A Shining Moment for USPS’s Gaze at a Dark Day — August 21, 2017

The United States Postal Service has gone all out for the Total Eclipse of the Sun, which will occur August 21 from the northwest corner of the continental U.S. to South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast in the southeast. The moon on Monday will come between the Earth and sun. A shadow will totally block the sun from our sight for a 70-mile-wide path across the country. Those outside the path of totality will experience a partial solar eclipse.

This is the first time a total solar eclipse has been visible in the U.S. since 1979 and it’s the first time in 99 years such an eclipse as occurred entirely across the Lower 48, according to space.com. Several locales in Tennessee — such as Gallatin, Lebanon and Madisonville — get close to the maximum duration of totality, about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

“One astronomer has said it will be the ‘most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history,’ ” the Washington Post said in a recent story.

This special occasion called for a special stamp.

On June 20, the Summer Solstice, the USPS issued a first-ever stamp with changeable ink. The forever stamp, currently sold at 49 cents and forever valid for first-class domestic mail, has a darkened orb — such as an eclipsed sun — but when heated (such as under a thumb) turns into the face of the moon.

Post offices along the path have planned special events or postal cancellations for the eclipse. An interactive map from the U.S. Postal Service shows the swath of the eclipse and all of the post offices directly in its path.

The stamp uses thermochromic ink to create its special effect. The dark, round image of the eclipse on the stamp transforms into the illuminated moon from the heat of a finger. The image turns black again when it cools. This is the first time such ink has been used on a U.S. stamp, according to the Postal Service.

The Postal Service warns that thermochromic inks are vulnerable to UV light and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to preserve this special effect. To help ensure longevity, the Postal Service is offering a special dark envelope to hold and protect the stamp pane for 25 cents. The special ink also causes a full 16-stamp pane of the stamps to be slightly crinkled. Banknote Corporation of America printed the stamp and CTI, a specialized ink printer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, added the thermochromic ink.

The Eclipse stamp was released on June 20 and celebrated with a first-day ceremony at the Art Museum of the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Taking part in the ceremony were NASA astrophysicist Madhulika “Lika” Guthakurta, University of Wyoming Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Chip Kobulnicky, and astrophysicist Fred Espenak, known as “Mr. Eclipse,” joined the Postal Service for the first-day-of-issue ceremony.

The Solar Eclipse forever stamp is issued in a pane of 16. Art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, Virginia, designed the stamp. The stamp features a photograph of an eclipse taken by Espenak on March 29, 2006 in Jalu, Libya.

Espenak, of Portal, Arizona, is a retired NASA astrophysicist and is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on total solar eclipses with 27 under his belt.

A total solar eclipse provides us with the only chance to see the sun’s corona — its extended outer atmosphere — without specialized instruments. During the total phase of an eclipse the corona appears as a gossamer white halo around the black disk of the moon, resembling the petals of a flower reaching out into space.

Tens of millions of people in the United States hope to view this rare event, which has not been seen on the U.S. mainland since 1979. The eclipse will travel a narrow path across the entire country for the first time since 1918.

“With the release of these amazing stamps using thermochromic ink, we’ve provided an opportunity for people to experience their own personal solar eclipse every time they touch the stamps,” said Jim Cochrane, chief customer and marketing officer for the USPS, who took part in the first-day ceremony. “As evidenced by this stamp and other amazing innovations, the Postal Service is enabling a new generation to bridge the gap and tighten the connection between physical mail and the digital world.”

A total eclipse of the sun occurs when the moon completely blocks the visible solar disk from view, casting a shadow on Earth.

On the back of the pane is a map of the United States showing the path of totality, those places where the sun will be completely blocked as the moon passes between it and Earth. “The 70-mile-wide shadow path of the eclipse, known as the path of totality, will traverse the country diagonally, appearing first in Oregon (mid-morning local time) and exiting some 2,500 miles east and 90 minutes later off the coast of South Carolina (mid-afternoon local time),” the pane says.

Guthakurta warned that only people within the path of totality should view the eclipse with the naked eye.

“The sun can be viewed safely with the unaided eye only during the few brief seconds or minutes of a total solar eclipse,” said Guhathakurta. “Partial eclipses or partial phases of total solar eclipses are never safe to watch without solar eclipse glasses.”

Guthakurta recommended learning more on solar eclipse safety, educational and science information at eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

According to the timeanddate.com website, here are a few times of totality from west to east, all listed in local time and rounded to the nearest minute: Bend, Oregon, 10:20 a.m.; Idaho Falls, Idaho, 11:33 a.m.; Lincoln, Nebraska, 1:03 p.m.; St. Louis, Missouri, 1:18 p.m.; Nashville, Tennessee, 1:28 p.m.; and Charleston, South Carolina, 2:47 p.m.

Flowers from the Garden Decorate
Forever Stamps Starting August 16

Flowers from the Garden
Flowers from the Garden

Flowers painted by a contemporary American artist will appear on four Flowers from the Garden forever stamps to be issued August 16 by the U.S. Postal Service.

