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kottke.org posts about stamps

The USPS Introduces New Hip Hop Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2020

USPS Hip Hop Stamps

On July 1, the USPS is introducing a set of four stamps celebrating hip hop. The stamps were designed by Antonio Alcalá based on photographs by Cade Martin. In an interview with Steven Heller, Alcalá explained how he thought about the design process:

Hip Hop has a long and rich history, and from the start, I knew I wouldn’t be able to represent its totality in one set of stamps. But because it is such an important part of our nation’s art, and one of our most significant cultural contributions to the world, I knew we needed to at least begin representing it somehow. Hip Hop has four widely recognized key elements, or “pillars”: Rap, DJs, Graffiti, and B-boying (known more broadly as break-dancing). Using contemporary images that quickly and accurately depict the genres eased the burden of having to represent the many histories within the subject.

You can preorder the hip hop stamps on the USPS website.

New USPS Stamps Feature Prominent Voices of the Harlem Renaissance

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2020

Harlem Renaissance Stamps

The USPS recently released a set of four stamps honoring prominent literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance. They are available for purchase on the USPS site.

The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s was one of the great artistic and literary movements in American history. As African-American writers and artists pushed the boundaries of their identities and their art, they created a diverse body of work that explored their shared history and experience, embodied the spirit of the times, and let new and distinctive voices be heard.

The stamps feature Nella Larsen, Alain Locke, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, and Anne Spencer. Larsen was the author of two novels: Quicksand and Passing. From Larsen’s “overlooked” obituary in the NY Times:

Larsen followed “Quicksand” the next year with “Passing,” which tells the story of Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, two mixed-race women who grew up together and reunite at a Chicago hotel after years of separation. Clare, Irene discovers, has been living as a white woman married to a racist who is none the wiser about his wife’s background. The relationship between the two women flirts with the sensual as each becomes obsessed with the other’s chosen path.

Upon reading that, I immediately thought “that would make an amazing movie” — and indeed, Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga are starring in an upcoming adaptation. You can read more about Larsen in Thadious M. Davis’ biography.

Alain Locke was the first African-American Rhodes Scholar and is acknowledged as the “dean” of the Harlem Renaissance due to the publication of The New Negro, an anthology of writing from authors like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston that would come to define the Harlem Renaissance. The seminal text on Locke is Jeffrey Stewart’s 2018 National Book Award-winning biography, The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke.

In The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally. He narrates the education of Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor at Howard University. Locke also received a cosmopolitan, aesthetic education through his travels in continental Europe, where he came to appreciate the beauty of art and experienced a freedom unknown to him in the United States. And yet he became most closely associated with the flowering of Black culture in Jazz Age America and his promotion of the literary and artistic work of African Americans as the quintessential creations of American modernism.

Also of note: Locke’s father was the first Black civil-service employee of the USPS.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a historian, writer, activist, and curator of Black art and literature. He co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research and his collection eventually became part of the NYPL system as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Schomburg’s 1925 essay The Negro Digs Up His Past was included in Alain Locke’s The New Negro.

Anne Spencer was a poet, activist, and librarian. The Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum has an extensive biography of Spencer.

In addition to her writing, Spencer helped to found the Lynchburg Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She was also the librarian at the all-black Dunbar High School, a position she held for 20 years. Here she supplemented the original three books by bringing others from her own collection at home, as well as those provided by her employer, the all-white Jones Memorial Library. She spent much of her time writing and serving on local committees to improve the legal, social, and economic aspects of African Americans’ lives.

I found several of her poems online (here and here) but a pair of anthologies are long out of print. One of her most influential poems, White Things, was published in 1923. It begins:

Most things are colorful things—the sky, earth, and sea.
      Black men are most men; but the white are free! White things are rare things; so rare, so rare
They stole from out a silvered world—somewhere.

Notable Black American Women called the poem “the quintessential ‘protest’ poem”. (via colossal)

Jason Polan Postage Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2020

The artist Jason Polan passed away in January from colon cancer. A group of his friends are trying to memorialize Polan and his art with a commemorative postage stamp from the USPS. Kelli Anderson created mockups for the stamps.

Jason Polan Stamps

Jason Polan Stamps

Polan loved mail and the USPS. A few years ago at his own expense, he took out a small ad in the New Yorker for the post office:

Jason Polan USPS Ad

FWIW, here’s how the USPS’s stamp selection process works.

US Postal Service Unveils 50th Anniversary Apollo 11 Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2019

Apollo 11 Usps

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, the USPS is releasing a pair of stamps with lunar imagery.

