Stamps have been in the news recently. The surfacing of a rare inverted Jenny stamp, a dispute over the use of an image of the Statue of Liberty, and new releases of novel, innovative and popular stamp motifs have all received media attention in recent months.
New stamps, now on sale at post offices or online through USPS.com, include four new holiday stamps as well as re-releases of past popular images; a World War I commemorative stamp; Hot Wheels; Birds in Winter; Dragons; the much anticipated John Lennon stamp; and others.
The John Lennon stamp was released on Sept. 7 in a ceremony in New York City’s Central Park. Noted rock ‘n’ roll photographer Bob Gruen, who was present for the dedication, shot the image in August 1974 on the rooftop of Lennon’s Manhattan apartment. According to the USPS press release, the color-gradated image “is designed to resemble a vintage 45-rpm record sleeve.”
My friend Lorna noted, “I went online and bought several sheets. I think they are so lovely that I framed one set. Isn’t it gorgeous?” Indeed, it is.
Lennon himself was a stamp collector. According to a USPS press release, “His stamp album with handwritten notes is on display from Sept. 7, 2018 to Feb. 3, 2019 at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., and can be viewed on online at postalmuseum.si.edu/lennon.” Lennon’s childhood stamp album included 565 stamps on more than 150 pages.
In 1918, thousands of stamps depicting a Curtis JN-4, an early aircraft used primarily by the U.S. Army for training, were printed. One sheet of 100 stamps was printed with the plane erroneously pictured upside down, known as the Inverted Jenny.
Most of the “Jennies” have been recovered by collectors and/or sold at auction, but two of the original stamps have until recently been missing for 100 years: number 49 and number 68. Number 49, kept for generations in bank vaults, is in pristine condition. It was identified in September 2018, and could easily sell for over $1 million should the owner put it up for auction. The whereabouts of Inverted Jenny number 68 is still unknown.
Many of the 2018 holiday stamps are now available or will be released by the U.S. Postal Service in the coming weeks. One of my favorites is a new Global Forever stamp, featuring a single bright red poinsettia blossom, perfect for mailing international holiday letters and cards. If you like it as much as I do, and are willing to pay extra, the stamp can be used for domestic mail as well.
A beautiful new Madonna and Child Forever stamp features a detail from a painting by Francesco d’Ubertino Verdi (1494 – 1557). The original painting, dating to the early 1520s, is part of the Jack and Belle Linsky Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Kwanzaa, which will take place Dec. 26 – Jan. 1, is celebrated with a new stamp. According to USPS, the stamp “depicts a man, woman and child adorned in a mixture of western and traditional clothing, paying tribute to the holiday’s focus on the contemporary African-American experience, while also drawing on African roots.”
The USPS worked collaboratively with Israel Post to create a new Forever Hannuka stamp for 2018. The stamp features a menorah set against a green and blue background. Using Jewish folk art paper cutting techniques, the design was created by artist Tamar Fishman.
In other holiday stamp news, Saint Nick makes an appearance, as well as several festive stamps from years past. These additional stamps are available while supplies last: Diwali (issued 2016); Eid Greetings (2016); Nativity (2016); Christmas Carols (2017); Hannuka (2016); Kwanzaa (2016); and Florentine Madonna and Child (2016).
World War I
The Postal Service selected my hometown of San Francisco to release a stamp commemorating the centennial of World War I (dedicated and released on Oct. 3, War Memorial Veteran’s Building, San Francisco). Carl Nolte of the San Francisco Chronicle, in writing about the event, noted that letters and the post office were particularly important to those who served in the military during the Great War, as well as in the years that followed.
Statue of Liberty
The iconic Statue of Liberty, sometimes known as Lady Liberty, was a gift from the French in 1886. Located on Liberty Island, the statue is a symbol of the liberty promised to new immigrants who arrive in the United States via the southern shores of Manhattan.
In Dave Eggers’ Her Right Foot (Chronicle Books, 2017; art by Shawn Harris), the author notes that the statue is not stationary, but rather poised in mid-stride. Liberty, Eggers notes, has not finished welcoming newcomers. “Liberty and freedom from oppression are not things you get or grant by standing around. These are things that require action. Courage. An unwillingness to rest.”
Many replicas of the Statue of Liberty can be found throughout the world, but most recently, the one located outside the Las Vegas hotel and casino New York New York made the news. The United States Postal Service mistakenly used an image of artist Robert Davidson’s replica, which differs in significant ways from the real Statue of Liberty.
While the USPS purchased the rights to use the photo from Getty Images for $5,000, the use and sale of the image violated the rights of the sculptor. The stamp, issued in 2010, was withdrawn in 2014, but only after 4.9 billion stamps had been sold for a value of $2.1 billion. A legal settlement was reached in 2018, and the artist was awarded $3.5 million for copyright infringement.
Proposed Stamp Price increase
The price for stamps may be going up in January. The US Postal Service is asking for a five-cent increase on the cost of first class domestic Forever stamps, from 50 cents to 55 cents. Such an increase will have to be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission. Now is a good time to stock up on Forever stamps at the current price.
Inverted Jenny Stamp Surfaces. New York Times, Sept. 6, 2018
New York New York Hotel and Casino
Postal Service Seeks record price hikes to bolster falling revenues by Lydia DePillis. CNN Business, Oct. 10, 2018
Replicas of the Statue of Liberty. Wikipedia
Statue of Liberty. National Park Service
Statue of Liberty Stamp Mistake to cost Postal Service $3.5 million by Amanda Svachula, The New York Times, July 5, 2018
USPS Public Information Office
USPS Seeks to Raise Forever Stamp Rate by Five Cents. UPI, Oct. 10, 2