On September 23, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the four new Holiday Wreath Forever stamps in Figure 1 as this year’s contemporary holiday stamps to welcome the season of Christmas.
On October 7, it was announced that Postmaster General and USPS CEO Megan J. Brennan would preside over the first-day dedication ceremony for the new stamps on October 25 at the L.L. Bean Flagship Store in Freeport, Maine.
Back in September the USPS also stated that these “…will be among several holiday-themed stamps that will be available this year.” Last year, FOREVER sacred and secular Christmas stamps, a Hanukkah and a Kwanzaa stamp were released during October 3–16, and these stamps as well as earlier FOREVER Holiday issues from 2016–17, including one for the autumn Hindu celebration of Diwali (Scott 5142), also were still on sale as of October 7.
“Inspired by the holiday decorating traditions of early America, the four wreaths featured on these stamps are classic yet contemporary. Their designs create feelings of warmth and welcome. Wreaths are often made from materials easily found during the winter months, including pine cones, dried flowers and berries. Displayed on a door, in a window or over a mantel, wreaths are symbols of joy and celebration, inviting the spirit of the season into the home.”
Figure 1. These Holiday Wreath Forever stamps, to be issued on October 25 “will be among several holiday-themed stamps that will be available this year” says the USPS.
Shown is the festive seasonal quartet in a se-tenant block of four, for each of which the USPS provided additional details:
- (top left) The ribbon leaf wreath is inspired by French floral art. Aspidistra leaves, folded and manipulated to resemble ribbons, create a long-lasting wreath.
- (top right) Gilded pinecones and magnolia pods grace the wreath trimmed with cranberry red ribbon.
- (lower left) Red and gold ribbon adorns the wreath made from gilded dried hydrangea, eucalyptus and nandina foliage, red berries, and small ornaments.
- (lower right) The woodland bush ivy and red winterberry wreath presents a classic red and green palette.
Antonio Alcala served as the art director for these stamps and designed them with floral artist Laura Dowling. Dowling designed the wreaths for the stamps, which were photographed by Kevin Allen. USPS will issue the Holidays Wreaths in booklets of 20. These Forever stamps will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price, now 55¢.
57 years ago, the first U.S. Christmas stamp was a Giori Press-printed 4¢ bicolored design in red and green depicting an unadorned wreath next to two lit candles (Scott 1205). Figure 2 shows a block of four on a wreath-cacheted Fleetwood first day cover, one of 491,312 FDCs serviced November 1, 1962, at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Figure 2. In 1962 the first U.S. Christmas stamp was the red and green 4¢ depicting a wreath and two candles, shown in a block of four on a wreath-cacheted Fleetwood first day cover.
Attractive to most in sacred and secular settings alike, ring-shaped arrangements of boughs, flowers, leaves or stems have long been a way to bring the welcome beauty and aroma of evergreens indoors in a season when greenery is particularly appreciated. For additional appeal, pine cones, flowers, ribbons and ornaments often are added to further brighten and enhance the December holidays.
The second U.S. Christmas issue to incorporate a wreath was the 15¢ secular issue of 1980, showing a window with another plain wreath and a spare selection of what appear to be antique toys: a top, a horn and a drum. Painted by Bob Timberlake, the nostalgic design appears in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Painted by Bob Timberlake, this 1980 15¢ stamp shows a window ledge with a wreath and antique toys.
Eight years later, the smallest wreath we could find on an American stamp occurs on another old-timey Christmas release. In the 1988 25¢ secular issue, a late 19th-century couple rides in a “one-horse open sleigh” across a snow-covered scene designed by Joan Landis. Figure 4 shows the stamp, Scott 2400, with the tiny festive wreath with a red bow — not more than two millimeters wide — adorning the door of a holiday home.
Figure 4. The smallest holiday wreath is on the door on the house in the background of this 1988 25¢ stamp with a “one-horse open sleigh,” a seasonal scene by Joan Landis.
A decade later, self-adhesive stamps showing four far-flung types of wreaths were created by individual designers with their own fresh perspectives. They took on the Christmas challenge of reimagining the theme, producing stamps in two collectibly different formats:
22mm by 25mm booklet stamps (Scott 3245–48) and 23mm by 30mm booklet stamps (Scott 3249–52) or pane stamps (Scott 3249a–52a). The size difference is clearly visible on the blocks tied to the USPS souvenir page by a single first day cancel from Christmas, Michigan in Figure 5.
Figure 5. In 1998, 32¢ Evergreen, Victorian, Chili Pepper and Tropical Wreath stamps were printed in three formats by two printers. The difference between pane and booklet stamps is seen on blocks tied to this souvenir page by a first day cancel from Christmas, Michigan.
The evergreen wreath at top left was created by Oregon’s Lilian Logan and Vahan Dinihanian, Jr., of Dinihanian Floral Products, while the Victorian wreath at top right was crafted from preserved cedar, lemon leaves and four types of nuts, poppy pods, pomegranates and more by George de Bruin of San Francisco.
The remaining two wreaths were created by Californians as well, with Chris and Bill Crinklaw combining on the chili pepper wreath using air-dried chiles and corn husk, and Berkeley’s Michaele Thunin reproducing a brilliant tropical wreath on a base of hibiscus leaves from exotic sunset and tulip anthuriums and four species of orchids.
It would be a long wait for the return of the wreaths, but return they did, larger than ever, as non-denominated “Global” Forever stamps with a conventional “Holiday Wreath” in 2013 (Scott 4814, for $1.10) and a gleaming “Silver Ball Wreath” in 2014 (Scott 4936, for $1.15). Global forever stamps pay the current rate for a 1-ounce letter to any international destination, remaining valid at the new rate whenever that rate changes. The two oversize stamps appear in Figure 6.
Figure 6. Wreaths returned to the seasonal line-up with Global Forever stamps: an evergreen Holiday Wreath in 2013 for $1.10, and a gleaming Silver Ball Wreath in 2014 for $1.15.
The last U.S. Christmas Wreath issues before those of 2019 include one of four Holiday Window Forever (47¢) stamps of 2016 (Scott 5146) — a snow-covered wreath with a bright red bow and wide sash hanging outside a window as more flakes fall, seen on the next page in Figure 7.
Figure 7. Two 2016 wreath stamps had versions of the same Holiday Window design. At left is a computer-vended postage stamp from a self-service post office kiosk, and the offset lithographed stamp at right was printed by Banknote Corporation of America.
Collecting it is complicated by the fact that this same seasonal design was adapted for use that year on a “Forever” stamp customers could buy at any of the Automated Postal Centers (APC) in many lobbies of larger post offices. These were ATM-like self-service kiosks (SSK) that enabled postal patrons to avoid lengthy waits to buy stamps in holiday lines and allowed postal clerks to attend to customers with more complicated needs during the busiest season of the year.
Shown on the left in Figure 7, the SSK version of the stamp is quite different from the lithographed vertically formatted issue by Banknote Corporation of America on the right, although the two are equally collectible as valid U.S. postage. It is listed under section covering “Computer Vended Postage Stamps” in the 2020 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers as Scott CVP100, valued at $1.50 mint and $1.00 used.
The quartet to come will bring collectible U.S. holiday wreath issues to 23. We will announce technical specifications for the 2019 stamps when they are made available by the USPS.