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!

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!

Vintage Seed Packets Springtime Giveaway

VintageSeedPackets-Forever-Booklet20-v2Flowers are among the most popular subjects on U.S. postage stamps. On Friday, April 5, the U.S. Postal Service will once again celebrate the beauty of American flowers with the issuance of ten stamps featuring illustrations from colorful antique seed packets printed between 1910 and 1920. To create the stamps, art director Antonio Alcalá used photographs of actual seed packets, which he cropped to highlight the beautiful floral detail.

Since today is the first day of spring, we thought we’d celebrate with a warm weather giveaway—one of the actual seed packets used to create the stamps!


The front of the seed packet depicts the pale pink, subtle yellow, and muted orange-red flowers of the zinnia. The back of the packet describes the zinnia in more detail:

The colors run through all the shades of carmine, lilac, scarlet, purple crimson, yellow, to pure white.

A very showy plant, with large, double flowers which when fully expanded form hemispherical heads, become densely imbricated, and might easily be mistaken for Dwarf Dahlias. If any single blossoms appear they should be pulled up.

To win the zinnias seed packet, all you have to do is answer one question: Are zinnias annuals or perennials?

Email your answer, along with your name and address, to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. One winner will be selected at random. The deadline for entries is 11:59 p.m. EDT, Friday, March 22. (NOTE: The zinnias seed packet is empty; no seeds are included.)

If you don’t win this time, you will have seven more chances to win. That’s right. We’re giving away a total of eight packets used in the creation of the Vintage Seed Packets stamps! Check back next week for another chance to win.

All ten of the Vintage Seed Packets stamps depict the rich and detailed illustrations that encouraged millions of Americans at the turn of the last century to dream of creating the perfect garden. They are being issued as Forever® stamps. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.)

Looking Forward to Spring (Plus A Giveaway!)

USPS05STA003Spring flowers symbolize new beginnings. This year we’ll usher in the season with the release of two floral stamp sheets: La Florida on Wednesday, April 3, and Vintage Seed Packets on Friday, April 5. They are just the latest in the Postal Service’s long tradition of beautiful flower stamps, .

Eight years ago today, the popular Spring Flowers stamps were released at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. The set of four stamps featured watercolor paintings of four spring flowers—an iris, a hyacinth, a daffodil, and a tulip—created by Massachusetts artist Christopher Pullman.

“They’re very different from flower stamps that the Postal Service has issued in the past,” said art director Derry Noyes in 2005. “As silhouettes on white backgrounds, Chris Pullman’s watercolors are striking in their clean simplicity. I’m sure that people will be glad to use them for weddings, love letters, and virtually any other happy occasion.”

Mainstays in gardens coast to coast, these four flowers are among the earliest to appear as the winter season ends. The daffodil, or narcissus, with its wide range of yellow and white flowers, and the smaller hyacinth, one of the few true blue flowers, debut early in the garden. Both are also popular bulbs for force blooming indoors. As the daffodil and hyacinth flowers fade outdoors, the elegant tulip and the long-blooming iris begin to appear. Valued as long-lasting cut flowers, both tulips and irises are used in many garden landscapes to provide height and color.

DSC03184To celebrate the start of spring next week, we are giving away a Spring Flowers collector’s pack. One lucky winner will receive a Spring Flowers commemorative panel plus an official 2005 Spring Flowers First Day of Issue Ceremony program. The 8 ½ x 11 ¼-inch panel includes informative text about the flowers, beautiful photographs, and a block of four mint Spring Flowers stamps in a protective acetate mount.

To enter to win, all you have to do is email your name and address to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. One winner will be selected at random. The deadline for entries is 11:59 p.m. EDT, Saturday, March 16. Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Vicki St. John, winner of the Spring Flowers collector’s pack! And thank you to everyone who entered. If you didn’t win, don’t worry. We have lots more giveaways planned for the coming weeks.

New 2013 Stamps Will Feature Illustrations From Early 20th-Century Seed Packets

Do you dream of creating the perfect garden in 2013? Perhaps the new Vintage Seed Packets stamps will inspire you.

VintageSeedPackets-Forever-Booklet20-v2Each of the stamps depicts the perfect blossoms of one variety of flower—a trio of cosmos in delicate white, pink, and red; stalks of yellow, pink, and coral digitalis; bright yellow primrose flowers with orange centers; a vibrant orange calendula; white, pink, and blue aster blooms; two shades of pinks (dianthus), one pale, one dark; linum blossoms in a rich red; white drifts of alyssum; clusters of phlox in red, pink, and purple; and pale pink, subtle yellow, and muted orange-red zinnia flowers.

Created using chromolithography—a process that replaced hand-tinted lithographs and allowed for inexpensive multi-color prints—the illustrations featured on the stamps originally graced the fronts of flower seed packets printed between 1910 and 1920.

Guaranteed to brighten your letters and bring a smile to your face, the Vintage Seed Packets stamps will be issued as Forever® stamps later this year. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.)