One stamp features a photograph of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin in his spacesuit on the surface of the moon. The image was taken by astronaut Neil Armstrong. The other stamp, a photograph of the moon taken in 2010 by Gregory H. Revera of Huntsville, AL, shows the landing site of the lunar module in the Sea of Tranquility. The site is indicated on the stamp by a dot.

These pair nicely with the US Mint’s Apollo 11 commemorative coins.

Apollo 11 Mint Coin

(via swissmiss)

“Star Ribbon”, a USPS Stamp by Aaron James Draplin

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2019

Draplin Stamp

It was not my intention to turn kottke.org into a stamp blog (recently: Ellsworth Kelly, Leonardo da Vinci) but you know what they say: cool postage comes in threes. My pal Aaron James Draplin recently shared on Instagram that he was asked to submit some designs for a stamp for the USPS and then, because he’s an awesome designer, one of his designs is going to become an actual stamp.

TEARS ROLLING DOWN MY CHEEKS: Last thing I want ANY post I put up to sound like some sweaty, formal press release, so I’ll just come out and say it: I GOT TO MAKE A STAMP, YOU GUYS.

I’ve had to keep my big trap shut for over a year on this one. And I when I got the call to throw some designs into the ring, I have to tell you, even that nod was enough. It was enough just to be that close to one of my FAVORITE institutions of all time: The American postage stamp.

Here’s why he’s so fond of stamps (I totally agree):

You know why I love stamps so much? Because everyone needs a stamp. Everyone gets to enjoy the art on them. Too many times, art and design is only for those who can afford it. Stamps? They are a democratization of design. And that? That’s my favorite kind of graphic design.

The design is a perfect illustration of Draplin’s throwback design style — it’s got that Spirit of ‘76 thing going on but is also solidly contemporary, just like his work for Field Notes. (via df)

Stamps Featuring Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2019

Da Vinci Stamps

Da Vinci Stamps

Da Vinci Stamps

The Royal Mail in the UK have released a set of stamps that feature drawings done by Leonardo da Vinci.

The Royal Collection holds the greatest collection of Leonardo’s drawings in existence, housed in the Print Room at Windsor Castle. Because they have been protected from light, fire and flood, they are in almost pristine condition and allow us to see exactly what Leonardo intended — and to observe his hand and mind at work, after a span of five centuries. These drawings are among the greatest artistic treasures of the United Kingdom.

The drawings are all taken from a collection owned by the royal family and will be featured in a distributed exhibition of Leonardo’s drawings happening around the UK this year. (via colossal)

Ellsworth Kelly US Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2019

The USPS will release a set of stamps in 2019 honoring the artist Ellsworth Kelly. Some art works better on stamps than others…Kelly’s stripped down abstracts look like they were specifically designed for postage:

Ellsworth Kelly stamps

You can check out more of Kelly’s art at MoMA and The Whitney.

Mister Rogers is getting a US postage stamp!

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2018

The US Postal Service is honoring Fred Rogers with a stamp to be released next month.

Mr Rogers Stamp

Joanne Rogers, Mr. Rogers’s wife, said in an interview that her husband would have approved of his appearance on a postage stamp because of the personal outreach that a handwritten letter involves in an increasingly virtual world.

“I think he might have agreed with me that it is amazing,” she said. “I think that people must need him. Just look at what goes on in the world. He always wanted to provide a haven and a comfortable lap for children, and I think that is what so many of us need right now.”

The USPS will dedicate the stamp on March 23 at a ceremony in Pittsburgh at the WQED studio where his show was filmed. The event is free and open to the public. (thx, brad)

Brexit Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 18, 2018

After British MP Andrea Leadsom called for the Royal Mail to issue a postage stamp commemorating Brexit, some people who are not entirely in favor of leaving the EU have posted their best efforts at a stamp design on Twitter under the #brexitstamps hashtag. A few of my favorites:

Brexit Stamps

Brexit Stamps

Brexit Stamps

Great 1970 eclipse stamp by the legendary Lance Wyman

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2017

Lance Wyman Eclipse Stamp

A Mexican postage stamp designed in honor of the 1970 total solar eclipse. It was designed by Lance Wyman, who also did the logo and graphics for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

New USPS stamps commemorate sports balls

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2017

USPS Balls

The US Postal Service recently announced a new series of stamps that feature balls from eight different sports.

