A new year equals new stamps! The War of 1812 series finishes off with the Battle of New Orleans. As with the rest of the series, it features a watercolor-esque looking painting. It's competent stamp with a solid design, but it just doesn't excite me the way that the new dollar stamp does. BEHOLD!
Now that's what I'm talking about. I thought I liked the first wave stamps series (and I do), but I love these! I've pre-ordered them and the $2 version that will be out later this month. The Battle of New Orleans releases tomorrow; the $1 Patriotic Wave comes out on Monday, January 12th.
P.S. If you want a taste of the stamps coming out during the rest of 2015, check out the preview page.
I like using selvage in my mail art. "Selvage" refers to the leftover material around stamps when you remove them from the sheet. I like to use the blank strips for addresses and the circular cut-outs of the new global international stamps make it into my designs on a regular basis. In modern sticker-stamps, selvage frequently has art or other information about the stamp printed on it. While you can find older issues with fancy selvage, it is more common to have the edges be blank or contain numbersor printers marks.
When I was a child and collecting stamps, the big thing was to have the "corner block," the section of a stamp sheet from the lower right corner of the sheet consisting of 4 to 6 stamps. That's because that block would contain the selvage area that held the plate number of the printing for that stamp. There's a great article at Linn's Stamp News all about the information you can learn from selvage. Over at U.S.P.S. stamps, there's a posting by Lloyd de Vries about the collectable value of plate blocks. Sometimes a stamp just isn't worth collecting without the selvage. Funny to think how something most people think of as trash can be so important to a collector.
I have written about my sources for vintage postage before, but Nole of Oh So Beautiful Paper recently posted a great article about other online stamp suppliers. If you aren't lucky enough to live in Chicago and go see the Stamp King, these places could be your next best bet. Happy Mailings!
I'm sure you've all heard of that most famous of misprints, the Inverted Jenny. The U.S.P.S. has some great tales surrounding curious stamps, but that one seems to really capture people's interest. Why, I even got a card from the Japanese Postal Museum recently that featured the Inverted Jenny (in gold foil printing no less) and I thought about how odd it was for another country to print a U.S. stamp on it's postal museum cards. However, that's the magic of the Jenny. It is cross-cultural. It is so celebrated a mistake that last year, the U.S.P.S. released a new version of the stamp at the $2.00 value. It's a lovely stamp, too.
There have been other, less beloved, errors in U.S. philatelic history. The U.S.P.S. Stamps blog recently featured the story of the CIA Invert. You can see in the image that the candle and flame are completely out of alignment from the rest of the stamp. (The top stamp is the invert, the bottom stamp shows a correctly printed stamp.) The "scandal" surrounding the stamp is the most facsinating thing about it.
Indeed, this stamp wasn't even worth a lot on the collection market before it had a narrative. The curiousity of one stamp dealer revealed a CIA connection that found public interest, much to the CIA's dismay. An employee of the agency had been the original buyer of the inverted stamps and had purchased them with petty cash for governmental use. Another employee noticed the error and, together with 7 of their colleagues, they bought replacement stamps, keep one for themselves and sold the rest of a dealer. It doesn't sound all that bad really, but it consitutes a consipiracy. The public loved it. The CIA hated it. It remains one of the great stories in U.S. philatelic history. Stamps tell stories. It's what I love about them.
P.S. Did you know that a very select few of the new Jenny stamps are printed right-side up? Yup! Keep an eye out!
I am always writing about U.S. stamp releases mainly because I and the majority of our members are in the U.S. Also, there are a lot of countries out there with a lot of stamps, like more than one by a whole bunch. We aren't a stamp collecting organization per se; so I don't try to announce every new release. (I like the Stamp Collecting Round-up blog for more world-wide news of stamps.)
However, Member Valerie sent over an article from Ping Magazine on all of last year's stamps from Japan. I very much enjoyed the article and thought you all might too. I especially liked the Letter Writing Day stamps (pictured). From the article: "Letter-Writing Day (Fumi no Hi) is a tradition originally founded by Japan Post back in 1979 to promote the fun of exchanging letters. It is celebrated on the 23rd day of every month and most of all on July 23rd. “Fumi” derives from the words for 2 (fu) and 3 (mi), while “Fumizuki” is an old name for July in Japanese. These two Kanji also mean “letter” and “month” — so it is literally THE perfect day to write a letter!" They also include a link to the Japan Post site about upcoming and past stamp issues.
