Examining the Intricacies of Wildlife Stamp Art

New for 2013, the Bank Swallow Forever® stamped envelope features two illustrations by Matthew Frey—one of a perched bank swallow and one of the bird in flight. Both are amazingly detailed:

BankSwallow-2013-envelope-TC-BGv1Frey’s vivid work also appears on the Purple Martin Forever® stamped envelope, which was issued in 2012 and features a gorgeous and acrobatic purple martin, the largest swallow in North America.

PurpleMartinForever-envelope-TC-BGv1Wildlife can be portrayed in many ways. These two stamped envelopes include highly realistic depictions of birds. But USPS has also embraced stylistic interpretations of animals. Issued in 2011, for example, the Save Vanishing Species™ First-Class semipostal stamp (which is still available!) features a bold graphic of an Amur tiger cub. And the one-cent issued in 2012 depicts a stylized bobcat. Both illustrations were made by Nancy Stahl. (You can see more of Stahl’s distinctive wildlife stamps on Beyond the Perf.)

Nancy Stahl pairNow that you’ve seen both approaches, which do you prefer?

New Vintage Seed Packets Stamps Draw on American Tradition

BookletThe will be issued in just a week. Each of the ten stamps features a rich and detailed illustration from an antique seed packet. Aren’t they just incredible?! In fact, we are so taken with these beautiful images that we had to learn more about them. Here’s what we found out.

Seed packets were a Shaker innovation. In the early 1800s, Shakers began growing and selling garden seeds, distributing their wares in many states, and they used small packets for marketing and shipping their product. Undecorated, these packets contained only handwritten identification of the contents on the outside.

As seed companies grew larger and more widespread in the late 19th century, colorful catalogs made an appearance, enticing gardeners with beautiful—almost fairy tale—illustrations of plants covered with perfect blooms and bountiful vegetables. The seed packaging, however, remained utilitarian until a revolution in on-site retail.

A new era began in 1879, when F. W. Woolworth opened stores that featured self-service counters, allowing customers direct access to merchandise that had previously been accessible only with the help of a salesman. Up to this time, seed vendors did business extensively through mail order, which could take several weeks, or at stores where customers had to ask for seeds from behind a counter, making seed buying deliberate and not subject to whim.

D. M. Ferry and Company was one of the first seed companies to take advantage of the new way of selling. It not only began using bright, colorful packaging, but it also pioneered the use of a rack called a “commission box” that exhibited the packets to best advantage and inspired impulse purchases. These eye-catching displays were also widely distributed in grocery, hardware, and general stores, and later even in gas stations.

Hand-tinted prints first decorated seed packets in the late 19th century. By the early 1900s, chromolithography, a printing process that allowed the production of inexpensive, multicolor prints, had almost entirely replaced hand tinting on seed envelopes. Each packet illustration presented an ideal, beautifully rendered flower or vegetable plant at the peak of perfection.


The illustrations featured on the Vintage Seed Packets stamps originally graced the fronts of flower seed packets printed between 1910 and 1920.

By World War II, photographic images had become the norm on seed packets. Though some companies have returned to packaging with a vintage look, fanciful yet apparently realistic photographs now adorn most seed packets, still luring gardeners to dream—and to buy.

The will be issued next Friday, April 5, at the Philadelphia National Stamp Exhibition in Oaks, Pennsylvania. The ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m., is free and open to the public. We will also be selling the stamps at the Macy’s Flower Show in the Grand Court (13th & Market St.) in Philadelphia on April 5-6. We hope to see you there!

Postal Service Unfurls Patriotic Star Stamps

Last week we saluted American patriotism by issuing the Patriotic Star stamp at the National Postal Forum in San Francisco, California. The 46-cent First-Class stamp is available in strips of 25 stamps for consumer use and coils of 10,000 stamps for business customers.

PatrioticStar-46-single-coil-BGv1“With a history dating back to the original United States flag, the 5-pointed star is literally part of the fabric of our nation,” said U.S. Postal Service Chief Marketing/Sales Officer and Executive Vice President Nagisa Manabe. “It’s often said the Postal Service also is part of the American fabric, for keeping our nation connected. It’s therefore fitting that we honor our joint heritage with the Patriotic Star First-Class stamp.”

Joining Manabe in dedicating the stamps were The Calmark Group Vice President of Postal Affairs Stephen Colella; Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Ruth Goldway; National Postal Forum Executive Director Maureen Goodson; and U.S. Postal Service San Francisco District Manager Rosemarie Fernandez.

“Self-adhesive stamps in coils of 10,000 for years have increased stamp affixing productively and efficiency,” said Colella. “Our clients always welcome new designs.”

“This lively and highly decorative new stamp is great for both individuals and business mailers,” added Goldway. “It reminds us of the vital role the mail and the Postal Service play in our nation’s economy and heritage.”

This striking First Day Cover features an affixed stamp and an official First Day of Issue postmark. Click the image for details.

To obtain the official First Day of Issue postmark by mail, purchase the Patriotic Star stamps and affix them to envelopes of your choice. Address the envelopes (to yourself or others) and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:

Patriotic Star Stamp
Debbie Brady/Elisa Sloan NPF
PO Box 7838
San Francisco, CA 94120-7838

After applying the First Day of Issue postmark, USPS will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark for fewer than 50 requests; there is a 5-cent charge per postmark for orders exceeding 50. All orders must be postmarked by May 19.

Stamp Madness Rolls On! Ray Charles Takes on Modern Art in America

The first leg of Stamp Madness is coming to a close, but we still have one match to go in the first round. Yesterday, Grand Central Station beat out Patriotic Star to move on to the semifinals next week.

Today’s first contestant is extraordinary composer, singer, and pianist Ray Charles, whose unforgettable hits include “Georgia On My Mind” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” (The Ray Charles stamp will be released later this year.) He is going up against Modern Art in America: 12 artists, 12 incredible works of art.

Ray Charles Modern Art pairIt’s up to you to decide which will make it through to next week’s semifinal round. Vote here by leaving a comment or come visit us on or Twitter and let us know which is your favorite. The first semifinal match takes place next Tuesday, April 2.

Beautiful Flower Stamps Set to Bloom Next Week

Love flowers? So do we. Next week is flowers week, with the release of the La Florida stamps on Wednesday, April 3, and the on Friday, April 5. See our for details about both ceremonies. And, if you find yourself in Philadelphia next Friday or Saturday, come by the Macy’s Flower Show on Market St. for a special Vintage Seed Packets stamp event.

Page 1 of 1Bring on the beautiful blooms!