The first-day ceremony will be at 4 p.m. local time at the Mary Jo Arboretum and East Sioux Falls Historic Site in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Among those scheduled to be on hand are South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard and stamp artist Elizabeth Brandon.

The stamps feature still-life paintings of bountiful floral bouquets by Brandon, whose paintings were inspired by floral still-lifes created by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Each stamp features one of four different paintings of flowers gathered from the garden and artfully arranged in a container. One stamp features red camellias and yellow forsythia in a yellow pitcher, while on another there are white peonies and pink tree peonies in a clear vase. An arrangement of white hydrangeas, white and pink roses, green hypericum berries, and purple lisianthus in a white vase graces another stamp, while blue hydrangeas in a blue pot appear on another.

The pressure-sensitive stamps are being sold in booklets of 20, and coils of 3,000 and 10,000.

Derry Noyes, of Washington, D.C., was art director, designer, and typographer for these stamps.

The first-day ceremony is free and open to the public, though guests are asked to RSVP at usps.com/flowers.

Flower Once Thought Extinct in the Wild on New Postal Card August 11

The artistry of illustrator Dugald Stermer appears on a new stamped postal card to be issued Friday, August 11, the first day of the three-day Americover 2017 show in Independence, Ohio. The postal card also goes on sale nationwide Friday.

There will be three varieties of the nondenominated (34 cents) Azulillo Chilean Blue Crocus forever postal card: a single card; a double-reply card, and an uncut sheet of 40 cards. The basic postal card sells for 38 cents, which includes 34 cents of current postage plus 4 cents for the cost of the card.

A first-day ceremony is set for 11 a.m. at the annual show and exhibition sponsored by the American First Day Cover Society. The show takes place Friday through Sunday at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Cleveland-Rockside, 5800 Rockside Woods Boulevard, in Independence.

The Azulillo Chilean Blue Crocus is a flowering perennial native to Chile, the naturally grows at more than a mile high on the dry on the stony slopes in the Andes mountains. Although it had survived in cultivation due to its use as a greenhouse and landscape plant, it was believed to be extinct in the wild due to overcollecting, overgrazing, and general destruction of habitat, until it was rediscovered in 2001.

The imprinted stamp on the postal card features an existing floral illustration by Stermer (1936-2011), a longtime illustrator and designer. He was a major illustrative force behind Ramparts magazine and his other clients included the New York Times, New Yorker, the U.S. Department of State, and the 1984 Summer Olympics (for which he created the medals) in Los Angeles. He is credited with the illustration on the cover of the first issue of Mother Jones magazine in 1976, and how own nature books, Vanishing Creatures (1981), Vanishing Flora (1995), and Birds & Bees (1995).

Ethel Kessler, of Bethesda, Maryland, was art director, designer, and typographer for this card.

Wishnietsky World Series Champion of Champions Announced

The presentation of the Benjamin & Naomi Wishnietsky World Series Champion of Champions exhibiting award winner was revealed this past Saturday at APS StampShow 2017 in Richmond, Virginia.

James P. Mazepa, for his exhibit at Balpex 2016 titled “Colonial Central America,” won the top award.

A full list of the winners can be found on the APS website in PDF format. The literature competition Palmares is also available here.

Additional information about the competition is online at the APS website.

APS StampShow 2017 in Richmond Starts Today!

Nation’s Largest Annual Philatelic Show Visits Richmond

World-class philatelic exhibits, scores of dealers, rarities, three first-day-of-issue ceremonies, educational presentations, high-tech youth activities, and much more is planned for StampShow, which will be held August 3 to 6 in Richmond, Virginia at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, 403 N. Third Street. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday to Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free for show, but all attendees must register. A full pdf of the show program is available here. And an app for the show can be downloaded here.

The annual show is sponsored by the American Philatelic Society, the world’s largest association devoted to the hobby of stamp collecting. In addition to offering the nation’s signature event for philately, StampShow serves as the annual summer convention of the 30,000-member strong APS, which was formed in 1886.

One major change in this year’s show will be celebratory events, including the annual Tiffany Dinner, now an invitation-only event, and the awards banquet, which has been divided into two events.

A keyword associated with StampShow is diversity as the show offers something for every collecting level, from the beginner to the expert. A complete schedule and many details can be found online at https://stamps.org/STAMPSHOW-SS, but here is a brief summary of major show events.

PHILATELIC EXHIBITS: More than 600 frames of world-class exhibits will showcase rare and interesting aspects of international philately, from postal history to stamps. Exhibits are diverse with sample titles including, “Backyard Chickens,” “Confederate Mails on the Rails,” “U.S. Ten Cent Issue of 1861,” and “Cuba: Varieties and Errors, 1899-1962.”

About three dozen of the exhibits will compete in the 50th Champion of Champions competition. Only the grand award winners from 30 World Series of Philately exhibitions over the preceding 12 months and a half dozen from national exhibitions in Canada are eligible for America’s most prestigious award in philatelic exhibiting.

