1981 20¢ Fire Pumper
Issue Date: December 10, 1983
City: Alexandria, VA
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Engraved
Perforations: 10 vertically
Following the 1666 fire of London, people began to think seriously about fire prevention and ways to successfully combat fire. One ingenious solution was the fire pumper. By pushing long handles up and down to build up pressure, firemen were able to spray water through a hose. These pumps were pulled by volunteers up until the mid-1800s; at that time, horses took over the job of pulling the heavy vehicles, and career firemen manned the pumps.
The Transportation Series
A ground-breaking stamp was quietly issued on May 18, 1981. For the first time in U.S. history, a coil stamp featured its own unique design rather than simply copying that of the current definitive stamp. Fifty more coil stamps would be issued over the course of the next 15 years, each picturing a different mode of transportation.
The various denominations provided face values to exactly match the rates for several categories of Third Class mail (bulk rate and quantity-discounted mail). As the rates changed, new stamps with new values were added. Never before had a stamp series included so many fractional cent values.
Most of the stamps in the Transportation Series were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, although a few were printed by private contractors. All but a few of the later stamps were produced by engraved intaglio. Differences in precancels, tagging, paper and gum provide a large number of varieties.