The Christmas Stamp That Combats Disease

The 2016 U.S. Christmas Seal.

Christmas seals are not postage stamps. They are what is known in the hobby as cinderellas items that look like postage stamps, but aren’t valid for postage. Christmas seals have a familiar look and interesting history, so they are used and collected much like Christmas stamps. In fact, the Christmas Seal & Charity Stamp Society (www.seal-society.org) is an affiliate of the American Philatelic Society.

Actor-singer Frank Sinatra promoted the 1963 U.S. Christmas seal. (Image courtesy of National Postal Museum).

Christmas seals are often placed on mail during the Christmas season. The sale of the stamps is raises money and awareness for various charitable programs. Initially they were associated with lung diseases such as tuberculosis, but now have grown internationally to include various aspects of child welfare.

The world’s first Christmas seals were created in 1904 in Denmark. The Danish queen, Louise of Hesse-Kassel, is pictured.

In 1904, Danish postal clerk Einar Holbøll developed the idea of adding an extra charitable stamp or label on holiday Christmas mail. Holbøll’s idea eventually was approved by the Danish postmaster and the king of Denmark, and in 1904 the world’s first Christmas seal was issued, bearing the likeness of the Danish queen and the word “Julen,” the Danish word for Christmas. More than 4 million seals were sold in Denmark in the first year alone.

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New Flag Stamp to Unfurl January 27

U.S. Flag
U.S. Flag forever stamp.

The new United States U.S. Flag forever stamp will debut January 27 nationwide. The first-day ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. during the Southeastern Stamp Expo show at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast in Norcross, Georgia.

Here is the USPS media advisory on the stamp:

U.S. Flag Forever Stamp
To be Dedicated at Atlanta Area Stamp Show

WHAT: First Day of Issue ceremony for the U.S. Flag Forever Stamp
WHO: USPS Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President Jeff Williamson
American Philatelic Society President Mick Zais, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (ret.).
USPS Director of Stamp Services Mary-Anne Penner
WHEN: Fri., Jan. 27 at 11 a.m.
WHERE: Southeastern Stamp Expo, American Philatelic Society Stamp Show, Hilton Atlanta Northeast, 5993 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Norcross, GA  30092
BACKGROUND: With the new U.S. Flag stamp, the Postal Service continues its tradition of celebrating patriotism with one of the most recognizable symbols of our nation. The stamp, sold in booklets of 10 and 20 and coils, features a detail from a photograph of the billowing Stars and Stripes. Terrence W. McCaffrey was the art director of the project and Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, VA, designed the stamp with an existing photograph of the flag taken by Tom Grill of New York. The credit line “© Tom Grill/Corbis” should appear in profile text associated with the stamp in accordance with standard practice.

Merry Chri … Oh, I Mean Happy New Year, Comrade

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Russia’s first new year’s stamp, issued in 1962 in advance of the upcoming new year. The stamp, a much softer tone than many Soviet stamps of the era, features a globe and dove of peace; the adjoined label says “Happy New Year.”

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are major events in today’s Russia and was the same in the former Soviet Union when religion was essentially banned under Communist rule. Christmas holiday traditions were transferred to new year celebrations.

The Soviet Union started producing annual new year stamps in the early 1960s. The first such stamp included a label with “Happy New Year” inscribed in colorful, flowing script. It was a very soft and warm design compared to many of the heavy, industrial-style designs of the typical stamp from the Soviet Union.

A troika (pulled by Grandfather Frost?) flies in front of Spasskaya Tower on the Russia’s stamp celebrating the upcoming year of 1972. Just two years earlier the new year’s stamp featured a portrait of Communist leader Lenin.
A troika (pulled by Grandfather Frost?) flies in front of Spasskaya Tower on the Russia’s stamp celebrating the upcoming year of 1972. Just two years earlier the new year’s stamp featured a portrait of Communist leader Lenin.

Several new year stamps thereafter included images of snowflakes, the Kremlin’s famous Spasskaya (also Spasski) Tower and rockets — yes, let’s of rockets! It’s not unusual to find spaceflight imagery on Soviet New Year issues, some stamps and many cards. James G. Reichman wrote a whole book on it called Soviet New Year’s Issues Related to Spaceflight (2013) and noted 468 items depicting spaceflight on Soviet postal items, many of them special postal cards.

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By the 1990s, Santa Claus became a familiar sight on Soviet new year stamps. Here’s 1990 Soviet card with an uncanceled stamp (issued 1989) and some Santa stamps celebrating 1991.
By the 1990s, Santa Claus became a familiar sight on Soviet new year stamps. Here’s 1990 Soviet card with an uncanceled stamp (issued 1989) and some Santa stamps celebrating 1991.

As the political climate changed in the 1990s, Russia started including more Christmas images on its new year’s stamps, including Grandfather Frost (looking a LOT like Santa Claus) and his sleigh, decorated Christmas trees and brightly wrapped presents.

Marshall Islands Tropical Flowers Stamps at AmeriStamp

The Marshall Islands will issue a sheet of 10 stamps featuring tropical flowers at the AmeriStamp Expo stamp show in Reno, Nevada.

The first-day ceremony is scheduled for March 3, the first day of the show, at a time to be announced at the Reno Sparks Convention Center.

mi_flowerssheetThe stamps depicted are (top row, from left): plumeria, hibiscus, primrose willow, annona muricata, and globe amaranth; (bottom row, from left) arrowleaf elephants ear, field pumpkin, Asiatic pennywort, fire on the mountain, and Polynesian arrowroot.

blog-reno-2016The show will feature approximately 50 dealers, a dozen societies, 40 meetings and seminars, and exhibits, including the annual World Series of Philately single-frame competition.

For more information, visit stamps.org/stampexpo.

 

Christmas Stamps by Children in Great Britain

Children, of course, are synonymous with Christmas. Great Britain has embraced the holiday joy of youth by sponsoring stamp-design contests resulting in three seasons of Christmas stamps — which are considered “special” stamps by Royal Mail — designed by young people.

4-great-britain-4794-great-britain-478The first contest was held in 1966 resulted in two stamps created by artwork from two 6-year-olds. Eight professional designers judged the 5,000 entries and awarded the honors to Tasveer Shemza and James Berry. Shemza’s design features King Wenceslas, while Berry’s shows a snowman. Nine-year-old Ann Belshaw’s design of Santa Claus on a rooftop by a chimney was used on an official cachet.

4-great-britain-960In 1981, Royal Mail sponsored a second contest, which resulted in five stamps, four of a religious nature and one showing a picture of Santa Claus. A stamp designed by Samantha Brown, 5, shows Santa with a rather charming smile. The contest was sponsored by the BBC and drew 74,000 entries. Artwork for the other stamps was created by Tracy Jenkins, Lucinda Blackmore, Stephen Moore, and Sophie Sharp.

4-molly-2013The third children’s stamp-design competition led to two Christmas stamps in 2013. This time, 239,374 schoolchildren between the ages of 4 and 11 responded visually to the question “What does Christmas mean to you?” The two national winners, whose designs are on first- and second-class stamps, were selected by a panel led by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and that included Shemza, one of the winners of the 1966 contest.

The 2013 winners were Father Christmas, designed by Molly Robson, 7, and Singing Angels, by Rosie Hargreaves, 10.

At the time of the contest, news reports quoted Prince Charles as stating: “I am delighted to be helping judge this wonderful competition which gives children from across the United Kingdom the amazing opportunity to share their creativity and have their designs on this year’s Christmas stamps.

The children’s names appear on all the stamps, though the 1966 stamps include just their last names and first initial. The winning designs for all the contests needed the approval the prince’s mum, the queen.