DEALERS AND AUCTIONS: About 100 dealers and two auction houses will be on hand, offering everything from bargain boxes of stamps and covers (envelopes or postal wrappings) to rarer items that might cost thousands of dollars. A few dealers that sell collecting materials, such as albums, stockbooks, and catalogs.

The U.S. Postal Service will be on hand with a full array of its latest products. Also, Nordica, which represents several Scandinavian and northern European postal agencies, also will be at the show.

Harmer-Schau auction house is offering up to 4,000 lots, with three auction start times: 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. H.R. Harmer will hold its five-hour auction starting at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The APS will bring merchandise of all type for sale, including books (found on website), specialty items (from neckties to magnifiers), plus Circuit Books of stamps and covers – both regular and clearance materials. Also, the Young Philatelic Leadership Fellows will sell philatelic material, with all sales going to help the youth program.

FIRST DAYS, SOUVENIRS AND A GIVEAWAY: Three first-day-of-issue ceremonies are planned.

The U.S. Postal Service on August 3 hold a ceremony for the new set of five Pollinators stamps featuring monarch butterflies, western honeybees, and flowers.

That same day, the United Nations will formally issue a set of six stamps in its ongoing World Heritage series, with this group featuring treasured sites from Along the Silk Road.

The Marshall Islands on August 4 will release a sheet of 20 honoring the artwork of Paul Calle (1928-2010). Calle designed about 40 stamps for the U.S., plus stamps for other countries. His best-known stamp is likely the U.S. 10-cent First Man on the Moon airmail stamp of 1969. Calle’s son, Chris, who also is an artist and stamp designer, will be at the show.

The APS will sponsor show covers in connection with the U.S. first day and offer special cancellations for each day: Pollinators (Thursday), Confederate (Friday), Canada 150 (Saturday), and Grills (Sunday).

The Faroe Islands is giving away a miniature sheet featuring a solar eclipse. The giveaway is being coordinated by the APS. The first 500 visitors to the APS booth who request the sheet will receive one.

PRESENTATIONS: Dozens of talks, workshops, and seminars are planned, including two from a preservation specialist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum.  Among the others are several about Civil War philately, plus “The Use of Points to Evaluate Exhibits,” “ABCs of Collecting Perfins,” “Exhibiting Techniques,” “Rare and Unusual Interruption of Mail,” and several beginners’ workshops sponsored by the APS. The APS Youth Fellows will make a formal presentation discussing their experiences.

POSTAL MUSEUM: The National Postal Museum will show two full plate proofs of the 4-cent United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld stamp of 1962. The museum also will send several artistic endeavors that stamp designer Howard Koslow used to create the U.N. architecture stamp in the 1940s Celebrate the Century Series, issued in 1999.

RARITIES AND EXHIBITS FROM THE APS: An Inverted Jenny – an error stamp of the United States’ first airmail stamp of 1918 – owned by the American Philatelic Research Society, the sister organization of the APS, will be on display, as will a George Washington free frank, and the discovery pane of the 1962 U.S. 4-cent Dag Hammarskjold Invert Error autographed by those who first recognized its rarity and significance. The APS will exhibit a collection of its intricate stamp boxes. Many of these finely crafted antiques are from the early days of stamp usage in 1840 to 1910s and are crafted in a variety of materials, including sterling silver, wood, gold, enamel, and ivory.

AUTHORS: About a dozen authors of recently issued books will be on hand, many who will make presentations. The author talks will be held in the same area as the literature exhibits. Three dozen articles, journals, and books are entered into the philatelic literature competition.


The Richmond Stamp Soiree, an invitation-only Tiffany dinner, will be held Thursday evening at the Virginia Historical Society.

The APS membership meeting and Town Hall is set for 9 a.m. Saturday.

This year’s Celebration Banquet Saturday evening is a two-tiered event. First, there will be an open Medal-Level Ceremony at which most show awards will be presented and cocktail party will be followed by a banquet (tickets needed) at which the show’s and society’s premier awards will be announced, 7 p.m. Saturday.

SOCIETIES, CLUBS, AND GROUPS: Several philatelic societies and clubs are expected to be on hand. These groups will have various activities from meetings and dinners to having booths on the show floor and presentations. Among the many major societies scheduled are the American Philatelic Congress, the Great Britain Collectors Club, the Canal Zone Study Group, German Philatelic Society, the Women Exhibitors, and Virginia Postal History Society.

APS STAFF-SPONSORED EVENTS: The APS staff will make several presentations. Among them are “Buying and Selling Through the APS,” “Library Resources Focusing on World War II Era,” “Writing for The American Philatelist “E-Newsletters and Promoting Your Stamp Show Through the APS,” “Using the APS Website and “Philatelic Estate Planning.” Executive Director Scott English will hold an “Ambassador Forum.”

BEGINNERS AND YOUTH: Several beginning-level presentations have been scheduled along with a Boy Scout merit badge workshop. The Discovery Cove youth area will include Stamps by the Bucket, an opportunity to use microscopes, learn about soaking and hinging, and design activities, including microprinting. All youths receive a free goodie bag.