night, they hide during the day and prefer hard coral reefs and shallow water.

Cypraea argus is featured on the 20c stamp.  Found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, this cowry shell is covered with dark red-brown rings (Argus Eyes) of varying thickness, which give the shell it name.  Varying considerably in size, the shell averages around 90mm in length.

The 80c stamp shows Cypraea isalbella.  Small in size and of a cylindrical shape, this fawn-coloured shell is recognisable by its black longitudinal lines and orange-red tips.

The $1.00 stamp features Cypraea mappa, distinguished by the pattern on the outer shell.  This species is sought after by collectors for its handsome appearance although it is known to vary considerably in size, shape and colour.  It grows to around 75mm.

Cypraea mauritiana is featured on the $3.00 stamp.  This heavy, solid cowry is often found where rough water is common.  Recognisable by its coloration and humped-back appearance, it averages around 65mm in length.