I hope you liked exploring these stamps. Do you have any favorite stamp sites to share with us? Are you excited about a particular issue for your country? Please share with us in the comments!
That's how it all started. One penny to mail your letter. It was a bargin and it remains a bargin, even when you add on 48 more pennies. I make this argument every time there is a price increase at the U.S.P.S. I value mail and I believe that slightly less than half a dollar is more than fair to take my words, thoughts, and feelings in tangible form across sometimes thousands of miles. It's incredible. There's a podcast called 99% Invisible where the host, Roman Mars, says, "I wouldn't take your letter upstairs for 46 cents, and I'm going there anyway." If we didn't have the U.S.P.S., I am certain some private company would step in, but it will be dreadfully more expensive, not just three pennies more expensive.
What is curious about this increase is that it is a higher jump than the U.S.P.S. normally implements. There's always some person who loves to point out how, technically, you can't make any money by buying Forever stamps at the current price and then reselling them for more, but, with this increase and with LARGE amounts of stamps, you technically can. You can read a very informative guide to this "opportunity for arbitrage" here. If someone wants to give the L.W.A. a buncha money to go buy stamps to resell and make more money with which to buy more stamps, we do have a handy donate button.
I don't get many Pen Pals or even people just in everyday conversation complaining much about the increase. When they complain at all, it is often more a case of wondering why not increase it more, straight up to 50 cents. There's probably a good reason why and it probably has to do with bulk mailing rates or some other large scale thing that doesn't apply to the regular letter writer.
What does apply to me, more than the 3 cent increase, is that any First Class packages that use stamps instead of computerized postage with the barcode will have an additional 20 cent handling fee. It super bums me out. Not so much that I have to pay more, but that I feel like I'm being punished for using stamps. That feeling is further increased because computerized stamps will cost 48 cents instead of 49. I know that the scannable items make work flow easier on the U.S.P.S. but, dammit, I like my stamps and I hate when I take it to the counter and they add that zero sum label just to expedite the process. I will take aesthetics over expedition any day.
You can read all about the price increases here. Other highlights include increases on the Priority Flat Rate Small Box, a penny increase on postcards, and a nickle raise on International letters. So, L.W.A. members and blog readers, how's the increase treating you? Do you think they should have just gone to 50 cents? Will you send less mail? Will you be more willing to use computer generated postage?
The USPS Stamps blog is running a "First Look" series for stamps coming out in 2014. I love that they are sharing ahead of time, but most confess that I am extremely underwhelmed. There were some awesome looking fern stamps in the preview, but they have mysteriously had to pull that one down. So far, those are the only 2014 stamps that make me excited. What about you guys?
If you have any interest in world wide stamps (or you happen to be one of our French members, Bonjour!), then you have certainly seen a Marianne stamp. They feature the allegorical French heroine Marianne who stands for the ideals of liberty and reason. Her visage, as imagined by countless artists since the late 1700s can be seen in statuary, seals, famous paintings and many, many stamps.
The newest design of this iconic stamp is causing a bit of a kerfuffle. According to the artist, Olivier Ciappa, he based the design off of many strong women, but mostly on a Ukrainian feminist activist who has been granted asylum in France, Inna Shevchenko.
As a leader of (FYI, lots of breasts on display at this link; so NSFW) Femen, a radical feminist group, Shevchenko participates in topless protests of religious and other conservative activities. "For me, Marianne, who is represented bare-breasted, would probably have been a Femen in 1789 (the French Revolution) because she fought for the Republic's values -- liberty, equality and fraternity," Ciappa said. However, not everyone agrees, namely, the people in the organizations that Femen tends to protest. There's a wholestink going on about it.
