Sunday, February 9, 2014

A trio of U.S. postage stamps from the 1970s

Here are a few 1970s United States postage stamps that I came across recently at an estate sale.

It All Depends On Zip Code

According to the Mystic Stamp Company, this 10-cent stamp was issued on January 4, 1974. Mystic Stamp, which offers mint copies of this stamp for 50 cents, adds:
"This colorful stamp was issued to publicize ZIP Codes. The Zoning Improvement Plan, hence the name ZIP Code, was introduced by the U.S. Post Office Department in 1963. ... The design, which shows different forms of transportation used to carry the mail, was taken from a pop art poster created by artist Randall McDougall."
On the Alphabetilately website, William M. Senkus adds the following information:
  • McDougall was a Postal Service illustrator.
  • Nearly 717,000,000 copies of this stamp were printed.
  • There was one major color error during printing. Some stamps were printed with the yellow omitted. Those can sell for $50, but forgeries abound, too.

13¢ North Dakota stamp

This stamp was issued on February 23, 1976, as part of America's bicentennial celebration. It was part of a sheet of 50 stamps, one for each U.S. state. According to Mystic Stamp:
"Issued as part of the ongoing Bicentennial celebration, the 13¢ State Flags pane was a first in U.S. history. This was the first time a pane with 50 face-different stamps was issued. Each state is represented by its official flag, with the stamps arranged on the sheet in the same order each state was admitted into the Union."
You can still buy a full sheet featuring the 50 13¢ stamps from some vendors on Amazon.

1975 Merry Christmas stamp

This stamp has some neat and notable history. Notice that it doesn't have a postage amount listed. Janet Klug explains why in this excerpt from a article:
"[This is] the first United States Christmas stamp to prominently feature a bell in the design, the nondenominated (10¢) stamp (Scott 1580) issued in 1975. The design, taken from an early Christmas card by artist Louis Prang, features a cherub ringing a bell festooned with holly.

"This common stamp is interesting for a number of reasons. That it is nondenominated is a curiosity, because the 10¢ letter rate had been in effect since 1973. Why create a non-denominated stamp if the rate had not changed for two years?

"There is a simple explanation. The U.S. Postal Service expected a rate increase before the stamp's Oct. 14, 1975, issue date, but there would not be sufficient time to print Christmas stamps with the new denomination. The work-around was to issue Christmas stamps without denominations and then instruct post office clerks to sell them at the prevailing rate.

"As it turned out, the postal rate increase did not occur when expected and the nondenominated Christmas stamps were sold at the old 10¢ rate. The delayed rate increase to 13¢ occurred in early 1976."
Wikipedia has some in-depth information about the history of non-denominated postage, if you're still curious about the topic.


  1. Thanks for the post about these interesting stamps. The sheet of 50 state flags is still one of my favorite U.S. stamp designs. The fact that this sheet of stamps was the first time the U.S. Post Office printed a sheet of stamps with 50 different designed stamps makes this stamp issue quite interesting to collectors. Normally, you would have several million sheets of a U.S. Stamp sheet printed with 50 stamps of the same design. Let's say the post Office printed 5 million sheets with each sheet containing 50 stamps of the same design; that would give you a grand total of 250,000.000 million single stamps of the same design. That stamp would not be very rare with 250 million copies beng made. On the other hand consider the stamp issue of 50 different state flags. Let's say the post office printed 5 million sheets of that stamp. Because there was only one design of any one one state in the sheet --you would only have 5 million copies of let's say the Pennsylvania State flag stamp. Any one particular stamp design of a state is much more scarce than if the sheet had contained 50 of the same design. That is why the 50 state flag stamps are more valuable than most other commemorative stamps.

    However, with the issue of this stamp, another problem was created for stamp collectors--especially the young and those who didn't have a lot of extra cash. Now instead of buying just one mint stamp from a sheet of 50 for your stamp collection, you had to buy 50 stamps from the sheet for your collection. To keep your stamp collection up to date and include all stamps, you now found yourself in the position to spend 50 times more than what you would normally spend for a new stamp issue. Not to mention, if you collected first day covers, you now how to purchase 50 different covers instead of just one. Coupled with several other Post Office decisions, you began to see a decline in stamp collecting. That is sad.

  2. Great collection. Thank you for sharing the article.