Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Forever Stamps

My family has been mailing a great many letters over the past few weeks, and the only stamps we really use for that purpose anymore are Forever Stamps. These stamps were introduced by the post office in 2007 to help consumers through the transition stage of postage rate increases. The forever stamp is immune to change in postage rates. Even if the rate were to increase exponentially in the next few years, the forever stamp is still valid for use in mailing any standard 1 ounce letter without the addition of extra postage.

There is only one forever stamp, and that is the one depicting the Liberty Bell. The illustration of the Liberty Bell is done by artist Tom Engeman, who is also behind several other stamps and postcards that have been put into production by the US postal service. An interview with him by the Frederick News Post mentions that he is now 73 and retired, but still does work for the post service, and volunteers his services for non-profit organizations.

Apparently, the postal service has a bank of many different illustrations that have been done for potential post cards and stamps that they simply refer to when they choose to put out a new set. When asked about applications of illustration, I would think of postcards, but stamps were not necessarily something that entered my mind until I was sticking a whole book of them to a stack of envelopes. These illustrations must function both at large and small scales, depending upon whether they are printed on the stamps themselves, or promotional posters for them.

Stamps actually receive far more attention than we give them credit for, and have more affect on us than we would imagine. I'd guarantee that at some point, each of us has received a letter from a friend or family member, and we have looked at the stamp first and even commented on it. I remember a time when my father became perturbed when he had to mail some letters to his friends, and we only had irises and roses on out stamps. Hardly a manly stamp to be sending on letters to friend. I remember receiving birthday cards with cake or snoopy-in-a-birthday-hat stamps and getting excited, as I knew there was some kind of birthday oriented card (or $10) inside. There is certainly a lot more to stamps than I have been giving them credit for until now.


  1. Thanks for posting this! I've always been intrigued by the illustrations on stamps. My mom has an old stamp collection that she put together with her brothers when she was a kid, and I enjoy looking at the animals, airplanes and other stuff on them.
    I definitely agree with your statement that the illustrations must function at both a large and small scale. I think that's why they're so fun-they catch your eye, and then you notice the smaller details.

  2. This is really interesting. I have never needed buy stamps in a mass amount so I have not really looked at them that much, but if I were to buy them, the illustrations would be the selling point for me.

    This posted made me wonder what stamp has sold the most in U.S. history. Turns out it was the 1993 US Elvis stamp. “Over 517 million sold as singles or in sheets.”