Happy New Year! Goodbye 2016 and Welcome 2017

Goodbye 2016 and Welcome 2017! The year 2016 was a very special year for the American Philatelic Society. Two blockbuster events occurred, one expected and one not.

Inverted Jenny, Position 76.
Inverted Jenny, Position 76.

The unexpected was the discovery and successful return in June of an Inverted Jenny airmail stamp (Scott C3a). The stamp, known as Position 76 for its location in an original 1918 sheet of 100, is one of four once owned by Ethel McCoy and stolen in 1955. Though two others had previously been located and another is still missing, it was a pleasure for this stamp to return to the American Philatelic Research Library, which received the rights to the stolen stamps via McCoy’s will.

American Philatelic Research Library.
American Philatelic Research Library.

The expected event was years in the planning and creating. The new 9,000-square-foot American Philatelic Research Library opened at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. A grand opening for the state-of-the-art facility was held in October.

The APS, celebrating its 130th anniversary, again sponsored two major shows and conventions — the AmeriStamp Expo in Atlanta and StampShow in Portland, Oregon. In addition, the APS played a major role and held a prominent presence at World Stamp Show-NY 2016, the international show held in the United States every 10 years.

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Oscar de la Renta, St. Louis Arch, Hawaiian Garden on New 2017 U.S. Stamps

The United States Postal Service announced another grouping of stamps to be issued in 2017. Here are links to the other 2017 stamps previously revealed in September and another batch in November. No issue dates have been announced for these newly revealed 2017 stamps.

Here is the USPS press release on the new stamps:

Additional 2017 Stamps Announced
Renowned fashion designer Oscar de la Renta,
St. Louis’ Gateway Arch Featured

WASHINGTON — The Postal Service today announced more stamps to be issued in 2017.

“The new year is shaping up to be exceptional as the Postal Service continues to produce stamps that celebrate the people, events and cultural milestones that are unique to the history of our great nation,” said Mary-Anne Penner, U.S. Postal Service Director, Stamp Services. “We are very excited to showcase these miniature works of art to help continue telling America’s story as we add to the lineup of 2017 stamps announced earlier.”

Here are the newest additions:

Continue reading “Oscar de la Renta, St. Louis Arch, Hawaiian Garden on New 2017 U.S. Stamps”

The Nativity — The Manger

Not many nations — even those with a strong Christian base — put an image of the Nativity on their stamps much before the 1970s. As we saw in our Christmas Firsts blog, Hungary first put Nativity imagery on a stamp in 1943. (For argument’s sake, we’re calling the Nativity as depicting the Holy Family — Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus in a manger-like setting.)

The 2016 stamp with a silhouette design was just the third U.S. stamp showing a manger scene.
The 2016 stamp with a silhouette design was just the third U.S. stamp showing a manger scene.

The United States has rarely put an image of a manger scene or Holy Family on a stamp, instead for a religious motif at Christmas opting for master artworks of the Madonna and Child, along with the occasional angel. The first full Madonna and Child stamp was in 1966, followed quickly by a second in 1967. Two more were issued in 1973 and 1975, and in 1978, the Postal Service started a run of 22 consecutive years showing a Madonna and Child master artwork. No Christmas stamps were issued in 2000, and although it’s been more sporadic, the Madonna and Child imagery has appeared on 10 more stamps.

In 1970, the religious U.S. stamp showed a manger scene, presenting Nativity (1523), by Lorenzo Lotto, and in 1971, the stamp showed a detail from Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 1505) by Giorgione, followed in 1976 by Nativity (c. 1777), by John Singleton Copley. Not until this year, did another manger/Nativity scene show up on a U.S. Christmas stamp. Interestingly, this year also saw a new Madonna and Child stamp.

It’s interesting to see how other nations present the Madonna and Child, some in traditional forms, sometimes in modernized images, and some depicting the Holy Family in that country’s traditional stylings.

Lily Spandorf and the 1963 Christmas Stamp

The 1963 Christmas stamp.
The 1963 Christmas stamp.

The temperature was in the low 40s and there was a light breeze and drizzle, but Lily Spandorf would not be deterred. A familiar visitor all around Washington, D.C., the Austrian-born free-lance artist was determined to make one of her on-the-spot watercolors. So she bundled up on the afternoon of December 17, 1962 and made her way to the White House where, during the Christmas Pageant of Peace, President John F. Kennedy would light the National Christmas Tree, a 72-foot-tall blue spruce imported from Colorado.

Lily Spandorf displays the original painting that inspired the 1963 Christmas stamp.
Lily Spandorf displays the original painting that inspired the 1963 Christmas stamp.

At 5:15 p.m., the president pushed the button and the tree, decorated with 5,000 multicolored lights and 4,000 ornaments, flickered to colorful holiday life. It would be the only time JFK would light the national tree.

As soon as the lights came on, Spandorf — who made her living with on-the-spot paintings around the city — went to work, creating a painting with people admiring the decorated tree and a partial view of the White House in the background.

A photo of the Lily Spandorf’s first adaptation of her original painting as requested by the Post Office Department.
A photo of the Lily Spandorf’s first adaptation of her original painting as requested by the Post Office Department.

A lot happened with that painting. It became the principal design for the United States’ second Christmas stamp, that for 1963. Postal officials at first asked for an adaptation. Spandorf eliminated the holiday onlookers and placed the tree even greater in the foreground. In the end, illustrator Norman Todhunter of Connecticut modified the design even more to include a view of the full White House and a more distant view of the tree. But Spandorf is still given credit as the main illustrator.

A proof copy of the front of the Christmas card from Colortone Press.
A proof copy of the front of the Christmas card from Colortone Press.

At about the same time the Post Office Department was creating the stamp, Colortone Press President A.J. Hackl, a longtime admirer of the artist’s, also became interested in the tree painting. He worked out a deal to use the painting as a Christmas card, the first time a stamp and card came from the same source.

The stamp was formally issued November 1 in Santa Claus, Indiana. Spandorf attended the ceremony. The holiday season carried a cloak of great sadness from Kennedy’s assassination. But apparently, the stamp helped folks cope somewhat as it sold a then-record 2 billion examples.

Lily Spandorf’s painting was adapted as a Christmas card, which the artist herself turned into first-day cover when she attended the first-day ceremony in Santa Claus, Indiana. She signed a card and sent one to philatelic journalist Belmont Faries.

Spandorf was born in 1915 in Vienna, Austria. Like many Jews, she fled eastern Europe before the start of World War II, immigrating to London. She made her way to New York City in 1950 and finally to the nation’s capital a few years later. Spandorf contributed artwork to many publications, including the Washington Post, National Geographic, and the Washington Evening Star. She died in 2000 at the age of 85. In recent years at least two retrospective exhibits of her artwork have been held.


Seashells Postcard Stamps in San Diego

The four new Seashells postcard rate stamps will debut nationwide January 28. The first-day postmark will read San Diego, California. The issue date was first announced in the December 22 Postal Bulletin and it is unknown if a ceremony will take place for the stamps.

Seashells postcard rate stamps.

The stamps will be issued in a pane of 20 and in a coil of 100.

Here is some additional information on the stamp issue from the U.S. Postal Service:

Four new postcard stamps celebrate the wonder of seashells. Each stamp depicts one iconic shell found in North American waters: the alphabet cone, the Pacific calico scallop, the zebra nerite, and the Queen conch, commonly known as the pink conch. The highly stylized stamp art expresses a lighthearted, artistic view of shells. The horizontal swaths of white and blue in the background suggest waves washing the shells onto a beach. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps. Sergio Baradat created the stamp art.