Newspaper Icon and Geometry on High-Value Stamps
In those months that new stamps are issued, it’s a rarity when the releases don’t include at least one new domestic-rate first-class postage stamp. But such was the case in June.
The U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative honoring Katharine Graham, the latest in the continuing Distinguished American series. This is a 2-ounce rate stamp that has seen its price rise nearly 8 percent from the 78 cents when it was issued due to rate increases effective July 10.
The USPS also issued two new high-value stamps. The Floral Geometry stamps are valued at $2 and $5. The stamps do not cover a specific rate, but can be used to make up proper postage on heavier and larger items.
The third issue of the month is not a postage stamp but collected by many philatelists. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, released the 2022-2023 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp – commonly known as the duck stamp.
Finally, collectors interested in the Flags on Barns stamps that were reviewed in the June edition of The AP may have had a difficult time ordering them. As they are special-rate stamps they are not available to the general public through post offices, the Philatelic USA catalog or the U.S. Postal Service’s website. Collectors interested should call the center (1-844-737-7826) to order. The product numbers for the strips of 25 are No. 751103, from the roll of 3,000; No. 761203, from the roll of 10,000. There is no obvious face difference between the types of coils.
Figure 1. Technical and purchase information for the Katharine Graham Forever stamp can be found here.
Katharine Graham, the first female head of a Fortune 500 company and longtime publisher of The Washington Post, is featured on the latest stamp in the Distinguished Americans series (Figure 1).
Graham (1917-2001) was a pivotal figure during turbulent moments in American history. The stamp features a 4 by 6 inch oil portrait of Graham, based on a black-and-white photograph taken in the 1970s, during the peak of her influence as owner and president of The Washington Post Co. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp with original art by Lynn Staley, of New York City.
The stamp was formally released with a dedication ceremony June 14 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
The stamp, printed by Banknote Corporation of America, was sold in panes of 20 at the 2-ounce rate of 78 cents (58 cents first ounce; 20 cents for additional ounce) when issued in June, but that price was due to rise to 84 cents (60 cents first ounce; 24 cents for additional ounce) on July 10.
Aside from her name and the words “Two Ounce / U.S.A.,” the stamp shows the word “Publisher” in all caps sideways at upper left. The Distinguished Americans stamp series began in 2000.
Born in 1917, Katharine Meyer was 16 when her father, Eugene, purchased The Washington Post at a bankruptcy auction in 1933, the Postal Service said. At the time, the paper was the least successful of the city’s five daily newspapers.
After her husband died in 1963, Katharine Graham went on to lead The Washington Post to the forefront of some of journalism’s biggest moments. These included the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 as well as the paper’s tenacious investigative reporting on the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in 1972, which led to President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
An author herself, Graham’s candid memoir, Personal History, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997. She died in 2001 at age 84 and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Testimonials praising Graham were quick and many, according to a news story July 18 in The Washington Post.
“The nation’s capital and our entire nation today mourn the loss of the beloved first lady of Washington and American journalism, Katharine Graham,” President George W. Bush said. “Mrs. Graham became a legend in her own lifetime because she was a true leader and a true lady, steely yet shy, powerful yet humble, known for her integrity and always gracious and generous to others.”
Staley, who created the portrait for the stamp, is a Harlem-based artist who knew Graham while she worked as a design director at Newsweek in the 1990s and early 2000s, when the publication was under The Washington Post Company’s ownership, according to a November 2021 Washington Post story about the stamp.
“She had a kind of authority and an intuitive understanding, I think, of what makes people tick,” Staley said of Graham. “What I was trying to capture was that sense of her own competence, which ... I think was native to her.”
Figure 2. The high value Floral Geometry stamps are available from the USPS Fulfillment Center here
The two similarly designed Floral Geometry stamps, denominated at $2 and $5, were issued June 20 (Figure 2). Although the stamps carry a formal first-issue city of Kansas City, Missouri, no first day ceremony was held. The stamps went on sale nationwide that day.
The stamp art features a series of overlapping geometric shapes that mimic the symmetry of floral patterns found in nature, the Postal Service said. The watercolor backgrounds and the glimmer of the foil-stamped designs and typography create a sophisticated look. The $2 stamp is sold in panes of 10; the $5 stamp in panes of four.
The images and overall size of the stamps are the same. The image areas are 1.42 inches wide and 1.085 inches high. The overall sizes are 1.56 by 1.225 inches. Banknote Corporation of America printed the stamps on the Gallus RCS press using offset, foil stamping and microprinting.The stamps were designed and created by the design firm Spaeth Hill, of Alexandria, Virginia. Antonio Alcalá was the art director.
Neither stamp meets a current specific postage rate. The Floral Geometry stamps will likely be used on packages and large envelopes.
Antonio Alcalá – Art Director
What was the actual assignment for these higher-value stamps?
With the non-commemorative stamps, the assignments tend to be less specific. In this case, supplies of a previous high-denomination stamp were starting to run low and USPS needed a new design.
From what I see online, Spaeth Hill does a lot of other types of larger-scope designs, such as interiors, furniture, signage, reports, rather than artistic and graphic style we normally associate with stamps. How did you happen to connect with Spaeth Hill?