The U.S. Postal Service will soon release first-of-a-kind stamps with the look — and feel — of actual balls used in eight popular sports. Available nationwide June 14, the Have a Ball! Forever stamps depict balls used in baseball, basketball, football, golf, kickball, soccer, tennis and volleyball.

The stamps are round but what’s really cool is that they will have a special coating that lets you feel the unique texture of each kind of ball — the baseball’s laces, the basketball’s nubby surface, the golf ball’s dimples. The ball stamps are available for preorder and will ship in mid-June.

See also their upcoming solar eclipse stamps, which are printed using thermochromic ink — when you touch them, the heat of your finger reveals the hidden Moon passing in front of the Sun. (via print)

These David Bowie stamps are gorgeous

posted by Tim Carmody   Jan 30, 2017

bowie_stamps_00.jpg

The United Kingdom’s Royal Mail is releasing a limited edition of ten stamps honoring David Bowie, available on March 14 (although you can preorder now).

The images include Bowie in concert on the Ziggy Stardust tour of 1973; the famous zigzag lightning bolt across his face on the “Aladdin Sane” cover; and the covers of his “Heroes” (1977), “Let’s Dance” (1983) and “Earthling” (1997) albums. An image from Bowie’s final LP, “Blackstar,” released days before his death, is also part of the set…

The Royal Mail said that this will be the first time it has dedicated a full set of stamps to a single musician. Philip Parker, the stamp strategy manager at the Royal Mail, said in a statement that the stamp issue honored Bowie’s “many celebrated personas.”

He said: “For five decades David Bowie was at the forefront of contemporary culture, and has influenced successive generations of musicians, artists, designers and writers.”

I would love for the USPS to do something similar for Prince. I don’t know if we have any other stamps that honor royalty. (Besides maybe Wonder Woman.)

Star Trek postage stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2016

Star Trek Stamps

The USPS is releasing a set of four commemorative Star Trek stamps on the 50th anniversary of the original series. The stamps were designed by Heads of State and you can buy there here.

Penny post

posted by Tim Carmody   Aug 11, 2010

If the telegraph was the Victorian internet, then the modern, government-run, pre-paid postal system (which didn’t come together much earlier) was the modern DARPA, or something.

The Penny Black was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp of a public postal system. It was issued by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 1 May 1840, for use from 6 May of that year. Although all London post offices received official issues of the new stamps, other offices throughout the United Kingdom did not, instead continuing to accept postage payments in cash only for a period. Post offices in some localities, such as those in the city of Bath, began offering the stamp unofficially after 2 May.

Penny Black Stamp

Thomas Moore Musgrave was postmaster of Bath from 1833 until his death in 1854. He was the first person in the world ever to send a stamp. The famous May 2nd Penny Black, was posted from Bath on a letter a few days before stamps were officially allowed.

From the Bath Postal Museum via Clusterflock.

Stamps with beautiful typography

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2008

A collection of postage stamps designed by type designers. (via do)

Eames stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2008

The Charles and Ray Eames stamps are available for your USPS mailing pleasure. (thx, doug)

Some really nice looking stamps done in

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2008

Some really nice looking stamps done in the style of Otl Aicher.

The work of Charles and Ray Eames

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2008

The work of Charles and Ray Eames will be honored with a set of 16 US stamps later this year. (via chris glass)

Are the USPS’s “forever” stamps a good

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2007

Are the USPS’s “forever” stamps a good deal for the consumer? “Absolutely not.” Stamp prices increase more slowly than the inflation rate so stamps are continually getting cheaper.

Remember the whole rare stamp on a

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 05, 2006

Remember the whole rare stamp on a Florida absentee ballot thing? Turns out it was a fake. “The give-away signs included an incorrect number of border perforations, the stamp’s thickness and its colour.” (thx, m)

A Florida voter sent in their absentee

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 13, 2006

A Florida voter sent in their absentee ballot with an extremely rare stamp, the 1918 Inverted Jenny. Two other stamps from the 30s and 40s were on the envelope as well. It looks like the stamps are sealed away with other voting ballots by law for 22 months.

Update: My skeptical friend David says this almost certainly has to be a hoax. “They used stamps.com or something to print these counterfeit images, knowing the votes would be locked up by law. What are even the mathematical chances that those three stamps are in the same place, and that the person who used them (all three) didn’t know how valuable they were?” I am eagerly awaiting the follow-up to this in 22 months…I put an item in my calendar for September 5, 2008 reminding me to poke around for news at that time.

Addicted to Ebay

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 24, 1998

Somebody please help me! I’m addicted to Ebay! And exclamation points!