Without these protests about a protestor (haha), I don't think anyone would know or care who the main basis for the stamp image is. Thanks to the grumbling, I now know all about Femen, a group I'd never heard of, and in my opinion, it doesn't even look that much like Inna Shevchenko. I think the stamp is quite nice. In fact, it was the winning design chosen by the youth of France. It reminds me of a Disney princess, and, since 15 and 16-year-olds picked the design, that seems appropriate. Disney princesses are, after all, also allegories.
These lovely and delicious looking stamps from Belgium aren't just a pretty picture. Following a healthy tradition of making chocolate postage extra special, these stamps are both scented like chocolate AND flavored like chocolate in the gum. There's even a video from the BBC about how they were made.
This is a big week for U.S.P.S. stamp releases, but they didn't bother to make their flower stamps scented. Too bad for us. Of course, if they're going to scent a stamp, I'd want a chocolate one in any case. Quick, to the stamp suggestion board! Thanks to Member Pat for the tip!
This year marks the 50th year that the U. S. Post Office has been producing special stamps for the holiday season. I have a soft spot for the first Christmas stamp, the 4-cent Wreath and Candles. It is a simple red and green stamp with a wreath, two candles, and the words "Christmas 1962". I still come across unused stamps from this issue and happily affix them to my outgoing holiday cards.
You might think that the first stamp of something might be rare, but the demand for the stamp was so high that the Bureau of Engraving and
Printing printed 350 million of them to start which was the most ever printed for a specialty stamp at the time. It wasn't enough. They went back to press and by the end of 1962, they had produced 1 billion of these wreathed beauties.
Every year since, the Postal Service has issued two holiday stamps; a "Holiday Contemporary" stamp (the Santa and Sleigh for this year) and the "Holiday Traditional" stamp (the Holy Family for this year). In 1996, the first Hanukkah stamp was produced, followed by a Kwanzaa stamp in 1997 and an Eid stamp in 2001. While there aren't any new designs this year, they are still selling the inventory of the designs from past years.
You can find a detailed listing of all the U.S. holiday stamps here. You can see all the holiday issues from around the world over on Stamp News. Lastly, for those of you who love Christmas stamps more than anything, there is a stamp club for you.
In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form. Prepare your pen and paper, moisten your tongue, and get ready to write more letters!
May 28th (Thursday)
Chicago, IL Letter Social
Uncle Art Gallery 7-9pm 1359 N Maplewood Ave
Join us and our typewriters to write some letters together. We will have mail art supplies, stationery, and a few of our old-fangled typing machines available for your use. Free!
May 30th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL OBSCURA DAY 2015
L.W.A. Clubhouse Several time slots available
Enjoy exclusive access to the Letter Writers Alliance Club House in celebration of Obscura Day. You'll see the inner sanctum of operations for the letter writing organization and have an opportunity to write letters and postcards using vintage typewriters.
Your ticket includes free supplies and typewriter time. Donovan, the Letter Writers Alliance typewriter expert, will be on hand to answer questions, troubleshoot cranky machines and make pithy comments. Come join us and type a letter or two!
Tickets: $5 Purchase options available soon!
June 6th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL Postcard Party
606 Opening Celebration, 10am-6pm
Humboldt Blvd between Cortland & Wabansia
Write some postcards and explore the new Bloomingdale Trail with us. Free!
June 7th (Sunday)
Chicago, IL Mix & Mailology
L.W.A. Clubhouse 3:30-5pm
Old Fashions and Wax Seals, two old-timey things we love. Learn the secrets of mixing an excellent Old Fashion and making the perfect wax impression on your envelopes. We will also have other wax-like experiments for your mail art pleasure. Our solutions, both alcoholic and artistic, will surprise you. All materials, including liquid forms, will be provided.
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July 12th (Sunday)
World-Wide L.W.A. Book Club
Join Kathy, Donovan, and a special guest Margaret Haas (of Paper Pastries) via live video while we discuss Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Discussion and further info can be found on the Goodreads book group page. Event Page
The L.W.A. was established in 2007 by Kathy Zadrozny & Donovan Beeson. These two ladies manage every aspect of the Alliance, from design, to packing orders, to maintaining the website. The L.W.A. is a labor of love and we are happy you have joined us in sharing a love for letters.