I’ve known Jill Spaeth and Nathan Hill for many years. I was drawn to their demonstrated interest in exploring more experimental design solutions, including wrapping papers, furniture, and their design journal äntrepō. From our initial conversations, which imposed few guidelines, they explored a variety of directions. Ultimately, we decided on developing the floral geometry theme. The result of those explorations are the new stamps.
Can you discuss the solid-line parts of the design vs. the broken lines?
The solid-line patterns show how the geometry forms a pattern that mimics the shape of various components of a plant. The dotted lines repeat elements of the geometric patterns in a way that adds texture and visual interest to the presentation.
Is there anything else interesting you would like to add about the stamps?
We hope the stamps encourage people to look more carefully at the interesting visual details to be found in their surrounding environment.
The 2022-2023 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp – commonly known as the duck stamp – was formally issued June 24 (Figure 3); and, yes, the name of the artist for this year’s stamp is quite familiar to all who collect and follow this annual stamp. It’s Hautman.
Figure 3. Information and sales of the 2022 federal duck stamp and junior duck stamp are available from the USPS Postal Store.
In this case, it’s James Hautman, of Chaska, Minnesota, who won the annual open art contest that chooses the stamp’s design. This was a record sixth time that Hautman won the contest. In 1990, at age 25, he became the youngest artist to win.
Robert Hautman, of Delano, Minnesota (James’ brother), placed second this year with his acrylic painting of Ross’ geese. Joshua Spies, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, took third place with an acrylic of a flying drake redhead.
The Hautman brothers — James, Joseph and Robert — have collectively won the duck stamp art contest 14 times. The brothers were featured on a CBS Sunday morning report June 26 that can be viewed on YouTube. CBS appropriately referred to James Hautman as a “duck Davinci.”
Figure 4. James Hautman’s acrylic painting of two redhead ducks appears on the latest federal duck stamp.
Hautman’s acrylic of a pair of redheads (Figure 4) was one of 137 entries submitted to a two-day competition held Sept. 25-26. Five judges working from a blind exhibition sent 14 artworks to the final round of judging. Due to the pandemic, there was no live first day ceremony. The Postal Service, however, did create a special cancellation for the first day of issue and is offering three different cacheted envelopes franked with both the $25 duck stamp and a current Forever stamp (as the duck stamp is invalid for postage, a regular postage stamp must be stuck to the envelope for it to receive a first day cancellation.)
The annual contest mandates that artwork focuses on at least one of five species of waterfowl. Eligible species for this year’s duck stamp contest were the greater white-fronted goose, Ross’s goose, blue-winged teal, king eider and redhead. The 2021 contest also included a mandatory requirement that each entry had a waterfowl hunting scene and/or accessory. Hautman’s winning entry includes a small boat with two hunters in the background. After appearing on the last two duck stamps, subsequent contests will not require a hunting element to be shown, although an artist has the option of including a hunting element. That controversial mandate lasted just two years.
In addition to Hautman’s design, this year’s duck stamp includes an extra security feature, according to an article in the June 21 edition of Linn’s Stamp News. For the first time since 2006, the duck stamp includes an engraved element, Linn’s said, noting a comment from Suzanne Fellows, chief of the Federal Duck Stamp Office.
“The part printed in intaglio is part of our security features,” Fellows told Linn’s. “It is in the water under the drake redhead and says ‘DUCKSTAMP22/23.’ ” This microprinting is expected to be visible under low magnification.
Waterfowl hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase and carry the current federal duck stamp, which is valid for one year. Many non-hunters, including birdwatchers, conservationists, stamp collectors, and others also purchase the stamp in support of habitat conservation. Additionally, a current federal duck stamp can be used for free admission to any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee.
A duck stamp has been issued annually since 1934 – this is the 89th – and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since its beginning, sales of this stamp have raised more than $1.1 billion to protect more than 6 million acres of wetlands habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Aside from waterfowl, thousands upon thousands of shorebirds, herons, raptors and songbirds, as well as mammals, fish, native plants, reptiles and amphibians rely on the protected landscapes as well.
“This is one of the easiest ways to support migratory bird habitat conservation,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams in a news releases. “Of every dollar spent on a duck stamp, 98 cents of the purchase goes directly to acquiring and protecting habitat for ducks, geese, swans and other wildlife.” Eligible species for this year’s contest to be held September 23-24 in Bismark, North Dakota are: tundra (whistling) swan, mottled duck, American green-winged teal, American wigeon and Barrow’s goldeneye.
The national junior duck stamp, with winning art from Madison Grimm, of South Dakota, also debuted June 24. The junior duck stamp raises funds to support youth conservation education. This year’s $5 stamp, like the federal duck stamp, is available online from the U.S. Postal Service’s Postal Store (formerly the Stamp Fulfillment Center) as well as from many sporting goods and retail stores, and some post offices and national wildlife refuges.
The federal duck stamp on a souvenir sheet is $25 and can be placed in a regular order, along with the special first day covers, from the Postal Store. You can purchase a single $25 duck stamp from a pane of 20 from the Postal Store with the special order number of 336801. You can also purchase a single junior duck stamp (order number 542201). There is a single additional fee of $2.55 for any number of special orders.